Terrorism is way, way down, except in countries torn apart by civil war, often where the US has sent occupying troops

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/13/thanks-a-lot-dick-cheney.html




Ooops we did it again.


My question is how one defines “terrorist act”? Like I am sure Syria considers every attack against them a terrorist act. Civil Wars are very messy (anyone remember Rwanda?) So how does one separate terrorists attacks from freedom fighters or militia factions in the war?

That said, yeah, no duh, in areas where there is no authority at all, there is going to be chaos as others compete for that power.

One quote of note:

Additionally, large deployments of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan also likely provided a richer target environment for jihadists. Those who wanted to kill crusaders could attempt to do so without having to plan and execute much more difficult external operations.

Back in the day I thought that might be one “benefit” of the Iraq war. Anyone who wanted to kill Americans, didn’t need to figure away to come here, they just went to Iraq. Of course that is some wrong thinking because it is making a non-stable area even worse, even if it may have kept some people from coming here.

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This doesn’t prove that our intervention causes terrorism. Rather, massive terrorism causes our intervention.

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Many times the resistance to whatever they are resisting are forced to engage in asymmetric warfare. After all they don’t have planes, tanks, and ships. They usually only have small arms and improvised munitions. Most often the thing they are resisting is an incumbent government who will label any force used by the resistance as being terrorism while they simultaneously blow up wedding parties with the killer drones and smart bombs only governments can afford. They call those tactics “strategic” by the way.
So, to answer your question, freedom fighters and militia are always de facto terrorists according to the incumbency. Remember, during the American revolution, the Sons of Liberty where terrorists in the view of the British and freedom fighters in the view of the colonies.


You know what they say, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.


I agree with all your points, but if they count towards the “terrorist” totals, it doesn’t really help in gauging this issue. The lower line shows that in areas that aren’t in “conflict” the rate is quite low over all and consistent. I would also question the consistency of reporting the numbers as there were many civil wars and skirmishes in the 90s. Kosovo, any one?

In short, if a “terrorist act” isn’t well defined and not consistently “counted” through the decades, then this graph is basically just completely irrelevant bullshit. Sort of how the rapid statistical jump in autism is attributed to the redefinition of the term. So of course there are going to be more cases included.

In America, it’s when a brown guy does something remotely scary to white Christians… like exist. /s

Seriously, though, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. It’s all in the perspective that you take which makes it an act of terrorism vs. an act of righteous anti-colonialism.


Except that it all goes back to intervention. We had intervened in the Mid East prior to 9/11. The first major al Qaeda targets were embassies in two African nations and the bombing of the USS Cole - all after we built a base in Saudi Arabia. And let’s not forget overthrowing elected governments as far back as the 1950s… Of course, there were less problems when we help the Mujahadeen fight communism. Then we were fine.

But my point is that we’ve been trying to shape the region to our satisfaction well before al Qaeda or Daesh existed.


The way I see it, the terrorist label itself is completely irrelevant bullshit. It’s just a term used by the establishment to demonize anyone who engages in warfare against the incumbency no matter how justified that act of warfare is or how repressive the regime. These days we count every incumbent government as legitimate and every freedom fighter as a terrorist. This is not to say there aren’t people fighting for all the wrong reasons but labeling them terrorists is simply an easy out so that you don’t have to bother yourself with the complex question of why this is happening. You can just label them a terrorist, put them in your terrorist box, and use them as an excuse to continue any bad policy you want.


That the neocon theory of “fight them over there instead of over here” worked?

Increasingly? It’s always been Chinatown, and we’ve always made Jack Nicholson look like a genius.

Not a single day more. Troops home tomorrow.

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It uses the GTD which doesn’t list their methodology, but a quick glance shows it includes non-fatal attacks on clearly military targets.

I was wondering that as well. So I looked up the methodology on the database that they used:

The incident must be intentional – the result of a conscious calculation on the part of a

The incident must entail some level of violence or immediate
threat of violence -including property violence, as well as violence against people.

The perpetrators of the incidents must be sub-national actors. The database does not
include acts of state terrorism.

In addition, at least two of the following three criteria must be present for an incident to be
included in the GTD:

Criterion 1: The act must be aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social
. In terms of economic goals, the exclusive pursuit of profit does not satisfy this
criterion. It must involve the pursuit of more profound, systemic economic change.

Criterion 2
There must be evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some
other message to a larger audience (or audiences) than the immediate victims
. It is the act taken as a totality that is considered, irrespective if every individual involved in carrying out
the act was aware of this intention. As long as any of the planners or decision-makers
behind the attack intended to coerce, intimidate or publicize, the intentionality criterion is met.

Criterion 3: The action must be outside the context of legitimate warfare activities
That is, the act must be outside the parameters permitted by international humanitarian law
(particularly the prohibition against deliberately targeting civilians or non-combatants


Looking at that graph I could interpret that as non conflicted countries have returned to historic norms.

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Maybe not, but taken as a piece in a larger body of work, these trends back up previous scholarship on the nature of “terrorism”

Robert Pape of U of Chicago, a great place to start


Isnt what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the causes of terrorism, not the response, unless that response (I.e. military intervention) is triggering further terrorist acts (spoiler alert, it does.)

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I think the problem when the west has gotten involved is arbitrary lines when creating nations and governments. That said, what is the solution moving forward? Redrawing them and if so how? The problem now is ISIS etal are often times foreign to the region but want to carve out a state.

What’s missing is that while their “purpose” is to throw out invaders that doesn’t say they are the rightful owners of the place in the first place.

Suicide bombing is generally used by those who want control of an area but are a minority that can’t gain power legitimately.

Yeah, the standard defense of the terrorist-supporter. It’s almost always easy to tell terrorists from freedom fighters by looking at their targets.

And what claim do WE have to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Niger, Libya or Pakistan? Or Iran for that matter?

That’s a broad statement. There are plenty of people who have been radicalized by the invasions to the point of becoming suicide bombers and to imagine they two are entirely unrelated is naive.

You can say the same about American forces, though. Look at events like My Lai in Vietnam or the use of drone bombings in the US wars. How is that any more morally defensible? Because it’s “for freedom”? And it’s entirely true statement that it’s in the eye of the beholder. That doesn’t mean we can’t make moral judgements, but it’s far more accurate a statement than the American invasions caused little to no radicalization. Of course it did! It’s obvious that it did. There are entire organizations that emerged out of the chaos the Iraqi invasion caused. It’s a direct line between that and the rise of Daesh!