I may be numerically challenged, but I can read a table. A rightie blogger claimed,
Did you know that more members of the military were killed in Jimmy Carter’s last year in the White House than in any of the years we’ve been fighting in Iraq? Think about that. In the peaceful year of 1980, 2,392 servicemen died while on duty defending our country. In 2003, the start of the Iraq War, only 1,228 servicemen and women died. In 2004, the number was 1,874, it went up to 1,942 in 2005, and it dropped to 1,858 in 2006.
WTF? You say. The blogger is pulling these numbers from page 10, Table 5, of this PDF document. In 1980, out of a total of 2,159,630 persons in the military (active and reserve), 2,392 died. In 2006, out of a total of 1,664,014 persons in the military, 1,858 died.
I bet you see where this post is going already.
As a commenter helpfully pointed out, the military was 50 percent bigger in 1980 than it is now. In 1980, the commenter calculated, there were 1.17 deaths per 1000 soldiers. By 2000, the fatality rate had dropped to 0.55 per 1000 soldiers. We can see from Table 5 on page 11 of the same document that a reduction in the rate of accidents lowered the overall fatality rate. In 2006, however, there were 1.35 deaths per 1000 soldiers.
We can also see that in 1980 there were zero deaths from hostile action and one from a terrorist attack. I don’t know what happened to the one. In 2006, there were 753 deaths from hostile action and 238 deaths pending determination of cause.
Also note that the tables don’t say if the military personnel were on duty or on leave or enjoying free time when they died.
Back to the rightie blogger:
In fact, only during the Clinton years of 1996 into the Bush years of 2001 and 2002, during a period of time when the Clinton policy of refusing to defend our national interest was in place, do we see the number of military deaths fall below 1000 annually.
During the 1980’s, when we aggressively defended the peace against the Soviets, the number of military deaths routinely topped 2000, with a high in 1983, the year of the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon, topping out at 2,465.
The number of active-duty military personnel dropped quite a bit in the 1990s. It went from 2,046,806 in 1990 to 1,367,838 in 1999. The number of selected reserve troops also decreased in the 1990s, although the number of national guard remained steady. Fewer troops, fewer deaths.
During the entire decade of the 1980s, a total of 81 troops died in hostile action and 294 died in terrorist attacks (263 in 1983). The rest died of accidents, illness, and homicides.
But let’s go back to the key point, more members of the military died in 1980, while Jimmy Carter was in the White House abdicating our responsibilities around the world, than in any one of the years we’ve been in Iraq.
The moral of the story is that peace is dangerous.
I’d say the moral is that somebody is dumb as a bag of hammers.
Update: Somebody at the Weekly Standard can’t read tables, either.