- Heart disease: 631,636
- Cancer: 559,888
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 137,119
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,583
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 121,599 (43,664 were vehicular accidents.)
- Diabetes: 72,449
Of course, contrasting this is the number of people in the United States who have died from terror attacks since (and including) September 11, 2001, (a problem so scary that we initiated a "war on terror" and invaded two countries). What's the number?
Less than 3000 people.
For this, we've lost twice that number of troops, spent hundreds of billions of dollars, killed tens-of-thousands of civilians (if not more) in Iraq and Afghanistan, tortured prisoners, and curtailed the fundamental liberties of ALL Americans.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't protect Americans from terror attacks. I'm not saying these deaths were in any way acceptable. What I'm saying is that in our response to terrorism we need to make the same balancing analysis we do for everything. We accept nearly 45,000 deaths from automobiles each year because we understand what saving those lives would mean for our economy and way of life. We try to make cars safer but we seem to have an understanding that we can't eliminate the problem. Accidents will happen and people will die.
In contrast to a sensible approach, the recent attempted bombing of a flight into Detroit on Christmas Day, the Underpants Bombing, has caused a reaction far out of whack with any balance or logic.
Our first line of whack-job, reactionary defense, the Republicans, immediately politicized the entire event, accusing the President of not addressing the American people soon enough (despite having spoken to the American people sooner and in more detail than President Bush did after the Shoe Bomber in 2001), lied about him using the word "terror", called for some in his cabinet to resign and called him an appeaser. The Republicans also called for (ineffective and counter-productive) racial profiling, more torture, eliminating immigration from countries they deem "dangerous" and the execution of prisoners. In doing so they've been not only hypocritical but have out and out lied to make their political pitch. It's clear this has been more about elections than protecting Americans for them.
During the Bush administration Republicans pilloried anyone who criticized the President or argued against our strategy, calling the people who did traitors and un-American. So are they traitors and un-American now?
The government's reaction is also going too far. We're requiring increasingly stringent searches of everyone flying into the United States, paying billions of dollars for intrusive full body scanners, and generally reacting with deliberation but not perspective.
The fact is, we cannot assure that we won't be attacked by terrorists. We cannot assure that Americans won't die from terror attacks. If we made air travel 100% safe, the terrorists would just shift to other types of attacks (which, frankly, I'm astonished they haven't in greater numbers yet.) We're wasting resources that could be better spent elsewhere, for example, healthcare, which would reduce nearly ALL of the number of deaths on the list above. And all based on an unsuccessful attack.
What would we be doing if the attack had been successful? It scares me to think about it.
Based on the number of attacks, deaths and the number of people that fly every year, the odds of a single individual being killed in a terrorist attack in the United States are about 1 in 10,000,000. The odds of that same individual being struck by lightning are 1 in 1500.
We're not making everyone wear lightning-proof suits are we?
Maybe we should. We'd save more lives.