An interesting article appeared today from Reuters laying out some of the findings about terrorist attacks around the world over the past decade. Most of the info is not particularly surprising, such as the most affected countries being Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, but a few tidbits in the article deserve some attention. The first is something well known and long told but always bears repeating since some doubt about this point continues:
The U.S. military interventions pursued as part of the West’s anti-al Qaeda “war on terror”, the researchers suggested, may have simply made matters worse – while whether they made the U.S. homeland safer was impossible to prove…”After 9/11, terrorist activity fell back to pre-2000 levels until after the Iraq invasion, and has since escalated dramatically,” Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Invading Iraq in the name of the War on Terror was a colossal mistake and little more needs to be said about that considering this fact has been driven home by the experts since before the invasion began.
Two other pieces of info should be noted from this study. Both have to do with the wording in the study and what is not included to ensure the numbers do not potentially embarrass certain world actors. The first bit:
The researchers used the University of Maryland definition of “terrorism”: “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”. It did not include casualties from government-backed action such as aerial bombing or other killings. (Emphasis added.)
This means any action taken by a country’s internationally recognized government, such as the Syrian government killing its own citizens or the United States invading another country, would not be included in the results. Drone attacks would also be excluded from the findings. That being said we must ask, if the words “by a non-state actor” were removed from the definition given, would the actions of the U.S. government be terrorism? The answer is left for the reader to decide but shouldn’t we ask why governments aren’t included in this definition? Technically, one of the key reasons the U.S. went to war with Iraq was the falsely alleged Iraqi support of terrorism, particularly al-Qaeda. If we can claim a government is involved in terrorism to the point of invading to overthrow said government, shouldn’t these actors be included in such a study?
The second bit of info in the article intended not to attract attention to the United States’ internal issues:
The study said its methodology allowed researchers the scope to exclude actions that could be seen as insurgency, hate crime or organized crime and incidents about which insufficient information was available.
The interesting item here is the exclusion of hate crimes from the study. Judging from the given definition of terrorism, there is little doubt hate crimes would actually fit the study and, according to the latest numbers(2010) given by the FBI, would look bad for the U.S. considering the number of hate crimes in 2010 (6,628) actually exceeds the number of global terrorist incidents in 2011 (4,564). It should be noted the number of deaths because of hate crimes is very small (7) but there is no argument against the reality they are carried out “to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”.
This is not to suggest hate crimes are America’s biggest crime problem or only an American issue. This is simply a question of how we define and include information in studies that could potentially put a negative focus on the actions of the United States both internationally and domestically. We cannot be scared of what we might find and should recognize we are far from saints when it comes to the overall issue of violence on this planet. Only then can we take the proper steps needed to correct these injustices.