THE BLOG
09/14/2014 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Of the 17,891 Deaths from Terrorism Last Year, 19 Were American. Let Iraqis Fight ISIS.

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The reality of the war against terrorism is that since 2001, the U.S. has weakened groups like Al-Qaeda, but "hasn't wiped any out" according to a recent Washington Post article. Retired Air Force General Charles F. Wald is quoted as saying, "We're not going to see an end to this in our lifetime...there isn't going to be any time where we all of a sudden can declare victory." Therefore, it's important to evaluate what our country has sacrificed thus far, especially if there will never be a time we can declare victory. If we can't ever truly claim that we've won, and this is indeed a never-ending conflict, then what have the costs been thus far? After 4,486 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and 2,344 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, 1 million U.S. soldiers wounded in both wars, and a potential cost of up to $6 trillion, the last thing American soldiers and their families need is another war. Even after two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS is now a major dilemma in Iraq, the Taliban still exists, and a number of other terrorist groups in the world continue to pose threats to global security. So, it's safe to say that further evaluation is needed pertaining to American interests in waging a third war (Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom, and now the war against ISIS) in Iraq. Also, some analysis on the true threat posed by terrorism to America is also long overdue. Terrorism is a serious issue and 9/11 affected everyone in the country, but a sober examination of how many Americans are affected by this threat is needed in order to justify never-ending wars in the Middle East and around the globe.

Even one American death is too much and a tragedy, however it is important to look at how global terrorism has affected Americans in recent years, and whether or not further wars are needed to combat this threat. According to the State Department, here are the number of Americans (excluding the Boston Marathon bombing that killed 3 Americans and injured 264 others) overseas killed, injured or kidnapped, for the past five years:

2013
U.S. citizens overseas killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 16
U.S. citizens overseas injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 7
U.S. citizens overseas kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 12

2012

U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 10
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 2
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 3

2011

U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 17
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 14
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 3

2010
U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 15
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 9
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 0

2009
U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 9
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 14
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 4

The majority of the deaths, kidnappings, and injured listed above are American citizens who were living in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other danger zones in the world.

As stated, even one American death is too much, and even one journalist murdered is a tragedy, but compare the global threat of terrorism and its danger to Americans for the past five years to the aggregate death toll of human beings in other countries. These numbers, compiled by the U.S. Department of State, represent the total number of people who died from terrorism, in counties like Iraq, Afghanistan and regions like Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and parts of Asia:

2013
In 2013, a total of 9,707 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. In addition, more than 2,990 people were kidnapped or taken hostage... The ten countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2013 are the same as those that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2012. The ranking in terms of total attacks increased for Iraq, the Philippines, and Syria, decreased for Pakistan, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia, and remained the same for Afghanistan, India, and Thailand.

2012
In 2012, a total of 6,771 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in more than 11,000 deaths and more than 21,600 injuries. In addition, more than 1,280 people were kidnapped or taken hostage.

2011
Over 10,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 2011, affecting nearly 45,000 victims in 70 countries and resulting in over 12,500 deaths.

2010
Over 11,500 terrorist attacks occurred in 72 countries in 2010, resulting in approximately 50,000 victims, including almost 13,200 deaths.

2009
Approximately 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 83 countries during 2009, resulting in over 58,000 victims, including nearly 15,000 fatalities.

Looking at the tens of thousands of deaths each year that affect citizens in other countries (primarily Iraq and Afghanistan), it's obvious that ending terrorism forever is of great concern to other countries. It is of course one of our biggest concerns, but continuing never-ending wars with sectarian quagmires in countries thousands of miles away serves the terrorists, not America. "Fighting them over there" is what the terrorists want since they can't invade America's shores through a navy or amphibious invasion; they need us to come to them. Also, all our efforts didn't stop two terrorists in the Boston Marathon Bombing. With everything done since 9/11, just two men managed to create enough havoc to make everyone in the nation feel threatened, while all of the 17,891 deaths from terrorism occurred overseas. It's interesting to note that the Columbine, or Virginia Tech, and countless other shooting sprees don't have the same affect on Americans.

Instead of playing into the hands of ISIS, we should pursue a strategy that calls for the Iraqis, Kurds, and the natural enemies of ISIS to defeat them; not another try at a failed war we just ended several years ago. According to Britain's MI5, the most notorious terror groups are the following:

The most significant groups are;

Yemen: Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Syria: Al Nusrah Front (ANF)
North Africa (Sahel): Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
West Africa: Boko Haram and Ansaru
East Africa (Somalia): Al Shabaab
Iraq: Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI)

Therefore, does the war on terror involve defeating other groups aside from ISIS? Will American soldiers be in Nigeria to destroy Boko Haram, or Somalia once again to fight Al Shahaab, or Syria, or the Philippenes to defeat Abu Sayyaf? There are over 40 high profile terrorist groups in the world according to The National Counterterrorism Center, so will America be fighting each and every one of them forever? Will our great grandchildren be in Yemen in 2048, fighting the great grandchildren of the surviving terrorists?

Do I want ISIS defeated? Absolutely, but by Iraqis, not by U.S. soldiers. So why are we going to such insane lengths to destroy ISIS, even after Al-Qaeda's leadership is mostly destroyed and even though we've spent over a decade and can't seem to truly end any of them? I don't believe in conspiracy theories, I believe in the immense and inevitable fallibility of leaders in power, the inability of policy makers to make the right decisions, the ability of bureaucracies to miss the big picture while focusing on the tiny details, and the fear of the masses elicited by two beheading videos. We weaken our country by trying to kill an idea, or eradicate a word called "terror." A madman in Connecticut can murder 20 children and 26 total lives and our country won't equate the tragedy with terrorism. Gangs, maniac shooters, drunk driving, and other issues in our country kill tens of thousands every year, but we gloss them over as simply part of life. However, it takes two beheadings, although horrific and infuriating for me and millions of Americans, to simply ignore the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and head right back into the hornet's nest.

Over 100,000 deaths are attributed to terrorism worldwide in other countries against other citizens in the past five years, while less than 60 of those deaths are American, so perhaps we're waging a war on terror to protect citizens of other countries? Terrorism and the ideology that fuels it can't be destroyed by American military interventions and shouldn't be the reason we send our soldiers to counterinsurgency conflicts (with sectarian violence and ever changing political turmoil) that hurt our nation immeasurably. We owe our soldiers and veterans better, especially since they do the fighting and there's still a VA crisis and an ongoing war in Afghanistan. President Obama's strategy against ISIS is as short-sighted as Bush's was in getting us into Iraq in the first place.