A report in the New York Times today states that after six years of non-stop combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, only 121 military veterans could be found who after their return home had been involved in deadly encounters in which someone blames their service as the root cause.
The Times interprets this research as proof positive that the military is a bad place, the war is wreaking untold havoc on our country, and they don't say it, but obviously we should quit now and run home as fast as possible.
There already is an eruption of discussion on the Times' conclusions and methodology, but I am taking a different approach.
Let's say that every single one of the incidents reviewed by the Times is as the report claims - including its lead-off vignette about an Iraq vet who was shot at by two gang-bangers back home, and shot them in response. The report claims that the 20-year-old vet involved in this incident was set off by a trip through gang-dominated turf to a liquor store where he illegally (under age!) bought two cans of beer so he could sleep, since he is tormented by memories of his unit killing a civilian - naturally.
It doesn't give us any more than that to go on, but hey, we don't need any more than that. This is the New York Times, we can trust that outlet every bit as much as a previous generation could trust, oh, I don't know, Walter Cronkite? Oh, right. He lied. Never mind.
The report also includes as part of its totals, motor vehicle accidents in which a service person was involved in an alcohol-related death.
Taking all that the Times considers to be service-connected violence, and its conclusion that 121 deaths in America can be traced to combat in the War on Terror, we must also consider that there currently are more than 150,000 American servicemen and women in Iraq (rounded down so the math is easy), and another contingent of about 14,000 in Afghanistan.
That is just today. Right now. This minute. Then for truly meaningful statistical analysis we must add the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the millions of active duty service personnel and veterans who have served worldwide since 9-11. When you are done you will find that we are talking about such a small number of vets, over such a wide stretch of time, in so many different situations, that to claim the research provides any meaningful conclusions is intellectually dishonest.
The Pentagon won't comment to any great extent on the Times' article but it clearly considers both the conclusions and the "statistics" skewed.
The Times reported in part: The Pentagon was given The Times's roster of homicides. It declined to comment because, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, said, the Department of Defense could not duplicate the newspaper's research. Further, Colonel Melnyk questioned the validity of comparing prewar and wartime numbers based on news media reports, saying that the current increase might be explained by "an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11." He also questioned the value of "lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide."
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.
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.
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.
Clearly the Times' editors have decided not to look around their own newsrooms five minutes before deadline to see evidence of "downward spiral," or how many times reporters have exhibited "a sudden burst of violence" by flipping out when someone changed their lead paragraph without consultation. And I'd love to see the divorce statistics for journalists.
Way down in the article there is a bit of a disclaimer: In some of the cases involving veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the fact that the suspect went to war bears no apparent relationship to the crime committed or to the prosecution and punishment.
That is neatly offset and in fact, discarded, in the very next sentence that states, But in many of the cases, the deployment of the service member invariably becomes a factor of some sort as the legal system, families and communities grapple to make sense of the crimes.
Of course, that never happens in the civilian world. Families and communities grappling to make sense of senseless crimes that is.
Of the cases listed by the Times, my favorite involves a Marine, of course, who apparently spent his time in a rear area, the morgue I guess, who then came home and, well, here, read it yourself:
When Archie O'Neil, a gunnery sergeant in the Marines, returned from a job handling dead bodies in Iraq, he became increasingly paranoid, jumpy and fearful - moving into his garage, eating M.R.E.'s, wearing his camouflage uniform, drinking heavily and carrying a gun at all times, even to answer the doorbell.
"It was like I put one person on a ship and sent him over there, and they sent me a totally different person back," Monique O'Neil, his wife, testified.
A well-respected and decorated noncommissioned officer who did not want to endanger his chances for advancement, Sergeant O'Neil did not seek help for the PTSD that would later be diagnosed by government psychologists. "The Marine way," his lawyer said at a preliminary hearing, "was to suck it up."
On the eve of his second deployment to Iraq in 2004, Sergeant O'Neil fatally shot his mistress, Kimberly O'Neal, after she threatened to kill his family while he was gone.
Label me as horribly misinformed and really not up on the latest psychological mumbo jumbo, but first, how did he get a mistress if he had been in Iraq, and then came home to hide out in his garage? Frankly, if this man's case really hinges on working at the morgue, and has nothing to do with an extramarital affair with a woman who threatened to kill his family, then we as Americans damn well better start looking out for Morticians Gone Wild.
And funeral home directors! Jeez, those guys could snap any second now! And make-up artists who prepare the bodies for viewing. And ambulance drivers. And emergency room doctors and nurses. Good God we're on the verge of societal meltdown! Run for your lives!
OK, I've been a wise ass. Again. Most if not all of these cases are tragic, and I am not making fun of anyone involved in any of them, perpetrator or victim.
But you get my drift don't you? To manufacture this 'story,' the New York Times has used a minuscule number of people who have been exposed to war and later were involved in tragedies that may or may not have had anything whatsoever to do with their war experiences. From that they have extrapolated by implication another attack on the military and by extension the Bush Administration, which as any liberal knows, got us into this war illegally.
The links in this story to liberal causes are clear.
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.
Oh, and let's not forget a bit of creative history rewriting: In earlier eras, various labels attached to the psychological injuries of war: soldier's heart, shell shock, Vietnam disorder.
Gun ownership is a result of combat trauma? And Vietnam disorder? What the hell is Vietnam disorder? Is that something like Montezuma's Revenge? This article should be required reading for the Iraq Veterans Against the War before they do their planned John Kerry Winter Soldier Investigation imitation in April. Actually, it probably is, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is used as "evidence" by this generation's posers, embellishers and liars who think of Kerry as an idol.
Yeah, and while we're at it, let's not forget those poor, poor terrorists, who now have to blow up their innocent victims in ever smaller numbers because our big bad military is chasing them into less and less populated sections of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Times should get them a good lawyer pro bono so they can sue Bush and the Pentagon!
If there are criminals at work here it is the reporters and editors at the Times who savagely reworked the true meaning of their research into this piece of trash story. The true result as shown by their own numbers is that the American military is more than 99.999 percent successful in training our military not only to complete the missions but to readjust afterwards.
How's that for a headline?
Suppose just for the sake of argument, we grab one of those national pollsters now covering the political primaries to death, and ask them to judge the validity of this 'research.' Let's get Real Clear Politics, or Rasmussen! Yeah, Rasmussen, he's the go-to guy.
I bet I already know what the pollsters would say. They'd conclude that 121 people out of hundreds of thousands are statistically insignificant, if not inconsequential. Do you realize that this number, over the course of six years or more, does not equate to the murder rate in Philly or Detroit in one six-month period? They'd throw that research right out and tell whoever did it to get a real job!
Personally, I think the legislators that said a kid can go to war, and then have to return to a battlefield city - similar to a "Sanctuary City" without the spin - and can't even buy a beer legally, should be brought up on charges of irredeemable stupidity.
Then they should have to fetch that young man's beer, on foot, through the entitlement-mentality cityscape they have created, without an AK-47 or any other weapon! Let's see if they can handle that little assignment before we start bashing this generation of military and veterans shall we?
Sunday, January 13, 2008