Saturday, August 27, 2005

As the military casualty toll nears 2,000 under the auspices of our ‘War on Terror’, I have often wondered about the crisis-style analysis that this number receives. It seems miraculously low considering the conditions under which the military is fighting and almost petty compared to the successes involved. My question has long been, "How much higher is this death toll in war than it would be in peacetime?"

Thanks to The Discerning Texan (who thanks Powerline) and a 1998 report from the Department of Defense, my question increases in legitimacy. "An inspector general report published this summer shows that 6,790 service members died accidentally in the nine years from 1988 through 1996. That compares to a total of 11,216 accidental deaths during the previous five-year period. The report said service members are less likely to die accidentally than their civilian counterparts. Pentagon officials attributed the relative 66 percent decline to several factors, including reducing and managing safety risks." In the mid-eighties about 4,500 military personnel died every 2 years. During the late eighties through the mid-nineties, the death toll was dropped to about 1,500 every two years, "...less likely to die accidentally that their civilian counterparts."

As silly as it may sound, it seems like life in Iraq or Afghanistan is just as safe for a young man or woman as civilian life in the U.S. statistically. It doesn’t sound right or even sensible, but with numbers that low it can’t be too far off. I spent my teen and military years during the Viet Nam era and the Iraq war in no way compares. Using the death count as a rhetorical weapon against the Bush Administration and its policies ultimately bears little weight in reality. Oh, that’s right, playing on emotions and ignoring factuality is fine since the end justifies any means deemed necessary.

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