Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Overblown Risk of Terrorism

2006 Nov. 30

Re your article:,9171,1562978,00.html

I read Jeffrey Kluger’s article about risks (“Why we worry about the things we shouldn’t … and ignore the things we should”, Dec. 4 issue) waiting for him to get to the obvious, but he evidently chickened out. Let me fill in the gap.

If you start in 1981, with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, and run thru the end of 2005, you’ve got a quarter century’s worth of data about terrorist attacks on America. Add up all the casualties: 9/11, of course. The 1993 WTC attack as well. The bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the embassies in Africa (where most of the casualties were Africans, but count ‘em anyway). The Unabomber. Oklahoma City. Think of the FBI as terrorists and throw in Waco and Ruby Ridge. Count everything.

What body count do we come up with? 3,771. Over 25 years. (See table below).

So, to “keep America safe” from an average of 151 deaths per year (half as many as bathtub drownings or falling off ladders), we have shredded our civil liberties, completely reorganized the federal government, hassled airline passengers for an hour or 2 on each and every one of literally billions of trips, started 2 wars, provoked a national sense of paranoia and anxiety, and poured at least half a trillion dollars down a black hole.

Historians a hundred years from now will compare this era to the Salem witch trials and wonder what OUR excuse could possibly have been.

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Richard S. Russell, a Bright (
2642 Kendall Av. #2, Madison WI 53705-3736
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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-- George Santayana, American philosopher, 1863–1953

Deaths from Terrorist Attacks on America, 1981-2005

1981, 0
1982, 0
1983, 241 (Oct. 23 truck bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon)
1984, 0
1985, 1 (Unabomber killing of Hugh Scrutton in California)
1986, 0
1987, 0
1988, 0
1989, 0
1990, 0
1991, 0
1992, 3 (Aug. 21 FBI raid on Ruby Ridge, Idaho)
1993, 89 (2 events: 6 killed Feb. 26 in World Trade Center truck bombing organized by Ramzi Yousef, inspired by Omar Abdel-Rahman; 83 killed Apr. 19 by FBI terrorist raid on Branch Davidian compound in Waco TX)
1994, 1 (Unabomber killing of Thomas J. Mosser in New Jersey)
1995, 169 (Apr. 17 truck bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols plus Unabomber killing of Gilbert B. Murray in California)
1996, 0
1997, 0
1998, 258 (Aug. 7 al-Qaeda bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania)
1999, 0
2000, 17 (Oct. 12 boat bombing of USS Cole in Aden harbor, Yemen)
2001, 2,992 (Sep. 11 al-Qaeda airline hijacking organized by Mohammad Atta, inspired by Osama bin Laden; total includes 246 innocent airline passengers and crew, 2,602 at World Trade Center, 125 at Pentagon, and 19 terrorists)
2002, 0
2003, 0
2004, 0
2005, 0

Total: 3,771 in 25 years
Average: 151 per year


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