by Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D........
For 21 years I have been an ‘expert witness’ for lawyers representing LGBT clients from Brazil petitioning for asylum in the United States. Seeking to avoid violent persecution in Brazil, as my asylum reports clearly demonstrate, LGBT Brazilians seeking US asylum believe that they are safer in the US than in Brazil.
But considering the widespread US homophobia I often wonder, ‘Are LGBT Brazilians really safer in the U.S.?’ Certainly, the Pulse Club slaying in Orlando, Florida calls the safety of LGBT folks into question. Homophobia, deeply ingrained in the institutional and cultural fabric of American society, is central for understanding the brutal mass slaying at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub: It occurred during Pride month, at a predominately LGBT club, just steps away from Orlando’s GLBT center; the homophobia connection cannot possibly be ignored—yet it so often is. The mass killing at that nightclub stands as a perverse and deadly reminder of the depth of hatred for sexualities that call into question the hegemony of heterosexuality.
Homophobia and Hate Crime
The psychological stress for survivors of the Pulse nightclub blood bath may never go away. Forty-nine lives were lost and even more people were physically injured, yet the first questions asked by US security specialists, via media pundits, were: ‘Was the attack ISIS-inspired?’ “What did authorities know about the possible ‘Islamic terrorist’ killer?” The FBI had looked into the shooter, Omar Sadiq Mateen, even before the Pulse club slaying, but only sought information about his possible international terror connections. A security guard, Mateen had been interviewed twice by FBI agents: in 2012 for making “terrorist-related comments” to co-workers, and again in 2014 for his possible connections to an American-born suicide bomber in Syria. The interviews are said to have turned up no suspicious links to ‘terrorism.’ Mateen did remain on FBI radar, although recent history reveals that their “radar” was malfunctioning on the day Mateen purchased a battlefield-style assault weapon and Glock rapid-fire revolver.
Savagely slaying 49 people and physically injuring over fifty others, Omar Mateen’s vicious brutality against mostly LGBT folk, a possible majority of whom were Latino/a’s, was first and foremost a homophobic hate crime. Deeply ingrained in American society, homophobic exclusion by any means was central to Mateen’s brutal mass slaying, even though Mateen himself was a some-time visitor to the club. It could be argued that Maneen hated himself for sensing he was what US society abhors, discriminates against, and physically violates. A powerful battle with his own sexuality could have influenced his murderous intensions, but Mateen’s motivation would not have amounted to the deadly outcome at Pulse, if he had not been able to purchase the powerful weapon of war used to expunge his demons. And those seeking to understand Mateen’s violent actions need to consider the larger politico-economic crusade to keep America safe from “terrorists” if they want to prevent future such attacks.
Homophobia, as a reason for this crime has little profit-generating and career enhancing potential for U.S. officials investigating Mateen’s hate crime. Whereas, the “War against Terror” is politically valuable, economically profitable, and a potential career-enhancer. Widespread US belief in organized “Islamic terror” keeps fear alive, which helps bring uneasy publics to heel; the “War against Terror” enhances the US war economy at home and abroad. So let’s sort this out.
Guns, Bullets, and Profits
Guns kill and maim; rapid-fire weapons cause multiple casualties. Mateen’s human devastation could not have occurred --and certainly would not have resulted in its massive scale of injuries and death—if he had not been packing a rapid-fire weapon: a US-made Sig Sauer MCX rifle (referred to in the media as an AK-47) and a Glock, Austrian -made or US knockoff. And Mateen’s planned killing spree could not have taken place without the .300 AAC Blackout cartridges--created by the U.S.- based Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) in collaboration with America’s oldest gun maker, Remington. Now branded Remington Defense, this company “produces both firearms and ammunition domestically and is the largest U.S. producer of shotguns and rifles. Remington has…developed or adapted more cartridges than any other gun maker or ammunition manufacturer in the world.”[i]
Rather than digging into Mateen’s “motivation” for killing, why not examine the motivation of those who produce and sell the weapons of mass destruction that Mateen used? That’s simple: There’s big money in weapons and ammo. Among the world’s six top revenue earners from weapons sales, two alone—the U.S. Smith & Wesson Company, the #1 weapons maker in annual earnings, and Colt, USA, the 6th in annual revenue --together had 2014 gross revenues of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars ($710 million).[ii] The current global ammunition market produces $6.4 billion in revenue.[iii] According to the Huffington Post, in 2013 there were more guns in the US population than people: With a population of 317 million, the U.S. had 357 million guns in its population.[iv] The annual revenue of the gun and ammo manufacturing industry is $13.5 billion. Spending in U.S. gun and ammo stores produces $31 billion annually.[v] The profitability of arms is well-recognized by U.S. politicians who continue supporting weapons production and sales even in the face of the slaughter wrought by them: they reap the ill-gotten gains derived from having cozy relationships with arms industry lobbyists and their corporate clients.
Besides Omar Mateen’s hate crime having the complicity of private sector corporations, their officers and stock holders, the U.S. government also shares responsibility for the Pulse club massacre: federal investment in warfare R&D has promoted development of new and more civilian-friendly weapons: a lighter- weight machine gun grew out of a U.S. government- private sector collaboration, rendering the new weapon more amenable to civilian use.
When ‘Good’ Guys are in Bed with ‘Bad’ Ones
Looking at government security officials’ past investigations into mass killings, one must ask: ‘How objective can such an investigation be when government investigators’ employers are partners with perpetrators?’ The answer: such investigations cannot be objective because, if they were, our own government’s and corporate capital’s complicity in massacres would be exposed. The best way to pass off government responsibility for Mateen’s massacre is to investigate it as rooted in evil forces outside America: an act of “international terrorism”-- even if there is scant evidence for this conclusion.
My own formula for explaining the Pulse club massacre identifies three relevant factors: a pervasive and violent culture of exclusion--which in the Orlando slaughter is homophobia, aggressive corporate profit-making, and compromised investigations of such killings that fail to consider the first two factors. That’s the function of posing Mateen as a potential ‘Islamic terrorist.” A troubled young man ready to explode, Mateen was employed at G4S Secure Solutions, a British security multinational with U.S. headquarters in Jupiter, Florida. The world's largest security services company by revenue,[vi] G4S has security operations in over 110 countries and employs 620,000, with around 55,000 of these in the U.S.[vii] Its services range from protecting government embassies and consulates to nuclear power plants; running prisons and providing their guards; transporting cash; and installing security systems and surveillance devices.[viii] U.S.-based Wackenhut, since 2010 a G4S Secure Solutions subsidiary, is part of the G4S conglomerate empire, which is now owned 57.5% by the stockholders of the former Denmark-based Group 4 Falck--a G4S-acquired security firm--and 42.5% by the UK–based Securicor Security’s stockholders, another security business gobbled up by G4S Secure Solutions. While G4S stock continues relatively strong on U.S. stock exchanges, it took a nose dive on London’s, dripping 5.8 % the week after G4S employee Mateen’s rampage.[ix]
The FBI and U.S. Homeland Security (DHS) maintain from their on-going investigation that Mateen was carefully vetted before being hired by G4S Security, a ‘fact’ that G4S Security Solutions has asserted and the FBI maintains without providing a scintilla of real evidence.[x] No matter that the U.S. and British governments know full well that G4S Secure Solutions has a history of lying about its employees’ backgrounds, with violent results in some cases. A 2014/2015 BBC Scotland investigation[xi] found that G4S did not properly screen one of its employees, Danny Fitzsimons, who killed two colleagues just 36 hours after he had started working in Iraq for G4S Secure Solutions. It was later discovered that Fitzsimons had previously been on bail for firearms offenses and was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when hired.
And then there is Travis Baumgartner: a 21-year-old heavily indebted G4S trainee, [who] murdered his [two] co-workers in June 2012 while [the three G4S security guards]… were delivering cash to a bank machine in Alberta [Canada]. Lawsuits submitted…by the victims' families allege that G4S failed to ensure if Baumgartner was psychologically fit to carry out his duties, which included handling a loaded gun. G4S claims Baumgartner went through a [Canadian] federal firearms training test and a psychological evaluation before hiring him.”[xii]
The U.S. government, which uses G4S security guards at some of its embassies and consulates, learned the hard way during a security guard strike in Pakistan the consequences of G4S dishonesty. U.S. Embassy officials were assured by G4S that replacement guards had been fully and conscientiously vetted, when in fact they had not. This had the potential to impact the security of U.S. government buildings and personnel. G4S was nevertheless fined but retained by a number of U.S. government entities abroad.
Several more pages could cover other examples of G4S lies. But you can read more of these by going to the attached citation.[xiii]
Why Investigations Fail
According to its corporate site, G4S Secure Solutions (USA) “was the first Security company to receive…[Safety Act] certification… from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security”[xiv] G4S supplies security services for the U.S. Departments of State (guarding embassies and consulates), Energy, Defense, as well as US state and local entities,[xv] for which G4S is generously rewarded by lucrative contracts, in spite of its very poor record of vetting guards. In a ‘tit for tat’ relationship, Homeland Security promotes G4S on its “Prime Contractors” webpage,[xvi] a sort of employment list and contract-facilitating posting.[xvii]
Many of Florida State’s elected and appointed officials have had a cozy relationship with G4S. Because so many of G4S Secure Solution’s services are in security and punishment, one can assume that Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi (2011-present), in dealing with criminal justice in her state, at some point interfaced with G4S. The Youth Services business of G4S, “operates 32 training, residential and treatment centers for young offenders,” with the majority of these, “in Florida but also in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas.” [xviii] The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) indicates on its website that G4S Secure Solutions (USA) is one of its valued corporate sponsors. The FSA receives favored treatment at G4S’s annual conventions and G4S gets to bask in the legitimacy of having the Florida’s Sheriffs Association’s publicly documented respect.
Returning to First Premises
Omar Mateen’s enraged slaying of 49 people and serious wounding of many more, was a hate crime. Being able to purchase a rapid-fire war weapon and a Glock semi-automatic enabled Mateen’s crime. Mateen’s having been a security guard for a company that does extensive private security business with the U.S., inhibits any real investigation by the U.S. national security establishment into the very cozy relationship between Mateen’s employer-- the multinational G4S Secure Solutions--and the U.S. federal and local governments’ relations with it. We must reject any investigations, whether by social scientists, the FBI, or Homeland Security, that start with a desired conclusion or agenda and then search exclusively for data to support it. What we need is an independent investigation that examines all the multifarious facets of this hate crime and its background.
[ii] The other four top earners in weapons sales—Beretta (Italy), Glock (Austria), Heckler/Koch (Germany), and Izhmash (Russia)—together garnered 1.225 Billion in earnings. The six highest revenue earners from weapons dominate 65% of the world’s weapons production. http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/6-biggest-gun-manufacturers-in-the-world-355042/
[vii] https://apbweb.com/orlando-shooter-was-armed-guard-for-security-firm-g4s/; https://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/orlando-shooting-g4s-stock-price-051100594.html; see G4S for its locations and numbers (http://www.g4s.us/en-US/Who%20we%20are/Where%20we%20operate/)
[x] The UK Financial Express (6-14-2016), “Mateen was subject to detailed company screening when he was recruited in 2007 and re-screened in 2013 with no adverse findings. He was also subject to checks by a US law enforcement agency with no findings reported to G4S.”
[xii] Corporate Watch, 8/8/2014 https://corporatewatch.org/news/2014/aug/08/g4s-sued-over-triple-murder-baumgartner-taillon
[xiv] See “Certifications,” http://www.g4s.us/en-US/Who%20we%20are/Key%20Facts%20and%20Figures/
[xvii] According to DHS, its “Prime Contractors’ are “large business Prime Contractors who are interested in subcontracting with small, small and disadvantaged, women-owned small, HUBZone-certified, 8(a), veteran-owned small, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.”