Post 12/2 Presidential Reflections

On December 2, 2015, workers at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, gathered for a holiday party. For 14 of the workers, the event would be their last. American-born Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, a green-card holder born in Pakistan, shot down Robert Adams, Isaac Amianos, Bennetta Betbadal, Harry Bowman, Sierra Clayborn, Juan Espinoza, Aurora Godoy, Shannon Johnson, Larry Daniel Kaufman, Damien Meins, Tin Nguyen, Nicholas Thalasinos, Yvette Velasco, and Michael Wetzel.

The two Muslims wounded many others before fleeing in an SUV. Local police took them down, with no further loss of civilian life. The next day, the composite character president David Garrow profiled in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama issued this statement:

Yesterday, a tragedy occurred in San Bernardino, and as I said in the immediate aftermath, our first order of business is to send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have been killed and to pray for a speedy recovery for those who were injured during this terrible attack.

I had a chance to speak with Mayor Davis of San Bernardino and I thanked law enforcement in that city for their timely and professional response.  I indicated to Mayor Davis that the entire country is thinking about that community, and thanked him and his office for the way that they’ve been able to manage an extraordinarily difficult situation with calm and clarity, and very much appreciated the coordination that’s been taking place between local law enforcement and the FBI investigators.

At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred.  We do know that the two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry at their homes.  But we don’t know why they did it.  We don’t know at this point the extent of their plans.  We do not know their motivations.

And I just received a briefing from FBI Director Comey, as well as Attorney General Lynch, indicating the course of their investigation.  At this point, this is now a FBI investigation. That’s been done in cooperation and consultation with local law enforcement.  It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don’t know.  It’s also possible that this was workplace-related.  And until the FBI has been able to conduct what are going to be a large number of interviews, until we understand the nature of the workplace relationship between the individual and his superiors — because he worked with the organization where this terrible shooting took place — until all the social media and electronic information has been exploited, we’re just not going to be able to answer those questions.

But what I can assure the American people is we’re going to get to the bottom of this and that we are going to be vigilant, as we always are, in getting the facts before we issue any decisive judgments in terms of how this occurred.

More broadly, as I said yesterday, we see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country and I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there’s nothing we can do about it.  We are fortunate to have an extraordinary combination of law enforcement and intelligence and military that work every single day to keep us safe.  But we can’t just leave it to our professionals to deal with the problem of these kinds of horrible killings.  We all have a part to play.

And I do think that, as the investigation moves forward, it’s going to be important for all of us — including our legislatures — to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we’re making it a little harder for them to do it.  Because right now it’s just too easy.  And we’re going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder — not impossible, but harder — for individuals to get access to weapons.

So there will be, I think, a press conference later today led by the Attorney General.  Director Comey will continue to brief not only the press but also members of Congress about the course of the investigation.  Our expectation is, is that this may take some time before we’re able to sort it all through.  There may be mixed motives involved in this, which makes the investigation more complicated.  But rest assured that we will get to the bottom of this.

And in the meantime, once again, I want to offer our deepest condolences to those who’ve been affected by this terrible tragedy.  And for those who’ve been injured, we hope that they get well quickly and that they’re able to be back together with their families.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Some context may prove helpful. The Islamic State was then on the rise and urging Muslims in western countries to kill non-Muslims. In January, 2015, in Paris, Islamic terrorist attacked the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, killing 17 people, including 11 journalists. In November, 2015, Islamic terrorist attacks in France claimed at least 130 victims. Then came 12/2 in San Bernardino.

For the American president it was a “tragedy,” which had somehow “occurred.” The president said “I” a full 12 times but failed  to name Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, identify them as Muslims, or condemn the attack as terrorism.

Four times the president said “we don’t know” what the attack was about or what motivated the shooters. The attack could have been “workplace related,” an echo of his pronouncement that Nidal Hasan’s murder spree at Fort Hood on 11/5/09 was “workplace violence,” not terrorism or even gun violence.

The San Bernardino victims included African Americans, Asians and Hispanics, but the president failed to raise the possibility that Farook and Malik could have been motivated by racism. The president did not call out the attack as a hate crime or gun violence and he failed to name a single victim of the 12/2 attack. He expressed concern for those who were “injured” when the accurate term, as any lawyer would know, is “wounded.”

The attack did involve “access” to weapons, he said, and since the FBI was investigating, “we are going to get to the bottom of this.” According to the president, we are fortunate to have law enforcement, intelligence and military that “work every day to keep us safe.” Relatives of the 12/2 victims had cause to wonder.

The people of America weren’t safe on February 23, 1993, when Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Center, killing six and wounding hundreds. The people weren’t safe on September 11, 2001, when the FBI, intelligence community and military failed to prevent the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor, with 3,000 dead.

American soldiers weren’t safe at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, when Maj. Nidal Hasan, a self-proclaimed “soldier of Allah,” gunned down 13 soldiers, including Pvt. Francheska Velez, who was pregnant. The FBI knew Nidal Hasan was communicating with al Qaeda terrorist Anwar al Awlaki about killing Americans, but someone in the FBI’s Washington office called off the surveillance. It has not emerged what the FBI knew in the run-up to 12/2.

As a police report notes, Farook and Malik deployed two .223-caliber rifles and 1,879 rounds of .223 ammunition. Magazines had been taped together for rapid switching and continuous fire. Police also found a 9mm handgun, 484 rounds of 9mm ammunition, and a trigger device for an explosive (IED) left at the Regional Center to kill and maim the first responders. Police also found medical supplies such as quick-clot agents, tourniquets, and emergency bandages.

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had been trained, armed and financed, all without detection by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Whatever the FBI knew about Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the bureau did nothing to stop the 12/2 massacre and played no role in taking down the terrorists.

The president called it a tragedy, failed to name or condemn the terrorists, and failed to name a single victim. If any of their loved ones thought it was more about collaboration than incompetence it would be hard to blame them.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.