Improvised explosive devices were made infamous and frequently used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now a top US general is claiming IEDs are a threat to the homeland.
“The global proliferation of IEDs and associated technology is pervasive and continues to threaten US interests at home and abroad,” Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, head of the military’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, told a congressional hearing on Thursday.
Americans may be surprised that this is a significant threat to their every day lives, especially because most citizens have never even heard of IEDs because they, in fact, are not a threat. Barbero tried to illustrate how “pervasive” IEDs are becoming outside Iraq and Afghanistan, but he couldn’t name a single American who wasn’t wearing a military uniform and occupying another country that’s been killed by one.
“Since January 2011, there have been more than 10,000 global IED events occurring in 112 countries, executed by more than 40 regional and transnational threat networks,” he added. Oh, scary.
“The threat is indeed real,” Barbero insisted. Except that it isn’t. He seems to have flubbed his numbers a bit, considering the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual report for 2011 found that there were about 10,000 acts of violence that occurred last year that the government classifies as terrorism.
Exactly zero of them occurred in the US and, of those that died, .001% of them were American (and all but one were civilian contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq).
The fact that this US general is the head of a military bureaucracy specifically dedicated “defeating” to IEDs should immediately prompt scrutiny of his estimation of how big the threat is. As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in Foreign Affairs, “Warnings about a dangerous world also benefit powerful bureaucratic interests. The specter of looming dangers sustains and justifies the massive budgets of the military and the intelligence agencies, along with the national security infrastructure that exists outside government — defense contractors, lobbying groups, think tanks, and academic departments.”
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