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Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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March 20th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Politics

From the “Department of Who’dathunkit” comes the following factoid:

More active duty US military personnel died during the first five years of the Clinton Administration than have died in the first five years of the Iraq war.

This is, of course, a deeply skewed way of judging the overall cost of the Iraq War for those of us who are primarily concerned with the loss of innocent, civilian life we’re responsible for due to the invasion and - by extension - are interested in doing the right thing in Iraq now by doing our damndest to avoid letting it deteriorate into total, genocidal civil war.

And yes, the Bush Years take a slim lead if you factor in all non-Iraq deaths as well, but it’s still striking that so many people died under Clinton without so much as a PEEP from the general public.

What, I wonder, has changed between the early 90s and now that caused the US population to barely notice that we were losing thousands of servicemen and women each year during Clinton’s tenure? Is the popular adoption of the Internet the primary cause? Bush’s lack of skills on the mic? Our awkward flirtation with exhibitionist “embedded” journalism? Slick Willy had us all under his spell at the time?

Finally, I was impressed to see that the “Wag the Dog” years of the late Clinton Administration were actually the years where we experienced the FEWEST military deaths under his command.

[UPDATE] A response from Ralf. We disagree about this particular chart, but I do agree that it’s easy to lie with math. I just happen to think the Left has proven MUCH more effective at it over the past few years.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ralf // Mar 20, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I’m not sure, but my impression is those numbers suffer from a rather severe case of selection bias. They don’t seem to factor in casualties in Afghanistan, for example. Also, the Bush Administration has, for a while now, been pulling some Enron-style accounting rubbish with casualty data. For example, wounded soldiers who are ‘medivac’ed to Germany and die of their wounds there are not counted as dying ‘in theater’ in the Iraq war. A good point with that data comparison is that it compares ‘military deaths’, rather than casualties. (Another BS move by Bush was to change the definition of ‘casualty’ to no longer include the wounded, which includes, for example, those soldiers and marines who’ve lost limbs, been blinded, etc.)However, if the people who put together the data were interested in making a real comparison, they might have compared the total military deaths for two five year periods (5 Clinton years v 5 Bush years), rather than (disingenuously) comparing two incongruous sets of data. I think it was Mark Twain who said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Had he been around now, ‘Republican bullshit’ would have been a fourth category, I think.

  • 2 ralf // Mar 20, 2008 at 9:13 am

    I should add though that the number of military deaths under Clinton surprised me. I knew that military deaths in things like training accidents and helicopter crashes was high, but I didn’t think it was that high. Is it possible that those numbers include all deaths of military personnel, not just those directly related to military activities (for example, suicides, murders, drunk driving accidents, etc.)? If so, I’d be interested to hear how the mortality rate of simply being in the military compares to the population at large. (Comparing the rate of course, not disparate sets of total numbers.) I think I will go try to look this stuff up.

  • 3 funtax // Mar 20, 2008 at 9:49 am

    The linked report actually does tally ALL active duty deaths (not simply the “in theatre” Iraq deaths) in a few places. As I noted, when you factor in all of those and count back five years from the end of the data set - which includes the first four years of the Iraq war - the Bush administration’s death toll is higher.

    As to the second point, page 11 of the report gives a break down. In both cases, accidents play a huge role. Clinton had a lot more suicides and Bush (obviously) has a large number of “hostile action” deaths.

    Finally, if we’re discussing reporting bias in the military/current administration, let’s not go pretending that the Bush administration invented the idea of cooking the casualty books to hide the cost of their military strategies. According to the “official” data (page 11 again), only ONE person supposedly died during the entire Clinton administration due to “hostile action.”

    In Haiti, in Mogadishu, in Bosnia… we apparently only lost one soldier. That “Blackhawk Down” movie must be full of LIES, I tell ya!

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