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The Wacko-Vet Myth

3:38 PM, Jan 14, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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This weekend the New York Times published a troubling report chronicling what appears to be an epidemic of violent crime by soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The paper "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." I was actually wondering about the rates of violent crime among veterans earlier this week when I saw yet another Law & Order episode featuring a U.S. soldier returning from Iraq to sow chaos and bloodshed on our own shores (in this case he actually killed a fellow soldier in an attempt to cover-up a massacre in Iraq--ripped from the headlines, right?). Well, it turns out that despite the anecdotal evidence collected by the Times, and the fictional incidents portrayed on Law & Order, there is absolutely no indication that violent crime is more pervasive among veterans of the war on terror than it is among the population at large. From a piece by John J. DiIulio Jr. just posted at THE DAILY STANDARD:

Assuming 121 homicide cases in relation to 749,932 total discharges through 2007, 99.98 percent of all discharged Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have not committed or been charged with homicide.

And assuming 121 cases and 749,932 total discharges, the homicide offending rate for the discharged veterans would be 16.1 per 100,000. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has demographic data aplenty on homicide offending rates. For instance, in 2005, for white males aged 18-24, the rate was about 20 per 100,000.

Over at Power Line, John Hinderaker does his own math:

[T]he 121 alleged instances of homicide identified by the Times, out of a population of 700,000, works out to a rate of 17 per 100,000--quite a bit lower than the overall national rate of around 27.

But wait! The national rate of 27 homicides per 100,000 is an annual rate, whereas the Times' 121 alleged crimes were committed over a period of six years. Which means that, as far as the Times' research shows, the rate of homicides committed by military personnel who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan is only a fraction of the homicide rate for other Americans aged 18 to 24.

Just recently CBS was caught playing the same game with regard to the rate of suicides for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bill Sweetman, who was one of the first to point out the problems with that story, writes of the Times piece: "one look at the statistics is enough to blow the cause-and-effect that the story implies out of the water." Which makes you wonder why they ran the piece at all. Well, actually, we know why--Bush lied and people died, or came home and murdered other people. At least that's the story the Times is peddling.