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Coleen Rowley

Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine in 2002

October 18th, 2011 10:19 AM

Neither security nor democracy comes from a gun

I recently enjoyed the opportunity to speak to various groups at the University of Northern Iowa in connection with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and also in celebration of Constitution and Citizenship Week. All the more because the overarching post 9/11 challenge: "How do we defeat terrorism without terrorizing ourselves?" is very much tied to the need to return to adherence to the Constitution and to empowering America's citizenry.

There's little doubt that our Founding Fathers have rolled over many times in their graves this past decade as American citizens were first terrified into believing they must sacrifice their constitutional rights and liberties for "security" and then duped into believing that the U.S. launching of pre-emptive wars would somehow bring "freedom." It's certainly unfortunate we haven't heeded "Father of the Constitution" James Madison's famous warning that "no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

The ubiquitous question at the end of nearly every interview about 9/11 is, "Are we safer now?" But we've yet to hear an answer from talking heads, at least on U.S. airwaves, that is not pure subjective opinion pulled entirely from thin air. Usually the "expert" opinion provided for political reasons, is geared toward keeping citizens optimistic that the hundreds of thousands of people killed and $4 to $5 trillion in long-term costs thus far spent is working to keep us "safe." Very few experts want to tell the harsh truth that this last decade has seen a precipitous increase in the level of both terrorist attacks worldwide and fatalities occurring from these attacks.

The truth is that behind the barrage of talking head propaganda, the hard statistics and figures show that international terrorism has increased approximately 20-fold over the last decade.

Remember in 2004 when Colin Powell's State Department was caught (twice) putting out wrong figures in its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" Report after press conferences falsely pointed to progress in the "war on terror"? Under challenge from scholars, the department was forced to withdraw its report and admit that its initial version vastly understated the level of worldwide terrorism and that nearly double the number of people had been killed in 2003 as originally reported. In the course of compiling the following year's report, the Washington Post discovered that attacks (per government analysts) had gone up once again - three times more, in fact. Rather than publish that sobering information, it was decided to strip the annual terrorism report of the numbers and rename it "Country Reports on Terrorism." But faced with an outcry once the redacted statistics leaked out showing a surge in terrorism, the National Counterterrorism Center was forced to release the figures, the highest ever in its 21-year history.

President George W. Bush, quizzed on the apparent upsurge of global terrorism at one of his prime-time news conferences, reportedly attributed the increase to aggressive U.S. action: "We've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action."

A statistical annex prepared by the NCTC can now be found near the end of each year's "Country Reports" that provides the all-important numbers. Although the Bush administration frowned on comparisons (and probably the Obama administration does too), these numbers are relevant for purposes of comparison with pre 9/11 figures. From 1995 to 2000, the old annual global terrorism report showed fluctuation between 273 and 440 terrorist acts and between 165 and 741 people killed each year. (The 741 deaths occurred in 1998, the year of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.) By contrast, the most recent "Country Reports" which came out in August 2011, reflecting figures for 2010, show more than 11,500 terrorist attacks occurred in 72 countries resulting in more than 13,200 deaths. (The number of attacks in 2010 rose by 5 percent from the previous year, with the only good news being that the number of deaths declined for a third consecutive year. From 2007 to 2010, attacks world wide fluctuated from about 11,000 to over 14,000, killing people in numbers ranging from last year's 13,200 to nearly 23,000 in 2007.)

These huge increases in the level of international terrorism world wide, do not count the "collateral damage" civilian casualties occurring in U.S. wars nor do they count "domestic terrorism" incidents (like the mass shooting in Norway or the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords).

Beyond the quantification of attacks and deaths, which should provide a resounding "No!" to the question of whether we are safer, there exist other quantifiable measures, most importantly those from University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, head of the "Chicago Project" and perhaps the world's foremost expert on suicide terrorism. In The Truth Behind Suicide Terrorism monograph, Pape shows that they don't "hate us because of our freedom," but suicide terrorism is instead engendered by the presence of U.S. armies. Pape's now well-understood conclusion that suicide terrorism occurs in response to our invasions and long-term occupations is augmented by his reflections on "America's massive decline in power" since 9/11:

"A nation's relative power is based on its economic wealth compared to the rest of the world. In 2000, the U.S. controlled 31 percent of the world economy; in 2008, that figure had fallen to 23 percent and, according to the International Monetary Fund, the projection for 2013 is 21 percent. In the past eight years, the United States has lost one-third of its economic wealth or, put another way, since 2000, the U.S. has lost nearly a third of its relative power in international politics while China's has doubled and Russia's has tripled. This decline represents the largest drop in the history books, Pape says. Our international decline was well under way before the economic downturn of 2008, which is likely to further weaken our influence. The Iraq war, growing government debt and myriad unwise decisions resulting in economic weakness have cost the U.S. real power in today's world. ‘If present trends continue, we will look back at the previous administration's term as the death knell of American domination," he predicts.'"

These sad facts prove that U.S. wars and military occupations are neither bringing democracy to the world nor keeping us safe. If we want to bring democracy to the world, wouldn't it be far more effective and less costly to use the methods that UNI educators employed recently to teach middle school students about the Constitution and good citizenship?

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