Saturday, March 28, 2009

Numbers Game

An e-mail with the subject line "Just the Facts, Ma'am" has been circulating among Republican loyalists that purports to show statistics about military deaths that make mortality appear higher under Democratic presidential administrations than under Republican ones.

However, as reports, the data, supposedly drawn from Table 4 on page 10 of this Congressional Research Service report on military deaths, tells a different story.

When I received the e-mail that follows, I was struck by the a number of features of its rhetorical strategy: 1) this logical appeal to the validity of a numerical argument didn't use any data visualization techniques, 2) the collection of congressional reports about national security that the e-mail references comes from the Federation of American Scientists, a group often associated with the political left, and 3) the version I received avoids the sarcasm of the "Surprise, Surprise (not really)" opening line of the Snopes version and instead addresses its audience in a bipartisan fashion.


Whatever your politics, however you lean and however you feel about the Bush administration, this report is interesting.

As tragic as the loss of any member of the US Armed Forces is, consider the following statistics:

The annual fatalities, by any cause, of military members while actively serving
in the armed forces from 1980 through 2006:

1980 -- 2,392 (Carter)
1981 -- 2,380 (Reagan)
1984 -- 1,999 (Reagan)
1988 -- 1,819 (Reagan)
1989 -- 1,636 (George H W)
1990 -- 1,508 (George H W)
1991 -- 1,787 (George H W)
1992 -- 1,293 (George H W)
1993 -- 1,213 ( Clinton )
1994 -- 1,075 ( Clinton )
1995 -- 2,465 (Clinton)
1996 -- 2,318 (Clinton)
1997 -- 817 (Clinton)
1998 -- 2,252 (Clinton)
1999 -- 1,984 (Clinton)
2000 -- 1,983 (Clinton)
2001 -- 890 (George W)
2002 -- 1,007 (George W)
2003 -- 1,410 (George W)
2004 -- 1,887 (George W)
2005 -- 919 (George W)
2006 -- 920 (George W)
2007 -- 899 (George W)

Clinton years (1993-2000): 14,107 deaths
George W years (2001-2007): 7,932 deaths

Are you surprised when you look at these figures? They indicate the loss from the two latest Middle East conflicts are less than the loss of military personnel during Clinton 's presidency when America wasn't even involved in a war -- unless you include Bosnia and Mogadishu, Somalia . (Remember "Blackhawk Down"?) Even more surprising is that in 1980, during Carter presidency, there were 2,392 US military fatalities!

These figures appear to indicate many members of our media and politicians pick and choose the information on which they report -- that they present only those "facts" that support their agenda.

The Snopes entry does not address the second part of the e-mail I received, which addresses the racial politics of military fatalities. This section reads as follows:

Consider the latest census of Americans. It shows the following distribution of
American citizens by race:

European descent 69.12 percent
Hispanic 12.50 percent
Black 12.30 percent
Asian 3.70 percent
Native American 1.00 percent
Other 2.60 percent 0D

Many members of the media lead us to believe the military death ratio is off-balance compared to the distribution by race in America. Here are the fatalities by race over the past three years in Iraqi Freedom.

European descent 74.31 percent
Hispanic 10.74 percent
Black 9.67 percent
Asian 1.81 percent
Native American 1.09 percent
Other 0.33 percent

Surprised again? Hopefully, intelligent Americans can decipher -- the facts from the spin, the spinners from the leaders, those who seek even more power from those that seek justice, the dividers from the uniters.

These statistics are published by the Congressional Research Service and may be<>

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home