Daniel Henninger is not at all surprised by the latest poll numbers showing disapproval of the war in Iraq. He notes the study drumbeat of stories detailing the Americans killed by terrorists and insurgents. He argues that some context would be useful, though.
According to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (established after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing), there have been about 8,300 terrorist bombings in the world the past 10 years. They have killed more than 10,000 human beings and injured–often appallingly, one assumes–some 43,000 people. (There are separate tallies for arson, kidnapping, hijacking, etc. September 11 is listed as an “unconventional attack.”)
Before September 11 happened in the United States, and ever since, factions with grievances have been blowing up unprotected people going about the act of daily life–shopping, praying, taking their children to school, laughing with friends, burying the dead–all over the world. Places where the sudden cloudbursts of blood don’t always merit our front pages include Spain, Colombia, Israel, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Northern Ireland, Russia, Afghanistan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt and elsewhere.
July 7, 2004: At least five people were killed and 11 wounded when a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew herself up inside a police station in the Sri Lankan capital.
Living in the U.S., one could make the cold-blooded calculation that 21,000 dead and 55,000 injured from all terrorist acts over 10 years is a drop in the bucket and that the war in Iraq has mainly increased the rate of death. This may be true. But if as many suicide bombs went off in Manhattan as have gone off in Israel, Manhattanites would have demanded martial law and the summary execution of suspects on street corners. Their greatest goal in life would not be, as it is now, the closing of interrogation rooms on Guantanamo but instead the erasure of terrorists hiding across the East River.
Feb. 9, 2005: A car bomb exploded near Madrid’s main convention center, injuring 43 people, hours before Spanish and Mexican leaders were due there and after a warning from the Basque separatist group ETA. It was the worst blast in the Spanish capital since last year’s March 11 al Qaeda train bombings.
No matter how fat the diet of stories about Iraq suicide bombings or Gitmo shoved down our throats and no matter how many distraught opinion-poll results come back up, no serious person can allow post-9/11 American security to be reduced to that.
The death march of homicidal zombies in Iraq is trying to push us toward accepting the idea that acts of unrestrained violence against other human beings is now a normal part of politics. It is not normal. Any civilized person should want to resist the normalization of civilian killing as a political act–whether in Iraq, Spain, Indonesia or Kashmir.
A fair point. It’s not unreasonable, though, for Americans to conclude that the Americans getting killed in Iraq by terrorists would not be getting killed if they weren’t in Iraq. Indeed, it’s a truism.
What the Administration needs to do, then, is continue to make the case that the American military presence in Iraq is helping us win the global war on terrorism. The NYT poll shows that, while a majority thinks President Bush is doing a good job in the GWOT, he’s doing a poor job in Iraq. If the Iraq War is justified, that disparity should not exist: They are one and the same.