...as long as the things they are gullible about confirm their prejudices.
I've got a newfound - interest - in military welfare these days. So I pay particular attention to news items that cross my computer screen that touch on issues about the welfare of our military.
A few weeks ago, I saw the release about rising suicide rates in the military, and to be honest I was concerned.
Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report.
It just made the Washington Post, and was picked up by lefty blogs TalkLeft and Greatscat!, who say - respectively - "This war was not worth the price. We have a President who is unable or unwilling to acknowledge his mistakes. Experts agree the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily. So why are the troops still there? Let's stop the funding and bring them home now." and "Um, I wonder if Rove left spin instructions for this report's release?"
Gosh, guys. It is a damn serious issue - because the rate is rising, and because one suicide is unknowably painful to the circle of the person who kills themselves.
But you know, the first question I asked was "Gosh, I wonder how that compares to normal rates of suicide in the US?
So I spent a whopping ten minutes looking up stats and building a small spreadsheet.
So in 2004, there were a total of 14,328 suicides in the US in the age group 20 - 44 (the group that I think pretty well covers the population in Iraq - some are younger, some are older). the total population in 2004 in that age group was 104,259,000 - so the rate/100,000 population was 15.25.
And since the rate in the military is higher - significantly higher at 17.3/100,000 overall and 19.9 for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan - I was darn concerned.
And then I asked one more question.
Well, the suicide rates by sex are pretty different, I recalled. I wonder what happens if I sex-norm the suicide rates in the military?
Here's an approximation (because the of women in reserves is slightly higher, and I didn't find the serving in Iraq).
According to the DoD, approximately 17% of US active-duty forces are women.
According to the CDC, the 20 - 44 population had 14,328 suicides in 2004. Of those, 11,460 were men, and 2,868 were women. The census gives an estimate for 2005 population from 20 - 44 as 52,513,000 men and 51,746,000 women.
By my math, this gives a suicide rate of 21.82/100,000 for men, and 5.54/100,000 for women.
If I norm the suicide rates by multiplying the sexes rate by the population in the military, I get (21.82*83%)+(5.54*17%)=19.06/100,000.
So the suicide rate among all active-duty troops is lower than the 2004 norm - even at the current high point - and the rate among combat troops is slightly above the norm.
Does this mean it isn't serious and that we shouldn't put resources into PTSD treatment or that each suicide isn't itself a tragedy? What do you think I believe...come on, of course.
But is this a symptom of a military so brutalized by the horrors of service that they are killing themselves at an incredible rate?
What do you believe I think? Why can't people do some freaking homework before the leap to the Isle of Conclusion - that's what I think.