Military Losses for 20 Years….I play at being Snopes.com

I’ve written about chain/spam emails before. I’ve written about Snopes.com before.

These days I assume everyone knows about both, and that anybody who really wants to be well informed will check stuff out on their own.

But every now and then, an email comes my way that is so wrong, and so un-refuted, that I feel compelled to respond. That happened today, and this blog my reaction. Consider this entry your own personal Snopes.com for the day.

The “issue” is an email I got this morning titled:

“Military Losses for 20 Years”

It was forwarded to me by a cousin of mine who I respect a great deal. No beef with him, in other words. Just a beef with whoever started this insidious chain message.

So that you can truly be informed, I have included the entire email at the end of this blog entry, so you can see the original context for yourself.

The gist of the email is an astounding claim that more military personnel died during the Clinton years than during the George W. Bush presidency.

It cites a government report as the source of information for this claim.

The claim in the email is that during Clinton’s presidency, a whopping 13,417 service men and women died. During Bush’s tenure, the email claims only 9,016 members of the Armed Forces have died. The clear insinuation is that while everyone thinks the current war has been terrible, things were much worse when Clinton was in the White House.

The email goes on to make the claim that huge numbers of military personnel died during the “reign” of President Jimmy Carter. (BTW, since they aren’t royalty, I wasn’t aware that our presidents had “reigns.”)

The email claims the data it cites is substantiated by a congressional study. And, it even gives a url to the study itself. (Something that gives an air of legitimacy to these kinds of emails…)

Here is the link to the report the email cites.

This email then goes on to editorialize about all of these so-called shocking discoveries:

“These figures indicate that many of our Media & Politicians will pick and choose. They present only those ‘facts’ which support their agenda-driven reporting. Why do so many of them march in lock-step to twist the truth. Where do so many of them get their marching-orders for their agenda?”

The “muckraking” email ends with two ominous questions, thrown out to the innocent and fearful patrons of cyberspace:

“Now ask yourself these two questions:
‘Why does the mainstream Print and TV Media never print statistics like these?’
and
‘Why do the mainstream media hate the web as much as they do?'”

Well, first…I don’t know that it ever includes “marching,” but I do know whatever “agenda” journalist have starts with editors who are sticklers for…gosh darn it…accurate statistics.

Secondly…they don’t print these kinds of claims because these claims are just flat out lies and mistruths.

And, finally….I don’t personally believe that the mainstream media “hates” the web, because the web itself gives guys like me the chance to refute this kind of garbage.

The facts are: almost every “fact” in this email is a lie not supported by the documentation the email cites!!!!

I will now unpack this….

First, let’s assume the report the email cites is a genuine government report, and is genuinely accurate. I have no idea whether it is or not. But for the sake of argument –for the sake of “fact checking” it’s own inner consistency– assume the backing documents are true.

When you open the .pdf file at the above link, and then go to page ten, you’ll find a helpful chart titled:

“Table 4: US Active Military Deaths, 1980 to 2006”

Using a calculator, and amazingly dexterous fingers, I managed to do my own counting. And here are the TRUE numbers:

For the years 1993-2000 (the eight full years of Bill Clinton’s presidency)
There were a total of:
7,500 military deaths for those in active duty
(remember: the email claims: 13, 417)

Yes, it’s a strangely round number. But it appears to be correct. As Casey Stengel once said, “You could look it up…”

For the years of George W. Bush’s presidency 2001-2006
There were a total of:
8,792 military deaths for those in active duty.
(the email claims: 9,016)

Note! The Bush statistic only includes data through 2006, and a footnote admits that the 2006 data is “preliminary.” This number does not include any combat deaths for 2007.

As mentioned above, the email goes on to claim that there were 2,392 deaths in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was president. The email makes this sound shocking, since Carter won a “Nobel Peace Prize.” And, actually, this one number appears to be correct.

However! Even though this is correct, it fails to account for the truth that the largest single year for military deaths since 1980 was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The year was 1983, and the total deaths were: 2,465. (Go ahead. “Casey Stengel” it)

Also! Note this unusual factoid: the spam email incorrectly claims this exact same number of deaths (2.465) during 1995 (a Clinton year…surprise, surprise…). This does not appear to be correct. The actual number for 1995 was: 1,040.

—————————————————-

So, why did I write this “correction”?

Well, because we’re entering the high-season for politics and dirty tricks. Love or hate her, there is again a “Clinton” the ballot this year. Many people (including many Republicans) are still very concerned about the war.

What makes this kind of email especially insidious is that it provides you a link to check the facts yourself.

It just assumes you won’t.

To that end, it’s really propaganda. It’s a smear campaign, and it’s the worst kind of dirty trick.

And even if you later read MY email –where I also exhort you to “check the facts”– the dissonance between two competing fact claims will cause lot of folks to just shrug their shoulders, complain of “tired brain,” and walk away…often with their initial preconceptions still intact.

The facts are these: Many more service men and women have died during six years of GW. Bush’s presidency than during eight years of Bill Clinton’s.

But for people are naturally inclined to disbelieve these “true” facts, propagandistic email like this allow them to keep their incorrect preconceptions in full force. They then pass those lies on to unwitting friends and family. And the lies take on a life and “truth” all their own, regardless of the “facts”.

It’s a sinister, and sickly effective, form of “disinformation.”

There is a lot at stake here. American men and women are giving their live each day. That is nothing to gloss over or make light of. I am not attempting to do that here, nor am I attempting to make their deaths into a political football. The death of any military person, in any historical age, is tragic. But if we are to honor their memory, the best way to do that is through being truthful about the history of our modern republic.

Once upon a time, Hillary Clinton claimed that a “vast right wing conspiracy” was out to get both her and President Clinton. I’ve always been skeptical about just how “vast” it really was.

At the same time, these kinds of emails remind us that there are people who do play fast and loose with the facts, and assume most folks are just too stupid to check things out themselves.

The morale of the story for this political season:

Trust, but verify.

The truth is out there.

Just maybe not in an email some guy forwards to you.

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Below is the original text of an email sent to Eric on January 20, 2008:

“Subject: Military losses for 20 yrs

Interesting numbers. you can check this by clicking on to the suggested website. Snopes has nothing on this. These figures don’t bring back anyone, but the person sending these does make a point about the perception of our military losses and activity. Comments after this were a part of the email sent to me.

Military losses for 20 years

These are some rather eye-opening facts: Since the start of the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sacrifice has been enormous. In the time period from the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 through now, we have lost over 3000 military personnel to enemy action and accidents. As tragic as the loss of any member of the US Armed Forces is, consider the following statistics: The annual fatalities of military members while actively serving in the armed forces from 1980 through 2006:

>>1980 ………. 2,392
>>1981 ……… 2,380
>>1984 ………. 1,999
>>1988 ………. 1,819
>>1989 ………. 1,636
>>1990 ……… 1,508
>>1991 ………. 1,787
>>1992 ………. 1,293—————————————————-
>>1993 ………. 1,213
>>1994 ………. 1,075
>>1995 ………..2,465
>>1996 ……… 2,318 Clinton years @13,417 deaths
>>1997 ………. 817
>>1998 ……… 2,252
>>1999 ………. 1,984 ————————————————-
>>2000 ………. 1,983
>>2001 ………. 890
>>2002 ………. 1,007
7 BUSH years @ 9,016 deaths
>>2003 ………. 1,410
>>2004 ………. 1,887
>>2005 ……… 919
>>2006………. 920 ————————————————————

If you are confused when you look at these figures…so was I.

Do these figures mean that the loss from the two latest conflicts in the Middle East are LESS than the loss of military personnel during Mr. Clinton ‘s presidency; when America wasn’t even involved in a war? And, I was even more confused; when I read that in 1980, during the reign of President (Nobel Peace Prize) Jimmy Carter, there were 2,392 US military fatalities!

These figures indicate that many of our Media & Politicians will pick and choose. They present only those ‘facts’ which support their agenda-driven reporting. Why do so many of them march in lock-step to twist the truth. Where do so many of them get their marching-orders for their agenda?

Our Mainstream Print and TV media, and many Politicians like to slant; that these brave men and women, who are losing their lives in Iraq, are mostly minorities! Wrong AGAIN— just one more media lie! The latest census, of Americans, shows the following distribution of American citizens, by Race:

European descent (White) ……. 69.12%
Hispanic ………………………….. 12.5%
Black………………………………. 12.3%
Asian ……………………………….. 3.7%
Native American ………………… . 1.0%
Other ……………………………….. 2.6%

Now… here are the fatalities by Race; over the past three years in Iraqi Freedom:

European descent (white) ….. 74.31%
Hispanic ……………………….. 10.74%
Black …………………………….. 9.67%
Asian …………………………… . 1.81%
Native American ……………….. 1.09%
Other ……………………………… . 33%

You do the Math! These figures don’t lie… but, Media-liars figure…and they sway public opinion! (These statistics are published by Congressional Research Service, and they may be confirmed by anyone at:
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf
)
Now ask yourself these two questions:

‘Why does the mainstream Print and TV Media never print statistics like these?’
and
‘Why do the mainstream media hate the web as much as they do?'”

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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