So Which Is It? Is 3,000 Deaths A Big Deal Or Not?

There’s an amusing hypocrisy on the part of some critics of the Iraq war since some of them overlap with the “terrorism isn’t really that big of a threat” group. Unfortunately for them, this tends to lead to some very incongruous complaints.

Take popular Internet weblog Boing! Boing!. On September 12, 2006, Boing! Boing!’s Mark Fraunfelder posted a copy of an e-mail noting that total American deaths in Iraq had finally equaled the total number of Americans killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

One implication of this is that the death rate of U.S. soldiers, especially combat-related deaths, is actually very low in Iraq in comparison to other American wars (a point I made earlier). Five times as many American soldiers were killed in Vietnam in 1968 alone as the Iraqi insurgency has managed in almost 3 and half years. Instead of confronting the Americans, Iraqi insurgency seems to focus most of its effort on killing and terrorizing civilians in hopes of igniting a sectarian civil war.

Back to Boing! Boing!, though, it is a little odd that Fraunfelder thought the 3,015 deaths as of September 9 was noteworthy. After all on August 7, 2006, Cory Doctorow lauded the Cato Institute for dismissing the relevance of the 9/11 terrorist attack,

The bottom line is, terrorism doesn’t kill many people. Even in Israel, you’re four times more likely to die in a car wreck than as a result of a terrorist attack. In the USA, you need to be more worried about lightning strikes than terrorism. The point of terrorism is to create terror, and by cynically convincing us that our very countries are at risk from terrorism, our politicians have delivered utter victory to the terrorists: we are terrified.

Of course, those folks who hijacked four planes and flew three of them into buildings a few years ago might have had a little something to do with “convincing us that our very countries are at risk from terrorism.”

Ultimately, though, it would be nice if people would make up their minds. If 3,000 or so deaths in a single day from a terrorist attack means that “terrorism doesn’t kill many people,” then the logical conclusion is that neither do Iraqi insurgents.

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