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COLUMN: America’s Answer to Radical Terrorism Must Be Strength

June 13, 2016
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

To face a threat, we must begin by calling it exactly what it is. Our nation has once again been attacked by radical Islamists. Early Sunday, Americans woke up to the horror that 49 innocent individuals had been killed and dozens wounded in an insidious terrorist attack on a “soft target,” an Orlando nightclub. The attack in Orlando was an attack on all Americans. We mourn the victims, and we cannot comprehend the pain that their families and loved ones are now facing. They will need our prayers in the days ahead.

The federal investigation in links to terror groups is ongoing, but what is already clear is that the Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, was an American citizen inspired by ISIS and his own hatred. Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attacks, just as the San Bernardino jihadists had done. At this early point in the investigation, there are disturbing indications that the FBI was aware of Mateen and had interviewed him as early as 2013. The FBI interviewed him again in 2014. In the coming days, we must learn whether all leads and information were taken into account and why Mateen was not under active surveillance.

This was the worst terrorist attack on our country since 9/11, and we must respond united in strength and in determination to go to the root of Islamic terrorism and defeat it. We have long known that ISIS-linked operatives acting as lone wolves will continue to plan further attacks, including here in the U.S. The deadly attacks in Orlando, as well as San Bernardino, Brussels, Paris, and Boston, remind us that keeping Americans safe at home is the most important responsibility of the federal government. As your representative in Congress, I take that charge seriously and have supported providing the resources necessary for our national defense.

What has been clear for some time is that the President’s policy of refusing to enforce ‘red lines’ and working through strategic patience is not making our nation safer. Unfortunately, some have even taken the opportunity after the attack to blame 2nd Amendment rights. Such blame is misguided. The fact is that we must remain capable of protecting ourselves and our families here at home. Terrorist groups such as ISIS seek to weaken America by dividing us, and to remain strong as a nation we must remain united.

Just last week, House Republicans rolled out a national security agenda that will focus on strengthening our foreign policy and keeping terrorists out of America. Congress has long called for a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS from the Administration. We also need a plan to strengthen our military. We must close gaps in our border security and our transportation and immigration systems in order to keep terrorists out of America. Our Republican plan counters extremist propaganda used to recruit terrorists.

Even as we mourn today, Orlando shows how much we need a strong and confident America to defeat the threats we face.