Tuesday, May 03, 2005

State Department Withholding Terrorism Reports

We know that state-run wars kill people. We are supposed to accept the deaths of “our” soldiers and “their” civilians as the price of protecting ourselves from danger – the calculus of risk and benefit. But what can we conclude when the 2004 terrorism statistics show huge increases in terrorist attacks all around the world even as America wages war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and plans further wars?

Last year, the State Department retracted the 2003 terrorism report after admitting it had understated the number of terrorist incidents. This year, the State Department decided not to publish the data at all in its annual report to Congress. Using limited information provided during briefings to Congressional aides, The Washington Post reports that global terrorist attacks jumped from 175 in 2003 to 655 in 2004. Terrorist incidents in Iraq jumped from 22 attacks in 2003 to 198 in 2004; that number didn’t even include attacks on U.S. troops. Terrorist attacks doubled in Afghanistan (to 27) and more than doubled in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, jumping from 19 in 2003 to 45 in 2004. Last year also brought the Beslan, Russia school killings and the Madrid train bombings.

If real information about real killing in the real world has any value at all, we must conclude that these perpetual wars are not making anyone safer: not the people in the attacked places, nor the citizens of the attacking nations. Barbara Kingsolver wrote, in her essay “Small Wonder,” about the Greek story of Jason and the Argonauts, Medea and the dragons, how cutting off an enemy’s head can scatter teeth-seeds that sprout throngs of new enemies. She also wrote, in “Flying:”“No bomb has ever been built that can extinguish hatred, and while I have been told that this is not the point, I insist on it as my point, if one is ever to be made for me.”

There are many good moral arguments against war; many were cited by people around the world as we tried to stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before they happened. The best argument against war is the practical one: if the goal is saving lives, it doesn’t work.


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