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Monday, May 12, 2008
Did False Spam E-mail Inspire WND's Misleading Troop-Deaths Article?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Remember that April 25 WorldNetDaily article making the misleading claim that "annual U.S. military casualties overall during the first six years of the Bush administration are well below the average for the 26-year period beginning in 1980"? Turns out that story has been hanging around a lot longer than we thought.

According to a March 27 Army Times article:

A spam e-mail making the rounds in the military community serves as a reminder that facts can be flexible when they are launched anonymously into the vast void of cyberspace.

The e-mail, entitled, “Some very interesting statistics: Military losses, 1980 through 2006,” states that more U.S. service members died on active duty during the eight years of the Clinton administration, when there were no major U.S. military conflicts, than in the first six years of the George W. Bush administration, during which the military was fighting two large-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The e-mail offers year-by-year U.S. military death totals from all causes — operations, illness, accidents, suicides, etc. — from 1980 through 2006.

The data supposedly were taken from a periodically updated Congressional Research Service report on the subject, which in turn is based on statistics compiled by the Pentagon’s Defense Manpower and Data Center.

There’s just one problem: The figures listed in the email are wrong. They vary markedly from the figures published in the cited CRS source document.

[...]

But some simple math using the figures listed on page 7 of the CRS report reveals that the figures for several of the years under Clinton are inflated, while figures for some of the years under Bush are downplayed.

Snopes has also debunked the military deaths email as well.

Yes, it appears WND used this false spam email as the basis for its own article, despite touting the work as "a WND investigation."

WND's main contribution appears to be using correct fatality numbers to arrive at its conclusion. But as we detailed, comparing raw fatality numbers, as WND and the spam email did, fails to take in account the total number of military members among which the deaths occured. In fact, the rate of military fatalities was higher in 2005, the latest year for which full fatality statistics were available, than at any other time in the 26-year time frame examined.

Curiously, none of this history is mentioned by WND -- perhaps because while WND corrects the email's faulty numbers, it embraces its faulty premise.

This isn't the first time the ConWeb has based articles on spam email. In 2004, Newsmax simply reprinted the contents of a spam -- faulty numbers and all -- purporting to list the differences between counties that voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and those that went for Al Gore.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:40 AM EDT

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