Saturday January 10, 2009
One of the many sad ironies of the Bush era that is rapidly and mercifully drawing to a close is that after the president created a “central front in the war on terror” by invading Iraq, the amount of “terrorism” in the world skyrocketed. I call it the Bush Bubble:
At first, the administration seemed a little embarrassed by this result, and it engaged in various attempts, which I’ve documented over the years and summarized here, at disguising the increase. Interestingly, the public face for many of those shenanigans was John Brennan, formerly head of the National Counterterrorism Center and currently Obama’s transition intelligence adviser and pick for the newly created position of deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.
In July 2005, announcing a new web-accessible database of terrorism incidents compiled by the RAND corporation and available at tkb.org, Brennan said, “We’re trying to be as open and transparent to the public as possible.”
That lasted a little over two years. Funding was withdrawn from the project on March 31, 2008, probably because people like me were using the analytical tools on the site to produce embarrassing graphs like the one above. Note that the data used in that graph was accessed a couple of months before the site’s demise, and the decrease shown for 2007 may reflect incomplete data. The government’s own figures, put out by the National Counterterrorism Center but going back only to 2004, show an increase in 2007:
Those increases were largely driven, of course, by the carnage let loose in Iraq subsequent to our invasion. The last time Bush’s attention was called to the havoc he wreaked there, his response was a blithe, “So what?”
I didn’t want that to be the last word, so on Friday I went back to the White House to throw one more metaphorical shoe at the president. Luckily, Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel was sitting in for Dana Perino and Tony Fratto, both of whom have ignored me these last couple of months. Here’s the transcript of my exchange with Scott:
ME: The administration has been boasting about the success of the President’s war on terror, yet data compiled by the RAND Corporation show that the global rate of terrorism, as measured by the number of people killed per year, increased by almost fivefold during the Bush presidency. And according to the government’s own terrorism statistics, 2007 was the worst year ever, with over 22,000 people killed worldwide. Does the President consider that record a success?
MR. STANZEL: The President considers it very much a success that we have kept this nation safe since the devastating attacks of 9/11. The magnitude of the attacks on 9/11 were unprecedented, unseen, when 19 individuals armed with box cutters flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and were fought and died in a field in Pennsylvania.
We have taken the fight to the terrorists. It has been this President’s sole mission throughout his presidency to confront those threats where they are. He has a much talked-about Bush Doctrine. The President has made it very clear that if you aid, abet, house, feed, fund a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorist, and that we will also confront the challenges where they emerge so we don’t have to face them here at home. And we will work to spread an ideology of hope and freedom, which will be the ultimate tool in combating terrorism around the world.
So I’ll move on. Yes, go ahead —
ME: But shouldn’t the anti-terrorism efforts reduce terrorism rather than increase it?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I guess you should ask the question, have terrorists — do terrorists continue to try to kill innocent civilians around the world? Yes, they do. Should we then just take a step back and decide, no, we shouldn’t confront those challenges?
ME: But you can try a —
MR. STANZEL: I’m done, I’m going to move on.
ME: — you can try a different tactic.
MR. STANZEL: Which is — we have a full tactic, full panoply of tactics that we use, on the diplomatic side, on the defense side, on the homeland security side, and terrorist financing side. So the President is very proud of his record in defending this country and taking the fight to terrorists for the past two terms.
This is probably the last time I’ll set foot in the Bush White House. So that’s my farewell kiss in honor of the widows, the orphans, and all those killed in Iraq.
Eric Brewer attends White House briefings on behalf of Raw Story and BTC News.