Making Sense of Orlando Madness

After the Orlando massacre, there was a rush to apply single-issue cures to a multi-cause disease, when what’s needed is a holistic approach that attacks both the sickness and the delivery systems of death, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

The mind cannot quite take it in — the wantonness of the Orlando events that now rank as the worst murder spree by a gunman in U.S. history. The longer-range repercussions cannot yet be calculated, but if the past is any judge, nearly all of them are likely to be bad. How can we possibly bring any kind of rational “explanations” to bear on it? That it was an evil act is utterly clear. But when confronted with such horrific events we want better answers.

In this case, as in so many others, there is no single cause to explain it all — although some will hasten to offer you one-size-fits-all explanations. Indeed, nothing could be more dangerous than to latch onto any single-cause theory to clarify everything. Like most things in life, all-of-the-above factors are at work. Not one or two, but all. Here they some key ones, in no particular order of priority.

Omar Mateen, identified as the shooter in the Orlando, Florida, massacre.

Omar Mateen, identified as the shooter in the Orlando, Florida, massacre.

–The killer was deeply disturbed, deranged, flawed. This goes almost without saying for anyone capable of such an inhuman act. A gasoline-drenched mind awaiting a spark.

–The killer was Muslim. In the last minutes of his life he claimed for the record that he owed allegiance to ISIS (“Islamic State”). It’s not yet clear if he had been recruited by them — probably not — but he was at least self-recruited, a lone wolf seeking wider connections.

–We cannot avoid mentioning Islam in the context of this massacre — not because Islam is an inspiration for murder, but because some Muslims in the last decades have self-identified with Islam as now representing the out-group, the oppressed. Even some disturbed non-Muslims have converted on that basis. Think how many American Black Muslims converted to Islam as a statement against racism in white American culture. Radical Islam has become today the ideology of preference for some individuals seeking out a “higher cause” by which to justify their frustrations, resentments, fantasies and even savagery.

–There will always be deranged individuals filled with hate, compensating for failure and impotence. They will always seek those higher justifications that can seemingly lend dignity to their own wretched state of mind and acts of rage. If it is not Islam today, it will be something else tomorrow. Anarchist and communist (Marxist-Leninist) killers proclaimed ideology to justify their acts of violence. Weird Buddhist sects in Japanese subways. Or “sacred nationalism” invoked. When religion is added, it only intensifies the psychological brew as it raises the “moral banner” higher. [Editor: In recent years, we have even seen “noble” secular causes, such as “promoting democracy” and even “humanitarianism,” used by states to justify wars.]

–Guns kill. The availability of military assault weapons to almost any unstable individual who seeks one unquestionably was key to the record number of deaths in Orlando. A handgun or a knife also kills — but not 50 people in as many seconds. Sadly, similar massacres in the past have left the gun lobby unfazed; it is unlikely it will be any different this time.

–Homophobia is widespread in the US. Christian scripture as well as Islamic law inveigh against it. In traditional Jewish law, male homosexuality called for death. Seventy-seven countries currently ban homosexuality. But while broad elements of U.S. society today have attained a fairly high tolerance for sexual freedom, there still exists a macho popular culture in many parts of the country which regularly puts gays at risk of homophobic attack.

–The Muslim world right now is undergoing intensely traumatic conditions of war, death, civil strife, sectarian witch-hunts, breakdown of social norms, and the destruction of law, order and infrastructure. There have long been many outstanding local problems, but rarely has the extent of regional devastation been of this magnitude. We must acknowledge the huge degree of U.S. responsibility in creating and prolonging many of these conditions abroad. The anguish of the region is now spreading out across much of the globe and leaching back into our own American society. The U.S. cannot kill at leisure abroad and remain untouched at home.

–This exceptionally ugly current environment in the Middle East is churning the religious, ethnic and ideological pot, producing a broad range of extreme or deviant interpretations of Islam relating to identity, community self-preservation and resistance. People especially turn to religious faith in times of desperation. Now, clearly, the Orlando killer experienced none of these conditions first hand. But events in the Middle East, on television non-stop, constitute part of the ambient atmosphere in and around where all Muslims live.

No Picking and Choosing

There may be other specific explanatory factors at work here as well. But all of these factors must be acknowledged — we can’t pick and choose our favorite hobby horse. It’s not “all guns,” or “all Muslims” or “all homophobia,” or “all U.S. Middle East policy,” or “all Israeli occupation.” If each person’s pet issue is cherry-picked to “prove” their position without reference to the others, we are just playing at high-school, or Fox, debating.

An Israeli strike caused a huge explosion in a residential area in Gaza during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-2009. (Photo credit: Al Jazeera)

An Israeli strike caused a huge explosion in a residential area in Gaza during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-2009. (Photo credit: Al Jazeera)

There are no, repeat no, policy steps — Donald Trump notwithstanding — that can immediately alleviate these conditions in the short term. The domestic and foreign scenes have created a deep and volatile mix not readily amenable to any quick fixes.

But some medium-term steps that need to be taken? They are pretty much the obverse of the conditions we cited above.

–The U.S. and the West must cease use of military force in the Middle East as the primary tool of foreign policy. U.S. “boots on the ground” everywhere are as much or more of the problem as existing local problems on their own. The presence of Western armies abroad feeds the “clash of civilization” myth and distracts regional people from dealing with issues themselves.

–We can ban the sale of assault rifles — to anyone. Gun deaths in the U.S. staggeringly outweigh those in other industrialized countries.

–If U.S. domestic politics cannot permit an even-handed American role in the Arab-Israeli problem — obviously the case — then let other nations do it. It is not America’s role to make Israel safe for expansionist Zionism.

–Work more closely with U.S. Muslim communities in helping spot wayward and troubled youth who might otherwise eventually find their way to zealots advocating murder. This does not mean more FBI stings against sad, vulnerable souls fast-talked into some wacko plot. Muslim communities are the first to pay the highest price for murderous events of this sort. Muslim-American communities are deeply motivated to stop them, especially when they are included as security partners. This is already taking place in many communities.

Given the magnitude of the problem today, there is a temptation for the U.S. government itself to monitor and control the rhetoric of preaching in U.S. mosques. But it won’t really work. The issue has already long since been politicized.

Is organizing political action against Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands to be treated as “hate speech” and incitation to violence? It certainly will if AIPAC has anything to say about it. Are anti-Russian Chechens to be perceived as nothing more than freedom fighters?

American Muslim communities themselves will have to take up the sensitive and complex role of monitoring aberrant speech and behavior in their own mosques and speak out against radical interpretations of Islam in their communities. And foreign preachers may well come under particular scrutiny, posing complex judgment calls.

These are not easy times.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: a novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle)

24 comments for “Making Sense of Orlando Madness

  1. Jim Hannan
    June 17, 2016 at 14:24

    It appears that the FBI is not doing its job very well. They were told directly by the Russians that the Boston brothers were bad news. Now they have dropped the ball on Mateen.
    I think they spend a lot of time investigating domestic political activists, a hold out from the Hoover days.
    They also seemed to have spend considerable time on the Hillary Clinton email issue, a complete waste of Bureau time.

    • Silly Me
      June 18, 2016 at 04:00

      Well, recently, there seem to be signs that the Russian and the US aristocracy are cooperating when it comes to manipulating the masses.

      • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
        June 19, 2016 at 16:30

        I’ve never heard about that. Do you have any evidence for it?

        • Daniel
          June 21, 2016 at 09:22


  2. Silly Me
    June 17, 2016 at 07:18

    The problem is that there hasn’t been any evidence presented by the media that proves the official narrative beyond reasonable doubt. The place was large enough for 75-150 people, yet no cars parked outside (and there are no underground garages in the area), although they say 103 casualties occurred out of 350 people. No security cameras. Two ambulances shown, but no bodies or body bags. Some bad crisis actors also appear, quickly discredited as wannabe actors or former convicts who can be easily invited or forced into the role. Some victims are carried towards the club.

    I am not saying the whole thing didn’t happen. The most likely plot seems to be that two or three gunmen attacked about 10-15 patrons (2 o’clock was the closing hour of an otherwise underperforming night club on the verge of going out of business), some others holding the door shut from the outside (check out the call terminated abruptly by the media), forcing some, including the alleged shooter into the bathroom. The only other or others with him was probably an insider. Eventually, the guy gets conveniently shot dead and by then everything is ready for the media frenzy. Until this point, only a few people are present, hopefully only the alleged shooter and the insiders. If that is the case, only one innocent person died.

    This narrative can be substantiated no less than the official one.

    • Christene
      June 17, 2016 at 08:17

      Please don’t take this the wrong way, because you may be absolutely correct in everything you say, but, honestly, if we as a society have fallen so far down the rabbit hole that THIS is now our reality, I say we should just close up shop and call it a day. Seriously.

      • Silly Me
        June 18, 2016 at 04:07

        We live in a country that spends more on the military-industrial complex than the next ten countries combined, while tapwater is poisoning people. Our politicians bail out criminal bankers while we are losing our jobs. We have no health insurance (sorry, I couldn’t afford to pay $3k a year for insurance plus $7k deductible a year, and I am not alone with this), spend the equivalent of the whole cost of higher education on spy agencies spying on us, while subsidizing WalMart by providing benefits and subsidized housing for its workers.

        The list is endless, but this might be enough for the time being.

        • Christene
          June 18, 2016 at 05:25

          I absolutely, 100% agree with you but chasing down conspiracy theories is like chasing down phantoms. Even if you manage to nail one down, in the end, you still have nothing.

          The Elite few who hold the illusion of all consuming power may believe that they pull all of the strings, but the fact of the matter is, it is WE THE PEOPLE who hold all of the strings; the purse strings. We hold in our power a little thing called consumer spending. Imagine what would happen if, as a matter of conscious civil protest, the Elite heard the sound of millions of little pocketbooks snapping shut. What if, as a matter of conscience, the American people simply stopped buying all of those $700 smartphones and latest “gotta have” tech gadgets made in third world countries with slave labor? What if we shunned Walmart, Target, Amazon, and turned back to our local communities and small businesses and built them up instead? Or quietly abandoned our social media accounts the government so loves to monitor and just disappeared? What would happen if the American people stopped listening to the Corporate B.S. blasted at us 24/7 by the MSM and just completely checked out? How long would our Corporate/Wall Street overlords and the Washington Establishment in bed with them survive?
          Well, millions of Americans are doing just that and I am one of them. So stay tuned.

          • Daniel
            June 21, 2016 at 09:21

            LOVE your comment. Absolutely love it! I started doing this back in 2007. Cut the satellite TV off so my kids can’t be programmed into good consumers, spending far less on inferior products that you have to purchase repeatedly instead of just once, and so on. You wrote the best comment I’ve read in a very long time. It’s time to cut the umbilical cord.

  3. Christene
    June 17, 2016 at 05:27

    Oh, and while I am on the subject of accountability, perhaps it is time we hold our sanctimonious Nobel Peace Prize winning president accountable for the THOUSANDS of innocent men, women, and children who have been killed throughout the Middle East in his 7 year illegal, covert drone war. I’m getting a little sick of listening to him lecture law abiding American citizens about senseless gun violence when he has been launching bombs from air conditioned military offices in Vegas like Molotav cocktails throughout the Middle East.
    Just a thought.

  4. Christene
    June 17, 2016 at 04:52

    Once again, I sit here with my mouth agape at the glaring omission by this CIA Middle East foreign policy “expert” in the discussion of radical Islamic Jihad terrorism and its spread around the world.
    WHERE is the discussion about Saudi Arabia?? Because the fact of the matter is, this country can not have a discussion about combating the scourge of radical, political, extremist, Islamic Jihad terrorism until we are ready to confront and hold accountable the House of Saud for its nearly 40 YEAR campaign to spread its unique, homegrown, virulent, toxic, venomous, seventh century version of Islam, Wahhabism (oops, I mean Salafism. I guess they find the term Wahhabism derogatory. :(((()
    For FORTY YEARS, at the cost of 100 BILLION dollars, this country of ass-backward, misogynistic, hate-filled, Royal idiots have been building Mosques, madrassas, and Islamic Centers in every country in the world, including the U.S., and have managed to single handedly poison the entire religion of Islam as they have methodically and relentlessly sought to snuff out every form of Islam other than their own. And they have spent 40 YEARS buying off every single politician in Washington to look the other way. When in the hell are we going to hold them, and their co-conspirators in Washington, accountable for the mayhem, death, destruction, and carnage they have unleashed upon the world?? Perhaps, if they were held criminally and financially liable, they might find that impetus to rethink their policies, strategies, and religion.
    Now, I’m just a middle aged grandmother with one year of college education living in the middle Nowhere, Fly Over Country. If I can connect the dots, why can’t the “experts”??

  5. k
    June 17, 2016 at 02:41

    where were the dead bodies kept? where where the funerals? where were the injured treated? what were their names? i haven’t read about all this till now.

  6. Abe
    June 16, 2016 at 16:00

    […] evidence strongly suggests that forces inside the US intelligence community, especially the CIA, but also in the State Department and other agencies which control the Voice of America, there exists considerable support for the Strategy of Tension scenario, culminating in an October surprise terror event on terms favorable to Trump, which may represent the only means of installing the fascist Donald Trump in the White House in November. For the good of the nation, it is imperative that Obama install mole detectors at the offices of the principal intelligence agencies. Taken together with the persistent reports of a second shooter, and also with the strange figure of Ed Henson, the gun shop owner who sold Mateen the two weapons he allegedly used, the official version of the Orlando massacre is increasingly untenable, and the thesis of an orchestrated political false flag event is becoming more and more plausible.

    Spooks for Trump:
    CIA-Voice Of America-State Department Background of Orlando Massacre Suspect’s Father
    Shows Intelligence Community Support for Pro-Trump Strategy of Tension/October Surprise
    By Webster G. Tarpley

  7. Anon
    June 16, 2016 at 13:48

    O. M. G. Is there any chance we could see a piece frankly and directly addressing the anomalies apparent here? The contradictions between witness testimonies and official declarations of ‘lone wolf’, for instance?

    Wouldn’t that be a good place to start?

    With all the CIA vets writing here, it would be fascinating to hear, from their informed perspective, the reasons WHY the public should ignore what our fellow citizens are reporting first-hand, in favor of unsupported proclamations by LE that ‘rumors are unfounded.’

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 16, 2016 at 14:42

      In the video the surviving witness stated that there were four shooters. If this is true, that would explain why no one could get the drop on Omar Matten while he would have needed time to reload his gun. The witnesses account on how while he played dead, that some well meaning friend was ringing his cell phone, and possibly could have given away his staged death scene. I guess if this were to happen to someone I knew, I should wait to hear from them….wow! Imagine, that.

      • Anon
        June 16, 2016 at 15:59

        Not such a ‘smart’ phone after all, eh?

        How credible would you judge him to be on first viewing — 1-10, least -> most?

        And why, if you’re into it. (I’ll answer first, if you want.)

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 16, 2016 at 16:42

          I have no idea of what your referring too.

          • Anon
            June 16, 2016 at 17:12

            Sorry. Credibility of the witness in the video. My impression was 6-7 on first viewing.

            I like the fact that he quickly emphasized that he didn’t SEE anything outside the bathroom (in response to the interviewer’s leading question about it.) His story seemed generally plausible. He said he knew most of the casualties/victims. I wondered why he didn’t give his name. He mentioned that he had some experience in LE.

          • Anon
            June 16, 2016 at 17:25

            How credible would an experienced reporter judge him, I wonder. An intelligent agent?

          • Joe Tedesky
            June 17, 2016 at 00:33

            Anon, your paying attention to this witnesses details is good. These witnesses who claim there were more than one gunman could have been under the influence of heightened confusion due to the fog of war. Mateen having been employed by G4S security, could be compared to an arson being a voluntary fireman. Apparently he was drawn to homosexuality, either by being in the closet by hiding his own sexual orientation, or was fascinated with it in a morbid disturbing way. I think Omar Mateen was a nominee for what some would call a ‘suicide by cop’ mixed in with a desire to be a ‘radical religious martyr’ syndrome wannabe. We live in such a time as a mentally distraught person who craves historical recognition may be able to select a group, or a cause who will be glad to carry on his name on into paternity. Mateen had to know, that his early morning murder spree inside the Pulse nightclub wasn’t going to end well for him, so where does that leave us? Where I imagine a local swat teams budget will grow exponentially, I would hope that a bill was passed to fund our nations mental health institutions likewise, but that’s probably just wishful thinking on my part. I just pray that Gay, Muslim, Black, Latino, Asian, and European, for whoever they are or wish to be, could live this one life in peace. Our world needs to turn the violence and disparity towards each other down quite a few notches….like a lot. I blame this New World Order crowd the most, for not having the foresight to see how by the brutal implementation of their corporate structured new societal rules, that they didn’t take the time to respect the ordinary citizens right to live a decent peaceful life with dignity. No matter what the motive, Blowback is a bitch!

          • Anon
            June 17, 2016 at 12:13

            Thanks Joe. I think what I’ve already said in this thread suffices. I’m satisfied that I’ve described clearly what I’m dissatisfied about. I’ve suggested some things to improve the situation.

            I’ll end with this:


  8. Abe
    June 16, 2016 at 13:07

    While the US claims to fight the “Islamic State” as well as pose as a victim of its violence, its NATO partner Turkey is quite literally the source of the terrorist organization’s fighting capacity, with US forces permanently stationed in Turkey for decades and Turkey having been a NATO member since the 1950s. Despite open acknowledgments that the “Islamic State” is operating out of Turkey, the US has used the presence of the terrorist organization inside Syria as a pretext for intervening in the war directly.

    If Omar Mateen was “inspired” by the “Islamic State,” he was inspired by a terrorist organization that at any time the US and its NATO allies could crush – but who have intentionally allowed to operate within NATO territory itself.

    It seems that both in Syria and at home in America, the special interests running Washington have found in the “Islamic State” a perfect tool with which to advance its various political agendas.

    US Terrorism Hits Orlando – Not Just for Syrians Anymore
    By Tony Cartalucci

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