Informed Comment | March 26, 2016
The right wing is carping that President Obama is “downplaying” the dangers of Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) in the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks on soft targets. But whipping up hysteria about the threat of terrorism is a racket that mainly benefits security firms and arms manufacturers. No one will deny that such attacks are horrible affairs that kill dozens of innocents and everything humanly possible should be done to combat them. But it is also just the case that the attacks are intended to provoke fear, terror, hatred and polarization, so such sentiments should be avoided. And these assaults on soft targets should be seen in some sort of perspective. So let us just consider the leading causes of death in the US (2014), a country of some 318 million, in the context of terrorism (defined as non-state actors using violence against civilians to accomplish a political goal).
1. Heart disease: 611,105
2. Cancer: 584,881
3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
4. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
6. Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
7. Diabetes: 75,578
8. Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149
From 2005 to 2015,
71 Americans were killed on US soil by extremists, of whom
24 were killed by Muslim extremists (white supremacists etc. were more deadly than Muslims).
That is an average of a little over 7 per year.