Sunday, June 08, 2008

Let Them Eat Fear

Fear is not the natural state of civilized people
--Aung San Suu Kyi

The government is always cooking the books Enron-style to portray terrorism as the worst threat to democracy since Adolf Hitler. It has been priming the pump since ca. 1983, and many private institutions receiving grants and contracts are glad to provide figures that verify the administration's assertions. The books are always on simmer when the topic is terrorism.

Fareed Zakaria, editor of
Newsweek International reports,

"finally we have a well-researched, independent analysis of the data relating to terrorism, released last week by Canada's Simon Fraser University. Its findings will surprise you ("The Only Thing We have to Fear.)"

Contrary to various government-funded reports which show rises in terrorism anywhere from 40-450% over the past decade, the Simon Fraser study reveals a problem with all the studies:
"They count civilian casualties from the war in Iraq as deaths caused by terrorism." In past studies deaths in war zones -- even when "intentional, politically motivated, and perpetrated by non-state groups" -- have been exempt from the title "terrorism."

Zakaria says, "Including Iraq massively skews the analysis. In the NCTC and MIPT data, Iraq accounts for 80 percent of all deaths counted. But if you set aside the war there,
terrorism has in fact gone way down over the past five years," this due to successful counterterrorism operations and infighting among terror groups.

The most interesting finding was the
"extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years." Study director Prof. Andrew Mack writes, "Its strategic implications are critically important because historical evidence suggests that terrorist campaigns that lose public support will sooner or later be abandoned or defeated."

Reporting agencies must be uniform in what constitutes terrorism before collecting or reporting statistics on terrorism.
That would entail that the hiring agency (=government) develop a factually accurate, working definition of what constitutes terrorism, a fundamental task of which we seem incapable.

Contracting agencies of the government must clearly define their product prior to the award of contract (except when they don't: see
"Improper Payments"), yet the government itself can not manage to define its adversary before undertaking wars.

All violence in the world is not terrorism, despite George Bush's declarations to the contrary. If we don't know what terrorism is, how can we have statistics about it?

Zakaria concludes:

"Why have you not heard about studies like this or the one from Simon Fraser, which was done by highly regarded scholars, released at the United Nations and widely discussed in many countries around the world—from Canada to Australia? Because it does not fit into the narrative of fear that we have all accepted far too easily."

Fear -- it's what's for dinner.


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