Sunday, April 17, 2005

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S decision to stop publishing the State Department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report because it showed a huge jump in terrorist attacks in 2004 has been widely covered in the political blogosphere, but I first read about it on Weldon's blog. The story was first reported by Jonathan Landay of Knight-Ridder. State Department officials, including Condoleezza Rice, say that the report was axed because the methodology it used to calculate the number of terrorist attacks in the past year was flawed.

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism," eliminated weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

I don't find this hard to believe. After all, it's well known by now that Pres. Bush only wants to hear good news. The conclusion reached by the State Department's report -- that there were more terrorist attacks worldwide in 2004 than in any year since 1985 -- obviously is a direct challenge to the White House's relentless insistence that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have made the world safer.

What is astounding to me is that people as smart as Condi Rice is supposed to be would think that the Bush administration's credibility is enhanced by articles that open like this:

The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Praktike, who is guest-blogging on Kevin Drum's site this weekend, says much the same thing.

I think the Bush administration is making a huge mistake. It's important to maintain the public's confidence in what the government is doing; I can't think of any valid reason not to publish the numbers other than fear of the political headwinds. If it's complicated to explain the methodological change, too bad. Have some courage, I say. Aren't we supposed to trust in the judgment of the American people?

Perhaps both of us are giving the Bushies too much credit. Perhaps they know how it looks to the American people and to the world when a government report is terminated because it shows an increase in terrorism instead of a decrease; perhaps they don't care. Publishing the numbers, discussing the methodology, and explaining why they disagree with the report's conclusions; or, even, why terrorist incidents might have increased, takes honesty, integrity, thoughtfulness, and, as Praktike noted, courage. What makes any of us assume that anyone in the Bush administration's inner circle possesses those qualities?

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