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Comment: Terrorism manipulated for political longevity
By Wu Yixue (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-15 00:33

US Secretary of State Colin Powell openly acknowledged on Sunday that a conclusion in a recent report -- co-authored by the State Department and the CIA-- saying terrorism around the globe had declined last year, was a "big mistake."

Powell also said the State Department was working with the CIA and other agencies to try to find out the reasons for such an erroneous conclusion.

The chief of the State Department made the remarks days after the department admitted that it had understated the number of terrorist attacks in 2003 in its "Patterns of Global Terrorism Report," which was released on April 29.

The report said there were 190 terrorist attacks worldwide last year, down from 198 in 2002 and 364 in 2001. The 2003 figure was the lowest since 1969.

Criticism has been flying since the release of the annual report, with people saying that global terrorism was actually on the rise.

The cynics said such an inaccurate conclusion obviously served political purposes.

Congressmen Henry Waxman of California, a leading house democrat, said the report was manipulated for political purposes and the conclusion was only used to boost one of President George W. Bush's claims that the United States was winning the war on terror.

"Very embarrassing," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press" in the face of waves of criticism and disbelief. "We are wrong."

But he denied any involvement of political intentions during the compilation of the report.

"It's a numbers error. It's not a political judgment. Nobody was out to cook the books," he argued on ABC's "This Week" programme.

Powell also promised to release a correct version as quickly as possible.

His argument appeared weak in view of the current US political reality.

In a presidential election year, almost everything will have an impact.

The Iraq War, the ensuing abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and the sluggish advancement of post-war reconstruction of the country have seriously compromised the Bush administration's credibility at home and abroad.

The incidents have combined to plunge Bush's domestic approval ratings to the lowest point since he came to power.

It is normal for Bush to take any measures possible to reverse the slide.

It is clear from the administration's recent moves, from compromising on the latest Iraq resolution and trying to amend relations with other major powers, that Bush is eager to patch up its undermined image at home and abroad on the eve of the election.

The anti-terrorism platform made Bush one of the most widely backed US president in history. So it makes sense that he would attempt to take advantage of his "achievements" in this respect to regain approval.

The lack of accuracy about the global terrorist situation demonstrates this clearly.

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