Author John Mueller Says U.S. Reaction to 9/11 Was 'Overblown'

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," February 1, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes". We're glad you're with us. I'm Sean Hannity.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has made securing the homeland a major priority. Yet, one professor seems to think that the government is overreacting when it comes to security. Professor John Mueller thinks that the government has made Americans paranoid about terrorism and says the feds are wasting time and money setting up extra security measures. The professor says the hysteria after 9/11 was the same after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Joining us now is the author of the new book "Overblown", and Ohio State University political science professor, John Mueller is with us.

So, your point is that we overreacted after Pearl Harbor. We're overreacting after 9/11, after 3,000 Americans were killed? After one person, one leader of Al Qaeda and others say that their mission is to destroy America? We're overreacting?

JOHN MUELLER, AUTHOR, "OVERBLOWN": Yes. What happened — if you want to compare the two events, one of the things that was very typical is that you saw the enemies being suddenly 20 feet tall.

After Pearl Harbor, the fear was that the Japanese were going to invade California, and the fact that it they didn't invade California was taken as a sign that they had something up their sleeve and were really going to do it big time later.

HANNITY: How many people died in World War II? How many people died in Nazi Germany? How many people died under — under Stalin in Russia? How many people have been victims worldwide of terrorism?

MUELLER: World War II is something like 50 or 60 million. The number of people being killed by international terrorism is really quite low. If you take since 9/11...

HANNITY: But you make the point we overreacted after — after Pearl Harbor.

MUELLER: That's right.

HANNITY: I mean, you're — you don't see the possibility of a nuclear armed, say, Iran and working with a terrorist group and the possibility that we could lose an American city or Israel could be blown off the map?

MUELLER: Right. You can work on your worst case fantasies, and one of the things I proposed in the book is that working to make sure terrorists can't get nuclear weapons is a really good idea.

But it seems to me we're up against an enemy who is — his capacities seemed to be vastly inflated. If I can finish what I said before, if you look at the number of people killed by Muslim extremists, worldwide outside of war zones since 9/11, that includes Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda types, Al Qaeda wannabes...

HANNITY: That's because we're been fighting them, sir.

MUELLER: It comes to something like 200 a year, which is lower than the number of people who died drowning in bathtubs in the United States. Now that's 200 too many, but nonetheless, it's not a...

HANNITY: You know what's amazing?

MUELLER: ... of the United States.

HANNITY: You know what's amazing to me? I mean, I know you're a professor. You acknowledge what 50 million or so people in World War II, how about many people under Stalin — hang on a second. We've seen the killing fields in Cambodia. We've seen Nazi Germany. We've seen 9/11, and we now hear from one leader of a terror group after another that they want to destroy places like Israel and the United States, and you want to minimize the threat.

It seems that you don't have any knowledge of history. Or that you seem to ignore it. That's shocking to me, especially considering your role as a professor.

MUELLER: You — if you basically assume that everybody's another Hitler, then you're right. But basically, what we've had is whole a bunch of, basically, windbags in the third world. People like Nasser, Zicarno (ph), or Khomeini or Gadhafi.

And the wind bags in this system seem to be pretty much of a comparable...

HANNITY: Wind bag, Stalin, Hitler.

MUELLER: They don't seem — the issue is not what they say but whether they're capable of doing it. Hitler had the Wehrmacht at his side. Usama bin Laden doesn't seem to be able to do much of anything except issue pronouncements.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Professor, it's Alan Colmes from New York. You know, it's interesting. Any time that's a tin pot dictator we compare that person to Hitler. Not that there aren't other very real threats out there. But sometimes we have the idea that every threat is equal, and I think your point is not every threat equals every other threat we've had historically.

MUELLER: Yes, and we — and Hitlers don't pop up every 15 minutes, but all the people I mentioned that were compared and are being compared to Hitler and they prove to be basically second-rate thugs who basically descended into history's dustbin.

And so consequently, instead of saying these new threats are like Hitler, you should look at some of those other examples, as well, and look at the record and the capacity of these terrorists to do damage. And it seems to be quite limited.

Conceivably, that could change if they get nuclear weapons. All those horror stories could conceivably come true, but they're wildly unlikely.

COLMES: But we do have to work to make sure they don't get nuclear weapons. We do have to safeguard the homeland. And my concern is not putting enough resources into just that. Our first responders and national security in the United States, rather than the $1.1 billion a week we're spending in Iraq.

We have 3,000 plus deaths now in Iraq, more than were, unfortunately, killed on 9/11.

MUELLER: Yes. That's right. The reaction to 9/11 has cost more American lives than 9/11 did. Some of that came out of fear. Between 9/11, 2001 and the end of year, 1,000 Americans died because they drove rather than flew. And it also made politically possible this disastrous war in Iraq, which has killed far more Americans than were killed in 9/11. The reaction is more costly than what the terrorists did.

COLMES: You make the case in your book — you say in your book one in 80,000 chance of a 9/11-type attack happening again. Where do you get that number from?

MUELLER: It's calculated by an astronomist (ph). One chance in — your lifetime chance of being killed by an international terrorist outside of a war zone at present rates is about one in 80,000.

Maybe FOX News could include that in their crawl. You know, they have this thing about yellow alert. Right after that, lifetime chance of being killed by a terrorist, one in 80,000. That's about the same as your chance of being killed by an asteroid. And my point is that people should know that. Maybe they'll still be afraid, but they should carry it, and this should be part of the context, and it's just rarely there.

COLMES: That's also your view that there is no apocalyptic threat facing this country?

MUELLER: Yes, I don't think so. It's conceivable, obviously, if you work these worst case fantasies. But basically, we're up against a bunch of murderous thugs, relatively small in number, who don't seem to be very competent.

I'm very much in favor of international policing to deal with these monsters, but I think it's basically a policing problem. For the most part it's doing pretty well.

Furthermore, a lot of their terrorism that they've committed has been very counterproductive. The bombing, for example, at the hotel in Jordan turned people away from bin Laden big time. Twenty-five percent before that were in favor. After, it's about one percent.

COLMES: We thank you for your time tonight. The book is "Overblown". Thank you for being with us.

MUELLER: Thank you.

Watch "Hannity & Colmes" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2007 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. (, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.