Right-wing violence is terrorising America, not Muslim extremism

Jonathan Power says gun and racial violence inflict more harm on the US than international terrorists, yet rank lower in policy priority

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 June, 2015, 12:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 June, 2015, 12:13pm

Were the killings in the church in Charleston terrorism, meant to intimidate the black population of America? Of course they were. Moreover, they were a reflection of the still widespread white hatred for America's first black president, Barack Obama.

Indeed, as a commentary in The New York Times put it last week: "The main terrorist threat in the US is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police."

The number of violent plots carried out by international terrorists remains very low and most attempts were disrupted. Last year, not one US citizen at home died from international terrorism. The number of Americans killed abroad was 24. In contrast, at home, right-wing, white extremists made 337 attacks per year in the decade after September 11, causing 254 fatalities. So much for attacks by al-Qaeda-type terrorists.

Nevertheless, if one looks at it from a worldwide perspective, there was last year an increase in the number of terrorist attacks, jumping by 35 per cent in a single year, but overwhelmingly concentrated in the Middle East, principally in Iraq.

The misinformation that most Americans suffer from, thanks to a slanted media and the frenzy of mainly Republican politicians, is extremely worrying, not least because it is pushing Obama back into the sinkhole of Middle Eastern self-destructiveness.

He has expanded the bombing of Syria and Islamic State, and has deployed hundreds of troops to train the Iraqi army.

Today, America should be focusing on crimes against blacks. Black Americans are killed at 12 times the rate of people in other developed countries.

If one compares various countries' rate of homicides against the Human Development Index, an overall measure of the standard of living and welfare, we get a picture of who is top in the violence league. Among the developed countries, the US' rate of homicide deaths is 4.7 per 100,000 persons, more than three times its neighbour Canada's. France and Britain are at 1.2.

America's primary concern should be its gun laws, not international terrorism. Despite mass killings in schools and other places, Obama's attempts to tighten gun laws have been shot down. It's not just the Republicans who voted against Obama on this, but Democrats too.

Once the Iranian deal on its nuclear programme is signed, probably in a week's time, Obama should use an executive order to ban the public wearing of arms, military-type weapons and the buying of guns with no questions asked. This should be America's priority, not hysterical overstatements about the savagery of international terrorism.

Jonathan Power is a syndicated columnist