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I’ve Got a One-Word Verdict on This Article and Its Research: BULLSH!T

I posted earlier about the New York Times complete hit piece smear of our returning OEF and OIF veterans. And I noted that the military blog community was in full gear ripping this obvious smear piece to shreds. Today, I have read a lot more excellent pieces all across the military blogs as well as anti-idiotarian blogs. The two best, in my opinion, come from Phillip Carter at Intel Dump and John Hinderaker at Power Line Blog.

NYT misfires on veterans story

Sunday’s New York Times features a lengthy front-page article titled “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles” — what it bills as Part I of a “series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.”

Right….. Because we all know that all veterans are coming home crazy, shell-shocked, and ready to kill their friends and loved ones.

[ … ]

So, basically, the reporters went trolling on Lexis-Nexis and other databases to find “murder” within the same paragraph as “veteran” or “soldier,” and built a front-page story around that research. They compared the pre-war numbers to the post-war numbers and found that, voila!, there’s a difference. And then it looks like they cherry-picked the best anecdotes out of that research (including the ones where they could get interviews and photos) to craft a narrative which fit the data.

The article makes no attempt to produce a statistically valid comparison of homicide rates among vets to rates among the general population. Nor does it rely at all on Pentagon data about post-deployment incidents of violence among veterans. It basically just generalizes from this small sample (121 out of 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan vets, not including civilians and contractors) to conclude that today’s generation of veterans are coming home full of rage and ready to kill.

I’ve got a one-word verdict on this article and its research: bullshit.

Crazed Veterans Spark Nationwide Crime Wave

I’m pretty sure your first question will be: “How does the murder rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan compare to the murder rate for young American men generally?” Remarkably, this is a question the New York Times did not think to ask. Or, if the Times asked the question and figured out the answer, the paper preferred not to report it.

As of 2005, the homicide rate for Americans aged 18-24, the cohort into which most soldiers fall, was around 27 per 100,000. (The rate for men in that age range would be much higher, of course, since men commit around 88% of homicides. But since most soldiers are also men, I gave civilians the benefit of the doubt and considered gender a wash.)

Next we need to know how many servicemen have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. A definitive number is no doubt available, but the only hard figure I’ve seen is that as of last October, more than 500,000 U.S. Army personnel had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Other sources peg the total number of personnel from all branches of the military who have served in the two theaters much higher, e.g. 750,000, 650,000 as of February 2007, or 1,280,000. For the sake of argument, let’s say that 700,000 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors have returned to the U.S. from service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Do the math: the 121 alleged instances of homicide identified by the Times, out of a population of 700,000, works out to a rate of 17 per 100,000 — quite a bit lower than the overall national rate of around 27.

But wait! The national rate of 27 homicides per 100,000 is an annual rate, whereas the Times’ 121 alleged crimes were committed over a period of six years. Which means that, as far as the Times’ research shows, the rate of homicides committed by military personnel who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan is only a fraction of the homicide rate for other Americans aged 18 to 24. Somehow, the Times managed to publish nine pages of anecdotes about the violence wreaked by returning servicemen without ever mentioning this salient fact.

I’ve got a suggestion for the editors of the Times: next time, why don’t they undertake a research project to identify all murders and other forms of homicide committed (or allegedly committed — no finding of guilt necessary!) by people who are, or recently have been, employed by newspaper companies? They could write a long article in which selected crimes allegedly committed by reporters, editors and typesetters are recounted in detail, accompanied by speculation about whether newspaper employment was a contributing factor in each case. No need to wonder whether reporters, editors and typesetters commit homicide at a rate any different from the rest of the population — a single murder is too many!

Here’s another idea: the Times’ story on veterans’ crimes repeatedly focused on the role of alcoholism, which the paper associated with the stresses of military service. How about a survey that compares alcoholism rates among reporters and soldiers? Just on a hunch, I’ll wager a dollar that the alcoholism rate for reporters is higher.

It’s bad enough that the New York Times smears our military personnel when they are serving overseas. Can’t they at least leave them alone once they return home?

Matt Burden at Blackfive also has a good compilation piece with this added e-mail from a reader who highlights why this smear piece by the New York Times is a big deal that has an effect on our returning soldiers:

…Last night, my momma and I were at the Sacramento Airport to help greet a number of returning Soldiers, including SPC Michael Hamilton, whose story was written up by the Bee in December; and other members of the 3/61, Captain Andrew White and SPC Abrams. We also were there when many members of an Air Force Medical wing deployed from Travis Air Base returned from Afghanistan. Present were family, Patriot Guard, and many other supporters who had gotten the call to welcome these men and women home.

I bring this up because one of the Patriot Guard riders at the airport spoke to my momma and me about coming home from Vietnam and almost being thrown in jail after some punk called him a baby killer…Our Vietnam Vets have been instrumental in making sure that now, our returning Soldier, Airmen, Marines and Sailors are not greeted with such disrespect and insult.

That was all I could think about this morning as I stood in line at the grocery store with that Bee headline screaming at every checkout line. Our men and women came home last night to a happy, welcoming crowd, who were more than pleased to see them and thank them for their service to our beloved country. And this morning, those same men and women will see a local paper with a prominent headline implying they are murdering criminals let loose in our society. This meme is a little too close to what the Vietnam Veteran experienced 30 years ago, and I thought you should know…

Don’t ANYONE tell me that the mass media is not using their power to push their agenda and their bias on an ignorant, apathetic American public. It is plainly obvious.

And it is utterly despicable.

Curt at Flopping Aces also has links to many more military bloggers and anti-idiotarian bloggers who are expressing their outrage on this issue.

Scott Johnson also passes along a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times by Tom Lipscomb:

[ … ] Apparently violent veterans are streaming home “across America” from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. So far, out of hundreds of thousands of service personnel who have served there, The New York Times has decided to devote more than 6,000 words beginning with three columns out of five and a color montage above the fold of its Sunday front page to “At least 121” veterans, who happen to be, at best, a fraction of 1% of those who have served.

And the Times piece shows the same carefree contempt for statistical validity Soros’s Johns Hopkins hirelings just got nailed with. The Times claims their sample of “At least 121” veterans makes it possible to “paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.” It’s a “patchwork” all right. A Pentagon spokesperson tried to point out to the reporters that a sample: “lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide” makes it rather hard to draw intelligent conclusions.

Which is probably why there are none in the piece. Instead we get hand-wringing extrapolations like this: “… these killings provide a kind of echo sounding for the profound depths to which some veterans have fallen, whether at the bottom of a downward spiral or in a sudden burst of violence.” “A kind of echo sounding?” “Some veterans?” And the article is full of useful hedge words like “some,” “appear,” “most likely” more common to a gypsy fortune teller than an investigative reporter. Now assuming “some” is more than one and less than 121, that isn’t very helpful, is it? And none of it is statistically relevant enough to reawaken the stigma that veterans of the Vietnam War remember well.

I spent some wonderful years associated with the largest job program in the country specifically working with Vietnam veterans. There were hundreds of thousands of them in the New York metro area. They were over 80% black and Hispanic and more than 60% of those unemployed had red flags like drug or alcohol abuse and a lot of them had various brushes with law enforcement. The New York Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program was largely staffed by Vietnam veterans who helped thousands of them find themselves and get back to work at jobs averaging $22,000 a year.

Our single largest problem? Overcoming the constant fixation news media had for stories headlined “Crazed Vietnam Veteran… .” You can fill in the blank. Everyone alive then remembers the stories.

But when current Virginia Senator, and Vietnam veteran, Jim Webb was appointed to the Pentagon by President Reagan, he asked a lot of questions about the whether any of the many charges about disproportionate problems with Vietnam veterans were true. They weren’t. It was a theme John Kerry played to with his promotion of the phony war crimes stories of his despicable Vietnam Veterans Against the War. And as we saw at the VVLP, it sure took the wind out of a veteran who had worked hard to get ready for his first job interview to know his potential employers were constantly exposed to this kind of stereotype.

If you think this front page featuring sloppy reporting of a statistically irrelevant sample of our veterans is helpful in any way, many of us would appreciate your telling us why.

Thomas H. Lipscomb
Senior Fellow
The Heartland Institute

The pro-troops group Move America Forward also takes apart this smear piece:  BREAKING NEWS: MAF Exposes New York Times for Erroneous ‘Killer Vet’ Report

[ … ]  The Times made the false conclusion that:  “Taken together, they paint the patchwork of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.”

The Times documentation of 121 potential killings out of more than 1.5 million veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), divided by 6 years of conflict results in a murder rate of just 1.34 incidents per 100,000 veterans per year.***

That murder rate is far lower than the murder rate for the general population, demonstrating that the experiences of military service – including having served in Iraq and Afghanistan – actually made it less likely for returning veterans to commit murder once they returned home, than the general population.

Given a census-estimated population of the United States of 300,000,000 persons in this country as of October 2006, and FBI-compiled statistics of 17,399 homicide offenders for 2006, the murder rate of the general population was 5.80 offenders per 100,000 on average – and a rate of approximately 7.67 per 100,000 for men.

Since all but one of the veterans cited by the Times who committed a killing in the U.S. was male, the comparable rate is approximately 7.67 incidents of murder per 100,000 people among the general male population, compared to just 1.34 incidents per 100,000 returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (of both genders).

“It’s obvious that the New York Times has an agenda of undermining the missions of our troops in the War on Terror, so much so that they are willing to resort to demonstrably false statistics to support their anti-troop bias,” said Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward.

“The slander of our troops and veterans by the New York Times is unfortunately all too familiar.  We heard this kind of nonsense about our returning veterans from Vietnam.  It’s the same insult, different war. [ … ]

January 14, 2008 , 10:26PM Posted by | Anti-War Groups, Bush Derangement Syndrome, Media Bias, Military, Move America Forward, New York Times, Operation Enduring Freedom, The Long War, War Effort in Iraq | Comments Off on I’ve Got a One-Word Verdict on This Article and Its Research: BULLSH!T

We are Safer Because Children Hold Our Soldiers’ Hands

Great story from Iraq (that, of course, the mass media is ignoring): Iraq’s Progress, Safety and Blessing

[H/T Charlie at Op-For]

Darkness surrounded her as the helicopter lifted, whipping the air around her with a reverberating thump, thump, thump. A tall blonde in a war-torn Middle Eastern land, Debbie Lee felt a familiar ache in her heart.

She stood in a Western Iraqi city where her son, Marc Alan Lee, gave his life. He was the first Navy SEAL to die while fighting terrorists in Iraq.

As she stepped onto the sand where her son was killed, Debbie Lee became the first mother to visit the city where her son died for America in the Iraq War. She walked through Camp Marc Lee and saw where her son slept and ate.

“I feel very blessed,” Lee said. “It was a miracle to me to be where Marc was, to see what he saw and walk where he walked.”

Lee was part of a contingent from Move America Forward (MAF), the nation’s largest pro-troop nonprofit group. MAF’s mission was to deliver 226,000 Christmas and Hanukkah cards to American troops and to report on America’s successes inside Iraq. They spent days outside of the relatively safe Green Zone in Baghdad and other cities that, until the troop surge, were hotbeds of radical Muslims.

Melanie Morgan, chairman of Move America Forward Said, “Our troops know exactly what they are doing. They are surgically removing bad guys and giving hope to Iraqis while helping secure American security from radical Muslim jihad.”

The troops’ gains apparently aren’t news these days. All sides, including the white-flag brigade, admit Gen. David Petraeus’s Troop Surge has reduced violence and given breathing room to Iraqi politicians.

Iraq’s plummeting violence are a yawn for the mainstream media. During the first 10 months in 2007, 47 percent of the press coverage in Iraq focused on violence. Only 4.6 percent dealt with “optimistic themes,” according to a Pew Research Center study.

If terrorists fall in Iraq and nobody hears them, do they still make a sound? Only if you read new media who have the backbone to see the truth and report it.

Ignoring success in Iraq doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. MAF found children playing in new parks, built by the United States, and new stores open with a variety of goods. On one street alone, 150 new stores and businesses opened where only 11 previously operated.

MAF staffers witnessed soldiers visiting Iraqi homes, where they were welcomed with hot tea. Troops handed out soccer balls, school supplies and candy to children.

Battles are still waged. Body armor is still essential. But Gen. Petraeus and his troops are taking it to the enemy and making friends with the locals.

“They are making a difference now,” said Mary Pearson, MAF deputy executive director.

Pearson, MAF Communications Director Danny Gonzalez and Debbie Lee embedded with the Army’s 1st Squadron of the 4th Cavalry, or the 1/4 Cav. They worked out of a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Western Iraq, unnamed for security purposes, and traveled on daily missions where they spoke with Iraqi citizens and interviewed Iraqi and American soldiers.

They did not witness Iraqi citizens welcoming American troops with flowers and candy. It was much more personal. Iraqi mothers sent their children out to hug U.S. soldiers. Iraqi men invited soldiers into their homes for tea prepared by their wives and daughters.

MAF’s never feared for their lives. The long haul that American troops and our allies began on March 19, 2003, has changed the landscape of the Muslim country once ruled by a brutal dictator and sworn enemy of the United States, Saddam Hussein.

“I figured I was with the finest. There was no reason to worry,” Pearson said. “These faces were like my sons.”

The MAF staffers spent Christmas Day in Baghdad where they walked the streets and saw peaceful scenes that carried the message from 2,000 years ago when Christ was born in Bethlehem.

“We witnessed a large group of children playing on the new slide and park that had just been constructed 3 weeks before. It was amazing how packed the streets were with people,” Lee said. “I’ve never seen streets in America that had such a large percentage of people out in their neighborhoods. It was an amazing turnaround from the pictures we saw in the briefing when we first arrived.”

Pearson captured pictures of the children laughing and playing at the park. And she saw something else that will forever remain burned in her memory just like the photos she clicks with an artist’s eye.

“I saw men and women, couples, walking up and down the streets together,” Pearson said. “They were strolling, like in an old fashioned movie. They were enjoying the day. It was so beautiful.”

The Iraq trip was the last leg of MAF’s “Honoring Heroes for the Holidays” tour, which crossed the country and stopped in 40 cities. People came out to deliver the thousands of cards they made or bought for American troops. Cards are still pouring into MAF’s Sacramento, Calif., headquarters.

“The huge response to our trip by the American people, and the resulting smiles and hugs in Iraq, prove that most of America supports our troops and their mission,” Morgan said.

“I think we came close to passing out cards to most of the 8,000 troops stationed at this Forward Operating Base in Baghdad,” Lee said.

Pearson, Lee, and Gonzalez flew on a helicopter to Western Iraq in a town that was once overrun by terrorists, insurgents and outsiders from Iran whose welcome wagons included powerful bombs and other lethal arms.

This is where Lee’s son made his last stand and gave his life. This is where a camp was named after Marc Lee. This was an emotional stop.

Loss is a part of life, but it is not natural for a mother to lose her son. Parents should go first. In Iraq, violence still scars the countryside. But Pearson, Lee and Gonzalez witnessed the light that our troops have given the world with their sweat, professionalism, tenacity and their lives.

“These men and women, our sons and daughters in the Armed Forces, have shown a selflessness and grace — even after we have asked so much of them — that is truly remarkable,” Gonzalez said. “They have gone to war for their country and taken up arms in defense of a fledgling nation of people they have never known before, sacrificed time and time again, and sacrificed so much, and ask nothing in return.”

We are winning in Iraq. But, more importantly, we are safer because children hold our soldiers’ hands. They play on new slides. They go to school. Shops are open. These children and their families will not forget the Americans who saved them first from Saddam Hussein, and then from the terrorists who came to steal their lives.

In case you were wondering what the mass media decided to put on the front pages of their papers across the country this morning, Curt at Flopping Aces and Charlie at Op-For have the details. Here is the summary intro from Curt:

The NYT’s continues in their long storied tradition of complete and utter bias by running a front page story that portrays our war veterans as a bunch of psychotic murderers…

Yeah. They ‘support the troops’. No media bias whatsoever. Say nothing of their successes and then write stories saying that they are all psychotic murderers of which all American civialians should be wary.

Nothing has changed with the Left. They still hate the military and find different ways of showing it every day.

Here are some comments from Charlie at Op-For, who has just returned from a deployment:

When I returned from deployment, troops were given multiple options for veteran support networks, counseling, and outreach. The whole demobilization process that units currently undergo is designed to evaluate and treat any post-combat stress that soldiers may have. Back in WWII, the demob process consisted of 4 weeks on a troop transport ship back stateside. That long time period gave troops an opportunity to decompress, and gain an understanding of the challenges that they went through together. This greatly assisted them in understanding their experience. In Vietnam, individual deployments, the draft, and other factors contributed to troops returning home with no network of support there to greet them. This has dramatically changed. Now whole units, not individual soldiers rotate back to the states. This assists in the re-integration process, and gives soldiers ways to communicate their problems to others.

The furtherance of this “Rambo syndrome” needs to be stopped before it starts, because 2008 is not 1972. The Vietnam era’s problems do not translate to our current conflicts, and the military has done a much better job at reintegrating soldiers. Despite the may problems facing the force today, I think that the efforts at getting troops back to civilian life have been very good, and I can speak to this as a soldier who has just returned from deployment.

Also, in the comments section at Flopping Aces, “JustADude” notes that the NYT piece is an outright smear of the members of the United States military, since the murder rate is much, MUCH lower than the population of the United States. But the intention of the piece is to make the reader believe that members of the US military coming back from OEF and OIF have much, much GREATER rates of committing murder.

Curt

There is a major point here that was missed.

The civilian figure is an ANNUAL rate.

The military count is for the duration of the entire Iraq/Afghanistan war so lets for argument say its 6 years to pick a number.

That means the military rate is 1/6 per year of what ArmedLiberal calculated making the comparison even more telling.

*****

But no matter how you cut it with the 6 year example I proposed that would move the military related murders to 20 per year annual rate for the entire age span of the military as a whole.

Leaving out any sort of scale of comparison by the NYT in their story is a sin of omission that relegates the determination of the severity of the issue to the reader and does little to inform and in fact leads to a potential conclusion that mis informs the reader.

And Curt posts this bit by Armed Liberal at Winds of Change, who dissects the NYT smear piece:

From the October 1, 2001 start of the Afghanistan war, that’s about 26,000 troops/month. To date (Jan 2008) that would give about 1.99 million.

That means that the NY Times 121 murders represent about a 7.08/100,000 rate.

Now the numbers on deployed troops are probably high – fewer troops from 2001 – 2003; I’d love a better number if someone has it.

But for initial purposes, let’s call the rate 10/100,000, about 40% higher than the calculated one.

Now, how does that compare with the population as a whole?

Turning to the DoJ statistics, we see that the US offender rate for homicide in the 18 – 24 yo range is 26.5/100,000.  For 25 – 34, it’s 13.5/100,000.

See the problem?

For those who are not following, here is it put simply:

18-24 year-old’s Homicide Rate: 26.5
25-34 year-old’s Homicide Rate: 13.5
Returning OEF/OIF Homicide Rate: 10.0

From that, the NYT is trying to say that returning OEF/OIF military members are a threat to society… because their homicide rate is much, much LOWER than that of the average civilian who has NOT gone to war?

Now do you see the problem? This was nothing, but a complete smear of the members of the US military. Luckily, they cannot get away with it anymore, since the milblogs are on the case to set the record straight.

Granted, maybe they are getting away with it on the Left. I haven’t checked any Lefty blogs to see if they are gloating about this article.

Either way, instead of running a front page story about Debbie Lee and her trip with Moving America Forward to Iraq and talking about how it is the first time a mother of a soldier who died in Iraq has visited the place where her son was killed, they run a hit piece to smear the entire United States military.

As Selwyn Duke said, we are losing the race for the American mind.  Unless you work to pass on stories like this…

January 14, 2008 , 12:12AM Posted by | Debbie Lee, Iraq, Marc Alan Lee, Media Bias, Military, Move America Forward, New York Times, The Long War, War Effort in Iraq | 1 Comment