We have had foreign officers from friendly nations around the world participate in U.S. military training and schools for generations. This has been beneficial to all parties and resulted in stronger military ties and relationships that benefit our national security. As desirable as this practice has been, it must be done correctly on all levels. Both the U.S. and sending governments must properly ensure the most capable and deserving individuals have the honor to attend our schools. There should never be occasion to question whether the enemy has infiltrated the ranks. That type of threat is unacceptable. This was exactly the horrific failure that led to the tragic shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
Let’s be clear – it was absolutely an act of terrorism. While it is imperative to allow for a proper, thorough, impartial investigation, we have sufficient evidence to conclude this was terrorism. I will not repeat the social media commentary that accompanied this horrific and spineless act of mass murder. That gives life to the illegitimate. Suffice it to say the message and intent of those involved was clear. Ironically, it appears that these Saudi Arabian officers were upset by the U.S. support of their own nation’s defense. The takeaway is that there is just no logic or sincerity in anything they posit, just an insidious quest for senseless violence by evil cowards.
President Trump was quick to reject the label of terrorism. He did so to shield his (and Jared Kushner’s) inexplicable and disconcerting close ties with the Saudi royal family and to prevent the necessary scrutiny into their involvement. We have come to expect Trump to be more concerned about his personal and business interests above the country’s interests, but military members deserve a much stronger reaction and show of support. Another example of how Trump is not good for the military. Thankfully the FBI is treating this as a terrorist act and will not sweep it aside to further Trump’s business interests.
What we know at this point is there were several officers from Saudi Arabia involved in this sinister murder plot. It appears that one Saudi officer did the shooting while another Saudi officer was videoing the atrocity to post on social media or elsewhere. At least two other Saudi officers remain at large and are suspected of some role in or knowledge of the conspiracy. The issue is how not one, but several Saudi officers made it through the vetting process to get into the flight program at Pensacola. We have strong candidates from many nations vying for slots so why did Saudi Arabia get so many into one program to the exclusion of so many other friendly nations?
When Saudi Arabia, or any country, sends military officers to train here, they must certify the individuals and guarantee they are not terror threats. If we and the sending nation cannot properly vet certain candidates, they should not be admitted. The Saudi leadership has much better fidelity over their personnel than we would. Are we to believe that they vetted all of these officers and all satisfied the process? Did they know or should they have known more about them? I find it unbelievable that they could have gotten is so wrong with a group of officers attending this one program. It simply makes no sense.
The Saudi leadership is wholly complicit and shame on our senior leaders who continue to see them as reliable friends and partners. Remember, the Saudis never accounted for how all but one of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Arabian and our government has unfathomably protected them ever since. More recently, the Saudis have not accounted for their torture-murder of journalist Jamaal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia produces or supports some of the worst extremists in the region and export their extremism, hatred, and violence around the world. We should work with the Saudis where we have common interests and seek good relations. However, we have no basis to trust them, partner with them, or even to believe them. They should not be allowed into our military schools until such time as they demonstrate true commitment against terrorism, extremism, and violence.
We understandably look for blame in the face of such an atrocity. Sometimes it is easy to rush to judgment. Plainly stated, the blame lies with those who commit the act. They did this and they should suffer the eternal consequences. That said, there is also moral responsibility. As discussed, the Saudi leadership bears significant responsibility. President Trump bears some responsibility. His close ties with the Saudi royal family led to misplaced trust in them and increased involvement. It now appears that the shooter legally purchased his weapon while in Florida. The NRA bears some responsibility here too for opposing any and all gun safety measures. The NRA opposed even preventing those on the terror watch list from purchasing weapons. Maybe even a reasonable background check could have red-flagged this purchase, but the NRA opposes those as well.
I recently had the honor and privilege of visiting Pensacola NAS to participate in a flight school graduation. I met many extremely professional, dedicated, capable leaders, instructors, and students. They were top notch as I expected they would be at such a program. None should have ever contemplated themselves as targets of such insidious and cowardly violence. They never should have had to fear an enemy in their ranks or suffered such senseless loss. If any good comes from this tragedy, it is the hope that we improve the selection, vetting, and admittance process for foreign military members. And I have no doubt that the amazing career professionals at Pensacola will continue to do the great work that is so important to our military training and readiness.