Are we winning?
May 10, 2004 12:35 PM   Subscribe

International Terrorism at a 35 year low, says U.S. Department of State. So - does that mean that the war on terror is being won? (via Anxiety Culture)
posted by Pericles (37 comments total)
Surely that's all the more reason why we should be more alert than ever!
posted by clevershark at 12:37 PM on May 10, 2004

"It's quiet... too quiet."
posted by reklaw at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2004

Leave it to the State Dept ! It all depends on whose ax is being gored. Now let's compare terrorism perpetrated against the United States for the past 35 years...
posted by Postroad at 12:42 PM on May 10, 2004

I guess terrorism is down globally because the vast majority of it seems to be happening just in Iraq.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:45 PM on May 10, 2004

Now let's compare terrorism perpetrated against the United States for the past 35 years...

And then, let's compare terrorism perpetrated by the United States for the past 35 years....
posted by badstone at 12:51 PM on May 10, 2004

What a fun thread this should be. Sure was worth it though.
posted by Witty at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2004

Well, attacks are up in the Middle East, Western Europe, and Latin America, and attacks in North America are steady. Actually, North America attacks have been steady since long before the war on terror officially began...

On the plus side, terrorism is down in Africa. But I wouldn't say we've been aggressively targetting anti-Africa terrorism.
posted by punishinglemur at 12:56 PM on May 10, 2004

Serious question. If terrorism is down so much, why we all hearing so much about it? Is it because it's closer to home now?

And the source is Anxiety Culture. Apologies for my bad html
posted by Pericles at 12:59 PM on May 10, 2004


Anti-US terror attacks down %62 since 2001.
posted by stbalbach at 1:07 PM on May 10, 2004

It's funny... Putin is conducting a war in Chechnya and calling it a "police action." Meanwhile, Bush is conducting a police action against terror and its sponsors and calling it a "war."

Both are losing propositions -- it's hard to sell a lie to a cynical citizenry.
posted by dfowler at 1:11 PM on May 10, 2004

Interesting - George W. Bush calls attacks on US forces, allies, etc. in Iraq the work of terrorists. Apparently, the U.S. Dept of State does not agree.

But as to the question at hand - money, on the scale of billions of dollars perhaps, is pouring of of Afghanistan, via that country's record or near record opium production levels for the last few years since the US kicked out the Taliban, to Islamic terrorist groups.

Now, turn to 1) insecure stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials in ex-Soviet Union nations - the Bush Administration and several European nations, the principle funders of programs to both secure and decommission these nuclear weapons and materials, have not followed through with promised funding. So, these weapons and materials are not quite so secure. Also 2), add the recently discovered global spread of nuclear weapon making technologies via Pakistan's top nuclear scientist - Abdul Qadeer Khan (who sold nuclear bomb plans and sophisticated uranium-enrichment centrifuge designs to Iran and North Korea, and now these plans and designs are believed to have spread around the globe ), 3) Not to mention the fact that - as Khan pioneered - Globalization makes it far easier to have bomb component production "outsourced", bomb components built at far flung locations around the globe....

Oh - and then there's the dramatically escalated level of rage, in the Islamic World, against the US.

No, the US is losing the "War on Terror" - and for a number of reasons. But that will not be officially acknowledged until the devastating attack on US soil - which terrorism experts and pundits alike have all but written into their schedules - finally occurs ( before November 2004 is the consensus ). Then, amidst the smoking ruins of a US city - or some similar type of devastation......or even simply the panicked aftermath of a "dirty bomb" explosion that spewed radioactive materials... how would Americans react ? Would they call for the internment of all American Muslims ? Would the 2004 election be called off ? Would we then descend into a state of endless martial law ?.......Let us hope not, but another major attack on the US, even more destructive than the 9-11 attacks, is now widely anticipated.

These points of mine, though, should not come as news to anyone here.
posted by troutfishing at 1:16 PM on May 10, 2004

Oh, and - I'm sorry to bust up the party.
posted by troutfishing at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2004

before November 2004 is the consensus

Troutfishing, I don't doubt that this may be the case, but I'm interested to see where this consensus on specifics is coming from. Got any references? All I've been reading in the (admittedly) usually clueless Chicago Trib is more like "sometime".

Oh, and the party's long over. All that's left is for someone to sweep up and turn out the lights.
posted by 40 Watt at 1:40 PM on May 10, 2004

Since attacks against american soldiers in iraq don't count as terrorism, is this just another case of Bush & co. pretending to fix a problem through re-definition of a term?

Let's hear it for the flypaper strategy.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:47 PM on May 10, 2004

posted by 111 at 1:48 PM on May 10, 2004

40 Watt - here's a start, Maurren Farrell's well-linked "Will the 2004 Election be Called Off....". There's a considerably longer list even than what Farrell cites (from what I've read) but I don't have the time to dig it all up right now. But Michael Ignatieff's recent NYT Magazine article, "Could We Lose The war on Terror" is worth a read (you can get it as a PDF here)
posted by troutfishing at 1:57 PM on May 10, 2004

Would they call for the internment of all American Muslims?

yes. the upside is, the need to interrogate them all will save the HIV-ravaged california porn industry.
posted by quonsar at 2:01 PM on May 10, 2004

Oh sure Troutfishing, go and bring your fancy-pants facts into the debate!
posted by moonbiter at 2:07 PM on May 10, 2004

If you use the magical "scroll" button, you'll see that by far the largest chunk of the attacks in 2000 and 2001 - the recent hump in that first chart, which suggests terrorists were ascendant before we got into ass-kicking mode - were in Latin America, where in 2001, you had 201 attacks inflicting a total of 20 casualties; the vast majority of the recent "gains" we see in the topmost chart were in Latin America, and even then, casualties in Latin America in 2002-2003 outstrip 2000-2001 by 66-26. As for the focus of the war on "terror", Asia and the Middle East, international terror casualties have spiked and the number of incidents stayed pretty much the same.
posted by furiousthought at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2004

Quonsar -- you are my one-liner hero.

As for the report -- well, hijackings are down, but the death-toll is up. I'd rather have a free down to Cuba than a free trip down the river Styx.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2004

Trip... free trip down to Cuba.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:50 PM on May 10, 2004

No, the US is losing the "War on Terror"

See also: 2+2=5
posted by 111 at 3:27 PM on May 10, 2004

in other news, terror announced today that it would step up the war against bush in the coming months.
posted by quonsar at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2004

See also: 2+2=5

so, if America is attacked on American soil in the near future (and not on Iraqi, US-occupied soil as it happens daily with devastating effects on those who, unlike you, are willing to actually fight), I guess you'll concede that America is losing the "war on terrorism", will you concede that then? (assuming that you'll still have electricity and available Internet connection, that is)

because after the phantom wmd's ("imminent threat") debacle and the torture horrors ("democracy in Iraq") of Abu Ghraib apparently the only viable ratio of the, ahem, hawks, is "Bush's strategy is working because we haven't been attacked on US soil since 9/11".

it took Al Qaeda a few years to plan and excute 9/11, an attack that happened less than three years ago.
hard to argue that it'll take less than that to organize the new 9/11, let's call it "9/11 Part 2". so, it may not be very surprising that they haven't attacked since then. it may not be a sign of weakness, but of strenght. who knows. time'll tell. they maybe scared and defeated. or they may be simply working on their next (radiological?) hit.

anyway, to cheer everybody up:

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism:
15 Recommendations

posted by matteo at 5:08 PM on May 10, 2004

35 year low? what, today?
posted by Satapher at 6:22 PM on May 10, 2004

quonsar is nothing short of genius
posted by Satapher at 6:23 PM on May 10, 2004

Did sailors on the USS Cole count as victims of a terrorist attack?
posted by Ptrin at 6:29 PM on May 10, 2004

What a completely meaningless and deceptive statistic.

1> It doesn't include attacks in Iraq, even though many attacks are supposedly the work of terrorist organizations. If you added up every terrorist act in Iraq, we would be looking at a record high number of terrorist acts this year.

2> If you look at terrorism in the Middle East, it is up 28% from 2001, not including Iraq. If you look at terrorism in Europe, it is up 41%. The big differences that have brought about this supposed reduction in terrorism is a sharp fall-off in both Africa and Latin America, probably due to an end to certain conflicts, but almost certainly not due to the U.S. war on terror.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:33 PM on May 10, 2004

I don't know whether to feel safe or scared, but I hope you're all upstanding Harper's readers and have taken in Luke Mitchell's take on how much to worry. (Excerpt/hint: " is not unfair, or even insensitive, to begin considering the events of September 11 from a more detached perspective.")
posted by micropublishery at 9:29 PM on May 10, 2004

The BBC's Mathew Charles (Realplayer video from BBCWorld)

"For some the US approach doesn't tell the whole story"
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:08 PM on May 10, 2004

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz at the World Affairs Council of Greater Philadelphia, May 6, 2004
Consider these results in less than three years: The coalition has overthrown two terrorist regimes, rescued two nations and liberated some 50 million people. We have captured or killed 46 of the 55 most wanted in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein himself. We have captured or killed close to two-thirds of the known senior al Qaeda operatives. We have seized or frozen over $200 million in terrorist assets. We have disrupted terrorist cells on most continents. We have dismantled a dangerous nuclear proliferation network led by A.Q. Khan, the former head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, a network that had been providing nuclear technology to dangerous regimes around the world, including Iran and North Korea. And we persuaded Libya, long a terrorist sponsor, to eliminate its chemical and nuclear- related programs and to accept international inspections.

Those are impressive accomplishments. But there are many other measures of progress that may not be as easily tabulated -- the bombs that didn't go off; the attacks that were thwarted by a vigilant soldier or U.S. Coast Guard patrol; the regimes that might once have harbored our enemies who dare not risk the wrath of the coalition. In the light of all that's been done and all that's been prevented, it may be tempting for some to think that the worst is passed, and that terrorism might go back to being just another threat that receded into history. Unfortunately, that would be a dangerous miscalculation. Even today, we are still closer to the beginning of this struggle than to its end. We face adversaries unlike any we've known. They don't seek an armistice; they have no territory to defend, no populous to answer to. They threaten us from dark corners, a diffuse and shadowy global network not easily weeded out. And despite all that has been accomplished in these recent months, they still have an advantage. The terrorist needs only to be lucky once; as defenders, we need to be lucky all the time.
The Wages of Appeasement
How Jimmy Carter and academic multiculturalists helped bring us Sept. 11.
Imagine a different Nov. 4, 1979, in Tehran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American Embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Tehran's leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response. When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran's assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the U.N., Mr. Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini might well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there might well have been the sort of chaos in Tehran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979--and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.

The 20th century should have taught the citizens of liberal democracies the catastrophic consequences of placating tyrants. British and French restraint over the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, the absorption of the Czech Sudetenland, and the incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia did not win gratitude but rather Hitler's contempt for their weakness. Fifty million dead, the Holocaust and the near destruction of European civilization were the wages of "appeasement"--a term that early-1930s liberals proudly embraced as far more enlightened than the old idea of "deterrence" and "military readiness." So too did Western excuses for the Russians' violation of guarantees of free elections in postwar Eastern Europe, China and Southeast Asia only embolden the Soviet Union. What eventually contained Stalinism was the Truman Doctrine, NATO and nuclear deterrence--not the United Nations--and what destroyed its legacy was Ronald Reagan's assertiveness, not Jimmy Carter's accommodation or Richard Nixon's détente.
. . .
The consensus for appeasement that led to Sept. 11, albeit suppressed for nearly two years by outrage over the murder of 3,000, has re-emerged in criticism over the ongoing reconstruction of Iraq and President Bush's prosecution of the War on Terror. The tired voices that predicted a litany of horrors in October 2001--the impassable peaks of Afghanistan, millions of refugees, endemic starvation, revolution in the Arab street and violations of Ramadan--now complain, incorrectly, that 150,000 looted art treasures were the cost of guarding the Iraqi oil ministry, that Halliburton pipelines and refineries were the sole reason to remove Saddam Hussein, and that Christian fundamentalists and fifth-columnist neoconservatives have fomented a senseless revenge plot against Muslims and Arabs. Whether they complained before March 2003 that America faced death and ruin against Saddam's Republican Guard, or two months later that in bullying fashion we had walked over a suddenly impotent enemy, or three months later still that, through incompetence, we were taking casualties and failing to get the power back on, leftist critics' only constant was their predictable dislike of America.

Military historians might argue that, given the enormity of our task in Iraq--liberating 26 million from a tyrant and implanting democracy in the region--the tragic loss of more than 500 Americans in a year's war and peace was a remarkable sign of our care and expertise in minimizing deaths. Diplomats might argue that our past efforts at humanitarian reconstruction, with some idealistic commitment to consensual government, have a far better track record in Germany, Japan, Korea, Panama and Serbia than our strategy of exiting Germany after World War I, of leaving Iraq to Saddam after 1991, of abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban once the Russians were stopped, of skipping out from Haiti or of fleeing Somalia. Realist students of arms control might argue that the recent confessions of Pakistan's nuclear roguery, the surrender of the Libyan arsenal, and the invitation of the U.N. inspectors into Iran were the dividends of resolute American action in Iraq. Moammar Gadhafi surely came clean not because of Jimmy Carter's peace missions, U.N. resolutions, or European diplomats.

But don't expect any sober discussion of these contentions from the left. Their gloom and doom about Iraq arises precisely from the anti-Americanism and romanticization of the Third World that once led to our appeasement and now seeks its return. When John Kerry talks of mysterious prominent Europeans he has met (but whose names he will not divulge) who, he says, pray for his election in hopes of ending Mr. Bush's Iraqi nightmare, perhaps he has in mind people like the Chamberlainesque European Commission president Romano Prodi, who said in the wake of the recent mass murder in Spain: "Clearly, the conflict with the terrorists is not resolved with force alone." Perhaps he has in mind, also, the Spanish electorate, which believes it can find security from al Qaeda terrorism by refuting all its past support for America's role in the Middle East. But of course if the terrorists understand that, in lieu of resolve, they will find such appeasement a mere 72 hours after a terrorist attack, then all previously resolute Western democracies--Italy, Poland, Britain and the United States--should expect the terrorists to murder their citizens on the election eve in hopes of achieving just such a Spanish-style capitulation.

In contrast, George W. Bush, impervious to such self-deception, has, in a mere 2 1/2 years, reversed the perilous course of a quarter-century. Since Sept. 11, he has removed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, begun to challenge the Middle East through support for consensual government, isolated Yasser Arafat, pressured the Europeans on everything from anti-Semitism to their largesse to Hamas, removed American troops from Saudi Arabia, shut down fascistic Islamic "charities," scattered al Qaeda, turned Pakistan from a de facto foe to a scrutinized neutral, rounded up terrorists in the United States, pressured Libya, Iran and Pakistan to come clean on clandestine nuclear cheating, so far avoided another Sept. 11--and promises that he is not nearly done yet. If the Spanish example presages further terrorist attacks on European democracies at election time, at least Mr. Bush has made it clear that America--alone if need be--will neither appease nor ignore such killers but in fact finish the terrible war that they started.

As Jimmy Carter also proved in November 1979, one man really can make a difference.
Text from Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi Letter
Second: The Current Situation and the Future

There is no doubt that the Americans’ losses are very heavy because they are deployed across a wide area and among the people and because it is easy to procure weapons, all of which makes them easy and mouth-watering targets for the believers. But America did not come to leave, and it will not leave no matter how numerous its wounds become and how much of its blood is spilled. It is looking to the near future, when it hopes to disappear into its bases secure and at ease and put the battlefields of Iraq into the hands of the foundling government with an army and police that will bring the behavior of Saddam and his myrmidons back to the people. There is no doubt that the space in which we can move has begun to shrink and that the grip around the throats of the mujahidin has begun to tighten. With the deployment of soldiers and police, the future has become frightening.

Third: So Where are We?

Despite the paucity of supporters, the desertion of friends, and the toughness of the times,. God the Exalted has honored us with good harm to the enemy. Praise be to God, in terms of surveillance, preparation, and planning, we have been the keys to all of the martyrdom operations that have taken place except those in the north. Praise be to God, I have completed 25 [operations] up to now, including among the Shi`a and their symbolic figures, the Americans and their soldiers, the police and soldiers, and the coalition forces. God willing, more are to come. What has prevented us from going public is that we have been waiting until we have weight on the ground and finish preparing integrated structures capable of bearing the consequences of going public so that we appear in strength and do not suffer a reversal. We seek refuge in God. Praise be to God, we have made good strides and completed important stages. As the decisive moment approaches, we feel that [our] body has begun to spread in the security vacuum, gaining locations on the ground that will be the nucleus from which to launch and move out in a serious way, God willing.
. . .
5 (sic) – TheTiming for Implementation

It is our hope to accelerate the pace of work and that companies and battalions with expertise, experience, and endurance will be formed to await the zero hour when we will begin to appear in the open, gain control the land at night, and extend it into daylight, the One and Conquering God willing. We hope that this matter, I mean the zero hour, will [come] four months or so before the promised government is formed. As you can see, we are racing against time. If we are able, as we hope, to turn the tables on them and thwart their plan, this will be good. If the other [scenario] [happens] – and we seek refuge in God – and the government extends its control over the country, we will have to pack our bags and break camp for another land in which we can resume carrying the banner or in which God will choose us as martyrs for his sake.
posted by David Dark at 2:22 AM on May 11, 2004

The Ayatollah Khomeini might well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon).

Just a little bit of hindsight there, eh?

Moammar Gadhafi surely came clean not because of Jimmy Carter's peace missions, U.N. resolutions, or European diplomats.

A bit more "fair and balanced" view here.

If the Spanish example presages further terrorist attacks on European democracies at election time, at least Mr. Bush has made it clear that America--alone if need be--will neither appease nor ignore such killers but in fact finish the terrible war that they started.

The (current) Spanish primeminister promised to get their troops out from Iraq if he won the election. He made that promise to his electorate last year. It had nothing to do with the Madrid attacks. Claiming otherwise is distorting the facts. The war in Iraq was overwhelmingly unpopular in Spain. The people decided to change their leaders. That is a very significant part of a system called democracy.

Rants like that make me truly angry and sorry for the level of discourse in your country.
posted by hoskala at 8:56 AM on May 11, 2004

"....Consider these results in less than three years: The coalition has overthrown two terrorist regimes, rescued two nations and liberated some 50 million people."

Let me restrict my critique of Wolfowitz's speech to the first sentence : Afghanistan, which under the taliban was an extreme theocracy and perhaps a terorrist regime too - or, at least it harbored terrorist training camps - produced very minor amounts of opium. Now, it has re-emerged as the world's primary opium production center, opium profits are overtaking foreign aid to Afghanistan, and worries are growing that the opium trade will destabilize the overall region : the fledgling democracy there teeters on the edge.

As for Iraq...... I won't even bother, save to say - As far as the "liberation" of the "terrorist" regime of Iraq goes, the veracity of that claim really depends on how one defines "liberation" and "terrorist", now, doesn't it ?

In April, 2002, the BBC reported :

"According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Afghanistan produced more than 70% of the world's opium in 2000, and about 80% of the opiate products in Europe.

In July 2000 the leader of Afghanistan's former Taleban government, Mullah Omar, declared a nationwide ban on opium cultivation for one year.

The United Nations Drugs Control Program (UNDCP) believes the ban was a success, and production plunged to negligible levels during 2001.

But with the demise of the Taleban, there are fears Afghanistan will quickly reclaim its status as the world's largest producer of illicit opium."

By August 2003, the BBC covered an IMF report about a boom in Afghan opium production : " Afghanistan is mass producing heroin again

Opium growing is coming to dominate Afghanistan's economy, providing roughly half the war-shattered country's wealth, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

"A dangerous potential exists for Afghanistan to progressively slide into a 'narco-state' where all legitimate institutions become penetrated by the power and wealth of (drug) traffickers," the IMF said.

Afghanistan now provides about 75% of the world's opium crop, it added, which is worth around $20bn "

By 2004, reports the Beeb, worries of the emergence of a new narco-state were growing "....Mr Karzai has banned opium poppy cultivation and trafficking but the drug industry is reported to have blossomed since the overthrow of the country's hardline former rulers, the Taleban.

He said that the government had not been successful in dealing with the drugs problem, and sought help from other countries. [ "We run the risk of [an] opium economy undermining all that has been achieved in creating a democratic new Afghanistan" Antonio Maria Costa,
UN Office on Drugs and Crime ]

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says Mr Karzai stressed the need for greater efforts to develop "alternative livelihoods" for poppy farmers.

Nearly 7% of the Afghan population is said to now work in the opium trade, earning as much as Afghanistan receives in foreign aid. "
posted by troutfishing at 9:07 AM on May 11, 2004

As Jimmy Carter also proved in November 1979, one man really can make a difference.

Ronald Reagan proved much the same thing in 1983 when he appeased terror by withdrawing U.S. troops after the Beirut terror attacks, and yet again in 1986 in the Iran-Contra affair, when his administration sold arms to terrorists in Iran and illegally funnelled the profits to terrorist Contras in Nicaragua.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:10 AM on May 11, 2004

david dark's WSJ buddy has forgot to mention Reagan's glorious, quick escape from Lebanon after the US got attacked there.
strategic retreat, I'd say -- how one man can really make a difference
posted by matteo at 9:20 AM on May 11, 2004

so much for not clicking preview.
what TyWebb said, anyway
posted by matteo at 9:21 AM on May 11, 2004

In contrast, George W. Bush, impervious to such self-deception, has, in a mere 2 1/2 years, reversed the perilous course of a quarter-century.

This is just so much bullshit, give me a fucking break. In addition to the legacy of appeasing terrorists that is still Reagan's most enduring legacy, from a different perspective, the Taliban is regrouping, Osama is still at large (as is el-Zawahiri), and the number of successful islamist terrorist attacks througout the world in the 2.5 years following 9/11/01 have exceeded those in the 8 years leading up to it.
posted by psmealey at 12:41 PM on May 11, 2004

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