We Make Too Big a Deal of Terrorism

Neighborhood Watch ProgramAccording to the Washington Post, the administration thinks that the “war on terror” will go on and on. “Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.” And on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether we should continue the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. Spencer Ackerman reported, “Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, ‘At least 10 to 20 years.'” As Glenn Greenwald noted yesterday, “That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the ‘war on terror’ will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined.”

I don’t get any of this. Since we started the “war on terror” there have been almost no terror attacks on the United States. The vast majority of the deaths from what can credibly be call “terrorism” have been US armed forces in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, in the decade since 2001, 392,000 Americans were killed in auto accidents. There were very roughly 300,000 Americans killed with guns. Hell, roughly 400 Americans have been killed by lightning strikes and that’s more than the number of civilian terrorist casualties in the same period of time. So why exactly do we have to let the president have unlimited war powers in the name of this relatively minor threat to Americans?

It’s worse than that. The Florida Times-Union reported Tuesday, Tipping Law Enforcement to Possible Terrorist Activity Is Purpose of 13-County Program. It is very much like those old Neighborhood Crime Watch signs that read, “We immediately report all SUSPICIOUS PERSONS and activities to our Police Dept.” Note that clearly suspicious persons are much more important than suspicious actions. Translation: “Darkies stay away!”

The article refers to the iWATCH program that has a curious list of things to report. Much of it is silly. We are supposed to report “chemical smells or fumes.” I think that’s probably a good idea, but mostly because you don’t want your house to burn down or to die from poisoning. The idea that this is something we ought to look out for because of “terrorism” is ridiculous. There is also a certain obsession with “important buildings.” Report a car illegal parked in from of important buildings but not, apparently, in front of non-important buildings. I’m not sure what qualifies as an important building in Jacksonville, and the site doesn’t say. They also want people to look out for the nefarious model builder and uniform purchaser. It sounds very much like the people who made the list had watched Die Hard one too many times.

The main thing is the way that the government (and much of the media) want people to be frightened of terrorism all out of proportion to the actual threat. After all, this year, far more Americans have died because of workplace accidents—much of it criminally negligent. Far more Americans have died in shooting sprees. I don’t have the data, but it is certainly the case that more Americans have died this year because of lightning strikes than terror attacks. But we are doing nothing about workplace safety, guns, or the shocking lack of lightning rods in rural America. We are, however, turning the whole country into one big spying organization and allowing our government to practice endless war.

But at least Jacksonville, Florida will be terrorism free. Well, against white people anyway.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “We Make Too Big a Deal of Terrorism

  1. I admired that "at least 10 to 20 years." As if the War On Terrorism (TM) is like a program to clean up pollution in Lake Michigan or some such. Pretty funny stuff. It’s probably a pretty accurate timeline; in 10 to 20 years, we’ll have another Foul Enemy to distract us. There’s a shelf life on threats which aren’t that threatening.

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