Peter Bergen, CNN’s Mr Al Qaeda, has declared via the New America Foundation, that the real threat to America is not the terrorist group responsible for 9/11, the Fort Hood massacre, or the attempted Time Square bombing, but “right wing extremists.”
As our own John Sexton has ably demonstrated here already the whole edifice of Bergen’s argument is built on a foundation of sand.
The comparison of numbers killed by Jihadists and right winger zealots conveniently leaves out the 2,996 killed on 9/11. Why? That is the most important datapoint of all, surely? Then numerous attacks are added under the rightwing tally that are clearly not rightwing and several Islamically-motivated killers, such as the DC sniper, have been magically erased from the jihadi column.
Besides (intentionally?) sloppy math, the whole exercise is fundamentally flawed at the strategic level.
Al Qaeda is not just a domestic threat to the continental United States or just to Americans in America. One can argue all day long about President Bush and Iraqi WMDs, but on what basis does Bergen and the NAF exclude the death and maiming of US troops fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan or our Ambassador in Benghazi and the three brave Americans who tried to save him from local jihadists?
Then there is the absurdity of only counting successful attacks and using this as the measure of who is a more serious threat.
Sixteen jihadi plots targeting NY alone have been intercepted since 2001. We can never know how many more across the country since many will have been thwarted without an arrest or a prosecution, but it is likely hundreds, and hundreds that each could have had hundreds or thousands of victims. And the counterargument that white supremacists and rightwing extremist may have also plotted many more attacks is fallacious too, as these actors usually kill in the single digits. Al Qaeda specializes in spectaculars, be it 9/11, 7/7 in London, or the Bali and Mumbai attacks. I challenge Bergen to point to one rightwing attack on the scale of any of these.
Then of course there is the issue of why there have been so many intercepted jihadi plots here in the US. The Director of National Intelligence stated earlier this year in open congressional testimony that al Qaeda has operational centers in 12 nations around the world. Every member of each one of those organizational hubs is committed to destroying America after they have killed President Assad, taken over Mali, or retaken Egypt for the “true believers.” Can we compare this to rightwing extremism or any other organized threat to America? Even North Korean and the Russia Federation pale in comparison to the international conspiracy that is Global Jihad.
If one makes a more honest assessment of the threat then the facts tell a different story and the relevant dangers reverse.
Below is a chart of the number of attacks linked to al Qaeda globally over the last few years, based upon unclassified sources.
If you add information from the START database to the above you get the following disturbing graph.
The key fact here is the trendline.
Despite the narrative of the White House that al Qaeda is spent and dying, AQ has in fact become more and more dangerous. So why does Peter Bergen and why does the NAF want to convince us of the opposite, that rightwing extremists are a bigger threat to America than those who were responsible for 9/11?
Perhaps the clue lies in Fort Hood. The authors of the study state unequivocally:
Today, almost 13 years after 9/11, al Qaeda has not successfully conducted another attack inside the United States.
Excuse me? So the Fort Hood massacre was indeed “workplace violence?”
The fact that Major Nidal Hasan–before he killed 12 of his fellow soldiers, a civilian, and an unborn child, and wounded another 30-plus people–was in regular contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the top leaders of al Qaeda in Yemen, doesn’t make it a jihadi attack? Should we list it under the Ku Klux Klan perhaps?
Peter Bergen built his career on al Qaeda, as “the man who interviewed bin Laden.” He must have a very strong reason for trying to make his career-building subject of al Qaeda seem irrelevant. Could it be the crown he now hangs with? The NAF board members bios are here. The real report on Fort Hood written by the former director of the FBI–that was of course released by the Obama administration on a Friday afternoon–is here.
You be the judge of who threatens us more.
Sebastian Gorka PhD is the national security editor for Breitbart.com