It is important to keep threats in perspective and not give in to irrational fear – terrorism included.
What frightens you? More narrowly, what kinds of threats to your life make you frantic? Are you afraid of dying as a result of a gangwar in the street? From a robbery gone horribly awry? In a hit and run accident? In a terrorist attack? How about being killed by your spouse or significant other?
A statement by the director of Amnesty International Belgium released today in Brussels noted that:
“We speak a lot about terrorism, but, when we are talking numbers — it’s femicide. In Belgium today, there are many more women who die under the blows of a partner than there are victims of terrorism.”Amnesty International Belgium
And what are those numbers?
In 2019 so far 23 women have been killed vs. 36 in 2018. These crimes are labelled instances of ‘femicide’. By comparison, how many Belgians died in an act of terrorism over a same period?
On May 29, 2018 a man out of prison on ‘temporary release’ shot dead two female police officers and a civilian in the eastern Belgian city of Liège. He also took a female cleaner hostage at a school before being killed by police. Four other police officers were also injured. The incident was characterised as a terrorist attack.
What point am I trying to make here?
Simply that when it comes to terrorism it is vital to maintain an objective view. Terrorism instills in us a disproportionate fear because it is targeted killing and seeks to send a message. Terrorist groups, or at least some of them, are very good at putting out propaganda, both threatening future action or claiming past ones. They use images that, while at times appear comical, are aimed at terrifying us.
Few die as a consequence of an act of terrorist
The basic truth is that you are orders of magnitude more likely to die at the hands of your life partner (especially if you are female) than you are at the hands of a terrorist. Or something more ”mundane” like drowning or from an illness. Every death hurts of course and causes pain in loved ones but very few people die as a consequence of an act of violence. And even fewer die as a consequence of an act of terrorist violence.
None of this should be taken as a suggestion that we down tools on counter terrorism. I do not want to think that I have wasted two decades of my life studying and working this scourge only to realise there are bigger threats out there.
As far as I am concerned, the effort to investigate and thwart terrorist plots is the sole purview of security intelligence agencies, specialised law enforcement bodies (such as the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams – INSETs) and even more specialised military units (a recent expose on the more or less ineffectiveness of the US military presence in Afghanistan demonstrates that the invasion approach is not working).
I do not want to think that I have wasted two decades of my life studying and working this scourge only to realise there are bigger threats out there.
As for the rest of us there is no real need to dwell on the terrorist threat. This does not mean we should take unnecessary risks like that idiot Joshua Boyle who thought ‘backpacking’ in Afghanistan was a good idea (leading to the capture of him and his wife and their detention in squalid conditions for five years).
There are many forms of violence in our society that demand our attention. Terrorism is one, but a small one. Sure, every country is different but it is the rare nation in which terrorism poses a significant danger. Domestic violence is much bigger and requires more condemnation and more resources.
These are facts.