The New York Times this past weekend published a rather remarkable article talking openly about some basic facts that it typically ignores completely: (1) al-Qaeda is primarily motivated by America’s “unqualified support for Israel and the rulers of the Persian Gulf states,” as well as US militarism in the region, (2) al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist threats are not nearly as big a danger as Washington would have us believe.
While “jihadists of various kinds,” the article says, “are flourishing in Africa and the Middle East,” Americans are notably misled regarding the actual threat they pose.
…most of the newer jihadist groups have local agendas, and very few aspire to strike directly at the United States as Osama bin Laden’s core network did. They may interfere with American interests around the world — as in Syria, where the presence of militant Islamists among the rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad has inhibited American efforts to support the uprising. But that is a far cry from terrorist plots aimed at the United States itself.
A far cry, indeed. But the US has that bad habit of declaring the world it’s own backyard. One group’s local agenda is another American imperialist’s threat to the homeland.
Importantly, the article says that unfortunately, “most of the political realities that inspired Bin Laden’s organization are still in place,” like unqualified support for Israel, propping up Arab dictatorships, and bombing various countries in the region on a near daily basis. That doesn’t bode well for anybody, as I’ve talked about at length.
Even on the margins, the US seems intent on stoking its own threats. The article mentions Boko Haram, an Islamist group in Nigeria that has an agenda for Nigeria and Nigeria alone. Does anybody think it helps that, for example, a congressional report last year insisted on building up Nigerian security forces and essentially starting a proxy war with Boko Haram? “While I recognize there is little evidence at this moment to suggest Boko Haram is planning attacks against the [US] homeland, lack of evidence does not mean it cannot happen,” Patrick Meehan, the chairman of the committee that drew up the report was quoted as saying.
It reminds me of this Washington Post article last year that said even as the Obama administration bombs Somalia, emphasizing the threat posed by al-Shabab, officials were concerned “that a broader [drone] campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on US soil.” Brilliant.
But even despite America’s stubborn insistence on a stupid, overly interventionist foreign policy that creates more enemies than it eliminates, the “terrorist threat” is small and getting smaller.
The National Counterterrorism Center’s annual report for 2011 said about 10,000 acts of violence occurred in 2011 that the government classifies as terrorism, killing about 13,000 people total. Zero terrorist attacks occurred in the US and three-quarters of the fatalities were in just four countries, which happen to be virtual war zones: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia.
Incidentally, those all happen to be countries in which US foreign policy has been excessively interventionist and brutal and which only became hot-spots of “terrorism” following US wars or proxy wars.
The report says, out of about 13,000 people, only 17 American citizens were killed in terrorist incidents last year: 15 in Afghanistan, one in Jerusalem, and one in Iraq. Even counting all 17 US deaths by terrorism last year, that amounts to .001% of Americans died from government-designated terrorism last year.
Compare that with the amount of time and resources allocated to address this overwhelming terrorist threat.
“Warnings about a dangerous world,” writes Micah Zenko in Foreign Affairs, “benefit powerful bureaucratic interests. The specter of looming dangers sustains and justifies the massive budgets of the military and the intelligence agencies, along with the national security infrastructure that exists outside government — defense contractors, lobbying groups, think tanks, and academic departments.”