Americans continue to mourn the deaths of the 49 victims and the wounding of dozens more in the recent terrorist attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This was the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.
In an address to the nation, President Barack Obama noted that the attack targeted a prominent LGBT gathering place, and emphasized that an attack “on any American – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation – is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”
The perpetrator of the massacre died on-site in a shoot-out with police. He declared allegiance to ISIL in a phone call during the attack, although there is no information to this point suggesting that ISIL was in contact with the shooter before the attack. It does appear the shooter was inspired by various extremist information online and points to the challenge of countering extremist ideology and dealing with perversions of Islam generated on the Internet.
In a briefing shortly before the attack, Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, noted that leaders from around the world tell him that the common denominator driving youth toward extremism is “this notion of an historic caliphate” – in the case of ISIL, as he says, “their self-proclaimed…phony caliphate.”
Because of that, it is necessary, Mr. McGurk said, for the Coalition to “shrink the core” of the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. And the Coalition is having significant success in doing so. In Iraq, ISIL has lost nearly 50 percent of the territory it once controlled; in Syria, 20 percent. Many of its leaders have been killed; its revenue has been drastically cut; its flow of foreign fighters has been reduced; its propaganda stream has slowed; and its morale has plummeted.
President Obama noted, however, that while the Coalition continues to uproot ISIL overseas, another imperative is countering the kind of “propaganda and perversions of Islam” espoused by ISIL and distributed over the Internet in order to generate home-grown terrorist acts.
In any case, in the face of hate and violence, Americans will not give in to fear, Mr. Obama said. “We will stand united…to protect our people, and defend our nation and to take action against those who threaten us.”