Posted by: Lister | December 18, 2007

More military deaths during peace time

This claim is made in various places. I found it at OspreyMedia, via Pravda forums. (I know, and I’m not proud to be a member there).

OspreyMedia says this:

I pray this will help you to enlighten folks around you to the brave and courageous young people serving in our military.

And then gives a list of total military deaths from 1980 to 2006. The impression they seem to want people to get is that there were more deaths in peacetime than during the current war, hence the cost of the war isn’t so great. (And, indeed, the title of the Pravda thread is “US Military Deaths – Higher During Peace Than War”)

But the stats are delivered in a crude and deceptive fashion. First, there is no mention of population sizes. This is mentioned on the Snopes thread. That thread also gives a pdf that may be the source of the data at OspreyMedia. I found a different pdf, compiled by Paul Hutchinson, July 2007 (pdf).

There were more than 2 million soldiers in the US army in 1980. There were only about 1.37 million in 2000 (active duty).

Page 7 of the pdf has a table of death rates as a percent of total population. I can’t be bothered with a complete cut-and-paste. I’m only going to to quote the numbers for 1980, 1990 and 2000. There is some variation. If you don’t want to believe the trend from what I’ve selected, then go look at the original.

The fatal accident rate goes down:
1980 —- 0.072%
1990 —- 0.039%
2000 —- 0.026%

The homicide rate goes down:
1980 —- 0.008%
1990 —- 0.003%
2000 —- 0.002%

The death from illness rate goes down:
1980 —- 0.019%
1990 —- 0.012%
2000 —- 0.009% (Then up in the following years)

So, building on his predecessors’ improvement in health and safety, Bush has added a death from hostile action element. This effect can be seen quite clearly in the graphs in the pdf.

OspreyMedia goes on to say:

You may initially feel confused when you look at these figures – especially when you see that in 1980, during the term of President Jimmy Carter, there were 2,392 US military fatalities. What this clearly indicates is that our media and our liberal politicians pick and choose and tend to present only those facts that support their agenda driven reporting.

They choose not to print misleading stats.

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