Last weekend was the deadliest one in the United States in recent history. A white young man drove to the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, entered the mall with an automatic assault weapon and fired at innocent people. After killing 20 people and injuring over two dozens he surrendered to the police. Prior to the killing spree, the man reportedly posted a four-page manifesto in the website where he vowed to thwart Hispanic invasion of Texas. On the following morning, before the dead bodies were handed over to the bereaved families, another man in Dayton in Ohio fired indiscriminately on a busy street. He killed nine people and wounded several in less than 30 seconds. The police from the nearest location arrived and shot the assassin dead. In all, 32 people got killed and 36 are receiving treatment in the hospitals.
Who are the assassins and what inspired them to the killing spree? Police is cautious in sharing the information. But it has been revealed that Patrick Crusius, from a suburb in Texas, did the crime in the Walmart in El Paso. He seems to have been inspired by the writing in the manifesto by the assassin who had killed 51 Muslims in a mosque in New Zealand early this year. The manifesto cited a white supremacist theory known as "The Great Replacement" which maintains that elites are working to destroy the white race by replacing them with Hispanic migrants and refugees, and that the immigrants are taking the jobs of white Christians in the United States and other Western countries. Connor Betts, the alleged shooter in Dayton, Ohio was 24-year old. He was a student of the local community college. Police does not rule out Betts's allegiance to the white supremacist manifesto.
Who were the victims? Mostly Latinos, but members of other communities cannot be ruled out. Over 80 per cent residents in El Paso are Latino immigrants.
There has been a surge of hate crimes, racism and xenophobia since Donald Trump entered the presidential race. During the past three years the White Supremacists have gained strength. It is no secret that people from the minority communities are being subjected to insults in public places and in some instances in work places in the US. What is deeply troubling is that young kids are coming under the influence of hate crimes. A 4-year old boy wielding a toy gun in a Day Care Centre in Sterling, Virginia reportedly said, "I will kill all Muslims".
President Trump has condemned the carnages in El Paso and Dayton and "termed it as cowardice. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people." It took him more than forty-eight hours to appear in public and denounce the carnage. This procrastination and equivocation to make fierce condemnation provide inspiration to those committed to implementation of replacement theory. The assassin's manifesto about invasion by immigrants, robbing jobs from the white population echo some of Trump's accusations. Trump branded all Muslims as dangerous, denounced Latinos invading the US. He denounced undocumented immigrants as thugs and animals. At a rally in Panama City beach, Florida in May he asked, "How do you stop these people?" Some one responded, "Shoot them". The audience cheered, and Trump smiled.
In a Twitter Trump wrote in January: "More troops are sent to the southern border to stop the attempted invasion of illegals through large caravans into our country" and in November 2018 he wrote, "The US is ill prepared for this invasion and will stand for it." In July Trump said, "Allowing immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe, and unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was, and I don't mean that in a positive way." The El Paso shooter wrote, "The natives did not take the invasion of Europe seriously and now what's left is just a shadow of what it was."
Four newly elected young Congresswomen known as Squad have been in the forefront in opposing many of Trump's actions including building wall along the southern border, detention of undocumented immigrants and segregation of children from parents (illegal immigrants) and diversion of defence budget for the construction of the wall. They are also in favour of proceeding the impeachment motion against Trump. All these have annoyed Trump who, in retaliation, advised them to go back to the countries they came from and restore the broken system of governance in their countries of origin. In rallies when he referred to the four Congresswomen, who are non-white, his supporters would shout. "Send them back". The squad members are all citizens of the United States.
The Census Bureau, a few years ago, reported that white population growth has been outnumbered by the non-white population growth, particularly by the Hispanic population in the United States and this trend would continue in the future. For the white supremacists, this might have come as a matter of concern and unless growth rate is altered, or Hispanic population is attenuated, white population would turn minority. This probable change of demography might have been taken by some as an existential threat for "white rule". The manifesto of El Paso shooter echoed this concern. And he is not alone. People like him are being linked through digital devices including 8chan - a messaging board that operates on lawlessness, acting in the most rambunctious way.
The United States is a country of immigrants and people coming from different parts of the world are expected to be assimilated in the society. The universities, hospitals, financial institutions, commercial outlets, defence services are being enriched by scholars hailing from different communities including African Americans, Hispanics and Asians. This has made the United States unique and splendid. In the words of President Reagan, "The United States stand taller in the committee of nations."
Trump's incendiary, profligate and irresponsible rhetoric contributed to the surge of hatred in the society. If the conduct of the President of the country promotes vivisection and vituperation in the society, the fascists draw strength and strike to cause highest casualties. FBI Director declared two weeks ago that "most terrorism related arrests this year linked to white supremacist terrorism. The country now confronts a national security emergency at par with the Islamic State threat. It demands moral clarity and a call from the Oval Office directing all assets of the federal government to develop a comprehensive long-term campaign to protect all Americans."
Following the 9/11 attack, political and military leaderships in the United States declared its top priority to contain and if possible destroy foreign terrorism. In the process, the government strengthened collection and coordination of intelligence services at home and abroad. It successfully obtained cooperation of foreign countries. The Bush administration, however, squandered the goodwill created through international coalition and invaded Iraq. The consequence of Iraq invasion is now obvious - the Middle East has been destabilised. Now twenty years later, time has come to accord priority to combat homegrown "white nationalist terrorism" that has posed unprecedented challenge to the unity of the country. To win this challenge, the political leadership must rise above bigotry and parochialism and lift the nation from the current precipice. Since the President has failed, the Congress should step in, in a bi-partisan fashion to salvage the country.
Abdur Rahman Chowdhury is a former official of the United Nations.