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SPLC President Issues Warning to Congress About Radical Right Terrorism

Ever since 9/11 Republicans have wanted to punish the people they say are responsible. We are not talking about Osama bin Laden here, whom George W. Bush did not even try to catch. We are not even talking about the war against the Taliban, or even the extended drone campaign against al Qaeda.

No, we are talking about Muslims. The words ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ have become inextricably linked in the conservative lexicon. They are unwilling to talk about terrorism outside of the context of Islam, so you can pretty much guess what Sen. Ted Cruz was up to when he chaired hearing of his U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts.

He wanted to talk about how “blind” the Obama adminstration is to the threat posed by Muslim terrorists. All the while exposing his own blindness to the threat posed by homegrown domestic terrorists.

Cruz called his hearing “Willful Blindness: Consequences of Agency Efforts To Deemphasize Radical Islam in Combating Terrorism.” It’s real purpose seems to have been to deemphasize homegrown domestic terrorism.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for example, in his testimony, claimed,

“One key reason for this failure is the President’s resistance to facing the truth about threats to our country when they don’t line up neatly with his predetermined policies or preferred ideological narratives.”

Obviously, this is a problem, but for Republicans, not for President Obama.

However, SPLC President Richard Cohen, who testified before the committee, was having none of that. He told Cruz, who has exhibited no love for Muslims, that “Muslim communities are part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Grassley complained about “the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to accept reality” and its “constant downplaying of the obvious connection between radical Islamic terrorism and the ongoing threats to our country,” but Cohen told Cruz that “Our country faces threats of violent extremism from many sources,” and pointed to the Orlando gay nightclub massacre as “but the latest example.”

“A year ago this month, it was the massacre of black churchgoers at Charleston’s “Mother Emanuel” church by a white supremacist.

“Two years ago this month, it was the murder of Las Vegas police officers by antigovernment zealots who had been at Cliven Bundy’s ranch.”

Neither set of perpetrators in those latter two incidents were, needless to say, affiliated with ISIS, since ISIS hasn’t been seen waving any Confederate flags or wearing any cowboy hats.

Cohen’s next statement was surely not to Republican committee members’ liking, that, “the threat of violent extremism from those blinded by racial hatred and rage at the government are serious ones as well.”

Cohen told the committee that while “our government has been willfully blind to these latter threats,” that they “have not always given these latter threats the attention they deserve.”

And here he brought up the Oklahoma City bombing. You know, where a white guy with a bomb blew up a bunch of Americans right in the heart of the United States. And he reminded them of the Justice Department’s domestic terrorism task force that was supposed to meet on 9/11 in fact, right before Muslims became the enemy of the hour.

As Cohen reminded the committee, that task force “didn’t meet again for 13 years as the threat associated with groups like al Qaeda came to dominate the government’s attention.”

The problem hasn’t gone away, however:

“During this period, the number of hate and conspiracy-minded antigovernment groups skyrocketed, and the level of violence from the radical right increased by a factor of four.”

Then Cohen told some truth to power:

“When DHS released a report in 2009 assessing the likely backlash to the election of our first black president, the reaction from groups like the American Legion and members of Congress was so fierce that the report was withdrawn and the DHS unit that produced the report was allowed to wither.

“In 2014, the Justice Department finally revived its domestic terrorism task force after a white supremacist, Glenn Miller, killed three persons in Overland Park, Kansas, he thought were Jewish.

“But still, there are indications that the threat of terrorism associated with groups like ISIS dominates the government’s thinking.”

It is a fact, that as Cohen reminded the committee, that while the first incident of terrorism mentioned by Obama during his speech as the White House Summit on Countering Violence in 2015 was the Oklahoma City bombing, that “it was virtually the only mention of radical-right terrorism during the entire summit.”

The threat of homegrown domestic terrorism has been largely invisible thanks to pressure to label “Islamic extremists” as the enemy.

“Two weeks after the Charleston massacre, the House Homeland Security Committee released a ‘terror threat snapshot’ that didn’t mention the killings.

“Congress has held multiple hearings – as it should – on the threat of terrorism associated with groups such as al Qaeda.

“But, as far as I know, neither the House nor the Senate has held hearings on the terrorism directed at law enforcement officials in the West by antigovernment zealots such as the Bundys.”

Cohen’s next words were a virtual slap in the face:

“In fact, members of Congress as well as state and local officials have actually sympathized with the Bundys at times.”

So yes, the threat of groups like ISIS is, Cohen told them, “deadly serious,” but “it’s not the only threat that we face.”

Again, not words Republicans in Congress want to hear. Not an idea they wish to entertain.

It was a much needed reality check to Congress that Cohen reminded them that Bush, when he realized what he had unleashed, was quick to remind America, “We’re not at war with Islam.”

Obama, like Bush, has reminded Americans that we are not at war with Islam, but the GOP is at war with Islam. And if this new crusade now takes the form of asymmetrical warfare, it can also take the form of discrimination and civil rights abuses.

All that is left now is to vote, because Cruz, Grassley & Co. will “hear no evil” about, “see no evil” in, and “speak no evil” of white Americans who want to shoot, blow up, or otherwise kill their fellow Americans.

Cohen also offered written testimony, reproduced below:

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