U.S. Terrorism Report - Selective Data, Wrong Lessons

The data provided in the US State Department's annual terrorism report for 2007 points to some interesting if puzzling conclusions. The much publicized document, made available 30 April via the State Department's website, makes no secret of the fact that Al-Qaeda is back, strong as ever. It also suggests that violence worldwide is nowhere near subsiding, despite President Bush's repeated assurances regarding the success of his "war on terror".

Will the report inspire serious reflection on the US's detrimental foreign policy and its role in the current situation?

Let's look at some of the data. To start with, take Pakistan. Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda-inspired attacks in the country more than doubled (from 375 to 877) between 2006 and 2007. These attacks have claimed the lives of 1,335 people, compared to 335 in a previous report. That is a jump of almost 300 per cent. 

Then there's Afghanistan, which was supposedly "liberated" shortly after 11 September 2001. The number of attacks reported there increased a sharp 16 per cent in 2007. Some 1,127 violent incidents killing 1,966 people represent a significant surge in violence compared to 2006's 1,257 deaths.

There have also been many other violent incidents around the world, including but not limited to North Africa, the terrorist bombings in Algeria in particular.

But this is barely half the story -- or 40 per cent of it, if we want to be as specific as the terrorism report. Iraq accounted for 60 per cent of worldwide terrorism fatalities. 

Considering the fact that the horrifying violence currently witnessed in Iraq was unheard of prior to the US invasion of 2003, will the Bush administration take a moment to connect the dots? Even a third grader could figure this one out: the US occupation was a major, if not sole factor, in Iraq's relentless bloodbath. In order to right the wrong in Iraq, the US military should clearly just withdraw, and Bush -- or whoever next claims the White House -- should stop fabricating pretexts to justify a prolonged mission.

On 1 May 2003, President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq. As he stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln a huge banner behind him bore the words "Mission Accomplished". The New York Times then wrote, "the Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall." 

Instead, more than five years after Bush's speech, the administration seems determined to maintain a military surge, having added 20,000 soldiers. Making no apologies for the war's contribution to an increase in terrorist activities, Bush's officials continue to rationalise the surge as a commonsense response to ongoing violence, conveniently omitting the US's own part in this violence. The State Department report doesn't classify any of the thousands of innocent victims killed by US or coalition forces as victims of terrorism. 

Russ Travers, deputy director of the Counterterrorism Centre, stated on the day the report was published, "It's a fair statement that around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people." While Travers' assertion is undoubtedly true, there seems to be no intention of providing any context, no connection drawn to the US's direct invasions, or indirect but equally devastating role in campaigns of violence, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan.

But what the State Department's terrorism report didn't fail to do was once again identify Iran as the world's "most active" state sponsor of terrorism. As reported in the Associated Press on 1 May, Iran was responsible for "supporting Palestinian extremists and insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, where? elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps continued to give militants weapons, training and funding." 

The irony is that the report further contributes to the US's long-touted case for war against Iran; ironic because the report's findings, if viewed responsibly, substantiate the claim that the Bush administration's policies have only made the world more unsafe. Wouldn't a war against Iran hike up the number of violent or terrorist incidents?

It also remains unclear how powerful Al-Qaeda really is, and how much of its capabilities were hyped in order to enable the Bush administration to continue its mission. Consider the two occasions Al-Qaeda was back in the news recently.

News media cited official Afghani reports attributing the recent assassination attempt on US-ally Afghani President Hamid Karzai to Al-Qaeda. In other reports, the US rationalised its own assassination of a leading Somali militia leader Aden Hashi Eyrow on 1 May as targeting a key Al-Qaeda member. It's not the logic of the assassination that is key here, but rather the fact that while Al- Qaeda has reached a position of strength that can penetrate several layers of defences in Afghanistan, the US is getting itself involved in a regional feud in Somalia. Why would the Bush administration be chasing Al-Qaeda in Somalia, as in Iraq, if the group is reportedly in the most powerful position in Afghanistan?

Moreover, if Al-Qaeda indeed exists on such a large and influential scale in so many countries, isn't it time to question the logic used by the Bush administration's "war on terror" that was meant to weaken and destroy Al- Qaeda in the first place? 

It may be, of course, that Al-Qaeda's power and outreach is inflated for political reasons, where every conflict the US is involved in becomes immediately reduced to those who support, shield or host Al-Qaeda or Al- Qaeda inspired groups, thus justifying US military intervention anywhere. 

Instead of dealing with the obvious truths that the terrorism report highlights, the authors of the report have resorted to another logic that places blame squarely on external circumstance, never holding the US government accountable for its actions.

Finally, is there really a need for lengthy reports that cost large sums of money and thousands of work hours if the lessons gleaned are always the wrong ones, leading to more blunders that prompt more violence, and more terrorism reports?

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

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Older Comments:
The more I read these type of articles, the more I feel depression...... I am sure that one day God will intervene... between us and our enemies..........

S FROM UK said:
If we are honest, instead of succumbing to agenda-driven prejudices, & to get a clearer understanding of the "truth", we must employ CRITICAL REASONING. The first point, the document is created organs of a state for its own purposes & with its own ideology. Since it is released for public viewing, we can assume a level of propaganda justification. The US MIC has to justify its post-Soviet existence by creating new threats. The MIC is the engine of the corporate US PLUTOCRACY & recall President Eisenhower's words. How many years has it not been at war? Its war budget is even bigger than the next 10 countries combined. It has a fascistic (notice the Roman fasces in its Eagle's claw tribal totems) militaristic agenda, a slicker version of the Imperial Japanese Co-prosperity sphere. The truism, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" e.g. Apartheid South Africa & Nelson Mandela's ANC. The US is addicted to war to feed its economy & strategic national interest, global killing. Imagine if the reaction if Iran was in Canada e.g. Soviets in Cuba. One law for themselves. The CIA are an open terror operation e.g. OPERATION CONDOR in the Latin American "back yard"! The historically illiterate comments about pre-Saddam Iraq & pre-Tito Yugoslavia are quite facile, just look at the complex, NUANCED history, ali mozda tesko je za lud Indijanski Hindutvadije? MANIFEST DESTINY is the new British WASP WHITE MAN'S BURDEN to justify neo-colonialism. The British were far more more astute than the historically-challenged Americans & Christianity made hardly a dent in relatively advanced civilisations e.g. Islamic world & Indian subcontinent. Ultimately, IMAGE cannot replace CONTENT, no matter how much technology improves. Biblical Christianity = fanatical RAVING RAPTURISTS (SAULITE Greco-Roman pagans)- a bunch of crazed death cultists who want to provoke ARMAGEDDON. This report is as valid as the Apartheid South African regime writing about Mandela's organisation.

I agree completely, but writers should not waste their mental energy on attempting to figure out "how and why" the US justifies what they do, and "why" they don't seem to connect the dots. They are not trying to, because it would lead to truths that the rest of the world can not know. Henry Kissinger was a very predominant political figure in the US and he sums up the Bull---- quite accurately.
"What political leaders decide, intelligence services tend to seek to justify."
Henry Kissinger
With this menatality, it all comes into perspective. How scary it that?

As Salaamu Alaykom to my brothers and sisters who read this.

With or without such reports most people think that Islam is a threat. So Biblical Christianity will be spread and embraced for that reason and other reasons.

Yes it is true that if Americans leave, Iraq will be
in total war within itself for a long time, till they cannot kill anymore and it will be the the beginning of civil war in that part of the region for the next 50 years and one Arab country after another will face the same situation..so what is the solution...I cant think of any and neither can anyone..The situation for all Muslims is hopelessness till Imam comes back...

The author writews "Considering the fact that the horrifying violence currently witnessed in Iraq was unheard of prior to the US invasion of 2003, will the Bush administration take a moment to connect the dots? Even a third grader could figure this one out: the US occupation was a major, if not sole factor, in Iraq's relentless bloodbath. In order to right the wrong in Iraq, the US military should clearly just withdraw, and Bush -- or whoever next claims the White House -- should stop fabricating pretexts to justify a prolonged mission.".

US should withdraw from Iraq immediately!! Good idea. But will that stop the slaughter within Iraq? I must be deluding myself and so is everybody else. Sadam avoided the slaughter by keeping very tight control on the society. But Sadam was not going to live for ever. Unless, his successor was another Sadam-like, slaugther was unavoidable. The reasons are internal. If US leaves, slaugther will go on unabatedly because Iraq has no strong government (I don't think it has any government at all). It is like Yougoslavia. Tito kept internal rifts under very tight control. Tito died and no new Tito came into power; so slaughter started and that led to total destruction of Yougoslavia. Can Iraq be any different? I doubt it. US is going to leave pretty soon (The war is already lost); but slaugther will continue and will be broadcast on CNN. Will Egypt be far behind? I doubt it; it is next in line for self destruction.

When are Arabs going to be able to govern themselves? Was 'Glorious' rule of Islam really glorious or 1400 years of misrule (and arabs call it glorious); the people can't change from 'glorious' to 'unglorious' that quickly, you know.

In a previous forum, I stated, 1400 years of Islamic misrule continues; and nothing has made me change my mind. Sorry to be blunt.