Terrorist Deaths in U.S.

The Guardian ran an article on terrorism and anti-terrorist efforts in the U.S. (here). The sub-head of the article tells the story: “While US counter-terrorism efforts remain locked on Islamist extremism, the growing threat from homegrown, rightwing extremists is even more pressing.”

The GAO (Government Accounting Office) did a recent review of terrorist events and government anti-terrorist efforts (PDF here - the key data is in Appendix II.) The review covered 2001-2016 – essentially the period from the 9/11 attack to the present. During this time, the data base showed that Islamic Terrorists accounted for 23 incidents and 119 victims, while Far-Right groups/terrorists accounted for 62 incidents and 106 victims. That is, right-wing extremists accounted for three times as many terrorist incidents as Islamic extremists, and about the same number of victims.

The GAO provides a profile of right-wing extremists:

“Far-right violent extremist attackers are characterized … as having beliefs that include some or all of the following:

  • Fiercely nationalistic…
  • Anti-global;
  • Suspicious of centralized federal authority;
  • Reverent of individual liberty (especially right to own guns; be free of taxes);
  • Belief in conspiracy theories that involve a grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty;
  • Belief that one’s personal and/or national ‘way of life’ is under attack and is either already lost or that the threat is imminent, and;
  • Belief in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in or supporting the need for paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism.”


I suspect that many readers of Breitbart News fit this description, including Steve Bannon, a key Trump advisor and strategist.

Bottom Line

We should keep this in perspective. Over the entire fifteen year period of the study, there were a total of 225 victims of terrorism/extremists. But in 2016 alone, there were 40,200 fatalities from traffic accidents – 110 per day. In 2 days we lose as many people to traffic deaths as we lost to terrorist attacks in 15 years. We spend hundreds of billions on anti-terrorism measures, but we could save more lives by adding some traffic lights, and improving some intersections and on-ramps. The current proposal to replace Obamacare by Trump and the Republicans is projected to cause about 25 million people to lose their medical insurance. This will almost certainly lead to thousands of fatalities. We need to review our priorities and the models that underlie them.


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