You may not be aware of this, but Islamic terrorism is no big deal. Really, it’s not. In June, a much-ballyhooed report from the New America Foundation declared that since 9/11, right-wing terrorists have killed more people on U.S. soil than have Islamic terrorists. The New York Times, NPR, and other left-wing outlets jumped on the report, all essentially relaying one message: There’s an “acceptance” of the idea that the “threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown.”
Just last week, President Obama himself echoed the same idea. After a deranged, gay, black racist murdered two people on live television, Obama decried gun violence and then said, “What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.” Again, the message is clear: America worries too much about terrorism and not enough about the left-wing cause célèbre of the moment, be it the threat of right-wing terror or gun violence more generally.
While it’s easy enough to discredit the New America Foundation’s report — how convenient to begin the tally after the deadliest foreign attack on American shores in history — Obama’s statement is both true and extraordinarily misleading. Yes, it’s true that very few Americans have died here at home at the hands of terrorists since 9/11. Yes, it’s true that more Americans die from “gun-related incidents” in this country than die from terrorist violence.
But in these tallies, isn’t the New American Foundation forgetting a key American population? Isn’t the commander-in-chief? America has been relatively safe since 9/11 because Americans have died by the thousands fighting terrorists overseas. In Iraq, 4,492 American service members fell. In Afghanistan, the toll is 2,363 — and rising. More than 52,000 other Americans have been wounded in action, and almost 1 million have filed disability claims involving everything from traumatic brain injury to post-traumatic stress disorder. More than 2 million Americans have left their homes to deploy overseas since 9/11, causing immense stress and disruption to service members and their families.
These Americans have fallen in two wars so vicious and prolonged that their combined death toll has likely climbed above 250,000. While we’re engaged from the air in Syria (with only occasional boots on the ground), the casualties of sectarian violence there have surpassed 300,000. And that doesn’t even count the terrorist deaths in allied nations like Nigeria or in the lawless regions of Libya, Yemen, or Pakistan.
Our enemy is so deadly that he is able to claim thousands of American lives even when those Americans come from the best-armored and best-armed military in the history of warfare. We have fought jihadists overseas precisely to prevent another 9/11, and the fact that we have largely succeeded — at great cost — is now being used to minimize the extent of the threat.
#share#The very idea shows a stunning disregard for the sacrifice of American soldiers. All too many Americans have forgotten the reality of the pre-9/11 world. When jihadists are given the freedom — the breathing space — to train new fighters, finance operations, and plan attacks, they can, in fact, launch catastrophic strikes even against the world’s lone superpower. Since 9/11, however, we’ve taken the fight to them, and they’ve suffered horrific casualties. It’s difficult for terrorists to plan and finance new attacks while they’re fighting for their lives at home.
But as President Obama reduces our military presence in Afghanistan and refuses to redeploy combat troops to Iraq, we’re moving back to a pre-9/11 world, a world where terrorists do have safe havens, where they can recruit thousands of new followers and don’t have to worry about direct contact with American soldiers. Will we be able to preserve the relative safety we’ve enjoyed while our brave warriors were fully engaged overseas? Will we look at the next decade and see the same peace at home that we’ve enjoyed over the last decade?
I hope and pray that I’m wrong, but I fear that the clock is now ticking on another catastrophic attack — or perhaps even a series of attacks — that will shake this nation to its core. We face twin threats from ISIS — an even more ruthless and powerful jihadist force than al-Qaeda — and from an Iran that is soon set to receive more than $100 billion in new economic stimulus thanks to the Obama administration. For now, we are choosing not to effectively combat these threats overseas. Does that mean we’ll soon have no choice but to confront them more frequently here at home?
Leftist activists have long argued that the terror threat is “overblown.” The president himself is now acting as if he believes they’re right. In so doing, he’s not only placing the American people at an unacceptable risk, he’s dishonoring the sacrifice of the men and women he purports to lead. American civilians have felt secure because other Americans have given their last full measure of devotion to make them safe. Their sacrifice proves the threat is real. We forget this reality at our peril.
— David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and a veteran of the Iraq War.