|December 5, 2012
After more than eleven years of the US waging wars abroad in the name of "fighting terrorism" a new report released Tuesday shows that the number of global terror attacks has dramatically increased during the post-9/11 era, not decreased.
The new Global Terrorism Index (GTI) found that while the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere generated huge spikes in terrorist activity and civilian deaths in those countries, it is North America which has been most insulated from the growth in violence.
Produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) the GTI is the first index to rank countries on the impact of terrorism and analyses the associated economic and social dimensions. The index is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database, which is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), headquartered at the University of Maryland.
"After 9/11, terrorist activity fell back to pre-2000 levels until after the Iraq invasion, and has since escalated dramatically," Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace, told Reuters in an e-mail interview.
"Iraq accounts for about a third of all terrorist deaths over the last decade, and Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan account for over 50 percent of fatalities."
The glaring fault of the study, which demands note, is that it employs a very narrow definition of the term "terrorism"—a word that Glenn Greenwald says "simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything." Within the scope of GTI report, the term excludes the violence of state or government-based actors like the US armed forces or NATO's military regime.
As Reuters notes:
The researchers used the University of Maryland definition of "terrorism": "the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation".
It did not include casualties from government-backed action such as aerial bombing or other killings.
Long a critique of the "global war on terrorism" is that the definition of the word "terrorism" is meant to connotate violence perpetrated by less powerful, though committed, militant networks and not the politically motivated violence of powerful nations, such as the United States or others.
As Greenwald argued at Salon.com in 2011:
This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc.
And as the linguistics professor and author Noam Chomsky, commenting on the death of innocent people throughout the US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, said: "Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism."
Despite the flaws of the definition used in the report, its value remains in the close examination of the last decade and tells a stark story about the nature non-state terrorism since 2001.