Following the devastating 9/11 attack, terrorism has become the number one issue for the U.S. government. Just under 60% of discretionary spending for the 2012 federal budget was allocated to the military–ten times the amount spent on education and health care. As a U.S. citizen, over half of your income tax goes to sustaining the war state. Since 9/11, more than a trillion dollars have been spent funding the War on Terror. Aside from depleting the nation’s treasury, thousands of U.S. soldiers have been killed during these hostilities.
To justify this exorbitant cost, the American establishment must convince its citizenry that terrorism is a major threat to their safety and well-being. Terrorism is portrayed as an existential threat to all Western civilization. For this reason, government officials, with the help of the mainstream media, routinely fear-monger about the overwhelming threat of Islamic terrorism. Right-wing Islamophobes lead the way, but the basic paradigm is generally accepted by both left and right, Democrat and Republican alike. There is bipartisan consensus when it comes to the basic premise of the War on Terror, with little difference in foreign policy between George Bush and Barack Obama.
To prove the gravity of the threat, various government-affiliated organizations have been documenting terrorism. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), for example, has been diligently recording data on terrorist attacks. Just this week, the NCTC released to the public its annual terrorism report for the year 2011.
Micah Zenko of The Atlantic published an article entitled Americans Are as Likely to Be Killed by Their Own Furniture as by Terrorism. Although Mr. Zenko’s good intention and clever title deserve praise, I feel that his article is (unintentionally) misleading. For one thing, Americans are much more likely to be killed by their own furniture than by terrorists. And for another, the article’s byline is misleading:
Terrorist attacks killed 17 U.S. civilians last year and 15 the year before.
Those of you who regularly read my writing know that I closely follow such data and have proven again and again that, since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed a grand total of zero civilians in the United States. So, why does Mr. Zenko state that 17 U.S. civilians were killed by terrorist attacks in 2011 and another 15 the year before?
It’s unfortunate that Mr. Zenko failed to mention the very important fact that none of these deaths occurred in the United States. Moreover, all of these fatalities occurred in war zones–in regions that the U.S. is militarily occupying (Afghanistan and Iraq) or assisting in the occupation of (Palestine). Buried on page 17 of the NCTC report, we read:
Seventeen U.S. private citizens worldwide were killed by terrorist attacks in 2011. These deaths occurred in Afghanistan (15), Jerusalem (1), and Iraq (1). Overall, U.S. private citizen deaths constituted only 0.13 percent of the total number of deaths worldwide (12,533) caused by terrorism in 2011. Fourteen U.S private citizens were wounded by terrorism in 2011; 10 in Afghanistan, three in Jerusalem, and one in Iraq.
In the entire year of 2011, the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies killed a combined total of 16 U.S. private civilians. By way of comparison, note that in a single event in March of 2011, “[a]n American soldier went on a house-to-house shooting spree in two [Afghan] villages…killing 16 people…four men, three women and nine children.” Not surprisingly, this incident–clearly an act of terrorism if that word is to have any meaningful definition (although admittedly, it does not)–does not find its way into the NCTC report. This is because it’s only terrorism when our enemies (especially Muslims) do it.
This huge double standard is apparent from the NCTC report itself, which declares on the opening page:
In compiling the figures of terrorist incidents that are included in the CRT and the NRT, NCTC uses the definition of terrorism found in Title 22, which provides that terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” (See, 22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)).
In other words, by definition the United States or its military cannot commit acts of terrorism. An act becomes terrorism based not on the action but on who commits this action. If “subnational groups or clandestine agents” kill civilians in an attack, this is terrorism–especially if that group is Muslim or named “Al-Qaeda”. Meanwhile, if the United States kills ten times as many civilians in an even greater attack, that’s not terrorism at all and will never find its way in the government’s database of terrorist attacks.
If an American soldier guns down 16 Afghan villagers (including three women and nine children), that’s not terrorism. Meanwhile, the NCTC counted Major Nidal Hasan’s shooting spree against U.S. soldiers on a military base as an act of terrorism. This, in a nutshell, summarizes the American government’s mentality.
A cursory search of news report in 2011 reveals that on a seemingly routine basis the United States killed more Afghan civilians than the 17 U.S. civilians killed by Muslim terrorists in the entire year. Here is a very incomplete sampling of the victims of various U.S.-led raids in the previous year:
three civilians, five civilians (including one woman and two children), 65 civilians, nine boys, the Afghan president’s own cousin (can you imagine if the Afghans shot and killed a U.S. president’s cousin–or even the president’s dog?), two children, seven civilians (including women and children), six civilians, two women and a child, two civilians (including a 12-year old girl), a boy, a girl, four civilians (including two women), one civilian (shot and killed because he had a flashlight in his hand), 14 civilians (two women and 12 children), 13 civilians (including three women and eight children), two civilians, “up to 16 civilians”, four civilians, six civilians (including an 11-year old girl), a journalist, four civilians, and seven civilians.
Recently it came to light what I suspected long time ago: to minimize reported civilian deaths, the United States government, borrowing a tactic used by Israel, defines “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone.” Simply put, wherever an American bomb falls, there lies a militant. Even using such an absurdly restrictive definition of “civilian”, the United States has killed way more Afghan civilians than the Afghan insurgency has killed American civilians, a fact that is evident from the incomplete list above.
Long before it was revealed that the U.S. was counting “militants” in this way, Gareth Porter of Counterpunch had astutely noted:
Except for a relatively few women and children killed by accident, the civilians who died in the raids were all adult males who were counted as insurgents in press releases and official data released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Porter estimated that in reality U.S. Night Raids Killed Over 1,500 Afghan Civilians in Ten Months in 2010 and 2011, far outstripping the meager 17 civilians killed by Muslim terrorists as reported by the NCTC. This is not even to speak of the civilians killed by the U.S. in other Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
But, always remember: they are the violent ones.
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The NCTC has released annual terrorism reports since 2005 (see: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011). Going through these, we find that in this entire seven year period, there were only two successful acts of Islamic terrorism inside the U.S. (the Little Rock recruiting office shooting and the Fort Hood Shooting). Both were against military targets: in the former, Carlos Bledsoe shot and killed a U.S. soldier outside an army recruiting center. In the latter, Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 12 soldiers and one military-contracted ex-soldier on a military base.
In other words, at least since 2005, not a single civilian has been killed in the U.S. by Muslim terrorists.
As for American deaths outside the U.S., the majority of these (over 80%) have been in war zones, according to the data available in the NCTC reports. Of these fatalities, 97% have been in Afghanistan and Iraq. From 2005 to 2011, the total number of U.S. deaths outside of war zones has been limited to 17. This means that, outside of those countries the U.S. wages war in, an average of two American civilians per year are killed by Muslim terrorists. This, I think, should put Micah Zenko’s article in further context.
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In fact, we can go further back than 2005 using the RAND Corporation’s list of terrorist attacks within the United States. (RAND is a nonprofit global policy think tank financed by the U.S. government.) Going through this 2010 report, it becomes clear that Muslim terrorists haven’t killed a single civilian in the U.S. since 9/11.
A similar situation exists in Europe: Europol has been releasing annual terrorism reports since 2006. As I indicated in my 2011 article Europol Reports Zero Deaths from Islamic Terrorism in Europe:
Zero civilians in Europe have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the last half decade. In fact, the only injuries incurred from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.” Perhaps the “anti-jihadist” blogosphere should find this one security guard and give him a medal of honor and declare him a martyr for the cause.
Unfortunately, since the publication of that article, a French citizen of Algerian ethnicity shot and killed three soldiers and four civilians. This brings the total civilians in Europe killed from Islamic terrorism (2006-present) to a grand total of four, or an average of less than one person per year.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the great threat of Islamic terrorism in the Western world: you are more likely to die from an allergic reaction to peanuts, being struck and killed by lightning, or being crushed to death by your television set than being killed by a Muslim terrorist.
Nonetheless, the NCTC report states that the “ultimate goal” of the publication “is to maintain global awareness of the persistent threat terrorism poses and the critical need to secure its defeat.” Could this be anything other than rank propaganda? Yet, in spite of the horrifically biased methodology employed by the NCTC, the data belies the case being made, a strong indication of how flimsy the ideological basis for the War on Terror really is.