(Updated – see below)
Following the 9/11 attacks, President George Bush signed into law the Patriot Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), both of which gave “the government sweeping authority to spy on individuals inside the United States.” IRTPA also established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which began publishing annual terrorism reports since 2005. The 2011 report, released to the public last week, ominously warned of “the persistent treat terrorism poses.”
Yet, the NCTC’s own data belies its predetermined conclusions: the threat of terrorism to the average American is virtually non-existent. In the entire year of 2011, exactly zero civilians in the U.S. were killed by terrorism. In fact, not a single civilian in the U.S. has been killed by Islamic terrorism since 9/11, well over a decade ago. Put another way: more Americans are killed from being crushed to death by their television sets than by terrorism, a realization that should put “the persistent threat” of terrorism into some much-needed perspective.
The same is the case across the pond: Europol has released yearly terrorism reports since 2006. Going through these, one cannot find a single civilian in Europe who has been killed by Islamic terrorism. (It should be noted, however, that the as of yet unreleased 2012 report will no doubt reflect the Toulouse shootings, which resulted in the death of four civilians.) Indeed, the truth is that less than 1% of terrorism in Europe is done by Muslims.
In other words, the threat of Islamic terrorism in the Western world is very minimal. It has been grossly exaggerated in order to justify the multiple wars being waged in Muslim majority countries. The charge is led by anti-Muslim ideologues, but the overarching premise–that Islamic terrorism is a great threat to Western civilization (even an existential threat to it)–is accepted by virtually all segments of American society.
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Not only do Muslims inflict zero civilian deaths in America and Europe, they bear the brunt of terrorism in the Middle East and South Asia. The 2011 NCTC report found that the vast majority of deaths from religious terrorism were in fact Muslims. The report reads:
• In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.
• Muslim majority countries bore the greatest number of attacks involving 10 or more deaths, with Afghanistan sustaining the highest number (47), followed by Iraq (44), Pakistan (37), Somalia (28), and Nigeria (12).
• Afghans also suffered the largest number of fatalities overall with 3,245 deaths, followed by Iraqis (2,958), Pakistanis (2,038), Somalis (1,013), and Nigerians (590).
The bulk of these terrorist attacks were carried out by Sunni extremists, including Al-Qaeda and the Taliban (see p.11 of the report).
Based on these two facts–1) that Muslims are the number one victims of Islamic terrorism, and 2) that Sunni extremists such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are most responsible for this—the American mind, fully ensconced in the national mythology, reaches the conclusion that Muslims ought to support America’s War on Terror; or, worded in an even more imperial tone:
Muslims should be grateful to us for fighting for them against the Bad Guys.
And yet, grateful is the last word to describe Muslim sentiment. Muslims around the globe (including in Afghanistan and Iraq), overwhelmingly disapprove of the so-called War on Terror. In fact, they hold very negative views of the United States (at least in regard its foreign policy), viewing “‘U.S. interference in the Arab world’ as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East.” This, in spite of the majority holding very negative views towards Al-Qaeda and its tactics.
So, why aren’t these Moozlums grateful for all that we’ve done for them?
It’s because they know what is painfully obvious: it is U.S. military intervention in the region that is most responsible for creating the problem of terrorism.
This becomes very clear if we look at the three countries that have reported the highest number of terrorism-related fatalities (according to NCTC data): Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. These three countries alone accounted for 64% of terrorism-related fatalities in 2005, 74% in 2006, 77% in 2007, 59% in 2008, 61% in 2009, 66% in 2010, and 68% in 2011.
Iraqis specifically have suffered the most from terrorism: according to the NCTC, from 2005 to 2007 some 55-65% of terrorism-related fatalities occurred in Iraq alone. The 2009 report declared: “Since 2005, Iraq continues to be the country with the most attacks and fatalities due to terrorism.”
The report also stated that the group most responsible for terrorism was (and continues to be) Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). What the NCTC failed to point out, however, was that (in the words of Barack Obama) “Al-Qaeda in Iraq…didn’t exist before our invasion.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq was founded with the intent to “[e]xpel the Americans from Iraq” and topple the interim government propped up by the United States. The Iraqis can thank the United States for creating the conditions that spawned this terrorist group, as well as for the resulting violence.
In fact, is it very easy to see the correlation between the U.S. invasion and terrorism in Iraq using the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents (RDWTI), which has tracked terrorist incidents for several decades.
In the year before the Iraq War (from 3/19/2002 to 3/19/2003), there were only 13 terrorist attacks and 14 terrorism-related deaths in Iraq. In the year after the Iraq War (from 3/20/2003 to 3/20/2004), there were 225 terrorist attacks and 1,074 terrorism-related deaths. In other words, the U.S. invasion of Iraq resulted in an over 1600% increase in terrorist attacks and an over 7500% increase in terrorism-related deaths in just one year.
At the height of the Iraq War, there were 3,968 terrorist attacks, resulting in 9,497 deaths–which amounts to an over 30,000% increase in terrorist incidents and over 67,000% increase in terrorism-related deaths as compared to pre-war years.
Here is a graphical representation to help visualize the data from RDWTI:
With the U.S. invasion Iraq went from having a virtually non-existent terrorism problem to becoming the world champion of terrorism, a title it continued to hold up until 2010. It is difficult to attribute this to mere coincidence.
In 2011, Iraq dropped to second place, being overtaken by another one of America’s arenas of war: Afghanistan. This war-torn country is a second example of how U.S. military intervention created the problem of terrorism.
According to the NCTC reports, the Taliban have been responsible for the vast majority of terrorism-related deaths in Afghanistan. Yet, prior to the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were not terrorists, at least not how the term is commonly employed today by the United States. Certainly, they were theocratic tyrants who imposed a frighteningly fundamentalist interpretation of Islam on the Afghan people. But, the Taliban at this time weren’t associated with Al-Qaeda style tactics such as suicide attacks, car bombs, or IED explosives.
The RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents supports this assertion, recording only two incidents involving the Taliban in the year prior to 9/11: an assassination attempt of a rebel leader and a rocket attack.
As government documents reveal, it was only after “[t]he Taliban was driven from power in late 2001, during the course of a United States-led invasion of Afghanistan” that “the Taliban has operated as a violent insurgent organization–bent on driving the United States and its allies from Afghanistan…resort[ing] to armed violence: car bombings; suicide strikes; rocket attacks; kidnappings; and murder.” The Taliban resorted to terrorist tactics in their fight against foreign occupiers and the U.S.-installed puppet regime in Kabul. This conflict, almost wholly a result of U.S. actions, is responsible for the violence and wave of terrorism that has rocked Afghanistan for the last decade.
Using the data from RDWTI, we find that in the year just prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, there were only three terrorist attacks in the country, resulting in eight fatalities. By 2008, the number of terrorist attacks had jumped to 450 and the number of terrorism-related deaths to 1,228. In other words, the U.S. War in Afghanistan resulted in a 15,000% increase in both terrorism related incidents and deaths.
Here’s what it looks graphically:
The U.S.-led War in Afghanistan has created a worsening terrorism problem for Pakistan as well. There are many complex reasons for this spike in violence within Pakistan (which are beyond the scope of this article), but all are ultimately rooted in America’s War on Terror. Using the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents, we find that there was an over 650% increase in terrorism-related fatalities in Pakistan as a result of America’s war (568 deaths in 2008 as compared to 73 in 2000).
Lest Democratic supporters be tempted to think that the blame belongs to George Bush’s administration alone, let them be informed that war-making has bipartisan consensus. President Barack Obama has continued the legacy of warring in the Muslim world.
We can actually trace American war-making using Muslim corpses as an indicator. Obama promised to shift focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. U.S. troop levels in Iraq were a quarter of what they were in 2011 as they were in 2007; coincidentally, in the same time span Iraqi fatalities from terrorism fell to a quarter of what they were (according to NCTC data).
Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama tripled U.S. troops in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2011. According to NCTC data, between 2008 and 2011 there was an over 130% increase in terrorist attacks and 68% increase in terrorism-related deaths in Afghanistan.
Obama has also stepped up the war in Pakistan. NCTC data reveals a 500% increase in terrorism-related fatalities in Pakistan from 2005 (338) to 2011 (2,033). For the past few years, Pakistan has earned the dubious rank of third when it comes to terrorism, behind only Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Before the so-called War on Terror, levels of terrorism in Muslim lands were similar to what they were in other parts of the world. For example, the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents indicates that, up until the U.S.-led War on Terror, the Middle East and Latin America had similar incidents of terrorism; it was only after the U.S.-led War on Terror that terrorism in the Middle East shot way up:
In the year 2000, there were a total of 404 terrorist attacks in all of the Middle East and South Asia. By 2006, this number jumped to 5,738–an increase of more than 1300%! This is what America’s War on Terror has done for terrorism in the Muslim world.
The same trend holds for terrorist attacks globally. In the year 2000, there were 1,151 total terrorist attacks. By 2006, this number had rocketed up to 6,660. In other words, the U.S.-led War on Terror caused a more than 470% increase in worldwide terrorism.
Islamophobes would have us believe that it is Islam itself that is responsible for the upsurge in terrorism. Most Americans, even many liberals, believe that “radical Islam” is the root of the problem. The data, however, suggests that it is the United States of America that is most responsible for creating the conditions on the ground that inexorably lead to terrorism.
It is difficult to deny the correlation between the U.S.-led War on Terror and the rise of terrorism worldwide. Is it not a great irony of our times that the very policies designed to combat terrorism are most responsible for creating terrorism? To add another layer of perverse irony, the steep rise in terrorism–a direct result of U.S. action–is used to justify further such action.
In the words of Glenn Greenwald:
How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?
But it is Muslims who not only have to deal with American “inva[sions], droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men”, but also have to bear the brunt of the terrorism that inevitably follows. It is truly a double whammy for them.
The vast majority of Americans will never face religious terrorism in their lives: less than 1% of victims of religious terrorism are U.S. civilians. Meanwhile, up to 97% are Muslims.
It is truly an Orwellian world we live in. The nation most responsible for creating rampant terrorism lays the blame on the victims of such terrorism. Muslims are told that “they aren’t doing enough to combat terror”, even while Americans do their utmost to reflexively continue such action as would ensure the continued survival–nay, the rapid proliferation–of terror.
Update I (6/19/12):
The original version of the article suffered from minor mathematical errors, which have now been corrected (h/t JSB).