Facts and Myths

Issue 20, Volume 12, of The Wire. May 5, 2011.

Issue 20, Volume 12, of The Wire. May 5, 2011.

Information rules the modern world. Objectivity is the standard of thought. We think in metrics. All we need is objective data. Facts reflect reality.

War is just such a reality. The war on terror is about defeating an actual enemy. Terrorism is fact. Peacemaking is myth. Myth is primitive, wishful thinking that is neither mathematical nor objective.

By this logic, those who dissent from the endless and boundless war on terror are automatically removed to the margins of rationality. Those who support the war, even fervently, are realists.

So what are we to make of the facts gathered by the Institute for Economics and Peace in its 2014 Global Terrorism Index Report?

IEP is dedicated to “providing metrics for measurement.” The Global Terrorism Index, which covers 162 countries and 99.6% of the world’s population, “provides a fact-based understanding of terrorism and its impact” from 2000-2013. It defines terrorism as “threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”

The 2014 report, as recounted by The Guardian’s defense and security correspondent, Ewen MacAskill, includes facts such as:

Terrorism is on the rise despite the war on terror (on which the U.S. has spent $4.4 trillion). The number of fatalities from terrorism has risen from 3,361 in 2000 to 11,133 in 2012 and 17,958 in 2013.

Forty times more people are murdered than killed by terrorists. Over 80% of deaths from terrorists occur in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. Only about 5% of deaths from terrorism since 2000 have occurred in developed countries.

The most successful approaches to eliminating terrorist groups are reducing state-sponsored violence, initiating political processes to address grievances and hostilities, and improving community-supported policing—not warfare.

These are dissonance-laden facts when juxtaposed to claims that al-Qaeda is on the run and when one remembers that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (with its brutal beheadings) emerged after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

IEP is interested in telling a story of peacemaking, of exploring the cultural, political, and economic factors that contribute to peacefulness, in “shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human wellbeing and progress.” The facts they collect are from a different perspective, a different “conceptual framework,” than the old story of war that is its own kind of myth.

RLI

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