The Corner

Were Bathtubs and Husbands More Dangerous than Nazis?

There are a few terror-related memes that crawl all over the left side of the internet — all of them designed to minimize, to downplay, the jihadist threat. “Bathtubs are more dangerous than terrorists.” “Toddlers are more dangerous than terrorists.” This weekend, Nicholas Kristof added a new twist, declaring that “husbands are deadlier than terrorists.” Here’s Kristof:

The bottom line is that most years in the U.S., ladders kill far more Americans than Muslim terrorists do. Same with bathtubs. Ditto for stairs. And lightning.

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

By that logic, never mind about those Nazis. Much ado about nothing. After all, ladders, bathtubs, toddlers, and husbands were all more deadly “in America” from 1939-1945 than the SS or the Wermacht. Millions of died overseas, including hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the Germans couldn’t strike us here at home. So all that hysteria over Hitler? Fearmongering, really. He couldn’t hurt us. 

Of course that’s absurd — but it’s also absurd to use post-9/11 domestic terror stats to claim that terrorists aren’t all that dangerous to Americans. After all, on 9/11 terrorists hit America arguably harder than Japan did at Pearl Harbor. It was one of the deadliest single days in the entire history of the United States, and it caused staggering economic damage. Since then, we launched a more than decade-long war designed to destroy terrorist safe havens all while ramping up security here at home. As I wrote last year, when you look at the total cost of American casualties at home and abroad (much less the cost of civilian casualties abroad), the terror threat looks much more formidable:

In reality, Americans have suffered more than 60,000 casualties in the struggle against jihad, including more than 3,000 Americans killed at home, roughly 7,000 abroad, and the over 50,000 who have suffered battlefield injuries, many of them so grievous that the victims would have died in all previous American wars. And that’s just American casualties. The toll in equally valuable lives overseas reaches well into the hundreds of thousands. Indeed, there are times when the death toll inflicted by jihadists has been near-genocidal in both scope and intention.

Do you want to know how deadly terrorists are? Deadly enough to infiltrate the great cities in the western alliance. Deadly enough to destroy America’s most advanced armored vehicles. Deadly enough to bring down airliners. Deadly enough that they require an immense sacrifice in blood and treasure to keep them at bay. 

Moreover, one needs to consider capacity and intent. My bathtub isn’t trying to kill me. I don’t need the government to protect me from my furniture or my firearms. I can be a responsible gun owner. I can step gingerly around my allegedly dangerous furniture and learn to keep my head above water in my deadly bathtub, but the average American can know next-to-nothing about ISIS’s next terror plot.Absent good luck and extraordinary heroism, it’s hard for ordinary people to stop terror attacks. Instead, they tend to get shot, run over, or blown up before they know what’s happening or have a chance to react. That’s why we need a national security firewall. When we let that slide, we know what happens — mass murder on a historic scale. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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