The truth about terrorists

The US State Department just can’t get it right

In the 1990s, the US State Department allowed expediency to get in the way of a genuine count of actual state sponsors of terrorism. Since 9/11, it has had trouble counting the actual number of terrorist strikes, again for political reasons. Larry Johnson reports that this year, the State Department has decided to avoid controversy and criticism by simply not releasing the report to the public.

Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year’s debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better–they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department’s discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks. For example, in 2003 there were about 172 significant attacks. The numbers for 2004 have jumped to at least 655. At least 300 of those incidents occurred in India in the Kashmir region. NCTC, I’m told, is still tweaking the numbers. For Secretary of State Rice these numbers are a disaster. It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents.

In the Secretary’s defense, however, the sharp jump in numbers has more to do with a change in methodololgy of counting rather that an actual surge in Islamic extremist activity. In fact, if you take time to parse the numbers, the actual scope of terrorism by Islamic extremists in 2004 appeared to decline relative to the attacks during 2003 (except for Iraq). Rather than run from the numbers the State Department and the Intelligence Community should seize the opportunity to really get their hands around the issue and provide Congress and the American people with a clear, apolitical assessment about the reality of the terrorist threat we face. [The Counterterrorism Blog emphasis added]

This only proves that if the counting is done properly, it reveals the unsurprising (to Indians, at least) reality that India is among the world’s worst victims of terrorism.

Given that part of the Bush administration’s public support for Gen Musharraf is based on the fact that he has stopped supporting terrorism against India, any increase in numbers would be uncomfortable indeed. Unlike previous years, India too is unlikely to protest too loudly because it has consistently downplayed the cross-border terrorism bit in order to keep Musharraf in the ‘peace-process’.