President Donald Trump has tried and failed, so far, to implement a travel ban prohibiting people from six Muslim-majority nations from gaining entry into the United States and has tweeted faithfully in response to Islamist terrorist attacks around the world, notes Mirren Gidda in Newsweek.
And yet, right-wing extremists have plotted or carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Islamist extremists have in America within the last nine years, according to a new joint report from the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, a nonprofit media center, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
President Trump has mostly ignored incidents of violence and mass shootings carried out by white supremacists and other hate groups during his campaign as well as in his first year as president. Trump’s team, instead, has directed the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program to focus exclusively on the threat of Muslim radicals, the reports says, “including changing the program’s name to Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.”
“This project quantifies just how irrational Trump and the GOP’s fixation on ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ as the greatest security threat is,” the Investigative Fund said in a statement.
Right-wing terrorists were far more successful, however, from 2008-2016, with a third of right-wing attacks involving fatalities as compared to just 13 percent of Islamist attacks. As far back as 1996, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Threat Assessment and Warning Unit issued this warning: “Threats from domestic terrorism continue to build as militia extremists, particularly those operating in the western United States, gain new adherents, stockpile weapons, and prepare for armed conflict with the federal government.”
But 9/11 completely changed the focus, and now the federal government commits a disproportionate number of its investigative resources to rooting out Islamist terrorism, even as the number of domestic terrorist attacks by right-wing radicals has risen and their recruitment efforts of members of the military and experienced veterans have become more successful.
“Congress also played a role in pushing counterterrorism work to focus exclusively on the threat of radical Islamist ideology. When the House Homeland Security Committee held hearings on domestic terrorism in early 2011, the committee chairman, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, announced that they would have a narrow scope,” the report says.
Terrorist groups lack the expertise, resources and manpower to win against state actors so they, instead, engage in psychological warfare, and “promote their agenda through violence that shapes perceptions of political and social issues,” notes Arie Perliger, Director of Security Studies and professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell.
US right-wing extremists are not monolithic and treating them as such only undermines law enforcement efforts to contain and prevent further violence. Traditional Ku Klux Klan chapters, for example, says Perliger, operate differently than skinhead groups or anti-government “patriot” and militia groups or anti-abortion extremists or Christian Identity groups. Law enforcement must do more than simply investigate their criminal acts as “hate crimes.” A more sophisticated understanding of their motivations and approach to the risks they pose is required, Perliger insists.
As the former CEO, Bannon bragged about Breitbart News being “the platform for the alt-right.”
The reports also blames Trump’s inner circle of campaign advisers, as well as those currently in the White House, for the bias and ultimately dangerous misunderstanding of the national security risks America faces —in particular, the president’s former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who had said that “fear of Muslims is rational,” as well Trump’s former campaign manager and chief White House counsel Steve Bannon who has called Islam as a “religion of submission,” and is believed to be the driving force behind the travel ban.