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Comparing the military death rates

Yesterday an article by Alicia Colon in the New York Sun (Heroes and Cowards) noted:

[T]he mainstream press is constantly bombarding us with the number of military casualties, and it is clear that the reports are meant to incite anger about the Iraqi war. How refreshing it would be if partisan politics could be set aside and reporters put news in the proper perspective without bias.

The total military dead in the Iraq war between 2003 and this month stands at about 3,133. This is tragic, as are all deaths due to war, and we are facing a cowardly enemy unlike any other in our past that hides behind innocent citizens. Each death is blazoned in the headlines of newspapers and Internet sites. What is never compared is the number of military deaths during the Clinton administration: 1,245 in 1993; 1,109 in 1994; 1,055 in 1995; 1,008 in 1996. That’s 4,417 deaths in peacetime but, of course, who’s counting?

The statistics were apparently mentioned on the radio (Rush Limbaugh, maybe?) and I’ve had a fair number of googlers in to my post from last March on the issue. I used numbers from U.S. ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY DEATHS – 1980 through 2004 put out by the Defense Manpower Data Center.

I had meant to let this all pass without commenting, because as I said in the post

This is, of course very informative and counter to nearly everything you hear on a daily basis, but don’t forget that the militaries under Carter, Reagan, and Bush I were significantly larger than today’s force. Of course, you could also make the argument that the gutting of the military under Clinton set the stage for too few “boots on the ground” in 2003 and beyond, which critics often claim is a contributing factor to the struggle to get the violence under control in the aftermath of the invasion.

But let’s not get all hyped up over this.

I created a couple of quick charts showing that though the numbers aren’t what one would probably expect, it certainly isn’t any sort of “vindication” or anything. Yes, the DEATH RATE (which is apples-to-apples regardless of the size of the military) was lower in 2004 (war) than in 1980 (peace) and I believe that is the most shocking number here, but a lot of the finger pointing at the rate during the Clinton years isn’t terribly constructive.

Then someone at Democratic Underground picked up on it.

Here are some of the interesting comments (with commentary):

but…I didn’t think we lost any soldiers in a war under Clinton
what am I missing…

Somalia? Go watch “Black Hawk Down”.

WW2 vets dying of oLd age.

Only WW2 vets still on active duty were counted, though.

Well now count the deaths for other con presidents…found this link through google. Appears to be another right wing looney site.

And they link to little ol’ Murdoc. Does getting called “right wing looney site” on DU get me in the club? When does my Vast Right Wing Conspiracy membership card arrive? As stated, other presidents were, in fact, counted.

Again, the military does not agree with these numbers, and note that somebody at murdoc decided to only count certain years of each prez’s terms.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1988) ….17,191
G.H.W. Bush (1989-1992) …. 6,223
Bill Clinton (1993-2000) …. 7,500 with a single death attributed to ‘hostile’
W. Bush (2001-2004) …. 3,917 Note that this number is only the first 4 years and only 3 years of military combat

Now, I’ve never been called a mathematical genius, but which years did I leave out? I mean, the poster listed every year from 1981 through 2004 (which is clearly what the report covers). Boy, did “somebody at murdoc” cherry pick this data. Oh, and the report comes from the military.

The person who is quoting those numbers is just cherry picking the number of troops that died in combat, out of a force of 150,000, leaving out accidental deaths, homicides, illness, etc and comparing it to the total deaths in the military from all causes during the specific years mentioned.
It is a total lie to say less troops are being killed now than under peacetime under Bill Clinton.
If you include all fatality causes during the period of the Iraq war, the number of troops killed would double.

No. The number are for all deaths. RTFR. (Which means “read the report”.) And I’m not aware of anyone who said fewer troops are being killed now than under Clinton. I have heard some folks say that fewer troops are being killed in Iraq than were killed under Clinton, which is true (ie, not a lie).

If you are going to count the training, accidental, and illness deaths under Clinton, you need to do the same for *.

You’re right. And they were counted. RTFR.

Do you SERIOUSLY believe that American military personnel are SAFER ALND LESS LIKELY TO DIE now, during a bloody conflict, than they were during peacetime?????

Again, not sure who said that they were “safer and less likely to die”. I haven’t heard anyone. Maybe the guys on the radio. I just look at the numbers and report ‘em.

It sounds as if your author is comparing apples and oranges by fudging statistics to make a point.

If we add current non-theater mortality averages this person is using to bash Clinton era military to our current in-theater mortality, we’d probably be able to claim on average 3 to 4K more deaths a year during the 2003 to 2006 Iraq/Iran war period. That’s quadruple or higher the number of deaths during the same period of time.

Uh, the report DOES include those numbers. And the “3 to 4K more deaths” just aren’t there. Again, RTFR.

The DOD has not made public, that I can find, the years 2005 and 2006 when Iraq really started turning to shit.

Yes, the commenter is correct about not being able to find the numbers. (If someone can, let me know.) However, the commenter seems to be ignorant of the fact that combat deaths in 2005 were LOWER than they were in 2004. And that combat deaths in 2006 were LOWER than they were in 2005. So, despite the accurate assessment that some things “turned to shit”, it’s not going to be the military deaths numbers.

I must admit that I’m usually quite underwhelmed by the value of the discussion on DU when I venture over. As hard as it is to believe, the average commenter there seems to be far less informed than the average Freeper. I’d make a graph or something comparing the two, but my calculator doesn’t go that low.

Anyway, I think it’s clear that most folks would be shocked to see that the numbers are what they are.

And if someone can point me to numbers for 2005 and 2006 (if/when available) I’d sure appreciate it.

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Comments

  • Goob says:

    Holy crap! Great post imo, since it’s all news to me. BTW, RTFR might not mean exactly ‘read the report’… ps. Murdoc, I have not been repeatedly logged out of your site by Typekey as I am on other blogs using typekey. Please disregard my previous complaint. Still, would like to change my name back to kevin :)

  • Angus says:

    The information for 2005 is up at a census site. You can find it through the link at the bottom of this post on Colon’s piece. They show that military deaths were up slightly from 2004 to 2005, standing at 1,897 and 1,951, respectively. There are some bloggers using Colon’s figures to claim that wartime casualties are in line with what we’d expect in peacetime, including one commenter at The Corner. I wrote in with a correction, but it hasn’t been put up. I ran the numbers in a similar way to yours, by the way, and came up with similar conclusions. There’s also a chart in my post that you may find useful.

  • Angus says:

    The information for 2005 is up at a census site. You can find it through the link at the bottom of this post on Colon’s piece. They show that military deaths were up slightly from 2004 to 2005, standing at 1,897 and 1,951, respectively. There are some bloggers using Colon’s figures to claim that wartime casualties are in line with what we’d expect in peacetime, including one commenter at The Corner. I wrote in with a correction, but it hasn’t been put up. I ran the numbers in a similar way to yours, by the way, and came up with similar conclusions. There’s also a chart in my post that you may find useful. (Apologies if this goes through twice — it seemed to hang the first time.)

  • Murdoc says:

    Kevin: BTW, RTFR might not mean exactly ‘read the report’ Huh? R Read T The F R Report Read the report. Pretty straightforward. Not sure what your’re getting at… Also, the TypeKey thing doesn’t seem to be perfectly set up yet.

  • Gwedd says:

    Shipmates, During the Carter years, the wing I flew with lost 4 aircraft and crews, more than 40 men. I crewed P-3 Orions (and also S-3′s and LAMPS birds), and although a remarkable and safe platform, sh*t still happened. In one year, we’d lose 2-3 guys in each squadron due to other causes, such as car crashes, loading accidents, disease, heart attack, etc. It happens. A quick glance at any issue of Navy Times’ sea-service obituaries would show 30-40 EACH WEEK. Guys falling overboard, struck by debris, just friggin disappeared sometimes at sea. it happened. It’s a dangerous job with lots of ways to get killed if you aren’t paying attention, even in peacetime. What the folks left-wise are missing is the context of US Military deaths in Iraq, versus combat losses in previous engagements. They talk about Iraq being a new ‘vietnam’ but we lost more guys in a year (averaged) over there than we have the whole time we’ve been in Iraq. Just sayin’….. Respects,

  • NicholasV says:

    Two thoughts: 1) The problem is that facts don’t seem to square with the ‘common wisdom’ about Iraq, in which these people have invested so much emotional effort. Cry me a river. 2) This really makes a lot of sense if you think about it. People say that today’s US military is has highest quality recruits of all time. That probably means less accidental deaths, less training deaths, etc. What’s more, people tend to be more careful (and better observed by higher-ups) during war time. There’s more pressure not to screw up. So, accidental deaths may well go down from. People are probably chilling out more when they’re home after a combat deployment too, spending more time with their family and taking less risks. P.S. Murdoc is my favorite right-wing looney. Does that make me a ring-wing-looney-groupie? If so, I’m proud.

  • James says:

    There is a simple reason for the decline in deaths: Alcohol. During the Gulf war it was notes that the death rate (including combat) declined during Desert shield/storm vs typical peacetime death rates.

  • Walter Boyd says:

    Here’s the problem: This is an innacurate comparison, it is highly unscientific. The argument you face is on the subject of combat deaths- it is not ‘Military Deaths’. Run the numbers and compare military combat deaths. This will help. http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm Besides, why are you even highlighting this? You know, there are decision-makers (many who have never served, who have lied and cheathed their way out during the draft), who take comfort in this logic, and use it to justify more casualties.

  • Walter Boyd says:

    Here’s the problem: This is an innacurate comparison, it is highly unscientific. The argument you face is on the subject of combat deaths- it is not ‘Military Deaths’. Run the numbers and compare military combat deaths. This will help. http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm Besides, why are you even highlighting this? You know, there are decision-makers (many who have never served, who have lied and cheathed their way out during the draft), who take comfort in this logic, and use it to justify more casualties.

  • Mike Rentner says:

    I think the miracle of modern medicine has kept a lot of people alive that even 15 years ago would have died. This is pure speculation on my part, but then my reserve unit is colocated with Brook Army Medical Center and I see a disproportionate number of amputees and burn victims. I’m 100% in favor of escalating this war in a big way, but I don’t think that playing with statistics is going to do anyone any favors in the long run.

  • Dick Brandt says:

    I am a conservative but I need some clarity When I added up the numbers in the report they differ from yours. The numbers for the Clinton years agree but the numbers for G.W. dont add up the same way. 2001 891 2002 999 2003 1228 2004 1874 Tot 4992 You reported 3917 Am I missing something? also the numbers for 2005 and 6 are available they are: 2005 1942 2006 1858

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