President Obama — speaking to you, John Q. Public, live on YouTube this week — made a curious claim:
I think it’s important to understand that we are at war against a very specific group — al Qaeda and its extremist allies that have metastasized around the globe, that would attack us, attack our allies, attack bases and embassies around the world, and most sadly, attack innocent people regardless of their backgrounds, regardless of their religions. Al Qaeda is probably the biggest killer of innocent Muslims of any entity out there.
A week ago White House adviser Valerie Jarrett likewise told NBC’s David Gregory that al Qaeda had “killed more Muslims than any other group” in the Middle East. It’s important to understand, though, that the claim — self-righteous and politically advantageous though it may be — simply isn’t true, as no terrorist can match the civilian killing power of a powerful state, much less the most well-armed and expansive empire in history. The U.S.-led embargo of Iraq during the 1990s alone killed several hundred thousand Muslims in Iraq, many of them children; the subsequent U.S. invasion in 2003 killed another couple hundred thousand — perhaps a million — more.
Al Qaeda would die for those numbers.