The gun lobby is global: From Yemen to Las Vegas

The Saudis, the Israelis, the Myanmar military and all-American shooters in the US use the same guns to kill innocents.

Las Vegas shooting victim boots Reuters
You cannot, as Obama and Trump do, sell billions of dollars' worth of weapon around the globe and then pretend you are denouncing gun violence at home, writes Dabashi [Reuters]

Another horrific mass killing in the US, yet another round of public mourning for the innocent victims of a murderous act of violence in Las Vegas, this time around though no Barack Obama to come to television and shed some crocodile tears.

According to reports, on Sunday, October 1, a gunman in possession of a massive arsenal of military-grade weaponry ascended to a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel and went on a rampage with rapid-fire barrage of bullets on innocent people attending an outdoor concert, killing more than 50 and injuring hundreds more.

The blood in the streets of Las Vegas was still fresh when the bizarre battle over the identity and possible motive of the mass murderer became matters of political contestations and ideological fireworks in the media. He was a white man, he was not a Muslim, so is this “terrorism”, or was he just a “lone wolf”. How come if it were a Muslim … now that he is white …

After each and every such mass murder perpetrated by a white gunman in the US, and there are plenty of them, there is a perfectly legitimate outcry to force Trump and other white supremacist, racist, xenophobic Islamophobes to admit this is a case of domestic or white terrorism, that the bugbear they have created and call “Islamic terrorism” is not the paramount cause of mass murder in the US and indeed around the globe. 

That the Muslim travel ban this nasty racist president has initiated and continues to flaunt has nothing to do with keeping Americans safe. Neither Trump nor his racist supporters will ever admit any such thing. There is good money in the business of “Islamic terrorism”.

Since Americans, and on their behalf the British in Europe, have kept the term “terrorism” exclusively for Muslims and mostly for when white people are their victims, such markings of their hypocrisy is perhaps necessary but it is also distracting from another far more serious issue: the fact that the barbaric US gun culture and American and Israeli arms manufacturing industry are the real big fat elephant in the room that no one wants to see or discuss for it sheds light where liberal imperialism prefers kept dark. 

READ MORE: Questions raised over $110bn arms deal to Saudi Arabia

Equally distracting from a full recognition of this fact is the other redundant mantra aired on such tragic occasions – the endless and useless cry for “gun control”. “477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action from Congress”: New York Times headline put it simply and bluntly.

Before he left office, Barack Obama used to come to television on such occasions and publicly cry for the victims of gun violence and desperately plead to the US Congress for gun control, which the Congress, of course, never did, for after AIPAC, NRA is the most powerful lobby in the United States. AIPAC keeps feeding the arms-addicted junky state of Israel, and NRA makes sure there are enough lethal weapons easily available to Americans so they can kill themselves with same fanatical precision as Israelis murder Palestinians. 

With Trump at least we have no spectacle of Obama hypocrisy any more. He is a heartless racist and stages it boldly. 

Yes, there is a 'gun lobby' in the US. But that gun lobby is the symptom, not the cause of the disease we regularly see on these frightful scenes of mass murder in the US.



To reach for the domestic and global dimensions of the real calamity caused by US violent militarism we need to overcome this false and manufactured binary between Islamic and non-Islamic terrorism, between “jihadism” and “lone wolf” binaries, and look at all such mass shootings collectively and irrespective of who had perpetrated them – a Muslim fanatic or a Christian zealot, a Jewish settler colonialist mass murderer like Baruch Goldstein or a white supremacist mass murderer like Dylann Roof. At the root and the common denominator of all such acts of pernicious violence is the US/Israeli culture of hate and warmongering, predicated on an entire industry of arms manufacturing, of militarism, and of regional and global conquest.

Where do these weapons of mass murder come from? Who manufactures and sells them around the globe? Either the “gun control” debate, or else “terrorism” debate, will camouflage a darker and more persistent foregrounding of episodic violence targeting innocent people. Few will connect the US gun culture and Israeli militarism to their respective warmongering and arms industries. 

Yes, there is a “gun lobby” in the US. But that gun lobby is the symptom, not the cause of the disease we regularly see on these frightful scenes of mass murder in the US. Barack Obama and Donald Trump both are the most prominent members of this “gun lobby” if we remember how they consistently push arms around the globe and sell weapons of mass murder to ruling tyrants and mass murderers from Saudi Arabia to commit war crimes in Yemen to the Myanmar junta and their Nobel Laureate leader in Myanmar to burn Rohingya Muslims alive.

READ MORE: UK firms make huge profits on arm sales to Saudi Arabia

When JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Malcolm X uttered a simple truth that “chickens come home to roost,” pointing to the climate of hate that US politicians and the massive scale of warmongering that the US military generates and sustains around the globe, and perforce to the gargantuan killing machine put at the disposal of a US president. Malcolm X was ostracised and condemned for uttering this very simple truth. But the truth behind his proverbial phrase still shines true after every act of senseless violence. 

You cannot, as Obama and Trump do, sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons around the globe and then pretend you are denouncing gun violence at home. 

Innocence Home and Abroad 

The innocent victims of guns, machine guns, missiles and bombs in Las Vegas, in Palestine, in Yemen, in Myanmar are the identical targets of this global calamity. The person who pulls the trigger might be different but the victims are the same. The US and Israel are among the top manufacturers and sellers of weapons of mass murder around the globe – both for their own domestic use and for their regional and global militarism. Saudis kill Yemeni children with their American weapons. Israeli slaughter Palestinians with their American weapons. The military junta in Myanmar murders Muslims of Rohingya ethnicity with Israeli weapons. The man who went to a top floor of a hotel in Las Vegas and started shooting innocent people randomly used the selfsame weapons the Saudis, the Israelis and the Myanmar military use. 

In an imbecilic and puerile statement, Donald Trump called the senseless act of murder in Las Vegas “pure evil”. “Pure evil” is not a deranged man who goes on a rampage slaughtering innocent people in a concert. “Pure evil” is an entire arms industry in US and Israel that manufactures and sells arms to Saudi Arabia and Myanmar with which to murder innocent Yemenis, Palestinians, and the Rohingya. What part of that simple fact is difficult to grasp? 

Think of innocent Americans attending a concert in Las Vegas the same way you think of innocent Afghans attending a wedding, innocent Yemenis attending a school, innocent Palestinians playing football at a Gaza beach, innocent Rohingya running away from a burned village … all of them victims of the merchants of weapons of mass murder in US and Israel – and of course Europe, Russia, and China have their own chunk of the global military sales.

“The gun lobby” is a transnational industry. Barack Obama sold billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia with which to murder the innocent children in Yemen and gave further billions worth of weapons for free to Israel with which to slaughter Palestinians long before he left office, and Donald Trump resumed Obama’s ignoble legacy. You cannot sign a document selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia or send them to Israel for free in one White House room and then go to another room and cry for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School. That is the height of barefaced hypocrisy. What is the difference between the Palestinian children that Israelis murder with Barack Obama’s weapons, or the Yemeni children the Saudis kill with another shipment from Obama and the innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas? Nothing. 

So stop shedding crocodile tears! Only those who categorically oppose gun violence of any and all sorts in or out of the US, in or out of occupied Palestine, are allowed to mourn the precious lives wasted in Las Vegas. Hypocritical Republicans and Democrats, liberal and hardcore Zionists, are not welcome here. 

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.