top of page

7 Years Later: Could Civilians Be Key to Winning the War on Terror?

Except for Iraq, the world has not seen a sustained increase in deaths from terrorism; after the horrific 2001 spike, terror fatalities returned to levels of the late 90s. In fact, by mid-2007, outside Afghanistan, Iraq, and other “insurgency theaters,” says Virginia-based think-tank The Intelcenter, fatalities from Islamist attacks around the world have declined by more than 90 percent from their 2004 high point.

So reports Human Security Brief 2007 from the Human Security Report Project of the School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.


Didn’t Senator McCain just remind us that “we live in a very dangerous world”? Yes, and he’s of course not alone. From the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, we’re told that the incidence and threat of terrorism are increasing.

Those who insist terrorism is getting worse count politically motivated killings of civilians by non-state groups in Iraq — in 2006 home to 79 percent of global terror fatalities — and distort the wider picture. Plus, their counting is just plain inconsistent, note authors of theBrief: The same analysts who include Iraqis killed by non-state armed groups among terror victims exclude similarly caused deaths in Africa’s civil wars in their terror counts.

Most encouraging and underreported, the Human Security Brief describes a broad “popular backlash” against violent Islamist movements in the Muslim world. “Large and growing majorities of Muslims” also “reject Islamists’ harsh and repressive ideology.”

A July 2007 Pew poll in four largely Muslim countries found the number of those justifying attacks on civilians was down by half compared to five years earlier. A late 2007 ABC News/BBC poll found just one percent of Afghans expressing “strong support” for the presence of Taliban and jihadi fighters.

And such sentiments are shared by just about anyone we can think of, Muslim or not. From our friends and loved ones to John S. McCain — we’ve all been victims of terrorism, directly or ind