Former Congressman: United States “The Saudi Arabia Of White Supremacism”

This week, former New York Democratic congressman Max Rose participated in an online forum for the American Jewish Congress about domestic terrorism and antisemitism. During this forum, he made a controversial statement: “At this point, the United States of America is the Saudi Arabia of white supremacist ideology.” Rose went on to clarify, “Just as Saudi Arabia exports Wahabism and other dangerous strains of jihadist terrorist ideology, as well as organizational funding, the United States of America right now, is exporting the antisemitic, White supremacist ideologies that are being taken up by organizations throughout the world.”

Rose immediately came under fire from multiple news media outlets for insinuating that the United States is disseminating terrorism in the same way as Saudi Arabia, but while his comparison is undoubtedly bold, it is not entirely wrong. White supremacy has been on the rise all around the world, and specifically in Europe, but nowhere is it as prominent and as egregious as in the United States. The U.S. has been the birthplace of some of the most monumental hate groups and white supremacist organizations the world has ever seen, and it has enabled these groups to publicly propagate their ideology, especially within the last few years. Between Charlottesville, the January 6th insurrection, the resurgence of the KKK, and the development of alt-right militia organizations like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo, skinheads, and many more, there is no denying that the United States has become an epicenter of violent white supremacist ideology. And the reality is that hardly anything has been done to address or combat the problem as it continues to spiral out of control.

As of 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified at least 165 alt-right, unregulated, and well-armed militia groups throughout the U.S., many of which have started other sects of their organizations in other countries. Rose’s claim specifically cited the Proud Boys, an alt-right neo-Nazi white supremacist organization which started in the United States, but has since spread around the world. More than 40 countries now have groups tied to the Proud Boys name. The Proud Boys are a compelling white supremacist terrorist group to cite here; former President Donald Trump specifically dogwhistled to them on international television during one of the presidential debates for the 2020 election. If the President of the United States can tell a militant white supremacist organization to “stand back and stand by” while campaigning for re-election, there is no denying that these alt-right terrorists have been enabled in their beliefs by the US government.

However, America and Saudi Arabia’s relationships to terrorism are definitely not the exact same. Saudi Arabia is a state sponsor of jihadist terrorism because it funds and spreads Wahabist ideology all around the world, whereas the United States is a state sponsor of white supremacist terrorism because it enables it. Both countries are epicenters of their individual types of terrorism, but the United States has become that way because of a problem that has been festering for the past century and has spiraled out of control, in a nation that has refused to even refer to their actions as ‘terrorism’ until recently.

President Biden took office only 14 days after one of the greatest acts of domestic terrorism that United States has ever endured, and yet white supremacism and counter-domestic terrorism have not been key focuses of the Biden administration thus far. It would have made sense for the administration to set aside some of its previous focuses and direct at least slightly more attention towards counter-domestic terrorism after that incident, especially since there were immediate threats of another insurrection event or bombing coming to D.C. The streets were lined with military vehicles, the capitol building was protected by a giant, ugly fence, and members of the national guard were scattered around D.C. for months, but those actions were purely defensive. No offensive action was taken.

The first step in combating the dissemination of white supremacist ideology and preventing these groups from strengthening is to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. Hardly any of the convicted participants in the January 6th insurrection had “domestic terrorism” on the list of their offenses, because the court system has made that charge hard to define and hard to prosecute. That technicality absolves any argument against the actions of these groups being actual terrorism. Making domestic terrorism, as defined by 18 U.S.C. §2331 Section 5, a federal crime would close the loophole.

Once domestic terrorism is defined as a federal crime, the Biden Administration must conduct a deep search into law enforcement officials, members of the military, politicians, and all government employees to look for ties to domestic terrorist organizations. If the United States does not want to disseminate white supremacist terrorism, it cannot allow people with ties to literal terrorist organizations to work for the government, much less “protect” our country.

Overall, one of the biggest steps that needs to be taken is focusing intelligence efforts on infiltrating these organizations and taking away their platforms so that they can no longer recruit and radicalize new members. Responding to domestic terrorism starts online with social media and news media outlets. For example, the January 6th insurrection was organized almost entirely online, and the posts promoting the attack on the capitol building make evident that it was a planned, violent assault orchestrated by a multitude of alt-right organizations. According to the Washington Post, the internet was “lighting up with talk of occupying the Capitol” for weeks prior to the event and the F.B.I. was aware of those threats. Intelligence efforts need to be focused on identifying possible threats and taking them seriously in order to prevent another major domestic attack from occurring again. All identifiable terrorist groups and leaders that could pose threats should be monitored, whether they are jihadists or white supremacists.

It comes to down to treating these threats as what they both are: terrorism. After the events of January 6th, there is no denying that America’s white supremacist groups are absolutely no different from other terrorist organizations, and it is clear that the U.S. needs to shift its counter-terrorist efforts away from foreign terrorism in the Middle East and focus on the problem in our own country. This is the only way to prevent the U.S. from sponsoring white supremacist terrorism in the way Max Rose described.


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