Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Losing the "War on Terror," Cooking the Books to Hide the "Defeat"

The US Department of State's annual report on international terrorism "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003" (April 29, 2004) will be "corrected." The data in the report, "compiled by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was established in January 2003 and includes elements from the CIA, FBI and Departments of Homeland Security and Defense" (April 29, 2004), failed to include the terrorist attacks that happened after November 11, 2003 and "incidents that did not result in deaths or injuries":
The U.S. State Department said on Monday it undercounted the number of international terrorist attacks last year partly because it failed to include incidents that did not result in deaths or injuries. . . .

[State Department spokesman Richard] Boucher last week said the terrorism experts appeared to have made a series of mistakes, failing to count attacks for the full year and possibly misinterpreting the definition of such attacks to exclude incidents included in the past.

On Monday he offered the additional detail that the report failed to count attacks in which there were no fatalities or injuries. These were counted in previous years.

"Incidents that didn't necessarily cause death or casualties were not counted this year, whereas they had been in the past," Boucher told reporters.

He also confirmed the report had failed to count incidents that occurred after Nov. 11. Previous reports looked at the entire calendar year.

Before the Terrorist Threat Integration Center was created in May 2003, the database of statistics was maintained by the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, Boucher said. (Reuters, "U.S. Offers Details on Terrorism Undercounting," June 14, 2004)
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, among others, has issued a scathing indictment:
Secretary of State Colin Powell says no effort was made to "cook the books" in an official government report on terrorist incidents in 2003. We don't believe him. Given his outrageously erroneous presentation to the U.N. Security Council on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, why should anyone take Powell at his word?

Powell most likely didn't cook the books himself, but it sure appears that someone did, probably someone at the CIA-run Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which compiled the data for the State Department report. The report says that terrorist incidents in 2003 declined 45 percent since 2001, to the lowest level recorded in 30 years. In fact, the number of incidents increased 36 percent from 2001 to 2003, to the highest level in more than 20 years. The phony lower total was achieved by using an arbitrary cutoff date of Nov. 11, 2003, rather than the end of the year. The phony figures led Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, as straight a shooter as you'll come across, to declare that "we are prevailing in the fight" against terrorism.

The actual figures suggest the United States isn't prevailing at all in that fight. (Editorial, "Defeating Terror? Not According to 2003 Statistics," Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 15, 2004)
According to Peter D. Feaver, "the American public is divided into four groups: those who are against any war, about 10-20% of the American population; those who support any war America fight, about 25-30%. The rest is on the middle ground, whose support the administration wants to get. They are divided into two groups: the smaller group, so called 'casualty-phobic,' and a much larger group 'defeat-phobic'" ("Research Revealed American Public Are Not Afraid of Necessary War Casualties," Washington ProFile 4, January 29, 2003). The Bush Team could never win over the 10-20% of Americans who oppose all US wars, and they have probably already lost the "casualty-phobic." Will the confirmation that "the number of [terrorist] incidents increased 36 percent from 2001 to 2003, to the highest level in more than 20 years" ("Defeating Terror? Not According to 2003 Statistics," June 15, 2004) and the exposure that they cooked the books on terror to hide this fact finally turn the "defeat-phobic" against them, too? After all, there is no worse epithet in America than the word "LOSER."

That's not necessarily a blessing for activists on the left, though. At this point, it is the power elite's "defeat phobia," more than any other factors, that is likely to prolong the occupation of Iraq. Listen, for instance, to the John Kerry campaign admonish the Australian Labor Party leader Mark Latham not to withdraw the Aussie troops from Iraq:
The campaign of the Democratic candidate for the US presidency, John Kerry, has for the first time rejected Mark Latham's plan to recall Australian troops from Iraq by Christmas, leaving the Labor leader without support for the policy in America's political mainstream.

James Rubin, a foreign policy adviser to Senator Kerry, told the Herald in Washington: "John Kerry has been very clear that regardless of what you think about how we got here, here we are. And failure is not an option in Iraq. And the prospect of success in Iraq will be improved by maintaining a substantial contribution from friends and allies, including Australia.

"When the Spanish Government announced its intention to pull out, he was critical of that. So he would be critical of any government's failure to recognise the stakes in Iraq, the need to succeed there, no matter how sympathetic he might be to concerns about how America got to this point." (emphasis added, Peter Hartcher and Cosima Marriner, "Bush Rival Joins Latham Attack," Sydney Morning Herald, June 14, 2004)
The longer the US troops stay in Iraq, however, the worse Washington's "failure" will be.

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