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The Media Does It Again

| 169 Comments

Today, the NY Times has the first part of a special series - War Torn:Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles. It appears that the troops are coming home and becoming murderers.

Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: "Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife." Pierre, S.D.: "Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress." Colorado Springs: "Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring."

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment - along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems - appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

And we're presented with a litany of tragedy.

But as usual, I keep asking the simple question - well, what does it mean? How do these 121 murderers compare with the base rate of murderers in the population?

And the answer appears to be damn well.

The only reference I could find for the number of troops who have served in combat areas was at GlobalSecurity.com, citing a Salon article:

Three and a half years have passed since U.S. bombs started falling in Afghanistan, and ever since then, the U.S. military has been engaged in combat overseas. What most Americans are probably unaware of, however, is just how many American soldiers have been deployed. Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon. As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict.

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?

Damn, is it that hard for reporters and their editors to provide a little bit of context so we can make sense of the anecdotes? It's not in Part 1 of the article. And I'll bet it won't be in the future articles, either.

Because it's not part of the narrative of how our soldiers are either depraved or damaged.

The NY Times Public Editor can be reached at public@nytimes.com.

169 Comments

Are those DoJ statistics you're quoting for males, or for males + females ? It seems highly unlikley that troops deployed in Iraq have the same male/female ratio as the general population, so a proper comparison should be broken down by sex.

It would also be helpful to know this about the DOD figures for deployed troops:

Does their figure represent the number of individual, different human beings who have deployed to combat zones, or.

Does the figure represent the total of troops who were listed on unit rolls when the units deployed?

We have a lot of troops who have been or Iraq of A'stan multiple times. Were they double (or triple or quadruple) counted as deployed in the Pentagon's numbers?

Anyway, these same sort of allegations were made about Vietnam vets, but the reality has been that Vietnam vets have been either better off than their non-service peers or no worse - and that in every category, crime rate, unemployments, etc. See here (near bottom).

You've shown that the murder rate of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is almost certainly way lower than for non-veterans in the same age group. If you adjust for gender, the disparity should be even larger. I don't have the specific numbers, but I'm quite sure that men are far more likely to commit murder than women, and that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are far more likely to be male than female. They would therefore have to kill at considerably higher rates than 26.5/100k for the 18-24s and 13.5/100k for the 25-34s, if they wanted to match the equivalent civilian population. (I love a fortiori arguments.)

I guess I should have typed faster: Lee Moore beat me to my point by one minute.

I agree strongly with the need for base rate information to put these anecdotes in context.

However, the denominator that seems to make the most sense is the number of veterans who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and are now civilians. I spent some time trolling for that number, and found it surprisingly difficult to find. Can someone else dig it up?

Even without the data, we can do some sensitivity analysis.

Let N be the number of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.

The murder rates would be identical if

121/N = 26.5/100,000

That is, if N is approximately 457,000. If N is greater than 457,000, then the murder rate among I/A veterans is less than the general population (age 18-24), and if it is less, the murder rate is greater.

If all veterans were in the 25-34 age range, then the break-even point becomes about 896,000. We can be pretty confident that the actual break-even point is somewhere in between.

Bottom line: If we can be reasonably confident that the number of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans currently in civilian life is more than about 500,000, then AL is right.

The military is 13 males : 1 female. I assure you that if you adjust your general population murder statistic to match the sex ratio of the military, that you will find the military is actually much, much, much better behaved than society.

This sex issue was also reflected in the recent story saying that soldiers kill themselves more than the gen population. When adjusted by sex, it was actually less than half the general population rate.

The NYT also had that story saying rape of female troops was rampant, citing this one gal who claimed to have been raped in Iraq, but had never actually been in Iraq. They didn't bother to check anything.

The NYT has a bizarre agenda of smearing our amazing military. It's never been so noble and professional. IT is much more educated than the general populace, it is more likely to succeed and less likely to become homeless or suffer mental illness. Does drugs less and goes to jail less. But 75% republican, so the NYT thinks they are freaking aliens.

And the NYT is actually a great newspaper. I know they get a lot of grief, but they are the most interesting paper to read at least half the time, and it's so frustrating that they also have problems like this. I don't want to cancel my subscription, and frankly I'm not going to, but this has been ridiculous for a long time.

NYT: the troops are not monsters. They are a protected class because they are often treated poorly. Reconsider your stories as though they are about blacks. Did you check your info out well enough to run these stories if they showed a racial problem? Do you come across as a racist or a kook? Then fix your story.

And adjust for gender, too.

[Content deleted due to included spurious and / or sp*m links such as those for "free image hosting". Please review the WoC comment policy. Future posts of a similar nature may result in a ban. --NM]

Beard, your reasoning is all wrong. There's nothing in this story about civilian veterans. The assumption that all these murders were committed by veterans who had already mustered out is incorrect. Therefore your logic about the numbers is incorrect as well.

I am quite confident that the murder rate for ex-military is lower than the population as a whole. However, that means very little without proper controls. Gender (as mentioned), but also Income? Race? Education? I would not want to speculate about how controlling for those factors would affect the conclusions, but I am pretty confident the rates would vary quite widely in the general population depending on them.

Setting that aside for the moment, I am not even sure that is the real issue. What I want to know is whether deploying to Iraq/Afghanistan (heck, deploying at all) changes the murder rate for veterans. Even if the murder rate for veterans tends to be lower than the population as a whole, there might still be an increase related to the war, which would be interesting. Wouldn't change much in the calculation of the cost/benefit of going to war, but still interesting.

Don't forget to correct for age and gender. Young men, which are the majority of our armed forces, are also the modal category for criminals. So... vets are probably even less likely to murder anyone.

Journalism majors (as well as other communication-based majors) typically require their students to take 3 credits in a math course. That's it. Basic college algebra is probably what most of these people took. So can you expect them to successfully understand group population stats? Or even think about it?

I have students in my chemistry classes who have passed calculus and still wouldn't understand the relevance of the misrepresentation of statistical relevance here. Can we expect people with lesser math background to truly grasp how these numbers are different?

There should be a mathematical ombudsman at every news outlet that can discover these types of miscarriages of mathematics and correct them.

Beard - since the Salon piece I cite says there were over 1,000,000 combat veterans in 2005...

A.L.

Good work A.L., these kind of slanders have to be vigorously debunked when found. Looks like the old Vietnam era book of tricks is still on the shelf at NYT.

Defamation is illegal. Therefore this behavior will stop when the DOD sues NYT. I'm angry that my suggestion is so novel.

When calculating the number of servicemen and women who have served in OIF or OEF, you need to take into account that many of us did multiple tours. So a division like 4th ID (roughly 20k soldiers) doing two tours, does not mean 40k soldiers served in OIF with 4th ID. I was with 4th ID on the division's second tour and most of the soldiers I served with were on their second tour. I was on my third.
I'm not disputing your general thesis, that the NYT editors and reporters are scum-sucking dirtbags. I'm just saying that any numbers you get from DoD may simply be number of tours, which will be greater than the number of soldiers who did those tours.

My letter to the Times Public Editor:

I strongly object to The War Torn series. The link is...

First of all, the percentage of murderers among returning servicemen is lower than the percentage for all men of their ages, as is demonstrated at link

Your series gives the impression that returning servicemen are more likely to be murderers, which is the opposite of the truth.

Even if returning servicemen were committing murders at a higher rate, your series tars all returning servicemen. For example, black men commit murders at a higher than average rate. Yet, the Times would never run a series focusing on murders committed by black men. To do so would unfairly incriminate all black men.

I wish you would show the same courtesy to our brave volunteer soldiers.

[Mr Skurnick: Please don't post bare URLs here; it confuses the Movable Type blog engine and messes up the layout. Guidelines for posting live links are presented immediately above the comment entry field. Thanks. --NM]

I think your NYT link is broken above.

I have emailed the Public Editor about this, hopefully they'll be able to add context.

But AL, those full population numbers include the higher rate urban areas. I've seen reasonable statistics that most of the forces (active and recently discharged) tend to live outside of those areas, tending more towards small urban, suburbs and rural. I'll assume this is a reasonable assumption for now(no link).
Looking at a further breakdown shows a much lower rate than national for these areas, though I can't get age groups down with more work. If anyone can get something useful from age/population, please do .

Once you look for non-urban, and discount for Gang/Robbery/Drug - the drop from national numbers is between a half and a quarter, and I'd guess for the age groups' drop would follow. At this, it's not looking as good. I would still bet on better than representative population, especially with gender included.

I do hope they can put something in regarding statistics though.

Thank you for doing the sums and not letting the New York Times get away with this.

Unfortunately, as an Aussie, I can tell you that the MSM has already picked up the NYT "facts" via Reuters and are broadcasting them as gospel truth. For instance, our national broadcaster the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC): Rise in homicides by US Iraq war vets (I hope I did that link right; sorry if I break your page)

Please keep up the good work.

Setting that aside for the moment, I am not even sure that is the real issue. What I want to know is whether deploying to Iraq/Afghanistan (heck, deploying at all) changes the murder rate for veterans. Even if the murder rate for veterans tends to be lower than the population as a whole, there might still be an increase related to the war, which would be interesting.

I'd be surprised if troops who've been through a stressful situation involving killing don't commit murder at a somewhat higher rate than their colleagues who spent two years in Germany polishing the humvees.

I'd be surprised if accountants who have stressful jobs don't commit murder at a higher rates than those who take it easy, too. In other words, I don't think that would mean a whole lot about the military per se. Ratchet up the stress on any group of human beings, you get a little more trouble.

The point of the NYT article was to suggest that soldiers are going batshit on a regular basis. In fact they seem to be more stable than the average kid of their age. Why am I not surprised by that? Why am I not surprised by the sleazy NYT's failure to do the most obvious and basic comparison?

Shap (#10) hit the nail on the head. The interesting question is whether active duty in a war zone raises the murder rate for veterans. The article purports to address this question:

The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.

It will likely be difficult to fact check them here - the research they did looks to be expensive and involved. Perhaps they can be persuaded to release the raw data.

As questionable as the numbers they provide are the numbers they do not:

Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse — and criminality. On a less scientific level, such links have long been known.

This seems to directly contradict the data which Donald Sensing posted. If indeed there are "decades of studies" then perhaps the public editor can persuade the authors to, you know, cite some.

I'd suggest people read the whole article. Certainly there are some terrible stories and compelling anecdotes, but for a nine page story with seven authors, the data is light and opaque at best.

"I have emailed the Public Editor about this, hopefully they'll be able to add context. "

Wanna bet?

The NYT and all media bow to the religion of PC. All wars are like Vietnam, and of course US Vietnam vets all became murderous monsters (Rambo) while for some unexplained reason (perhaps the "righteousness of their cause") NVA Veterans became "peaceful guardians of the planet" with new-agey music chiming in.

Proof positive, PC makes you stupid. And the media are nothing but PC.

-----
"I have emailed the Public Editor about this, hopefully they'll be able to add context. "

Wanna bet?
-----

They are able. They just aren't willing.

But they support the troops! (As the rope supports the hanged man...)

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me like the numbers being compared are apples and oranges? That 121 figure is total murders over a period of years since returning from Iraq. I'm not sure which, but the DoJ homicide rate is either the rate per year (how many murders someone in this age group committed this year) or the rate over a lifetime (how many murders someone in this age group committed over their lifetime). Either way, that's a very different number.

However, the denominator that seems to make the most sense is the number of veterans who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and are now civilians.

Why now civilians? The quote from the story says a soldier killed his wife. Not a Vet. Even if it referred to a former solder it seems to me that any comparison should be those who served in Iraq/Afgahistan period. Not only those who've since gotten out... but it's BS from the get-go. As has been pointed out they said the same things about Vietnam Vets. The tag stuck. This one will too I'm afraid.

OK, a couple of things and then I'll post an update.

The the error Sol raises in #26 isn't one - I account for the fact that the murders took place over six years by comparing them to the serving troop population over the same period.

The point Dave makes in #18 is also interesting - correcting for demographics would be the best way to do this - but the DoJ numbers suggest that medium-sized cities have pretty high rates too, so you'd want to correct for gender (increasing the NYT error), race (probably decreasing it), and location (probably decreasing it again).

The next one is the point made by Digg in #16 - yes, the key number is the number of people, not the number of tours. The best # I could find for that is the one cited, but I'll reach out to DoD tomorrow and see if I can get a stronger one.

Finally, I don't question - either - that the rate of murder committed by post-combat troops is likely to be higher than for noncombat troops, nor that better resources need to be put into counseling and assisting troops. If the NYT story had made this point andput the murder rate into context - thereby taking away the impression that this is common - I'd be lauding it instead of slamming it.

A.L.

Why would troops involved in combat be more likely to commit murder on their return. They return from a very stressful envirnment into a less stressfull environment. Surely, the opposite should be true?

AL, Yes, you have to control for age and gender and for race. The statistics show that there is a significantly higher murder rate among young black males. So ethnicity is a factor. Actually, you'd probably have to control for socio-economic status and educational attainment as these are also known factors that appear strong in any regression analysis pertaining to violent crime. Thus, I think that a sound analysis is proably beyond the resources available to you as a blogger.

That being said, the NYT has proven, once again, what we already know; that the press is populated by effette pukes with little interest in anything other than selling their particular brand of sensationalism. In the case of the NYT this tends toward a limp wristed Eastern Sea Board elitism.

This type of gratuitous and cowardly smearing of US service personnel must stop.

davod, I think the theory is based on the myth that a trained killer, having killed in combat, has less reservations about applying the skill and experience to situations in civilian life. This is then combined with the more real issue of PTSD. So it goes like this; although in a less stressful environment the vet's nerves are shot and something sets him off - a car backfiring, a fight with a spouse or boss or obnoxious person at the bar...... He reacts emotionally and physiologically (as in adrenaline pump, ect) as if he is still in combat because that is what he has become conditioned to. He experiences a temporary break with civilian reality and deals with perceived threats as if they were in a combat situation.

I think there is little doubt that PTSD is a real syndrome, but stretching that fact to build the kind of myths behind the NYT's innuendos is a buch of BS from the effette ivory tower East Coast liberal mindset and Hollywood and, occasionally, defense attornees making excuses for criminal behavior on the part of a vet.

This is nothing more then the next round of demonizing the troops in order to assure a dhimmi President. Since the news out of Iraq is more positive than negative these days, the lame ass media will do anything and everything to keep their agenda alive. They are traitors and seditious scum. Perhaps the First Amendment should be given the same scrutiny the Second Amendment gets. After all, the federal government and liberal cowards are never afraid to reinterpret the Second Amendment when it fits their socialist narrative to keep the unwashed masses in check. What passes as "legitimate journalism" in this country has been corrupted by big money and anti-American power mad socialists like george sorros. Well, unlike their beloved Vietnam, we the people are better informed and those of us who have served more determined than ever to keep the stain of THEIR anti-American cowardice off our Warriors.

Theresa, while I appreciate your comment in this context (troop bashing) I would observe that there is a counter balance to "....corrupted by big money and anti-American power mad socialists like george sorros." coming from Rupert Murdoch, et al.

Media are all lying sensationalizing scum. Some of these senasationalize from a liberal perspective and some from a rightwing perspective...........snots from different nostrils of the same nose.

"figures dont lie but liars figure"

there are NOT 1,000,000 individual soldiers deeployed to Iraq /Afghanistan!

mutliple tours ! d'oh

I think the New York Times' central thesis about soldiers returning from foreign wars, Vietnam, Iraq, or any other, is fairly simple:

A. Our soldiers been trained to kill by the fascist military and then given one or more years of on the job training killing the harmless citizens of some innocent third world country.

B. Surely, most if not all of them must have acquired a taste for killing there that is bound to resurface here when they return to this country after their tour of duty.

Bulls#!t.

I would venture to say that the average combat veteran who knows in his gut exactly what it feels like to kill another human being has seen enough death to last him a lifetime.

Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, WWII Germany or the Pacific, place and time don't matter, wars are all the same. Any soldier back from a tour in a war zone is a hell of a lot less likely to murder someone than some Gangsta RAP wannabe street thug and AL's statistics seem to bear this out.

otpu

It was the New York Times' understanding that there would be no math.

avedis

George Sorros was the first name which came to mind simply because he has just been exposed as having given more than 50,000 pounds to fund the "independent" lancet study which claimed, falsely, that over 300,000 +/- Iraqi civilians were killed by US and coalition forces. As far as I'm concerned, all big media is corrupt regardless how they "swing".

Docattheautopsy wants to know about math in J-school. I was at NYU J-school in the 80s. I transferred in with trig and never had to take a class in math at NYU, but I did learn this and use it as a rule to this day--numbers put readers to sleep or drive them away. That goes double for stats any deeper than the stuff the use in the Enquirer: 54% of college students are cannibals!

So we don't use numbers, generally,. or when we do we know we're losing readers fast. In what I write it never matters. In this, it matters. But we also learned something else--that whatever one set of numbers says, another set somewhere else will say the exact opposite. Microscopes may not lie, but the guy with the eye will.

"If the NYT story had made this point andput the murder rate into context - thereby taking away the impression that this is common - I'd be lauding it instead of slamming it."

You're still going too easy on them. The point is they put this article on page 1, above the fold. This trumps any statistical disclaimers they might have had, or may put out in the future if they respond to these criticisms.

They don't care about the statistics for two reasons. First, it would destroy their narrative of evil US armed forces under Bushitler, which is the unmistakable reason this article was developed and given such prominence. Second, they are too stupid to understand the statistics. I went to high school with NYT publisher Pinch Sulzberger, but it was only for a year because he flunked out. Trust me, if he hadn't inherited his job he wouldn't have gotten as far in journalism as Jimmy Olsen.

I don't understand the NYT's article's figures.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war... Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing... Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

So "killing" extends from first-degree murder to manslaughter. Fitting that criterion, 121 homicides, about 91 charged to currently-serving individuals, and about 30 charged to discharged veterans. Over what time period? From the end of 2001 through the present?

The article also says

The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.

So late 2001 to the end of 2007(?), the Times identified 349 homicides (committed in the US) for which active-duty military and new vets were charged. About 262 of these cases were charged to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What, then, do 121 and 262 refer to? Why aren't these numbers identical?

Because it's not part of the narrative of how our soldiers are either depraved or damaged. [em mine]

The word you are looking for is meta-narrative, i.e; the thing you started out to prove and then disingenuously raped the evidence to provide. Just sayin'...

Dag gum tags.
[ Fixed. -- M.F. ]

I don't see why everyone is so incensed about this article....in reading it, it is, to me, an effort to paint a sympathetic picture of returning war vets as they try to go back to their normal lives after experiencing the trauma of war. I'll wager that most commenters here haven't even bothered to read the article in full, as I did...rather, I guess it suits their "Anti-Liberal Media" crusade better to just take AL's reactionary misrepresentation of the article and join the mob in bashing the Times. Pathetic, really.

But as usual, I keep asking the simple question - well, what does it mean? How do these 121 murderers compare with the base rate of murderers in the population?

What this means is that you have a problem understanding what other's say or write when you think it is in opposition to your views...the article has NOTHING to do with what you seem to think it does (although I'm sure we'll all be treated to the twisted logic that you will....maybe....offer in reply that is meant to justify your tirade).

Alan, you're being a tool. Picture, instead an article like this that talked about schoolteachers who seduce or rape their students. Is it a thoughtful, sympathetic look at them, or an alarmist take?

You see it as sympathetic; Intel Dump's Phil Carter - one of the most liberal vets I know, and someone who I've knocked heads with on political issues, was offended enough to call the article bullshit.

Step out of your kind of boring desire to challenge everything I say - is it dark or light out? - and read the article as the average person would.

A.L.

Alan, your "sympathy" would not be well received in my VFW post.

Alan, you're being a tool.

Nice comeback....I stand by what I say, regardless of how pro-war and vets see it....I'm neither, so that makes me a hell of a lot more "average" than either of you.

Well I read the article, and see two main points.

  • Anecdotal -- "These 121 (or however-many) homicides were committed by Iraq and Afghanistan vets, and each one is terrible." I don't see any dissent on that. Each is, indeed, an awful thing, and it would have been better if that number was 120, or 60, or zero.
  • Statistical -- "These 121 (or however-many) homicides are a much-higher number than would have been committed in a world where traumatized PTSD-ravaged vets weren't primed powder kegs, waiting to explode in murderous rages." Seems only sensible to me that some proportion of vets have suffered from PTSD, and some proportion of them have done violent things that they wouldn't have in the absence of their service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The question that remains is, what, exactly, is the NYT charging, and on what basis? The 121 anecdotes support an ill-defined meta-narrative, but what, exactly, is the actual narrative the NYT is propounding? 121 (or 262) homicides compared to what, and by what methodology?

As has been pointed out upstream, the MSM wouldn't be so bold as to tar other groups with this sort of broad-brush generalization. And if they did, would they not bother to specifiy what that characterization is? The plural of "anecdote" isn't "data."

As a person who works in the news division at one of the major TV networks I can tell you that most people with whom I work know little about the military. Their default position is that service members are victims (the poor kid who just wanted money for college and was aghast when someone put a gun in their hand and expected them to fight) or criminals (hence the relentless coverage of Abu Ghraib). An article like this enables them to roll both their stereotypes into one!

Alan, I'll stick with it. I have survived two teenagers (and one 11 year old who thinks he's a teenager), and the style of argument you're making is all too familiar.

You're welcome to step up to the table and make real arguments - or to step away, as I've suggested in the past. Otherwise you're wasting electrons - but they're cheap and small, so keep right on going.

I'm working on a post regarding what I want from these discussions, and your style will certainly be a topic.

A.L.

I have survived two teenagers (and one 11 year old who thinks he's a teenager), and the style of argument you're making is all too familiar.

You mean like calling people a "tool"....please, you're a joke.

avedis, sorry you don't see it the way I do, but to me the article is sympathetic to vets and is intended to point out the kind of problems they face after coming back from a war zone, and as such they raise an important social concern that the government seems unequipped (or unwilling) to deal with, and which I, as a member of this society, have a right to know. Whether they have a sinister "lefty" agenda is an argument that I cannot engage in here reasonably with people (I have tried), so there's no sense trying to dispel that notion around these parts.

Here are some of the key paragraphs that illustrate that have informed my interpretation:

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The Pentagon does not keep track of such killings, most of which are prosecuted not by the military justice system but by civilian courts in state after state. Neither does the Justice Department.

Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.

Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, many of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law.

But 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.

When they’ve been in combat, you have to suspect immediately that combat has had some effect, especially with people who haven’t shown these tendencies in the past,” said Robert Jay Lifton, a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance who used to run “rap groups” for Vietnam veterans and fought to earn recognition for what became known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

"Everything is multicausational, of course,” Dr. Lifton continued. “But combat, especially in a counterinsurgency war, is such a powerful experience that to discount it would be artificial.”

Few of these 121 war veterans received more than a cursory mental health screening at the end of their deployments, according to interviews with the veterans, lawyers, relatives and prosecutors. Many displayed symptoms of combat trauma after their return, those interviews show, but they were not evaluated for or received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder until after they were arrested for homicides.
What is clear is that experiences on the streets of Baghdad and Falluja shadowed these men back to places like Longview, Tex., and Edwardsville, Ill.

In earlier eras, various labels attached to the psychological injuries of war: soldier’s heart, shell shock, Vietnam disorder. Today the focus is on PTSD, but military health care officials are seeing a spectrum of psychological issues, with an estimated half of the returning National Guard members, 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of marines reporting mental health problems, according to a Pentagon task force.
Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse — and criminality. On a less scientific level, such links have long been known.

"To truly support our troops, we need to apply our lessons from history and newfound knowledge about PTSD to help the most troubled of our returning veterans,” Mr. Hunter said. “To deny the frequent connection between combat trauma and subsequent criminal behavior is to deny one of the direct societal costs of war and to discard another generation of troubled heroes.”

Unlike during the Vietnam War, the current military has made a concerted effort, through screenings and research, to gauge the mental health needs of returning veterans. But gauging and addressing needs are different, and a Pentagon task force last year described the military mental health system as overburdened, “woefully” understaffed, inadequately financed and undermined by the stigma attached to PTSD.

Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of... ...gun ownership...

Wow, watch that one whiz right on by.

It seems there is a major break in logic between what the story said and what many of you are saying.

Basically, you are trying to analyze a statistic which the source itself admitted was likely inaccurate because there is no official tracking of any such statistic and because they had to dig through a large volume of other newspapers and police reports, not something that can be fully accurate considering the size and scope of such publications in a nation of 300 million people. The article read:

The Pentagon does not keep track of such killings, most of which are prosecuted not by the military justice system but by civilian courts in state after state. Neither does the Justice Department.

To compile and analyze its list, The Times conducted a search of local news reports, examined police, court and military records and interviewed the defendants, their lawyers and families, the victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail. Also, it was often not possible to determine the deployment history of other service members arrested on homicide charges.

My gut feeling is that this number is likely more and that accurate record keeping and reporting would bolster a much higher number.

Furthermore, you are missing the main thrust of the argument. A number of these murders have some connection to PTSD, a common effect of warfare. While you can disagree with it existing, or the extent to which it exists, it is ovious that war changes some people. Some people just can't take the pressures of war. The story is more pointing to a distrust of the military establishment and its well-documented cavalier treatment of the troops. Of course, the military has improved by leaps and bounds from when it was testing the effects of radiation on soldiers in the forties and fifties, but this has the same kind of implications that the investigation of Walter Reed revealed - the government is ill-prepared to deal with the long-term consequences of warfare.

Also, since I have noticed some people referring to the Vietnam War veteran statistics, I like to give a warning about these statistics. I have heard people spout out how successful many Vietnam War veterans are, which is true, as well as the group having the highest literacy rate of any military force in U.S. history. At the same time, I've seen statistics that show Vietnam War Vets had a relatively high rate of people who became unemployed, homeless, or criminals. I think this shows how war and the military affect people in different ways, and that a number of people break down when morality becomes obscured in high-stress situations.

And one final dig at the argument - while I will grant everyone that this story does overblow the issue, and needs better context, I think the bloggers posting here, A.L. included, have far exaggerated the story. No where did the NYT say that people coming out of war are immediately turned to Rambo. It did not counter the notion either, which I would agree is a mistake. The article was really a discussion of how war CAN affect an individual and not some story of how the military turns people into killing machines.

Also, A.L., in response to your reply to Alan, you sound like the average military-supporting tool who defends our troops no matter what. The fact that you would attack the statistical aspect of the article, which the article itself says is flawed, is bad enough. Then you take the statistic out of context. Nowhere does it say "This number is higher than in the regular population." Rather, it is saying that a portion of these murders were caused by PTSD or otherwise related to psychological stress. That is all. In fact, I think that is how a "normal person" would read it, as you charged Alan with trying to do. You have rewritten the article with your own context, leaving out most of what the article says and only repeating the bit that bolsters your argument, which seems a blanket denial that soldiers could do anything wrong.

Also, your comment about school teachers seducing or raping children has nothing to do with the article, nor can it be portrayed as sympathetic. Were these teachers suffering from PTSD? Were they somehow abused as a child? Under what context could this group be seen as sympathetic? It is a stretch at best, and a far stretch. The affects warfare and violence can have on people is well documented. It does not affect everyone, but it seems much more likely to cause mental disturbance than being a third-grade teacher.

I highly encourage everyone to read through the cases the NY Times includes in their homicide numbers. They included incidents that clearly had nothing to do with whether these people deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or not.

They included people in their tally who were acquitted of charges, they included people that killed someone in self defense, they included a guy that was charged with manslaughter because he lost control of his car during a drag race and many more incidents that has nothing to do with whether the person deployed or not.

Their tally is highly dubious and offensive. Imagine if the NY Times made a list of African-American killers and included incidents like I mentioned above as part of their tally to create a perception of out of control African-American killers. There would be rightfully be outrage and their should be outrage when the target is soldiers as well.

Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse — and criminality.

Gun ownership?

It may be worse than the NYT imagines - there is evidence to suggest that people who like to run over things with tanks tend to be fond of classical music.

Actually, what decades of studies have established is that popular culture created a stereotypical crazed Vietnam veteran that had no basis in fact. Those studies often involved people who were not veterans at all, or who were never in Vietnam, or who never saw a shot fired in anger while they were in Vietnam.

Bill Mauldin, the great WWII cartoonist, observed that people got nicer the closer you got to the front line. It was always in the rear that you found the guys who walked around looking for a fight. There are obvious psychological reasons why that is so.

It does not diminish the plight of people who truly suffer from the aftereffects of violence to point out that there is a tremendous amount of purest horse manure going by the name of PTSD. Most of it involving civilians, BTW.

Most people who commit violent crimes give some sort of excuse for it, and often these excuses are accepted at face value. It is a rare serial killer who admits that his crimes were motivated by sex or blood lust - "Sam the Invisible Dog told me to do it" is the more standard explanation.

Exploding powder kegs, my ass. The world is full of people who would explode into violence if they had the ability or the opportunity to do so. Some of them sell greeting cards for a living. David Wayne Chapman was inspired to kill John Lennon by reading Catcher in the Rye.

The relationship between life experience and propensity for violence is extremely complex. Much too complex for the New York Times, which (John Hinderaker said) "operates at too low a level of information to be useful to knowledgeable news consumers."

I work at a large private homeless shelter for Veterans (I am a 6 year Army Veteran myself).

In the time I have been involved there (five years), there have been a grand total of two murders by the men from this facility, out of a population resident across that time of about 4,000.

What with all of the life issues that collective total has - and they're a bit more serious than "my bills are too high," or "I hate my job" - you would expect them to be far more prone to violent acts, including murder, and at a higher rate than the "average" Veteran. Or the Civilian rate, for that matter.

Do the math, and you'll see the lie behind the NYT article. Even homeless Veterans murder at a rate far lower than the "average" murder rate.

Note that of the 4,000 total, it more-or-less conforms to the proportion of Veterans who have served in a combat Theatre, and those who have not, that was stated in the NYT article. Further, we have intaked many OIF and OEF Veterans, almost right from the beginning; many of them are or were in our PTSD or Mental Health programs.

Care to guess how many of these OIF and OEF Veterans have committed or been accused of murder since the GWOT began?

ZERO.

Further, although our population of clients at any given time will include around 30% having served prison time (across the spectrum of crimes - only a few for manslaughter or murder that I have seen), the two murders mentioned by me were committed by Veterans who had never served in a Combat Theatre. Nor prison time.

What a farce the NYT is.

(Sorry if that was so turgid. Needless to say I am a very incensed first-time poster here.)

Matthew Hensley writes "Also, since I have noticed some people referring to the Vietnam War veteran statistics, I like to give a warning about these statistics. I have heard people spout out how successful many Vietnam War veterans are, which is true, as well as the group having the highest literacy rate of any military force in U.S. history. At the same time, I've seen statistics that show Vietnam War Vets had a relatively high rate of people who became unemployed, homeless, or criminals. I think this shows how war and the military affect people in different ways, and that a number of people break down when morality becomes obscured in high-stress situations."

Spare us your pity, Matthew. We're quite familiar with what people like you believe about us. We're well aware that you think that "morality is obscured" for us in high stress situations. Trust me, it isn't. The American solider knows exactly what our duty is, knows what the rules of engagement are and cares a great deal about who we kill and who we don't kill.

I don't expect you to understand that. You clearly won't. But real morality recognizes that some people must be killed in order to save many others.

Antimedia,

First off, no where in my post did I say that I pity the troops or that I could ever fathom what it is like to be in a combat situation. I assure you, I have no delusions of that. I was saying that not everyone can take stressful situations, and it causes some people to snap. I think it is pretty well recorded that some people come out of war worse-off than when they came in.

Also, from someone who has gathered the insights of me from comment on a blog, I don't see how you can say "people like you" about me. You have said nothing to dispute what I said. You probably can't.

I am guessing that you are a soldier, based on your speaking for them as a group, but I wonder how you can so absolutely say "The American solider knows exactly what our duty is, knows what the rules of engagement are and cares a great deal about who we kill and who we don't kill" when in war after war, soldiers have either acted on illegal orders, such as in Abu Ghraib, or have disobeyed orders. While I am not saying the majority of soldiers do disobey orders or do illegal acts in the name of duty, as I am sure most do not, I think it is absurd that you think you can speak for an entire group of people with such absolute clarity. That would be like me saying "The American Citizen loves God" or "The American educator serves children." Well, I know the majority of Americans love a God of some sort, but what about the atheists? I know most teachers work hard to serve children, but what about those that rape, molest, or have sex with their students? The average American soldier is an admirable human being who contributes greatly to society and defends freedom, but what about those who aren't average? Every group has someone who’s not average. For you to assume that there is not is you allowing your allegiance to the military to obstruct your ability to think clearly on this issue.

I also have trouble believing that morality was never obscured in a war like Vietnam, where it was nearly impossible to distinguish friendly Vietnamese from Viet Cong. I was talking about Vietnam, after all. I think Iraq is a much more clear war, though I am sure there are still moral quandaries that arise. Personally, I don't think the gentleman in the NYT article did anything wrong when he accidentally bombed the wrong house. He was under the impression that it was an enemy target. He, however, seems to disagree. Morality is personal, and to a number of people, it is not an issue of black-and-white but differing shades of gray. But I digress.

So, outside of inserting an opinion I did not give, attempting to fit me into a nice neat group, and attempt to speak for millions of individuals, what did you say? Nothing.

Matthew Hensley:

(Antimedia, I am brand new - hope you don't mind me jumping in here)

I see. You are committing what Philosophers know as a "Category Error" - you are "misframing the question."

There's a popular misconception that Veterans are killer automata, due to training and experience. No Sir, we are not. We are conscious and professional about what we do at all times. Haven't you ever heard of the term "Situational Awareness?" Clearly you have not.

There's a major difference between combat-wary in a professional sense, and some mythical murderous delusional paranoia.

For every Veteran you can point to, for whom their experience was somehow surreal to them and hence affecting some expressive violent behavior, I can point to 99 or 999 for whom it has not. However, the exception has been artificially portrayed as the rule.

And this has been the lie since the height of the Vietnam War.

As GI at 54 says, look at the "killings". First, these are people who were CHARGED, not convicted, and the killings include accidents and self-defense. Also, any survey is worthless if demographics aren't accounted for.

When I saw this story yesterday, the first thing I did was try to find a figure for how many individuals had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for how long, and like the rest of you, I was disappointed that I couldn't find any trustworthy figures. It would be nice if the Pentagon would provide some useful numbers.

For the sake of the troops we need to know what the numbers are, and the innumerate journalists only make things worse by comparing apples to watermelons.

Angry Bastard,

I never said it was the rule. I thought my use of the word "some" and "not average" should have made that clear. I don't think that veterans instantly become Rambo on their homecoming. I don't think the NYT says that either, though they should have tried being more clear on this. I just think that some people have difficulty adjusting to civilian life after warfare. I know people who are having trouble adjusting to various issues. I work at the local literacy council and most of the people we see are displaced workers that dropped out of school because they didn't need a diploma thirty years ago. Some have trouble adjusting to change. Others get their GED with ease and have no problem. Many more never need to come to us and do it on their own. That does not mean this group, which is the exception, does not exist.

Matthew Hensley:

Well, yes you did. You talked about the aspect of dehumanization while serving in a war zone, as if it set up some sort of psychological condition that led to extreme sociopathic behavior.

This is one of the things a professional military is specifically designed to prevent.

In point of fact, military service teaches you to be a bit more focussed and a bit more calculating in any given stressful situation. I'd say based on frequent news reports and my personal and professional experience, that a Veteran that had to terminate a person would "wait for the moment" (and not a moment before), whereas an average person will kill out of passion far more easily.

Sorry, Matthew I don't see the gap you're suggesting.

If the story was a feature on one soldier who, due to PT stress acted criminally, and was simply a personal story about his or her tragedy, you might have an argument.

But the story is explicitly about a pattern which the authors claim is developing in returning veterans. If that's the case - and they say it is when they say:

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

Then it's more than legitimate - it's necessary - to examine the pattern in the population as a whole, and the tools you use to do that are statistical analysis.

On its face, their claim - that there's an emerging pattern of violent behavior - doesn't begin stand up to preliminary analysis. There are better analyses which can be done - and someone with the resources of the Times or the DoD ought to be doing it. I'll take a stab at improving my analysis over the next few days.

I have a certain affection for the troops, don't "blindly support them no matter what". I do expect that they - like anyone else -ought to be treated in a way free of prejudice, and I see a lot of prejudice in the way that the troops are being treated - by you, among others.

A.L.

Mathew Henesy, "It seems there is a major break in logic between what the story said and what many of you are saying.

Basically, you are trying to analyze a statistic which the source itself admitted was likely inaccurate because there is no official tracking of any such statistic and because they had to dig through a large volume of other newspapers and police reports, not something that can be fully accurate considering the size and scope of such publications in a nation of 300 million people."

Exactly. The statistic is without frame of reference and is inaccurate anyhow and is therefore without meaning. So why does the NYT even bring in up? The reason is that they are trying, through innuendo, to imply that the civilian killings are somehow tied to combat experience and that veterans are somehow more prone than the general populace to be "ticking time bombs" because of that experience.

This is yellow journalism of the worst order. The NYT is behaving like some scurilous rag.

Some here have been trying to be fair a reasonably discuss the NYT piece in a scientific manner; i.e. does the number really point to veterans being more prone to civilian killing than the population at large because this is the thrust of the reason such a reference would be included in the article. I don't know why you can't see this.

ah, what AL said.

A question for those who are puzzled by criticism of the NYT article. Suppose that I made the following claim:

If the policies I outline are implemented, the homicide rate of vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will be only 50% greater than the comparable rate.

Based on the article, would my "50% greater" rate represent an improvement to the current situation, or would it mean my policies have made things worse?

I think the answer is clear: from reading the article, it is impossible to tell. The frequent and awful misdeeds of returning soldiers are compared to ... well, basically, they aren't. There is only this:

This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

But the meaningful number is homicides committed 'per 100,000 persons per year.' Then we'd have to work on finding the appropriate "comparable" populations.

Why on earth would journalists avoid these obvious points in a Page 1 story?

Is the plan to stir up a hornet's nest on day one, and then play "gotcha!" with a later installment?

Here's another thought experiment.

Edit the story, and replace the identifying factor of military experience with that of being black.

So we have the stories of a dozen African-Americans who have murdered others.

If that story ran with this kind of insinuation, without any framework of verifiable fact to back it up - how would you react?

A.L.

Alan:

"it is, to me, an effort to paint a sympathetic picture of returning war vets"

Yeah, how sympathetic can you get, emphasizing a tiny, and possibly statisticallly below-average, percentage of "returning war vets" who have been charged with murder in a page one, above the fold article?

You're lucky a "tool" is all you're being called.

George McGovern is a combat vet. As nasty a war as you could wish for. Why isn't he a man with a record of going berserk? Or WWII Vets in general for that matter?

"it is, to me, an effort to paint a sympathetic picture of returning war vets"

Just a moment ago there was a story on the local evening news citing the NY Times story as evidence of a "disturbing trend". Do you have the honesty and guts to admit just how dead wrong you were, Alan?

Angry Bastard,

First off, I never said that the military did not work hard to counter the possible negative effects of cmobat. They do. I think there is a much better system in place now than there ever was in the past to screen people before entering the military, prepare soldiers for combat, and deal with the after affects of combat. All I said was some people snap. I also think that they are generally the exception. I know a number of veterans from Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. They aren't rabid killing machines. That doesn't mean that some people don't snap. Some people are more prone in our society based on upbringing and genetics to psychological disorders and it is impossible to weed out all of them.

Second, never use the word "terminate" when you are arguing that there is not some degree of dehumanization in the military. Someone is not "terminated," they are "killed." The word is used to achieve moral absolvement. I am not saying that killing is definitively wrong - I think there are many occasions when it is both just and morally sound to kill someone.

A.L.,

I fail to see how the number of soldiers killing outside of a combat zone that show some sign of mental anguish must corrolate to broader statistics on the murder rate. If their argument was "veterans are more likely to kill than average Joe," then I would say you have a point. It is not their argument, merely the argument you wrote into it. All it is saying is that some veterans are adversely affected by combat situations, which they are, and that some of these soldiers commit crimes, which they also do.

Also, I do not see how I have ever treated soldiers with prejudice. I support them in a number of ways, such as paying my taxes and voting for people that I think will be the best for them. My main contention with the Iraq War, for instance, has never been that I did not think that the war was a bad idea but rather because I thought we should concentrate more resources in Afghanistan so we wouldn't have troops there a decade after the fact (a point that we are rapidly approaching) and because I did not trust this administration to adequately manage the war. I still feel I am right on both counts. In the end, you are making unsubstantiated assumptions about me and my views.

Also, your posed question about changing it to black people lacks context. Is it saying that blacks are adversely affected by something? I am sure you could look at economic indicators and the history of cultural exclusion going back to slavery and write an article that is true and that won't offend most African Amereicans. Heck, the NYT HAS done this story. It went over rather well. This argument, again, is without merit. Yes, some soldiers, after serving in the military, kill people as a result of mental problems they face. Is it the majority of veterans? No. Do they say it is the majority of soldiers? No.

avedis said: "The reason is that they are trying, through innuendo, to imply that the civilian killings are somehow tied to combat experience and that veterans are somehow more prone than the general populace to be "ticking time bombs" because of that experience."

You know, I am the pretty average NYT reader, and I would assume that it is more to go with one of the other themes that the NYT produces. Something along the line, perhaps, of a general mistrust of the government, as they showed by pointing out that the Pentagon did not track these statistics and that testing of soldiers failed this group of people, or by demonstrating that the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have costs taht aren't written to the budget in long-term costs to society in the form of supporting our vets and dealing with the long-term foreign policy ramifications of a misguided war, which also plays into the first theme I mentioned. I do agree that they should have more carefully framed their discussion, but the inference seems a stretch at best for me.

avedis said: "Some here have been trying to be fair a reasonably discuss the NYT piece in a scientific manner; i.e. does the number really point to veterans being more prone to civilian killing than the population at large because this is the thrust of the reason such a reference would be included in the article."

The comparison is not scientific; it is absurd. The article does not say "Veterans are more likely to kill people," it says that some veterans kill people as a result of their experiences in war, which is true. Some people do snap. Do most people? No. The fact that they mention a few hundred people seems to indicate that they don't even think the majority of people do.

avedis said: "This is yellow journalism of the worst order. The NYT is behaving like some scurilous rag."

Another unsubstantiated claim about the NYT. You know, I am hard on the NYT a lot because they do have a bias in what they cover and how they cover it. This story shows that in several ways. But not the ways you guys are reading it.

I wonder if anyone else noticed this sleazy sentence, quoted by Alan in comment 51: "Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, . . ."

Shouldn't "many" be "most" or even "the vast majority of"? The NYT apparently thinks not rebounding successfully from military service is the default. Or at least they don't mind implying that.

Matthew, I'll try one more time, and then throw up my hands and see if someone else can explain it to you.

If, for example, returning combat veterans had a lower incidence of murder - which appears to be the case - than the general population, it might be a valid statement to say -in contrast to your claim that "some veterans are adversely affected by combat situations" that veterans appear, in aggregate, to be positively affected.

So their and your claim - without a lot of additional number crunching - doesn't hold water.

The problem is that when stories like this are told, it's important to understand how they will be taken. Note the TV lede that Gary Rosen cited above.

The reason you provide context is because it's important to allow the reader not to pull out a meaning you don't intend - i.e. that we're damaging our combat vets and they are all ticking time bombs.

Studies of Vietnam vets in fact show lower rates of homelessness and substance of abuse than post-Vietnam veterans (Encyclopedia of Homelessness ),and a negative correlation is found between verifiable combat experience and homelessness.

A.L.

"Also, your posed question about changing it to black people lacks context"

Quite so. Thats the point. And that story would NEVER be run in the NYT without loads of context. Because the NYT would be extremely sensitive about inadvertently making it appear that blacks are more likely to commit murder than the general population. ALs point is that they demonstrably arent concerned about making it appear that veterans are more likely to murder. And this is especially egregious because the veteran meme is factually false.

The problem is that when stories like this are told, it's important to understand how they will be taken.

Why is that an issue? Don't you trust people who read this article to draw their own varied conclusions, right or wrong?

The reason you provide context is because it's important to allow the reader not to pull out a meaning you don't intend - i.e. that we're damaging our combat vets and they are all ticking time bombs.

"The reader"? Why do you think your specific perspective on this article is universal? Is it so hard for you to see that not everyone sees it as you do...as some of us here have demonstrated? Shouldn't that be enough evidence to assuage your worries that people will ONLY draw the wrong conclusions? That's always going to be the case. Are you asking for censorship or reports tailored to avoid even the hint of offending anyone? Or does this have to do with your grand theory of "public support for war" and the role of propaganda in its shaping? Because if you're arguing for propaganda, our discussion is over, since that is an admission that facts must be fixed around the message.

And I've got a strong feeling that, even with inclusion of the statistic that you think would give the article the proper "context" (although I agree it is not relevant to the point of the article, making it non-contextual, actually) that you'd easily find something else to complain about....as a lot of folks here have shown.

Finally, taking your view to it's conclusion, if you are asking that combat vets' crimes be viewed in the context of the population at large, does that also mean they should be treated by the criminal justice system with equal impunity? Shouldn't their unique situations be taken into account when meting out punishment or prescriptions for treatment or rehabilitation? I say yes, of course, and studies like the Times' help lay the foundation for that. That is why to me it is sympathetic and potentially beneficial to their lives....but perhaps not the Great War Effort of Our Times...

If you hadn't approached this issue so confrontationally, then perhaps the conversation could have evolved along a common ground between maintaining sensitivity to the public's perception of veterans and their unique needs and circumstances as they integrate back into society...but you aren't interested in that, clearly. For example, rather than getting all frothed up and aggressive, a much more productive approach would have been to encourage readers to politely point out the statistic that you believe would give the piece "context" and "balance" while complimenting the Times on bringing this important issue to the public's attention. I'd love to see the letters that were sent by your readers to the public editor....my bets are that if they were as angry and intolerant as the comments above, they were ignored as the product of an unhinged, Pro-war fringe/

I haven't read all of the comments here, but you seem to be missing an important point, Armed Liberal. That NY Times article notes:

"This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail. Also, it was often not possible to determine the deployment history of other service members arrested on homicide charges."

Given that qualification, I don't think they could have used the 121 number as a jumping-off point for detailed statistical analyses. I do agree with you, though, that they have qualified their finding by noting that 121 is low-ish considering murder rates in the general population.

Alex

"Shouldn't their unique situations be taken into account when meting out punishment or prescriptions for treatment or rehabilitation? I say yes, of course, and studies like the Times' help lay the foundation for that. That is why to me it is sympathetic and potentially beneficial to their lives....but perhaps not the Great War Effort of Our Times..."

Of course, if the statistics show that military service is correlated with a decreased likelihood of committing such crimes, shouldn't we be less sympathetic?

Face it, Alan, the Times piece is simply propaganda which supports the cause you prefer.

Of course, if the statistics show that military service is correlated with a decreased likelihood of committing such crimes, shouldn't we be less sympathetic?

No, Mark, because it does not require comparison to other situations, only an appreciation of the one being considered.

And what is the "cause I prefer", Mark? This thread is so suffused with such baseless accusations I can't help but to think that it is nothing more than everyone indulging in the pleasure of being offended.

Face it, Mark, you simply cannot understand how anyone can interpret this article differently than you or AL or many others here....this is a serious, major personal flaw that you are doing a nice job exhibiting to everyone...and it certainly places disagreements with you in a new light.

How should this treatment by the Times of our Veterans be any different than any of their other slams against them? Did you people honestly expect a fair analysis?

While its a valiant and noble thing to do, to point out the errors. Don't hold your breath for any form of retraction or correction. These are the same people who still cling to the Lancet study on Iraqi deaths.

Let's stipulate that 121 (or 260; see comment #40) is indeed an accurate number, as far as homicides committed by vets returned from Iraq or Afghanistan in the relevant time period (2001-2007?).

OK, now estimate the homicide rate based on the Times' tally. Is it lower-than-expected or higher-than-expected, when compared to the homicide rate of a similar population? How much lower or higher?

Can't be answered. The article gives the reader no basis for understanding the context of the story.

Here's an idea for a balancing story: "[Some unknown number of] Returning Vets donated $25 million to charities [over some unstated time period]! How generous they are!"

Would that be good journalism?

I wonder if other nations troops have the same "problem". Has anyone checked numbers with British troops? French? Italian? Polish? Etc. If wars horrors turn those who have been involved in it, into rabid killers, wouldn't we see the same effect elsewhere?

That's a good question, gabriel, I'd be interested in seeing any available data on this.

AMac, Let's say that 121 (out of several hundred thousand) Iraq veterans died of a particular disease that they may have contracted while in Iraq. Let's say the NYT does an article about how the US Military has a) a screening process based on early-warning symptoms of the disease and b) has a treatment that is about 50% effective, and c) many of the 121 Vets who contracted the disease did not go through the screening process because there is a stigma attached to having the disease. What difference would it make to the article to know if 121 was a lower or higher number than expected, or how it compared to the prevalence of the disease among the general population?

Obviously, 121 (or 260) out of the hundreds of thousands of Iraq veterans is a tiny, almost immeasurably small percentage. This rather obvious and blunt fact seems to be ignored throughout this thread and in its place has been substituted the belief that the NYT is somehow implying or suggesting that this is widespread or rampant throughout the ranks of returning vets. (The NYT "quiet phenomenon" becomes in A.L's characterization a "pattern.") But however small the percentage of the whole, to the few to whom this has happened the consequences are enormous. Sadly, not everyone comes back feeling like a hero. That to me was the central gist of the article. There are those who, for whatever purposes, prefer that these few miserable souls not receive serious attention in the media lest readers who are really really really bad at math develop the misguided belief that war, in general, and the Iraq war, in particular, creates whole brigades of killers and that these mathematically challenged readers will then, as a consequence, fail in their duty of supporting the Iraq war. These imagined dimwits need their hands held, heads stroked and to be provide with "context."

I recognize that I approached the article from a different vantage point than A.L. I read the entire article well before I saw that there was post about it on WoC. I had a vastly different reaction to it than did A.L. I would argue that his interpretation is dependent upon a very particular point of view. You have to be a supporter of the Iraq war and believe that public support of the war is critical for its proper execution and believe that the NYT is deliberately trying to sway public support away from supporting the war and believe that people who read the NYT are really stupid, in order to come up with the conclusion that this article suggests that "our soldiers are coming home and becoming murders." My reaction to the article, on the other hand, -- that it was feature on one of the hidden human costs of war, using real examples from a current conflict -- doesn't really require any particular point of view. I felt very badly for the soldiers and for the victims. I applaud the army's and vet's organization's efforts to diagnose and treat PTST and I hope the stigma attached to it goes away. Judging from many of the comments in this thread, however, that doesn't appear very likely.

How 121 compares with anything else doesn't matter to the stories of these individuals, which deserve to be told. We are all adults. We can accept that there are down-sides for some people who go to war on our behalf.

I've been googling around, and not found anything of significance yet. That of course draws me to the immediate and premature conclusion that it's not an issue. When one starts tearing apart the Times horrid math skills, one realizes that there is neither smoke or fire to be found.

There are those who, for whatever purposes, prefer that these few miserable souls not receive serious attention in the media lest readers who are really really really bad at math develop the misguided belief that war, in general, and the Iraq war, in particular, creates whole brigades of killers and that these mathematically challenged readers will then, as a consequence, fail in their duty of supporting the Iraq war. These imagined dimwits need their hands held, heads stroked and to be provide with "context."

LMAO! Well put...as was the rest of the post...they echo my sentiments precisely.

Alan, I figured you might be lonely in here. We can take turns drawing from the same "liberal narrative." That way we can each spending more time hating the troops, hating freedom, speaking french, using leaves to wipe our butts, riding our bicycles to elite Ivy League journalism schools that teach us to support the terrorists, engage in sodomy and have monkeys for grandparents.

"What difference would it make to the article to know if 121 was a lower or higher number than expected, or how it compared to the prevalence of the disease among the general population?"

mark, it would make a huge difference. That story can't be interpreted as 'soldiers are dying at unprecedented numbers from this disease' if you add that comparison.

As I've noted - several times - if this was a story about individual tragedy, or about the gaps in the DoD programs to help troubled vets, I'd be waving flags in favor of it. But it - clearly, based on the kind of secondary headlines I'm seeing in my RSS feeds - is becoming a narrative about 'killer soldiers'.

All they had to do was firewall what they wrote against that erroneous narrative, and I'd have blogged my enthusiasm for the story.

I do have kind of a personal stake in the care of the troops, no?

A.L.

Oh, and mark - when you say "There are those who, for whatever purposes, prefer that these few miserable souls not receive serious attention in the media lest readers who are really really really bad at math develop the misguided belief that war, in general, and the Iraq war, in particular, creates whole brigades of killers and that these mathematically challenged readers will then, as a consequence, fail in their duty of supporting the Iraq war." you're kind of full of it.

My issue with this - based largely on my reading of Grossman's 'On Combat', which I suggest you read - is that it creates in large part a self-perpetuating myth in which troubled veterans believe they are supposed to act out.

And because it paints the troops as victims, which they assuredly are not.

A.L.

AL, I don't think the story can be interpreted as "soldiers are dying at unprecedented numbers" however you slice it. 121. One hundred and twenty-one. Out of hundreds of thousands. On its very face it is a very low number. You have a better chance of being killed by an animal in the US than by an Iraq veteran. The article wasn't selling a "run for your life the streets are dangerous with Iraqi vets" story. I'm sure there are plenty of idiots out there who are going to use this story improperly to denounce the war, but you really can't hold the NYT responsible for that, can you? There's no firewall that's going to protect against all and every erroneous narrative.

Seriously, A.L., you have to believe me that I had the paper delivered, as every morning, to my apartment here, sat with my coffee and scanned the headlines. I got caught up in the story and read the whole thing (unusual for me). Never once did I feel or think it was pushing the kind of story you are saying it did. Honestly. 121 jumped out immediately as a very low number. This was a human interest story....not a war makes killers story. I think your antenea is just a little over-calibrated on these things. I thought so, too, about the suicide thing awhile back.

All the context necessary was inherent in the numbers. 121 across the entire country over 6 years. I'm not a news junkie, this is the only blog I ever read, and I suck at math. But even I know that we have about 150,000 troops right now in Iraq, that we've been there for about 4 years, and 121 is a microscopic---almost invisible--portion of the whole. The NYT didn't need to spell that out. It was obvious. Now, I'm just repeating myself, as is my custom...so I'll shut up (to the delight, no doubt, of many).

AL,

"And because it paints the troops as victims, which they assuredly are not." Respectfully disagree. It paints 121 particular troops as victims, not "the" troops. This distinction is quickly and easily made. 121 does not equal 150,000.

"you're kind of full of it." Can't really argue that. Not my fault. Lenient parents.

"troubled veterans believe they are supposed to act out."...doesn't this presume at the very least the EXISTENCE of troubled veterans (at least 121 of them). This is all the NYT article was really saying, except that it was giving a deeper voice to a couple of them.

Matthew:

You said, Second, never use the word "terminate" when you are arguing that there is not some degree of dehumanization in the military. Someone is not "terminated," they are "killed."

This presupposes that each and every serviceman (meaning both sexes, of course) are not aware of the meaning of "terminate" in place of "killed."

Frankly, all of these platitudes came into popular usage not for the benefit of Servicemen - who after all, have a complete understanding of what their job is; they were used by Civilians and for Civilians, because of their inability to hear the blunt truth about Wars and the events occur within them.

In point of fact, it's really interesting to me that those who state this to me have been, in my experience, always Civilians. As if they have some monopoly on defining how we describe what we do (when you do not do our potentially lethal dirty work - we do). In many subtle ways, it's as if a Taxi driver is lecturing a Surgeon on proper Aseptic techniques.

Attempting to teach your Granny to suck eggs, as it were.

Much is overblown as to "dehumanization." We are essentially not taught to "dehumanize" our opponents. We are taught to understand their ways. Quite the opposite of the popular belief that the average Soldier or Marine is a mindless machine that will kill at the drop of a hat, because their enemy are merely "things."

Robot-like troops are not a benefit, they are a detriment. And this is and has been well understood by our deep thinkers and planners in the military realm.

"The NYT didn't need to spell that out. It was obvious"

So why was it a story? How is it news? The ONLY reason it is news is if their is some causation between war service and violence at home. Do they write stories about veterans who come home and get married and have babies? Or stories about veterans who get in car accidents? Or stories about veterans who do any other of the millions of things the population does? No, of course not. Thats not news.

Maybe we have a different definition of what news is. This see no evil, hear no evil act is thin. There is a paradox here. If veteran murder rates arent being reported on because they are statistically meaningful, why then are they being reported on?

Mark B. It isn't news. It's a feature, i.e. a human interest story. NYT (& others do it all the time). NYT did a human interest story on every single person who was killed on 9/11. None of it was news, but it was all appreciated. Front page of NYT is filled with non-news stories...at least one a day...Sundays especially are notable for lengthy features. Common enough practice. As I said above, I read the piece when it came out and was quite moved by it.

I'm going to use this comment, if you don't mind, to put in this excerpt from the article in question (on 2nd page of 9 pages) that might help to cool a lot of people down:

"Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life."

I'll call shenanigans on this bit from the NYTimes article:

Many displayed symptoms of combat trauma after their return, those interviews show, but they were not evaluated for or received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder until after they were arrested for homicides. What is clear is that experiences on the streets of Baghdad and Falluja shadowed these men back to places like Longview, Tex., and Edwardsville, Ill.

The Edwardsville incident is about Jon Trevino, an air-force medic who served at least two tours in Iraq. He was recently separated from his wife with whom he had a nine-year old son. One night he kicked in the door of the house and shot his wife and then himself. He left a suicide note to his son explaining his reasonsm attaching e-mails between his wife and another man.

Horrible, but stating or insinuating that such incidents arise from some sort of PTSD or combat trauma is misleading. Severe depression? Certainly. He was having marital problems, he appears to have believed his wife had taken up with another man and he was afraid of losing his son. I've reviewed the public reporting on NEXIS and found no suggestion that he was ever in combat, though its unquestionable traveling away from home for long periods of time in a demanding job is certainly stressful enough.

People about to be deployed have access to government-paid marital and family counseling. To over-characterize these issues as simply combat-induced is harmful if it discourages people from seeking such assistance beforehand.

Mark B, I think the question is whether the New York Times sees fit to run stories about governors that illegally circumvent veterans-hiring preferences in order to illegally award jobs to Democratic cronies. I mean if veterans do have employment trouble, this type of fraud would deserve a lot of attention.

Shenanigans indeed.

Many displayed symptoms of combat trauma after their return, those interviews show, but they were not evaluated for or received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder until after they were arrested for homicides. What is clear is that experiences on the streets of Baghdad and Falluja shadowed these men back to places like Longview, Tex., and Edwardsville, Ill.

This is blatantly untrue. Servicemen are screened when they deploy to a theater, and when they redeploy. The latter is known as a "postdeployment health assessment," and all Servicemen are screened for both medical mental and physical issues.

One or two may fall beneath the radar, but stating that people are just "not evaluated" is absurd.

IMO, most of the homicides by vets were probably justifiable: i.e., mouthy liberals. ;)

Cool it, mark...don't forget, Libruls aren't supposed to have a sense of humor either....

Dang, I said "Medical and Physical." I meant "Mental and Physical."

[Corrected. --NM]

[Driveby, possibly sarcastic, possibly ironic. Deleted. --NM]

A.L.,

I really don't think you understand what I am trying to say at all. I mean, you never real legitimize your analysis of the statistics when even the paper says they are probably not all there. Instead, you try to make poor analogies. Let’s take a look at your current one:

If, for example, returning combat veterans had a lower incidence of murder - which appears to be the case - than the general population, it might be a valid statement to say -in contrast to your claim that "some veterans are adversely affected by combat situations" that veterans appear, in aggregate, to be positively affected.

So their and your claim - without a lot of additional number crunching - doesn't hold water.

The first thing wrong with this statement is that you go back to the statistics. I don't think there is anything solid enough for an argument one way or the other, and neither does the NYT, who presented the statistic.

The second thing wrong with this statement is that you are some how saying that "some veterans are adversely affected by the war" is an unsubstantiated claim. It is difficult for me to believe that anyone can honestly believe that war does not have the ability to affect lives.

The third thing is that somehow, by using the mix between your first and second problematic statements, is that you think it shows there could be argued to be a positive affect, negating the ability for little affect. That makes even less sense.

Then, after spitting out intellectual gibberish, you claim that it insubstantiates the NYT's claim (that one that they never really made) and my claim (the fact that out there, somewhere, someone was adversely affected by warfare). If I was going on some idealistic rant, I could understand such harsh misgivings about my words, but they are fairly moderate accounts of the effects of warfare. I have already given credit to the military on reducing the overall effects of warfare, and I have already said that I think this article does blow the story out of proportion. That does not mean you are any less wrong on your statistical analysis, which is really about on par with the statistics used by someone like Michael Moore. That is really the only thing I have said. I have provided a good point of reference for what the NYT generally talks about with such stories about the military and the government has a whole. I agree that they could have framed the story better, but it is pretty irrational how out-of-context you have taken the story and its scant statistics.

Also, you should reread that link. While it shows that Vietnam vets had a lower rate of homelessness than people in a volunteer only army, it was 1.4 times the average (or about 40% higher than average) and because of the attempts to make the draft even, represents a good cross section of society. So not only is your reasoning seriously in question for this argument, your scant evidence points to different conclusions than you use them for.

PD Shaw,

You should have also pointed out the NYT's incorporation of the story where the guy did not seriously take the psychological evaluation, which clearly contradicts that statement. I suppose technically it is true that they were not SPECIFICALLY tested for PTSD, but they were given an evaluation that, if taken seriously, probably would have revealed signs of PTSD if it was indeed present. I think that this is misleading, though I think it probably is either unintentional, which is possible, or more likely a play into the anti-establishmentarian stance of the NYT.

Angry Bastard,

I did not presuppose anything. I was merely pointing out that the word "terminate" was inappropriate as it acts to absolve any moral rationalism of the action. It was a correction of language. If I thought you actually did not see someone as a human being, I would have let you know.

I think it is interesting how you attempt to censor me for correcting your language out when you note that the rhetoric exists to appease civilians and that civilians should not tell you how to explain your job. So, you kind of agree with me that it is a sanitizing view of the military, and that civilians conjured it up, and you think that I should not correct you on this as a sanitized account because I am a civilian, even though the civilians were the one who needed the sanitization in the first place....

This is a bizarre circular argument that I can not grasp. Let me try this again - You say that soldiers understand that they "kill" people and the designation of the word "terminate" is for the sake of civilians like me and that by correcting you from the sanitized version because it dehumanizes the act is wrong, regardless of the fact that it was sanitized. I didn't quite understand it that time either. I don't see how the word terminate is appropriate in the discussion of morality. You did not make the argument for it here.

I also find it interesting that the act of describing the military is solely owned by the military. I think that this is ironic considering the head of the military is perpetually a civilian, as laid out by our constitution. I also find this kind of self-perpetuating protectionism of the military difficult to swallow as I was always taught that, as a democratic society, we have some degree of responsibility to question and evaluate every government institution and ask that they be the best they can.

While I do believe our military is largely a force for good, and is the best fighting force in the world, it, like the rest of the government, is accountable to the citizens of the United States of America, regardless of whether or not they have been in the military. Based on your tone and the disdain you sound like you have towards civilians in their understanding of the military leads me to believe that you have forgotten this.

[Trolling, and use of a different nym from the prior driveby. This is your final warning. Post another drive-by, or a bilious vent like this one, and you will be banned. Please review the comments policy. --NM]

Spaid Thimsonfin,

I was born in 1983. I am 24. Obviously, in my pre-fetal state, I would have stood up to the military establishment. Congratulations on your great detective work. My mom was ten 1969, my dad was fifteen. His father was serving in the navy off the coast of Vietnam and he detested the protesters, not because they disagreed with the war, but because they sympathized with the Communists.

I think it is funny how you characterize me in a way that is in stark contrast to anything real. I have never said a disparaging word about any veteran, at least in their capacity as a soldier, regardless of whether it was my grandfather, my uncle, my cousin, any of my great-uncles, my friends who served in Iraq, my professors who served in Korea and Vietnam, etc. On the contrary, I have thanked them for their service to our country. I think you misunderstand everything I have said here. You are doing yourself a disservice by posting something that is so ridiculous.

I also think it is funny how now at least three general posters have made generalizations about me and my views, all that, at the very least, misconstrue my comments. What was that about the mischaracterization of troops? You guys are rapidly becoming hypocrite. If you can't approach my argument, don't go to name calling. That's juvenile.

You know, I just realized that I should clarify something in my last post, as I left out part of the truth. I have said disparaging comments, but only on specific events, such as My Lai and Abu Ghraib (these are the only two I recall), and only those specific veterans. I do believe that these are the exceptions, but people who do use their military posts to perform such acts such as these are essentially the same as the dictators we oppose and depose around the world, and are implicating the rest of the Armed Forces and the United States as a whole with their actions. I don't think that this miniscule group detracts from the greatness of the military, though it does distract from the good the military does.

Matthew:

I was merely pointing out that the word "terminate" was inappropriate as it acts to absolve any moral rationalism of the action. It was a correction of language. If I thought you actually did not see someone as a human being, I would have let you know.

But you see, Matthew, you are presupposing that any given military person, current or former, will use polite terms such as "terminate," so as to somehow absolve themselves of any guilt for their actions. This is indeed presupposing. You do not know the mind of the "average" military person.

I have only rarely met any Veteran who would not use blunt terms about our mutual experiences amongst ourselves; only when Civilians are spoken to do the tamer platitudes come out. This is a fact. That we moderate our language for your benefit does not one whit indicate it's being used to absolve ourselves of some vast moral guilt. That is a sweeping assumption on your part.

I think it is interesting how you attempt to censor me for correcting your language out when you note that the rhetoric exists to appease civilians and that civilians should not tell you how to explain your job. So, you kind of agree with me that it is a sanitizing view of the military, and that civilians conjured it up, and you think that I should not correct you on this as a sanitized account because I am a civilian, even though the civilians were the one who needed the sanitization in the first place....

No Sir. You are casting opprobium on me for a mere usage of language, one that is in the public domain. I did not invent any of these terms, I merely use them interchangably as required, depending on the "audience." As do you, and everyone else, I am certain. I will use "Mother-F'ing bloody exit wound" with another Veteran; I will say "exit wound" with such as yourself.

My disagreement is that you are imposing from outside opinions about the military and how it operates, yet you apparently never have been a part of the military establishment. I am not a CPA. Does that give me a perfect knowledge of the Accounting world? It does not.

However, you are "telling me" what my (hell, hundreds of thousands, Millions, of individuals) military experience "means," in great detail, and with psychological undertones. How is this possible?

Well, obviously it is not.

I mentioned what I do for a living, plus that I have a military experience behind me. On a day-to-day basis, I in a far better position to comment on the state of mind of past, recent, and currently serving military than you. That's not hubris; it's simple fact.

One of the debating points in this thread is about stress causing a Veteran to act out in violent ways. Given my profession, do you presuppose (ahem) that I might just have some relevant experience in stressed out Veterans?

We are, as an aggregate, trained to be acutely aware and cautious about what we're doing, not the obverse - which is the thrust of the NYT article, as well as that of your own. We are highly trained, conscious human beings; you portray us as some sort of sociopathic statistical aberration.

Frankly, I am more worried about violence from an inner-city Gang-banger than from a fellow Veteran.

Mr Hensley:

"Spaid Thimsonfin" aka "Chade Thaffin" is on his / her final warning here. If something substantive comes out of his / her keyboard, I encourage you to respond in like manner. If it's more of what we've seen so far, please don't rise to the bait.

Cheers,

Marshal Nortius "Big Tuna" Maximus

you portray us as some sort of sociopathic statistical aberration.

Alright, that was out of line. Perhaps "some of you having a statistical tendency towards violent, possibly sociopathic behavior."

I am a liberal.

The NYT is my favorite newspaper.

For those of you arguing that statistics are irrelevant - you are wrong. Quite simply, if the statistics reveal a lower homicide rate than an appropriate comparison group, the headline of the article should read - "VETS KILL LESS!"

Hence, the NYT is at fault for not thoroughly addressing the statistic issues.

Three statistical questions matter to me:

1) Do vets kill more than pre-war military personnel?

2) Do vets kill more than the general population?

3) Do Iraq/Afghan vets kill more than vets of other wars?

The NYT barely tries to address the first question. From 1995-2001 their research revealed 184 homicides among military personnel, and from 2001-2007 they report 121 homicides among vets. That's 63 fewer. Now, they do report 349 homicides among all military personnel from 2001-2007, which is 165 more, or the meaningless "89% increase." Obviously, we need the denominator to make sense of this.

AMac is the only person who has pointed out that we need to know not only the number of people in the denominator pool, but also over what period of time. Obviously the number of veterans in the US in 2002 was far less than today.

The number of people who have served may be 1-2 million, but to calculate a homicide rate we need to know the number of vets in the US over a given time. The truest way to calculate this would be to sum the total number of days spent in the US by vets over a given year. So if in 2007, 1 million vets spent 200 million days in the US, and let's say 20 vet homicides were committed in 2007, you could say for every 10 million days veterans were in the US in 2007, 1 homicide was committed.

This can then be compared to such a rate for military personnel for a certain year preceding the war (question #1) or the general population (question #2) or for vets from other wars (question #3). This data is very hard to come by. Of course, we would then need to make difficult adjustments for period of time, age, gender, race, socioeconomics, etc.

Finally, we also need to calculate an "acceptable" difference (assuming there is one, maybe vets do kill less!). Vets may kill more than military personnel who have never known combat, but it only becomes a phenomenon worth writing an article in the NYT about if it exceeds our acceptable difference. I leave that up to you to calculate.

As if to rebut the multiple assertions in this thread that the NYT was not trying to paint a picture of a terrible and growing phenomenon, but was instead just telling some human interest stories, here's the lede of The Independent
(The Guardian's sister paper):

Traumatised veterans 'have killed 120 in US'

While public anger is directed at the Pentagon for sending American soldiers ill-prepared to fight in Iraq, an equally troubling problem is rearing its head at home. Military veterans are returning from the war zone just as ill-prepared for civilian life and dozens suffering from post-traumatic stress are committing murder and manslaughter.

A new study has identified more than 120 killings committed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as psychologically troubled soldiers slip through the net of an overextended military mental health system.

The study, which was conducted from examining local news reports, and which may well dramatically understate the scale of the problem, suggested that killings by military veterans have almost doubled since the start of the wars.

Although the Pentagon immediately questioned the accuracy of the figures, the mounting number of incidents across the US add up to a social problem akin to the traumas of returning Vietnam veterans a generation earlier.

I think you also need to know if the killing was justified. The charges against Sepi were dropped, we learn on page 9 -- his attackers had criminal records, were on drugs, and had fired on him during the exchange.

There's no doubt that he was in need and upset; but it ought to make a difference that he was also acting in justified self defense.

Comments #40 and #108 --

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war... Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing...

121 homicides, about 91 charged to currently-serving individuals, and about 30 charged to new veterans.

The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before [10/95-9/01] and after [10/01-9/07] the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

They mean that their count of homicides from 10/01 to 9/07 committed by serving or discharged US military in the US is:

  • 349 cases total (a rise of 165 cf. 184 in previous 6 year period)
  • 91 cases committed by active-duty personnel who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • 30 cases committed by new vets who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • (Together, these 121 cases are "about three-quarters" of the rise of 165)
  • 228 cases committed by AF members and vets who never served in Iraq or Afghanistan

That's the numerator. The time period is 6 years. The denominator is trickier, as it's the sum of four pools that changed each year (No Iraq/Afghan vets in US, Iraq/Afghan vets in US, No Iraq/Afghan active duty in US, Iraq/Afghan active duty in US. (Including or not-including the Reserves and National Guard?)

As of 2003,

1.4 million active duty
1.3 million in ready reserves and National Guard
26.4 million veterans residing in US

Back of the envelope time.

  • Assume the NYT's "new vet" means "discharged within 6 years" (but does it?).
  • 2001-2007, Assume a slowly growing military, starting at 2.7 million in FY2003. Assume 75% of active duty personnel are in the US.
  • FY2003, ~190,000 new recruits. Thus each year, about 150,000 return to civilian life. To account for Reserves and Guard, double this estimate to 300,000.
  • FY2004 to FY2008, troop strength in Iraq plus Afghanistan in the range of about 150,000 to 190,000; rotations of about a year.
  • Guess that the following percentages of soldiers and vets had served in Afghanistan or Iraq:

FY2001 - 0%
FY2002 - 0%
FY2003 - 2%
FY2004 - 10%
FY2005 - 25%
FY2006 - 40%
FY2007 - 55%

Active-duty with / without Iraq-Afgh. experience in US
FY2001 - 0.0m / 2.0m
FY2002 - 0.0m / 2.0m
FY2003 - 0.0m / 2.0m
FY2004 - 0.2m / 1.8m
FY2005 - 0.5m / 1.5m
FY2006 - 0.8m / 1.2m
FY2007 - 1.1m / 0.9m

"New" (within 6 yr) vets with / without Iraq-Afgh. experience
FY2001 - 0.0m / 1.8m
FY2002 - 0.0m / 1.8m
FY2003 - 0.0m / 1.8m
FY2004 - 0.0m / 1.8m
FY2005 - 0.1m / 1.7m
FY2006 - 0.2m / 1.6m
FY2007 - 0.4m / 1.4m

By this certainly inaccurate reckoning, the person-years in the US

  • 3.3m active-duty & "new" vet person-yrs with Iraq-Afgh. experience
  • 21.9m active-duty & "new" vet person-yrs without Iraq-Afgh. experience

Giving homicide rates of:

121/(33 * 100,000) = 4 homicides per 100,000 person-yrs

and

228/(219 * 100,000) = 1 homicide per 100,000 person-yrs

In the body of the post, A.L. wrote

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.

I estimated a composite rate out from these charts for a 2005 cohort that's 90%/10% male/female, and 15%/85% black/white, and follows the Army's age stratification of about 40% 18-24, 20% 25-29, and 40% >29. I get a general U.S. comparison of 22 homicides/100,000 person-years.

So my cocktail-napkin estimates look way too low, by comparison. But two things are probably true:

  • The homicide rate of returning armed forces personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan is much higher than the rate of those who did not.
  • The homicide rate of returning armed forces personnel is much lower than the rate of a cohort of U.S. residents adjusted for age, gender, and race. That appears to hold true whether or not the soldiers and vets had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

While the NYT's reporting is certainly dubious and agenda driven, PTSD is a valid issue that requires treatment or bad things can happen.

I have a 30 year old family member who spent 14 months in Iraq as a medic collecting injured soldiers and citizens from the batlefields. Prior to his deployment he was as good-natured and harmless an individual you would ever meet. He never expressed violence or anger. Never.

After 15 months back home and out of the Army he was awakened one morning by the police, handcuffed and taken to jail. He had met a woman at a bar, taken her home with him and brutally assaulted and raped her. He then fell asleep.

He has no recollection of the event. It appears to have been during an alcohol induced blackout. We learned he was drinking 12-18 beers each night so he could fall asleep. He was suffering nightmares, amnesia and hypervigilance among other PTSD symptoms.

He has pleaded guilty to the charges and awaits sentencing which could reach as high as 30 years.

We firmly believe, as did the forensic psychologist who diagnosed him, his PTSD led to this tragedy. Sadly, in our state PTSD won't qualify as not guilty by reason of insanity defense. We only hope the judge takes these mitigating factors in mind during sentencing.

Our military needs to do a better job screening for PTSD when our troops return from battle.

Angry Bastard,

I find the argument you are leading me on absurd. Are you saying that NO ONE who ever served in the military was ever effected by PTSD? That NO ONE has ever had a violent episode? I have already said that I thought this was blown out of proportion by the NYT and that I thought it was the minority. My major contention has always been the evaluation of their statistics by this blog. The fact that people are still trying to use them to justify a position one way or another puzzles me. The NYT said their numbers were unofficial, had a poor methodology, and are probably incomplete.

Also, just a little quip with something you said, while I agree that you quite obviously have more experience in the military than me, and quite obviously have more experience with veterans than I do, you aren't presenting anything to question what I mean by some people having adverse effects from their military experience. I am not making any new I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of the people who have developed some adverse psychological effect would have developed it anyways from another psychological trigger. And no matter how good any detection system was, there is no way it can catch everything.

Also, your experience with the military could also be seen as a liability in this kind of a discussion. You have something to gain by veterans being seen in a better light because you are one. By rejecting my opinion because I have been a lifelong civilian is just as bad in this case because it is rejecting outside criticism. While I understand that you know more about the military than I do, that does not mean I am irrelevant. By your logic, Enron's CEO should have been taken at face value when he said the company was doing nothing wrong. Why? Because he is an expert on his company and the energy industry. While this is an extreme example, I believe it shows my point.

I also think you blow my statements out of proportion. I have never gone into much detail about the military. I have mainly just stuck to the fact that some people are adversely affected by military service. I have yet to hear that everyone comes back from war normal, heard any proof of it, or had you present it to me.

While I still don't fully agree with you on the language thing, I am wondering if this might be a generational issue. My generation has a lot fewer manners than did yours.

We are, as an aggregate, trained to be acutely aware and cautious about what we're doing, not the obverse - which is the thrust of the NYT article, as well as that of your own. We are highly trained, conscious human beings

When did I say otherwise?

I have another question for you. What are you trying to prove by disagreeing with me? I have said the NYT article should have been framed better, that it blew the article out of proportion, which seems to agree with you at least in part. I have never said the majority of soldiers come home as mindless killing machines - quite the opposite actually. I have said it is the exception that soldiers come home with psychological problems.

Matthew, if you agree the NYT article should have been framed better, we can all go home...

A.L.

AMac - big attaboy for the better analysis. I'm still poking people at DoD to see if anyone will come up with a better number, but yours seem just fine as a baseline. I'll happily concede (bad word choice) that combat vets have a higher level of destructive behavior, and that DoD owes them better screening and care.

Let's see if we can all hold hands and agree on that as a starter.

I'll stand on my view of the NYT article, and will watch with interest to see if they add some framing in later parts of the series.

A.L.

A.L., I have to say, I think DoD is doing a good job on this. Sure, in an ideal world, they could do better. But I give them a lot of credit for trying and doing the best they can in a given situation. Few people saw this war looming from any great distance. Few expected it to be so tough. DoD has been scrambling to catch up on many issues. 121 out of 250,00+ over 6 years is pretty decent record.

Look, deep psychic scars on some soldiers are simply a fact of life--or of war, at least. It's akin to collateral damage (hate that phrase, though). Call it internal collateral damage. Use of violence, however necessary the use, however pure the motive, is going to leave damaging traces on some people. I think the more open we all are about this, the more easy it will be for someone who is experiencing it to seek help. I can't put the blame on DoD. The individual soldiers have to bear some responsibility for not seeking offered help. It is possible that the NYT piece may be a step away from the "crazed vet" stereotype by offering individual portraits of real soldiers who have suffered the trauma. People who don't handle the violence of war as well as others shouldn't be ashamed to admit it and seek help. Anyway, that's what I got out the article. To be honest, previous to it--and to this discussion--it wasn't a topic I gave a great deal of thought to.

Thanks, A.L. Regarding the statistical context for the NYT's narrative--

Questions for the NYT:

  • How do you define "new" veterans? (I assume "within 6 yrs of discharge".)
  • Are National Guard and Reserve units included in your analysis? (I assume 'yes' for both.)
  • How many of the 121 cases and 229 cases between 10/01 and 9/07 fit the DoJ/FBI definition of "homicide"? (e.g. "vehicular manslaughter" doesn't.)

Questions for the DoD:

  • How many AF members returned to civilian life each year, from FY1995 through FY2007? (I assume 150,000/yr for active, and another 150,000 for Guard plus Reserve) (Bonus jackpot question: How many returnees had been to Iraq or Afghan.?)
  • How many AF members went to Iraq or Afghanistan for the first time each year, from FY2002 through FY2007? (I assume it ratchets up from ~0 in FY2002 to ~200,000 in FY2007.)

Numbers on the Web, somewhere:

  • Size of US military, FY1995 through FY2007 (with or without Guard and Reserves, depending on how the NYT did their analysis.)

Concept to be argued about:

  • The above information is enough to derive homicide rates for Served-in-Iraq/Afgh. and Didn't-Serve-in-Iraq/Afgh. Armed Forces members and "new" veterans to 1 significant figure. What's the proper homicide rate to which these estimates should be compared? (I assume "the homicide rate for the U.S., adjusted to match the military for age, gender, and race".)

What an excellent conversation. I'm glad that the article sparked such an uproar. I will not be able to follow the debate, as it is rare that I can access a system that allows me to even see blogs. I am in Afghanistan, out in the boonies, where we depend on the military networks that don't like blogs. I was able to have access tonight, though.

I'd like to point out that the article, with it's home-made statistics and semi-sympathetic twist is the beginning of creating an aura about the veterans of this war. What concerns me is that someone... like NINE someones... set out specifically to create a story about this. Do you really believe that they didn't set out with a premise in mind?

The premise was made clear. What conclusion is it that they are trying to get the mass of readers and those influenced to draw? Where are they trying to lead this whole line of thinking? Who benefits?

Who stands to lose?

I am a soldier who currently serves in a combat zone. I've been shot at, I've had to bag bodies of people I knew who were in such condition you wouldn't describe in nearly any company.

I have felt such support from the average American that it has been surprising at times. I feel guilty that my brother had dog crap thrown at him getting off the plane in San Diego on his return from Viet Nam. I've been treated so well that it's been hard to deal with it... a little emotionally overwhelming.

Now, if that support were to wane... who loses? Who wins? Why would anyone want to create such an aura about returning veterans?

Answer these questions, please. You are a very erudite group. I wonder if any of you would care to share your thoughts on these.

All the best from Afghanistan...

Why would anyone want to create such an aura about returning veterans?

Jealousy and envy. Since they didn't have the guts to serve, they have to smear those who did by painting them as "baby killers" et al.

Matthew:

"bq." We are, as an aggregate, trained to be acutely aware and cautious about what we're doing, not the obverse - which is the thrust of the NYT article, as well as that of your own. We are highly trained, conscious human beings

When did I say otherwise?

Pretty much when you began to speak candidly of "Dehumanization." I have heard this before - that there must be some plan or training or what have you, that makes Soldiers into wanton killers. This is false.

That would certainly be the crux of my disagreement.

I note you mention "different generations." I'm 49, if that helps.

Another point of disagreement is how the term PTSD is thrown out there so frequently, as if it's some sort of Flu one acquires by their presence in a war zone. It's actually one hell of a lot more complicated than that. PTSD has many aspects - seven distinct hallmarks, which may or may not manifest themselves, and to varying degrees if so. How it affects any Veteran is problematic.

To say I may be too close to the problem is fair, yet it also is a bad debating point on your part. How can you tell me what it all means, when you have no direct experience in these profound issues yourself?

The average man/woman coming out of Iraq/Afghanistan is most likely over 30 years old. Especially reservists. The comparison of homicide rates ought to be with the older groups, perhaps 35-49. For the general population, using the same source as in the post, that would 5.1/100,000.

The vets don't measure up so well at that.

Matthew:

Perhaps I should re-frame my comments to you. I'll start over...

Hi. I noticed in your post #53 , you said Furthermore, you are missing the main thrust of the argument. A number of these murders have some connection to PTSD, a common effect of warfare.

Could you show a clear and direct link between these killings and the killers having PTSD? Lacking any clarification on this in the article, and in the absence of any hard data on your part with which to prove this is so, it could equally be that none of them suffered this syndrome.

I had previously posted that in my professional experience working with Veterans who are highly stressed, combat Veterans, PTSD sufferers (OIF and OEF vets included), I did not know of a single one of them that had been guilty of murder.

For your edification, PTSD is a syndrome that includes multiple hallmarks; however, only rarely does it manifest itself as a homicidal rage against others. Further, there are varying degrees of PTSD; it is not one monolithic disease with uniform symptoms.

So I am left with either accepting your statement that some of these crimes must have been committed by people suffering from PTSD, or reject it.

I therefore must reject your statement, as it is backed up by no facts with which to support it.

If any are wondering why those of us who are pro-victory mistrust the NYT's motives for publishing this article ...

... this is the same NYT that (unlike ALL its local competition, regardless of editorial predisposition, who were all over the story) couldn't bring itself to provide ANY coverage of a Long Island sailor being awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism that cost him his life, until the very day it was awarded to his family ...

... yet they can take the time to not only publish this piece of sloppy journalism, but put Abu Grahib (the handiwork of a proportion of miscreants in uniform even smaller than those described in this article) on the front page something like 50+ times.

This article looks like nothing more than classical gnat-straining ... another attempt to strain any negative report into monkey poo to fling at an Administration the Best and Brightest who occupy the NYT's offices consider illegitimate, simply because they believe their academic pedigrees and social connections have conferred upon them the role of kingmakers, if not the birthright to rule for themselves ... war or no war.

your analysis attempts to compare the number of homicides in the veterans against homicides per age group.

Clearly though, the homicides comitted by veterans will ultimately be INCLUDED in the age group figures as such you are "double counting" any increase of veteran homicides in the overall age group ratio

in other words assuming the number of veteran homicides dramatically rises then given those homicides wil be included in the DoJ age group figures then the age group homicide rate will likewise rise too, as such you are "tail chasing" and your "comparison" analysis, particularly for determining the effects of combat stress; is meaningless.

To get a "comparison" between veterans and equivalent aged non veterans you need to exclude the veterans homicides from the age group homicides.

Now
Due to stringent military selection criteria, the general population would I imagine contain a far higher ratio of miscreants than would populate the military. Undoubtably this selection based on "no criminal history" leads to a military population that is largely law abiding in nature.

To thus compare homicide rates in a group of largely law abiding people against a population which includes a larger number of "career criminals" is again a meaningless exercise if you are attempting to determine the effect of combat stress.

Using the same methodology taken to the extreme one could compare any increasing overall crime statistic against crimes statistics of the prison population and conclude that there is statistically speaking "no significant increasing crime rate"

The only reasonable analysis to "determine the effects of Iraq Afghanistan" on veteran homicide rates would be either

a/ to compare a similar period of pre 2001 veteran offense statistics against the current rates (factoring in any variance in civilian homicide rates between the same periods)

b/ compare Current homicide rates of Iraq Afghanistan vets against that of equivalnet age and position service personnel who have not served or not yet served in theatre.

I have no doubt that crime rates within the veterans population is far lower than in the general population of equivalent demographic. Due not only to the above selection issue but also to the consequences of the discipline instilled by military service.

However the question is not one of "how does the military community compare to the civilian one" (superbly FWIW) but "how does a combat exposed military population compare to a military population that has not been combat exposed".

This is from a comment I left on a similar thread at Megan McArdle's place:

Comparing 6 years since the start of the war and 6 years before the war for news reports involving military personnel or veterans will not yield any useful data. Prior to Afghanistan and Iraq, there was no real war to be blamed, so the news reports wouldn't necessarily note the killers' veteran status or contain comments from distraught parents saying things like "He just got back from a tour of duty in Germany and he couldn't readjust to civilian life because of the lack of morally casual Teutonic women and tasty, high alcohol beer."

In #121 Paul writes "The average man/woman coming out of Iraq/Afghanistan is most likely over 30 years old." I seriously doubt that. According to the latest military casualty demographics almost 78% of the casualties in Iraq are 30 years of age or younger. I would expect to find about the same age distribution for all units that see combat (since being killed during combat has nothing to do with age and everything to do with being in the fight.) Without doing the math, the average age of casualties (and therefore combat troops) in Iraq looks to be around 24. (I should note that not all the deaths in Iraq are combat related. Some 18% to 20% are accidents/sickness related.)

Blue (#118) writes "I have felt such support from the average American that it has been surprising at times. I feel guilty that my brother had dog crap thrown at him getting off the plane in San Diego on his return from Viet Nam. I've been treated so well that it's been hard to deal with it... a little emotionally overwhelming.

Now, if that support were to wane... who loses? Who wins? Why would anyone want to create such an aura about returning veterans?"

First of all, thank you for your service. Second, don't feel guilty for those of us who served during the Vietnam war. We are standing up for America here while you fight for America there, and the people of this wonderful country are thanking us for our service too, even if it is belatedly. We feel the same overwhelming emotions you do when people praise us for what we consider was our job.

To answer your questions:
1) The support will not wane. There are millions of us who have said, "Never again", and you can rest assured we mean it.
2) If the support waned, the terrorists and the liberals/communists would win. That won't happen.
3) Why would anyone want to create that aura? Because they hate America and they believe fervently in a one world, trans-national, socialist system.

Tell your brothers we pray for your safety and honor your sacrifices daily. Kill jihadi tail and come home alive and in one piece.

Matthew, I've been reading your "arguments" and watching you desperately hold on to your delusions about vets. Many here have tried to explain it to you and failed. Here is my attempt. I will highlight the important words and then rewrite the paragraphs, in the hope that the differences will finally get through your thick skull.

"Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.

After World War I, the American Legion passed a resolution asking the press “to subordinate whatever slight news value there may be in playing up the ex-service member angle in stories of crime or offense against the peace.” An article in the Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine in 2006 referred with disdain to the pervasive “wacko-vet myth,” which, veterans say, makes it difficult for them to find jobs.

Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, many of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law."

"Given that almost all veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and most flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.

After World War I, the American Legion passed a resolution asking the press “to subordinate whatever slight news value there may be in playing up the ex-service member angle in stories of crime or offense against the peace.” An article in the Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine in 2006 referred with disdain to the pervasive “wacko-vet myth,” which, veterans say, makes it difficult for them to find jobs.

Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, about 10% of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law."

Clearly the words that the authors of the article deliberately chose were intended to convey a view of the veteran that doesn't concur with the facts.

Here's the facts. About 10% of veterans from every war suffer from PTSD, a few for their entire lives. Veterans, as a group, have less education than the US population (but that's reversing with the youngsters now serving) yet earn more money on average. Veterans suffer from depression at lower rates, commit suicide at lower rates, commit crimes at a lower rate than the general population and have 28% lower unemployment rates than the general population. Homelessness is anybody's guess. No one is keeping any statistics, and any numbers you read in "studies" are pure conjecture. Yet "study" after "study" will tout the numbers "200,000 to 250,000" and "25% of the homeless are male vets" without the slightest bit of proof. (Asking a homeless man if he's a vet doesn't count. Show me your DD-214.

Vets are highly sought after by industry, because they demonstrate much higher rates of commitment and drive, are more dependable, show up on time, work long hours and demonstrate a won't quit attitude that infuses the workplace. Vets are more likely to own their own successful business than the average American.

Those are the facts. I dislike self-promotion intensely, but if you don't believe the facts I've presented, go read my blog. There's plenty of links for you to chew on - links to studies and statistics that refute the "vet as troubled, struggling human" myth that has been promulgated by the media for more than a century.

And just for the record - Congress has been screwing vets for more than a century - underfunding programs that help those few who do suffer from mental and emotional problems related to their war experiences, not providing disabled vets with the help they need in a timely manner and many other sins. There isn't a vet alive who wouldn't give his all to help a vet in trouble (real vets, not the phonies.) It would be nice if Congress would have the same attitude since we keep them safe from harm.

I respond to Paul (#121) and 'just a couple of points' (#124) on Armed Liberal's follow-up post on this subject, The Number is 1.6 Million (comment #42).

Most of the criticisms of this NYTimes vets piece are ill-founded.
There are plenty of examples of anti-war bias, anti-THIS-war bias and just lousy reporting in the NYTimes. This isn't one of them.
The statistical question mostly is wrongly stated by critics above.
It's not whether combat vets show a different - that is higher- homicide rate than their same demographic cohort in the general population.
It's whether there are statistics showing that waging war tends to make soldiers more homicidal in civilian life afterward. That is, do returning combat vets show higher homicide rates than military vets without combat experience, other things being equal.
Do you really think there wouldn't be a difference, if we had the studies? Do you really think, despite what all of history and literature tell us, that war does not have a brutalizing effect on those who wage it?
Here's why the typical statistical comparisons mentioned by critics of the Times piece don't make sense:
The military represents an elite slice of society and no doubt has a much lower homicide rate than the general population, other things being equal.
(Heck, soldiers tend to be incarcerated as a matter of course, behind barbed wire and monitored in barracks, awakened at 5 a.m. for long marches, all factors that tend to cut into crime rates.)
Even if returning combat vets show a much lower homicide rate than the general population, that doesn't show that waging war didn't contribute to them being more prone to homicide stateside than if they hadn't waged war.
War is brutal and those who wage it pay a high price. Always. Some of them, for various reasons, end up liking to kill; some just never recover from the horror. I can't believe that any group of soldiers who wage war won't end up with higher homicide rates.
Most of them handle it as heroes.
Not all.
There's no anti-war agenda visible in this Times piece.
Whether it's the best thing to do, while we are at war, to report on the heavy costs of it, is a good question.
But are we better off by ignoring such costs right now?
Maybe it will make things better for all combat soldiers the more we know about the effects of that war on them.
But y'all stop stomping your feet and plugging your ears and shouting, "Don't say war is hell."

A.L.,

My argument has always over the use of statistics that were shoddy. While we agree in the end that the article is misleading and poorly framed, you have failed to prove that your argument, that relied on comparing these at best unreliable statistics to ones that have been measured to scientific certainty. You are trying to add meaning to numbers which mean nothing, except that some veterans were involved in killing people in civilian life, and some of those were linked to PTSD or otherwise attributed to wartime experiences. The NYT should have framed their numbers better, but in the end, the argument you made is meaningless.

Angry Bastard,

You have pointed out a comment that you have misinterpreted, perhaps one I should have been more clear on. As you point out, I said:

Furthermore, you are missing the main thrust of the argument. A number of these murders have some connection to PTSD, a common effect of warfare.

Yes, I did say that. Yes, the NYT's argument was "A number of these murders have some connection to PTSD, a common effect of warfare." Mine never was. They were not trying to prove that veterans kill more often than the average civilian.

For your edification, PTSD is a syndrome that includes multiple hallmarks; however, only rarely does it manifest itself as a homicidal rage against others. Further, there are varying degrees of PTSD; it is not one monolithic disease with uniform symptoms.

I am familiar with it. Most mental disorders of any kind have varying degrees, symptoms, and causes. I also have never said that it generally manifests itself as a homicidal rage, or in any way likely to cause death. I imagine PTSD affecting the average person in a much less severe way, i.e. nightmares, insomnia, difficulty coping with stressful situations, etc. If I felt otherwise, I probably wouldn't be using my real name on this blog for fear that someone on this blog will come get me. I am fairly certain that none of the veterans or current military members here are likely to do that.

Antimedia,

Matthew, I've been reading your "arguments" and watching you desperately hold on to your delusions about vets. Many here have tried to explain it to you and failed. Here is my attempt. I will highlight the important words and then rewrite the paragraphs, in the hope that the differences will finally get through your thick skull.

Have you read my arguments? Tell me how their poor statistics can be accurately compared to more thorough and scientific data. That has been my disagreement. That, and that the theme of the article being to show veterans are homicidal maniacs. I have given some alternatives that fit better with the NYT. I think that some of the assumptions made here absurdly inflate what the article said.

About 10% of veterans from every war suffer from PTSD, a few for their entire lives.

You know, that is higher than I thought it was. All of the other facts sound about like what I thought. I think it would be interesting to see if the lower level of education is from people using college to dodge the draft...

Vets are highly sought after by industry, because they demonstrate much higher rates of commitment and drive, are more dependable, show up on time, work long hours and demonstrate a won't quit attitude that infuses the workplace. Vets are more likely to own their own successful business than the average American.

Don't forget better mannered, more assertive, and more likely to present themselves in a professional manner. Just these are enough to get past any job interview. I have a great deal of respect for the military and for the affects of military service.

None of this, however, shows how the initial comparison of statistics that use different methodologies and have different levels of accuracy and completeness is a legitimate argument.

Matthew:

You have pointed out a comment that you have misinterpreted, perhaps one I should have been more clear on. As you point out, I said:

Furthermore, you are missing the main thrust of the argument. A number of these murders have some connection to PTSD, a common effect of warfare.

Yes, I did say that. Yes, the NYT's argument was "A number of these murders have some connection to PTSD, a common effect of warfare." Mine never was. They were not trying to prove that veterans kill more often than the average civilian.

I think a very good argument can be made that this is exactly what they were implying.

For your edification, PTSD is a syndrome that includes multiple hallmarks; however, only rarely does it manifest itself as a homicidal rage against others. Further, there are varying degrees of PTSD; it is not one monolithic disease with uniform symptoms.

I am familiar with it. Most mental disorders of any kind have varying degrees, symptoms, and causes. I also have never said that it generally manifests itself as a homicidal rage, or in any way likely to cause death. I imagine PTSD affecting the average person in a much less severe way, i.e. nightmares, insomnia, difficulty coping with stressful situations, etc. If I felt otherwise, I probably wouldn't be using my real name on this blog for fear that someone on this blog will come get me. I am fairly certain that none of the veterans or current military members here are likely to do that.

That would be correct. Myself, I am diagnosed with Mild to Moderate PTSD, and while it does manifest itself in occasional anger-management issues (hence my membername [wan smile] ), it is more frustration than the desire to kill something.

Perhaps then, given your post, we are more on the same page here than I'd originally believed. If so, my mistake.

[Hoping I have a handle on the Block Quote thingy this time. We'll see when I hit 'Post.']

Apparently not. Sigh

AB: Fixed your post for you. It turns out that mixed case was the problem. Who knew? :)

Using lowercase b q dot space

Works fine.

Bq. Using uppercase B q dot space

Doesn't.

nodakboy (#129) wrote --

But y'all stop stomping your feet and plugging your ears and shouting, "Don't say war is hell."

The statistical criticisms nodakboy offered have been discussed at this post and A.L.'s more recent one. To summarize with a quip about stomping feet and plugged ears makes me think that nodakboy didn't read the material with sufficient care.

Nortius:

Thanks. I'm a Moderator on a very prominent Message Board, have been for years, and I still get tripped up by quirks like that.

I apologize in advance if this has been covered in a previous post.

Has anyone attempted to adjust the study IOT determine what percentage of veterans were actually exposed to combat action or other potentially PTSD-inducing event? I suspect that a huge percentage of the returning vets were administrative, medical and supply types that were not exposed to any violence other than playing Halo on the X-Box back in the Camp Victory barracks.

Additionally, what percentage of "troubled vets" had troubled histories prior to joining the military. Is not a demonstrated predisposition to crime/violence a legitimate line of inquiry?

Has anyone attempted to adjust the study IOT determine what percentage of veterans were actually exposed to combat action or other potentially PTSD-inducing event?

Given what the Times' article covered, that doesn't seem possible. They didn't provide much hard information. However, the online version has a sidebar that goes through the 121 cases. Perhaps that would be a starting point.

This was the first in a series called "War Torn," so maybe future articles will contribute more pieces of the puzzle.

Amac,
One can only hope so, as the only "point" that I can derive from the article and accompanying slideshow ("The Cases") is that "war is hell." I didn't keep a tally, but out of the first fifty cases, maybe a quarter could be linked to PTSD (Sorry, but a lawyer pleading PTSD is not medical proof).

The inclusion of not guilty, vehicular homicide, manslaughter and self-defense "cases" attest to the fundamental flimsiness of the NYTs thesis. Take away these cases and you probably reduce the veteran-induced "carnage" by 20 percent. And we still haven't addressed the issue as to who was actually in a violent environment. Being in a combat zone is not the same as being in combat. But I'm being petty here.

I wanted to give the NYT the benefit of the doubt on this one, but this article has "agenda" written all over it.

I was wrong. The NYT is on a bigger fishing expedition than I first thought.
I went back and reviewed the first 50 "cases." 25 of these cases (50 percent) were of the pending trial, not guilty, vehicular homicide, manslaughter and self-defense variety. Weak!

Why would anyone be upset with the NYT? Lets see, they included people who were charged but found not guilty. They included everything from first degree murder to drunken driving accidents. What if they were to write a simular article about blacks, undocumented aliens, hispanics, etc. The left wing would be demanding they fire the writers and pay damages to those hurt by their words. There would be calls to contact advitisers with threats of not buying their products if they continued to run ads. Anyone who would argue that this is a sympothedic look at veterans is out of their mind. As a vietnam combat medic I see this article for what it truly is, an attempt to use the exception to paint the majority in a bad light.
The left likes to claim thet the WOT is todays Vietnam. They are correct. The action of the left is the same now as it was then. The left wants to tie the hands of the military to make sure they loose again. Like Vietnam, we are winning every baattle except the one that is most important. We are loosing the battle of PR at home because the MSM doesn't want us to win. Only the bad news is printed. You never see the men and women who are caring for the injured civilians, building schools and hospitals, doing all the good things the American military is known for.

Of the 121 "cases", 62 are of the pending trial, not guilty, vehicular homicide, manslaughter and self-defense variety. Over fifty percent of the story is based on crap!

To be fair, I suspect that several of the murder indictments will result in a conviction. BUT:
When has the left EVER grouped together the not guilty and trial pending (remember, innocent until proven guilty) population with the guilty in an attempt to assert the fundamental dysfunctionality of a particular demographic?


belloscm,

in #141 you wrote "...in an attempt to assert the fundamental dysfunctionality of a particular demographic?" How do you figure the NYT is attempting to assert this? Unless the particular demographic you are writing about is the 121 vets accused or convicted of a killing. It's not a story of the vets as a group, or of all military personnel as a group. It's about a tiny minority of that group.

If it turned out that polio were not completely wiped out, and the NTY did a feature on the 121 kids who had polio, would you claim they were doing a story on ALL children, would you think they were trying to insinuate that ALL children had polio, or even that ALL children were at risk of getting polio. Supposing all the children who did get polio were black and lived in the south. Would the NYT being saying all southern black children had polio?

The NYT gave you the number right up front. It was 121. Total. One Hundred and Twenty-One. Unless one was under the impression that there were only a couple of thousand soldiers who had been in Iraq or Afghanistan, one would have to pretty thick to think this was some sort of wide-spread phenomenon. But I think most of us know that there have been well over 200,000 troops serving in one or the other conflict. So, by exercising the simplest of math skills, it is pretty easy to see that the NYT is not making any grand claims about vets as a whole, or vets in general, but only about a tiny, tiny, well under 1 percent, group of them.

As of last July, the DoD reported that 1.6 million have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both.
That comes from Nancy Pelosi's office, so it can't be wrong!

link

[ No naked URLs; reformatted per "To add a live URL" instructions under "Post a Comment." -- M.F. ]

Mark,

121. That's greater than 120 and less than 122, right? Not possessing "the simplest of math skills", I'm glad that you pointed this out for me. Thanks!

Nope. I read the story just fine, despite your concerns about my reading comprehension. The story is about vets and and what this war has done to them. And, by extention, what it is doing to us:

"Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling...
stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war... Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak..."
as the Paper of Record would tell it.

BTW, I saw that word, phenomenon, in there. I now know that it is quiet, but is it "widespread", Mark? One can only speculate, but I think I know how the NYT feels about this.

Mark, did you know that many vets have access to guns? Scary stuff, that. I hope that Johnny Rambo doesn't come hitch-hiking through my town before I can hustle down to the WalMart for a case of some #2 shot-shells.

I can't get inside the heads of the reporters and editors at the NYT, but you don't go front page, above the fold on Sundays with a story like this unless you are attempting to make a larger point or support an agenda, as it were. Given the history of the NYT, that point is going to be political in nature.

In order for the Times to carry off this contrivance, the population of troubled vets is inflated by using people who wouldn't ordinarily be included in criminal data keeping. They did this in part because they couldn't obtain access to the DoD numbers and because they thought that 121 would leave a big enough mark. That's my point.

Using criminal and, potentially, psychologically troubled, vets in support of a larger agenda is low and disgusting, even more so when you have to pad your numbers.

Study shows NY Times journalists more likely to lie than the rest of the U.S. population.

Across America, Dangerous Lies From a New York Newsroom

Alexander
The Scrooge Report
Orange County, Calif.

my link above does not seem to be working...here it is:

link

[Alexander, please use tinyurl if you (in desperation) feel you must post bare URLs. Long ones like the one you posted here in plain form mess up the formatting of the blog, and are deprecated. Thanks. I corrected the format on this one. NM]

I was wrong in making the following assertion:
... you don't go front page, above the fold on Sundays with a story like this unless you are attempting to make a larger point...

It wasn't above the fold, it was the entire front page of the NY Times Magazine.

No effort is too great when you need to smear the troops.

belloscm,

"BTW, I saw that word, phenomenon, in there. I now know that it is quiet, but is it "widespread", Mark? One can only speculate, but I think I know how the NYT feels about this."

Actually, you don't need to speculate. 121 out of 200,000+ is not widespread. But speaking of speculation, it seems to me that all of your claims about the NYT's motivation are nothing but speculative. They're your "feelings" about their "feelings" and I think they are contradicted by the facts, inasmuch as your interpretation is not supported by the text of the article in question, but by your expectation of how the NYT "feels" about the war, and your expectations of the paper's desire to influence other peoples' opinions about the war. Call it conventional wisdom, call it groupthink, or whatever, but I speculate that this collective mythology about the NYT is causing you and others to see what isn't there.

Phenomenon- a term used to describe "observable events of epic proportions." It can also be used to describe a "surprising course of development."

The NYT can't be telling us about the second one, as they've been telling us for years about war and it's nasty outcomes; where's the surprize in that? Reasonable people might disagree, but I'm pretty confident that I know what the NYT intended. Could this definition, in part, be synonomous with widespread? I think so. Epic proportions, widespread, what's the difference? Whatever it is, it can be "quiet", just ask the NYT. Enough semantics.

9 reporters and at least a couple of editors. You think that this impression of phenomena was unintentional? Deliberately and wrecklessly sensationalistic, perhaps, but not unintentional.

"Actually, you don't need to speculate. 121 out of 200,000+ is not widespread."

Let's see what the NYT has to say about this, shall we:
"This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail."

I think they would have liked more, but due either to deadline constraints or a lack of competent researchers, could only come up with 121 cases.
Might I say that they did a poor job of finding "cases" that accurately matched the the wind up to the story? Let's see: charged and awaiting trial, not guilty, demonstrated self defense. B.S! The media, especially the NYT, would never compile a list of supposed perpetrator/victims from a politically protected group and include people from these categories. Unless, of course, you were attempting to illustrate the evils of white male privilege and/or unrestrained capitalism (Oh, btw, I still contend that the subject demographic is all post-9/11 vets, not the 121 "cases").

belloscm, all of your conclusions are based entirely upon your preconceived beliefs about the NYT and on speculations of a highly subjective nature. I find them unpersuasive. (My American Heritiage lists the first, and most common definition of phenomenon as "An occurrence of fact that is directly perceptible to the senses." A phenomenon could be widespread, it could be quite rare; it most certainly need not be "of epic proportions." If I were you, I wouldn't rely like that on wikipedia for definitions. Anyone can plug one in, and in this case, whoever did it, did a lousy job. This phenomenon is a general problem on that site.)

Bylines of Brutality

An Iowahawk Special Investigative Report

A Denver newspaper columnist is arrested for stalking a story subject. In Cincinnati, a television reporter is arrested on charges of child molestation. A North Carolina newspaper reporter is arrested for harassing a local woman. A drunken Chicago Sun-Times columnist and editorial board member is arrested for wife beating. A Baltimore newspaper editor is arrested for threatening neighbors with a shotgun. In Florida, one TV reporter is arrested for DUI, while another is charged with carrying a gun into a high school. A Philadelphia news anchorwoman goes on a violent drunken rampage, assaulting a police officer. In England, a newspaper columnist is arrested for killing her elderly aunt.

Unrelated incidents, or mounting evidence of that America's newsrooms have become a breeding ground for murderous, drunk, gun-wielding child molesters?

more...

AMac,
I say, a quiet phenomena!

AMac,
I say, a quiet phenomena!

Sorry for the double post. Damn index finger!

Mark,
Not moving the goalposts here, but once again, my intended point, although apparently not made explicitly enough, is this: What's the context? What's the intent? Can you have serious discernment of phenomena without context? Can you have context without criteria? Apparently, yes, if you are the NYT.

The NYT does not give full front page exposure to events (phenomena) that they believe to be either discrete or anomalous in nature. In this case, they have discerned a phenomena of such import that we need to know about it and not from the back page of the Style section.

"all of your conclusions are based entirely upon your preconceived beliefs about the NYT and on speculations of a highly subjective nature." Fair enough and guilty as charged. It's also called prolonged observation of trends and patterns of behavior. Not a necessarily unobjective point of view. Unless, of course, you disagree with the results of the observation.

belloscm,

I'd make 2 points here: when you accuse the NYT of smearing the troops (your #148), I think it IS fair to point out that the accusation is not based on evidence, but on the accuser's preconceptions, expectations and speculations.

My other point is that meaningful context was provided in the original article. They gave the actual number. It is obviously a very small percentage of the whole. One of the points being made is that the # goes up during wartime. The NYT attributes part of the rise to PTSD. It's simply an indicator. Should we ignore PTSD and not help those vets who suffer from it?

Are you arguing that PTSD doesn't exist? Are you arguing that there is no rise in killings during wartime? Are you arguing that there is a rise in killings during wartime, but that it is not attributable to PTSD? Is it wrong to look into the phemomenon? If so, why is it wrong? Does the phenomenon have to be widespread in order to merit looking into?

If there is a average of 24 killings by servicemen a year, and that average were to go up to 36 for a sustainted period, even though the totals are quite small, isn't it still noteworthy enough to want to find out the cause and, perhaps, try to reduce it back to the normal 24?

Mark,

Yes, the number 121 was used. It was, however, explicitedly stated that "This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases..." This implies that the number is bigger than 121. They then proceed to pad the numbers (using the methods previously described) in order to achieve 121.

Back to context. Of the 121 "cases", only about 40 address possible PTSD as a cause of the misbehavior. Lots of "the lawyer said his client was suffering from PTSD" stuff. This doesn't count. I did, however, give credence to clinical diagnosis of PTSD. The article also alludes to combat-induced trauma, but can't give evidence of exposure to combat. As I stated previously, if you're a REMF back at base camp playing video games or, in the motor pool sniffing ether and selling meth, you don't get the combat "cookie." Some of the illustrated victims were clearly criminally-inclined REMFs, more likely to have been "warped" by South Central LA than Al Anbar.

Did the "...reporting most likely uncover(ed) only the minimum number of such cases..."? If so, is this "minimum number" 121, or something substantially lower than this? If it is the latter, say less than 30, why 9 pages, 9 writers and a front page story. Context, I say.

So, based on the evidence provided, how serious is combat-related PTSD dysfunctionality and, at the given level of occurance, does it rate a hugely prominent story in the Sunday NYT? Based on my reading of this article, not as serious as they would like for us to believe and, no, not unless you are attempting to make a larger, essentially political, point.

Your last question is extremely valid, but I ask: Did the pre-war average of 24 killings a year include such criteria as: manslaughter, vehicular homicide and self defense? Or was the criteria more explicit, such as convictions for murder? I have my highly subjective doubts.

belloscm,

when you write, "Based on my reading of this article, not as serious as they would like for us to believe and, no, not unless you are attempting to make a larger, essentially political, point"
you are making the point I have been trying to make.

Based on your reading of the article, you come to a particular conlusion. In other words, the article supplied you with the information to conclude that vets are NOT out on some killing spree. Where I depart from you is when you go on to say that the NYT wants you to conclude something differently.

I read the article and came to the same conclusion that you did: A small minority of vets suffer from PTSD. I found their stories worth reading. I did not, however, feel that by printing the story the NYT was trying to persuade me of anything other than that.

belloscm,

Sorry, I didn't answer your last question. I don't know. According to the article, they used the same criteria and research methods for both pre-war and war rates. So, I am going to trust that, yes, the 24, includes the same types and range as the 36.

I have to say that it makes sense that such killings, few though the are, would go up, however slightly, among combat vets as opposed to non-combat vets. I've never been in combat, but I would imagine that it can do psychic damage to some people, especially the type of intense combat and conditions that many soldiers have to live under in this particular war, where the enemy is often hidden within a civilian population that is unfamiliar to them. That's got to produce enormous stress. It would be naive to think everyone is equipped to handle that successfully, no?

Mark,

While a veteran, I am not a veteran of ground combat. No disputing, however, that modern small unit warfare is psychologically demanding, in the extreme. Some guys successfully handle exposure to violence and prolonged periods of stress, some do not.

What to do? On the front end: better mental health screening and psychological conditioning prior to assignment to the combat arms of the military (Some people should not become combat soldiers, regardless of the manning requirements). Plus, another round of review prior to deployment. In the aftermath, better post-mission, post-deployment evaluation and treatment, as required. I think that we're trying, but can and will do better.

One last charge up the hill: The conclusions with which I hold with such tenacity are derived, in part, from reading the NYT's explicit mention of combat, combat-related PTSD and the concomitant death and carnage. The article fails to make a consistent association between these factors (Not that it doesn't try!). The article uses soldiers for props, most of whose cases do not support the "Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles" theme. You have to be in the war in order to be counted as a war-trauma afflicted perpetrator. That's my main and abiding issue.

If the NYT had only used the 30 or so credible cases of combat-related PTSD, with the requisite reduction in the scope and ambition of the piece, I would be talking with someone else about the NFL playoffs instead of with you about this (not that I mind). But they didn't and I'm not.
Remember, Sunday, full front page, not two columns on Wednesday's page A-23.

Finally, if, on an annual basis, veteran-caused deaths increased by 50 percent after 9/11 (36 vs 24), yet less than a third of the increase can be attributable to combat-related factors (i.e., PTSD), is this really a story?

I know that it is now half-passed anyone caring, but I just realized that post 9/11, U.S. regular active duty forces have grown by approx 50,000. Additionally, tens of thousands of reservists, who were on absolutely nobody's statistical radar prior to 2001, have served in both active combat theaters and have made a significant contribution to the NYT's dysfunctional vets murder and carnage numbers.

One of metrics used in the story was the growth in incidents involving vets post 9/11, compared to pre 9/11 numbers. The size of the serving forces has grown considerably over the same period of time. Did the NYT allow for this growth in the size of the military population?

Have I missed something here?

"half-passed" should be: half-past

Key premise:

"The Times's analysis showed that the overwhelming
majority of these young men, unlike most civilian homicide
offenders, had no criminal history."
-- same NYT article

-- CFM

belloscm #163 --

Your point about selection bias is a good one. The Census Bureau reports these figues:

1.09m Active Duty, 1995
1.54m Reserves and Guard, 1995

0.98m Active Duty, 2000
1.17m Reserves and Guard, 2000

1.14m Active Duty, 2005
1.07m Reserves and Guard, 2005

One of the smaller scandals of the NYT article under discussion is that they don't give enough information to let the reader figure out exactly what they are saying. The ambiguity of how they treated Reserves and National Guard members and vets is one example of that.

As pointed out way up-thread, the authors identified their 121 cases because reports of the crime mentioned that the (alleged) perpetrator had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. But would news reports mention that the offender was a vet or had been in the Reserves or Guard with the same frequency? If not, the entire premise is undermined:

The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before [10/95-9/01] and after [10/01-9/07] the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This showed an 89% increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

This is why Iowahawk's breathless parody of the 'media vet' killing spree hits its mark. The statistical treatment in the two pieces are about equally valid.

belloscm,

Uncle. On to the playoffs.

Amac,

On the subject of selection bias, was "Charged and Awaiting Trial" a criterium used for pre-9/11 vets? I would suspect that by the time that this article was conceptualized, all such cases would have been long since adjudicated, thus rendering all subjects as either guilty or not. I suspose that if you are a veteran, and left to the sage judgement of the NYT, you can be found "not guilty, but we know that you really did it."

The fact that Iowahawk so thoroughly and, apparently without great effort, lampoons the NYT's article is just another data point on the way to concluding that this was a deliberate hit piece. This article is a nothing more than a reflexive leftist meme (war and warriors: bad) in search of validation.

BTW, my B.S. meter was on the "Bill Clinton Moving His Lips and Wagging His Finger" position when this article set off the alarm.

...my B.S. meter was on the "Bill Clinton Moving His Lips and Wagging His Finger" position...

Your B.S. Meter models may read: "Transparently Mendacious."

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