The establishment news media are all up in a panic tonight, because of a new report from the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism. The commission’s report provides a very specific warning:
“The Commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.”
Specific warnings like this require specific evidence, and clear criteria for determining future risk. I’ve read the report, entitled World At Risk, and it lacks these things. All the report offers us is vague assertions such as “the globalization of the life sciences and technology has created new risks of misuse by states and terrorists.” That might be true, but what specifically are those risks, and how exactly how much of a chance of violence do these risks create? The report doesn’t say, because it can’t.
The Commission predicts a likelihood of a WMD terrorist attack somewhere in the world of over 50% in the next five years. Where’s the math behind that statistic? There is none.
The Commission doesn’t really have enough facts to actually predict a terrorist attack. It doesn’t have any rational reasons for specifically asserting that a weapons of mass destruction attack is “more likely than not” to happen before the end of 2013. The Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism just wants to believe that such WMD terrorism is likely in the next four years.
And why, oh why, would the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism want to believe and warn that a WMD terrorist attack is likely to take place over the next four years unless they are listened to? Well, that’s what their commission exists for, isn’t it? What would they be for, if they didn’t have warnings? Why else, other than if we were in danger, would anyone listen to the Commission?
What’s should we expect the Commission to do – report that there’s no reason for its existence?
If the report World At Risk were honest, it would be entitled World Mostly Not At Risk. Even if the Commission’s prediction were to come true, and there was a terrorist weapons of mass destruction attack some time in the next five years, most of the world wouldn’t feel the impact. The number of people killed in weapons of mass destruction attacks since World War II is far, far less than the number of people killed in by conventional means, even in the War in Iraq, after all.
History shows that the risk of death from a conventional weapon is astronomically higher than the risk of death from weapons of mass destruction. So, why is there all the hype about weapons of mass destruction, and no Commission on the Prevention of Conventional Weapons Proliferation and Terrorism? The answer is depressingly simple: There is relatively little significant corporate profit from the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, but monumental corporate profit from the manufacture of conventional weapons that cause mass destruction every year.