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We Need To End the Disastrous Failure Of The War On Terror

America's military adventures have fueled a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.
 
 
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Global War on Terrorism Memorial at the Colorado State Welcome Center/Rest Area in Trinidad, Colorado.
Photo Credit: Matt Lemmon/Flickr

 
 
 
 

Twelve years into America's "war on terror," it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence, war and instability in an "arc of terror" stretching from West Africa to the Himalayas and beyond.  If we examine the pretext for all this chaos, that it could possibly be a legitimate or effective response to terrorism, it quickly becomes clear that it has been the exact opposite, fueling a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.

The U.S. State Department's "terrorism" reports present a searing indictment of the "war on terror" on its own terms.  From 1987 to 2001, the State Department's "Patterns of Global Terrorism" reports had documented a steady decline in terrorism around the world, from 665 incidents in 1987 to only 355 incidents in 2001.  But since 2001, the U.S. "war on terror" has succeeded in fueling the most dramatic and dangerous rise in terrorism ever seen.

The State Department reports seem, at first glance, to show some short-term success, with total terrorist incidents continuing to decline, to 205 incidents in 2002 and 208 in 2003.  But the number of more serious or "significant" incidents (involving death, serious injury, abduction, kidnapping, major property damage or the likelihood of such results) was already on the rise, from 123 incidents in 2001 to 172 in 2003.

But then the 2004 report, due to be published in March 2005, revealed that the number of incidents had spiked to an incredible 2,177, including 625 "significant" incidents, even though the report excluded attacks on U.S. occupation forces in Iraq.  Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice took decisive action, not to urgently review this dangerous failure of U.S. policy, but to suppress the report.  We only know what it said thanks to whistleblowers who leaked it to the media, and to Larry Johnson, an ex-CIA and State Department terrorism expert and a member of Ray McGovern's Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Rice eventually released a reformatted version of the 2004 report, ostensibly replacing "Patterns of Global Terrorism" with a new report titled "Country Reports on Terrorism" that excluded all statistical data.  The State Department has continued to publish "Country Reports on Terrorism" every year, and was forced to include a "statistical annex" beginning with the report for 2005.  The reports also include disclaimers that this data should not be used to compare patterns of terrorism from one year to the next because of the "evolution in data collection methodology".  In other words, a report that used to be called "Patterns in Global Terrorism" should not be used to study patterns in global terrorism!

So, what is the State Department afraid we might find if we used it to do just that?  Let's take a look.  The politicization of these reports certainly undermines their reliability, but, as Secretary Rice understood verywell, the dramatic rise in global terrorism that they reveal is undeniable.  

The numbers obviously spiked in Iraq and Afghanistan while under U.S. occupation, so we'll exclude the figures for those periods in those countries.  The rationale for the "war on terror" was always that, by "fighting them there", we wouldn't have to "fight them here", so we'll just look at the effect "here" and everywhere else.

On that limited basis, the State Department reports nonetheless document an explosion of terrorism, from 208 incidents in 2003 to 2,177 in 2004 to 7,103 incidents in 2005. Since then, the total has fluctuated between a high of 7,251 incidents in 2008 and a low of 5,029 incidents in 2009, after President Obama's election temporarily raised hopes of a change in U.S. policy.  The State Department has not issued a report for 2013 yet, but the number of "terrorist" incidents in 2012 remained at 5,748, documenting an intractable crisis that is the direct result of U.S. policy.

 
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