There are over a half-million foreign students at American colleges and universities; the U.S. borders, for all practical purposes, remain wide open; only 6 percent of the shipping containers are checked; and there is still an overgenerous number of legal immigrants admitted.
I offer this as an antidote to the Bush administration’s boogeyman stories about the threat of terrorism. There is a threat, of course, but it is far less than the administration would have you believe. Americans are much more likely to die in automobile crashes or from falls or at the hands of a 100 percent American criminal than they are from a terrorist attack.
The most active terrorist organizations in America, according to FBI testimony, are the animal-rights activists. For some reason, you never see terrorism "experts" from the network Rolodex files talking about animal-rights activists.
The Bush administration greatly inflated the number of terrorist acts by including every attack in Iraq, whether it’s sectarian violence, revenge killings, common criminals or Iraqi insurgents who just don’t want us occupying their country. The claim that if "we weren’t fighting them in Iraq we’d be fighting them in the U.S." is childish nonsense.
It seems clearer every day that the original purpose of the Iraqi invasion was not the elimination of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction or the installation of democracy — which has been a failure — but simply an excuse to squat militarily on the second-largest oil reserves in the world.
There is no military solution to the war in Iraq, so how long we keep American troops there boils down to how many more American lives you want to sacrifice for nothing useful or beneficial. I say that one more is too many, and the orders should be cut now to withdraw all American forces. If the U.S. ambassador wants to stay in his palace in the Green Zone, let him hire mercenaries to protect him. Iraq can hardly become more chaotic than it is, and it might just calm itself down once we are out of the picture.
The president’s war on terror has been fraudulent from the get-go. You can’t wage war on a tactic, and since there is no conceivable circumstance where all the terrorists in the world would collect in one convenient killing ground, you will never eliminate terrorists by military means.
Terrorism is a product of politics and of injustice, real or perceived. Since human beings have no choice but to act on their perceptions, whether the injustice is real or perceived doesn’t matter. An injustice will stick in a man’s craw more painfully and longer than poverty or unemployment.
Many people perceive the U.S. foreign policy as hypocritical and unjust, yet President Bush has made no effort whatsoever to change or modify that policy. On the contrary, he has aggravated it so that we have gone from the point where in 2001 we had most of the world’s sympathy to a point where in 2006 most despise our policies and view us as a greater threat to peace than North Korea.
At any rate, to assess risk, you need to know the facts. There aren’t many terrorists in the world, and only a small portion of those direct their anger toward us. Check the mortality tables in any almanac. You’ll see clearly that you have more to fear from accidents, too much cream pie, wobbly ladders or nature’s own infectious agents than you do from Osama bin Laden. He might want to kill you, but wanting something and having the means to do it are two different things.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.