Saturday, June 18, 2016


As I drove to my Washington office earlier this week, I passed Arlington National Cemetery. I looked out over the white, orderly headstones that are so gently nestled within the green rolling hills, and I thought of the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country. My own grandfather, who was killed in World War II, is buried there. I then passed the Pentagon and saw the flags flying at half mast. They had been lowered for the victims of the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack.

Despite the horrors of war, there is a certain nobility of the sacrifice of the men and women who died in military service and who continue fighting to keep America safe. No such dignity exists in the atrocities ISIS is committing around the world with such subhuman savagery. The cowardly gunman in the Orlando nightclub, who found his dark inspiration in ISIS, is responsible for the deadliest mass public shooting in modern American history. Forty-nine innocent persons were slain and another 53 wounded. The terrifying strike is the latest in a series of domestic attacks—on our soldiers at Fort Hood, military recruiters in Tennessee, and on persons who worked with the disabled in San Bernardino.

When sworn into Congress, I took an oath of office to defend the constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic. The horror of Orlando starkly shows us that the enemy is here—not just in far off places like Afghanistan and Iraq—but here, domestically. Before Orlando, most Americans sensed this vulnerability, and now we must live with the devastating aftermath.

The reality is that we must all remain vigilant. Law enforcement cannot provide perfect protection at all times and in all places. We face a tension: living in a liberalized society with cherished freedoms, while also avoiding the constant monitoring of a police state. The goal is to protect civil liberties while creating the necessary tools to keep us safe. For the most part, through robust intelligence and law enforcement methodologies, America has avoided tragedies like the Orlando massacre. This time, however, the system was not a reliable predictor.

While courageous Muslims have decried the crimes of ISIS, including the Orlando shooting, many persons ask why more have not spoken out. One difficulty in the Islamic world is the lack of a hierarchical religious structure and centralized teaching. Entities like ISIS warp various strains of Islamic tradition for their own power and glorification. The situation is not helped by decades of oil wealth pouring into the hands of radicals.

There is a conflict within Islam, more than a thousand years old, to determine both its philosophical and religious structure. The centrifugal forces within Islam manifest themselves in various ways, but the future comes down to this: will a re-emergent perspective of reason and integration, including religious freedom and the rights of others, reestablish itself as an assertive source within Islam? Or will Islam be dominated by a tradition that, as a member of the Taliban put it, would “Throw reason to the dogs.”

Despite the various debates of cause in the media, the attack in Orlando is about one thing: the metastasizing cancer of ISIS. It has spread from the Middle East into Africa, and into Europe—and now here to America. It is depraved, irrational, and a growing domestic danger. We must fight back smartly and not just with bullets. We must fight against twisted ideology and the abuse of American freedoms. We must fight against those who abuse religion to harm others. We must make America safe again.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus. Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

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