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US under pressure to target white supremacist terrorists, not just Muslim extremists

Police arrive at the scene of a shooting in California, US on 29 July 2019 [Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency]
Police arrive at the scene of a shooting in California, US on 29 July 2019 [Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency]

US President Donald Trump is under pressure from officials and experts calling for more state resource to be directed at fighting terrorism committed by white-supremacist and to realign national security priorities which since 9/11 has disproportionally focused on the threat posed by radical Muslims.

The 9/11 terrorist attack prompted one of the largest security responses ever seen in peace-time. Trillions of dollars of state resource was directed at combating the threat posed by Muslims subscribing to a militant ideology. A staggering amount of arsenal, armed forces, unmanned drones, intelligence agencies and sweeping domestic authorities were joined up to contain the threat.

Beyond the military and security spending there were major social costs. Measures adopted to fight radical Islamists alienated large sections of the Muslim community. Viewed constantly through the security lens, millions of US Muslims felt the full force of America’s rage whenever a terrorist acts was committed by their co-religionists. Terror experts describing this trend say that an entire “cottage industry” evolved since the attack nearly two decades ago whose sole purpose is to demonise Muslims and keep them under a cloud of suspicion.

Despite the rise of white supremacists – who have claimed more American lives through acts of terror than radical Muslims since 9/11 – the US has continued to employ a staggering amount of resource to fight the later. Some fear that the American body polity has become paralysed over its ability to redress the balance. They say that the Republican Party and the conservative movement’s very existence depend on stoking hatred of Muslims, foreigners and blocking anti-gun laws; making any realignment almost impossible. Their base includes significant numbers of white-nationalists who would simply turn their backs on the party if it prioritised other issues.

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The terrorist attack in El Paso and another in Ohio less than 24 hours later has prompted calls to re-think America’s obsession with radical Islam and redirect some of the resource in fighting the scourge of white nationalism with the same level of seriousness. The disparity “is a source of growing alarm for officials and experts” the New York Times pointed out.

Flowers left in memony of those who were killed in El Paso

Flowers left in memory of those killed by a shooter who opened fire inside a shopping centre, leaving 20 dead in Ohio, US on 4 August 2019 [Mels/Twitter]

The American daily cited Lisa Monaco, a top counterterrorism adviser to President Barack Obama, saying that given the surge in attacks linked to the far right “we need to prioritize our resources and focus on this threat.” Under Trump the opposite has happened said the Times pointing to a number of measures taken by the president such as disbanding a Department of Homeland Security program created to counter violent extremism from the far-right as well as Islamists.

The main obstacle to realigning state resource and security priority is said to be Trump’s presidency itself which has come to be defined by policies that are aligned with aspects of the white nationalist agenda and the need to be seen to be defending their cause. This point was noted by JM Berger in an editorial piece by the Times under the title “We have a white nationalist terrorist problem”. The specialist in online extremism said that “the task of crafting a response to the alt-right [another name for white nationalist] is considerably more complex and fraught with land mines, largely as a result of the movement’s inherently political nature and its proximity to political power.”

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Radical Muslims belonging to terrorist groups like Daesh and Al-Qaeda were targeted without any resistance from America establishments. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are said to have removed “tens of millions of pieces of ISIS [Daesh] and Al Qaeda propaganda and accounts between 2014 and 2018”.  Similar standards have not been applied to white nationalists because of the political cost and the movement’s “proximity to power”. Trump is viewed widely as having mainstreamed many of the core issues of the far-rights through his rhetoric and many American’s feel that the white nationalist problem facing America would be impossible to resolve without removing him from power in next year’s election.

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