Our Veterans are a Bunch of Murderers on a ‘Downward Spiral’?


By: Warner Todd Huston

In a long report published on Sunday the New York Times appears to be trying to promulgate the idea that our returning military vets cannot successfully reintegrate back into their communities and into “normal lives” after returning from the stress of active duty overseas. The Times seems to be saying that our veterans have become murderers and are so mentally wracked that coming home is difficult for them. Their entire report is written as if the rate of murders committed by returning veterans is shockingly high. But, a look at real statistics proves that vets are less likely to become murderers than the general population. The Times does a great job smearing our veterans as nutjobs, but does not do such a great job giving a balanced view of the real statistics.

The New York Times 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. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

This 9 page (on the web) report gives us case after case and lots of generalities, such as…

“Everything is multicausational, of course,” Dr. Lifton continued. “But combat, especially in a counterinsurgency war, is such a powerful experience that to discount it would be artificial.”

An obvious statement, but not a conclusive one by any means. This piece is filled with these sorts of comments alongside the specific stories of returning vets who did have breakdowns that led to murder. But the Times wants to make it seem as if our vets are universally a troubled lot.

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.

It is absolutely true that our current vets won’t be different than past soldiers returning home. Some will not be able to get past their service, many more will be bothered by it but otherwise will be able to reintegrate back into society quite well, and still others will have no problems at all.

But, why did the Times focus on this aspect of vets turning into murderers back home? Was their motive merely to alert returning vets that they should feel no shame in getting help? If so, why go for such an over-the-top subject matter to do so? Or was their motive solely one of exploitation?

Whatever their motive, the organization Moving America Forward has issued a response to this Times piece that sets the record straight, proving that our vets are actually LESS likely to murder than the general U.S. population, undercutting the Times sensationalism.

The Times documentation of 121 potential killings out of more than 1.5 million veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), divided by 6 years of conflict results in a murder rate of just 1.34 incidents per 100,000 veterans per year.

That murder rate is far lower than the murder rate for the general population, demonstrating that the experiences of military service – including having served in Iraq and Afghanistan – actually made it less likely for returning veterans to commit murder once they returned home, than the general population.

Given a census-estimated population of the United States of 300,000,000 persons in this country as of October 2006, and FBI-compiled statistics of 17,399 homicide offenders for 2006, the murder rate of the general population was 5.80 offenders per 100,000 on average – and a rate of approximately 7.67 per 100,000 for men.

To recap, veteran murder rates put them at 1.34 incidents per 100,000 vets and the general population sees that statistic at 7.67 per 100,000. Apparently, we are safer with our veterans around than we are with the rest of the citizenry of the country!

So, why the focus on vets that turn into murderers, NYTimes? What else could it be that they have a desire to slag out returning troops, making them seem to be victims?

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