Yesterday, a Saudi gunman killed three Americans and wounded eight others at a Navy air base in Pensacola, Florida. The gunman was being trained at the base (where my father served for a time during World War II) to become a military pilot.
According to this report in the New York Times, the Saudi trainee showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party the night before he carried out his shootings. Friends and colleagues noticed that he had become more “religious” lately after returning to the U.S. from leave in Saudi Arabia.
Three Saudi nationals were seen filming the entire shooting incident. They claim they just happened to be there and wanted to capture the event on video. It is unclear from the reporting I’ve seen whether any of these three videographers watched mass shooting videos with the killer at his dinner party the night before the shootings.
The shootings have not yet officially been designated as terrorism. However, a group that monitors jihadist activity found a Twitter account with a name matching that of the gunman — Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He had posted a “will” calling the United States a “nation of evil” and criticizing its support for Israel. He also quoted this statement by Osama bin Laden:
I’m not against you for just being American. I don’t hate you because of [your] freedoms, I hate you because every day you support, fund and commit crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity.
In short, these shootings almost certainly constitute Islamist terrorism.
It’s true, of course, that the U.S. experiences mass shootings that are not Islamist terrorism. Just the other day, Gabriel Romero, a sailor at Pearl Harbor, gunned down two people.
But here’s the difference. Unlike Romero, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a foreigner, was in this country, and on one of our military facilities, at the invitation of our government. Thus, his killings are a wound America inflicted on itself — and certainly not the first of its kind.