Saturday, November 28, 2015

Syria, Terrorism, Craziness and Common Sense

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Sober Risk Assessment Needed to Respond to Terror
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 28, 2015, p. A11

There’s so much craziness involved in our response to “terrorism,” and potential Syrian refugees. Where to begin?

Let’s start with risk assessment.

It turns out that fear of dying in a terrorist attack is like a two-pack-a-day cigarette smoker with a fear of flying.

About 3000 people died in the Twin Towers collapse, September 11, 2001. But that number die every month of every year from guns. An equal number die every month in automobiles. Over 7000 die every month from alcohol related causes. Tobacco contributes to 40,000 deaths a month – a risk for our cigarette smoker 10,000 or more times greater than airlines. [Photo credit: Unknown]

Your risks from the most bizarre accident you can imagine is greater than your risk of a terrorist act.

Will we have more U.S. radical jihadist terrorist attacks? Probably; mostly home grown. Can we stop all of them? Of course not. Would more NSA surveillance of Americans help? Probably not. There was advance intelligence about terrorists’ suspicious flight training, and Osama bin Laden’s intention to strike New York. The Russians told us about the Boston Marathon bombers. ISIS’ attacks in Paris were masterminded by someone well known to authorities. Making the haystack bigger doesn’t make the needle easier to find.

It has been suggested that we admit Christians from Syria, but not Muslims – indeed that all U.S. Muslims be issued identity cards and entered in a database.

There are so many thing wrong with such violations of our values and Constitution. We don‘t punish religions. Moreover, if we’re going to do it anyway, we need to single out Christians not Muslims. Christians have committed multiples more domestic terrorist acts than Muslims.

When emotions run high, we need to recall our shame at refusing to welcome German Jewish refugees before World War II. Provoked by politicians, Americans’ fear the Jews might be communists caused our government to turn the Jews’ boats around and send them back to their death at the hands of Nazis.

If we’re going to respond to events in Paris with anything beyond what we’re already doing, refusing to take Syrian refugees is one of the worst things we could do. Not only will it fail to make us safer, it will help to make ISIS stronger.

Focusing on Syrians rather than Europeans is like focusing on Afghans after planeloads of Saudis, funded by other Saudis, brought down the Twin Towers. Not only were the Paris bombers Europeans, not Syrians, as such they could easily enter the U.S. as tourists.

Nearly 35 million foreigners visit our country every year – many don’t even need visas. If we don’t fear admitting those 35 million, without vetting them, by what logic do we refuse to take 10,000 Syrians who have gone through years of the most intense vetting imaginable?

Since 9/11 we have admitted 785,000 refugees into our country. During those 14 years only three have been arrested on terrorism-related charges. That’s 0.0004 of 1 percent. There’s no credible reason to believe our vetting of Syrians will be significantly less successful.

Over 10 million Syrians have left their homes. Europe has welcomed them. We can’t accept 1/10th of 1% of that number?

Bear in mind, ISIS is not trying to take over our 3 million square miles, or kill our 300 million people. This is not your grandfather’s war. ISIS is just trying to terrorize us, to make us fearful. When we build more chain-link fences and hire more security guards, when we can’t enter an airplane – or even a college football stadium – without being frisked or x-rayed, they’ve won.

Our military presence in the Middle East has helped them recruit far more suicide bombers than we’ve ever killed. And our leaving Syria’s young people with no option but to join ISIS will do the same.
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Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City native, managed sealift to Viet Nam when serving as U.S. Maritime Administrator, and maintains FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com Contact: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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1 comment:

Rich Siciliano said...

Typo paragraph 6 things*. It's difficult to rationalize fear, especially of the unknown. Most people know someone who has been the victim of gun violence, an automobile accident, or lung cancer, but not many know any terrorists, and unfortunately fear-mongering usually wins the day in U.S. I'm sure obesity is high on the list also. Rich