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Monday, April 28, 2008
WND Misleads on Military Deaths
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An unbylined April 25 WorldNetDaily article declared that "a WND investigation has revealed" 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." But WND cherry-picks the numbers to make them look as good as possible.

The first clue to WND's deception is the date range chosen. Why go back to 1980? Because, as the Department of Defense data WND gleaned its information from demonstrates, it allows WND to throw some high fatality numbers into the mix to counterbalance the very low fatality numbers during the Clinton administration. That allows WND to promote the 2,392 "in 1980, the last year of President Jimmy Carter's administration" while ignoring, say, the 758 fatalities in 2000. Indeed, the only mention of Clinton-era fatalities is the year with the highest number, 1,213, "just 649 fewer than in 2005, the hottest year of the Iraq war."

The second clue is that WND compares total fatalities by year without factoring in the total number of military personnel employed by the military by year. Doing so generates a death rate, which is a more accurate and direct way to compare fatalities than raw numbers. Under that standard, WND's claims don't add up.

For instance, in 2005, the total death rate per 100,000 military personnel was 116.6. But in 1980, the death rate was lower: 110.7. (As Media Matters calculated, the death rate in 2000 was a mere 50.0.) Indeed, the 2005 death rate is the highest of all complete years on the DOD's list (2006 numbers do not include fatalities after Nov. 22, 2006).

WND also appears to be lowballing other war fatality figures as well:

Iraqi military deaths since the beginning of the war are estimated at between 4,900 and 6,375, while Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated at between 82,856 and 90,390.

WND does not state where this information came from, making it difficult to verify. The Iraqi civilian death number appears to have been taken from the Iraq Body Count website. But the IBC counts only deaths that have reported in the media; according to Wikipedia, "The IBC admits that their count is an undercount due to their stringent requirement for the death to be recorded by the media."

Meanwhile, a Wikipedia count shows 3,530 members of the Iraqi Security Forces have been killed, but also that 6,490 Iraqi police have been killed. Since the police have been a prime target of insurgents in Iraq, it's a bit disingenuous of WND to exclude them from its fatality count.

Of course, this entire article is a bit disingenous -- which is exactly the point of publishing it. 

This isn't the first time WND has tried to downplay military deaths in Iraq; in November 2006, Joseph Farah -- repeating Rep. Steve King's inaccurate numbers -- asserted that "more of their fellow citizens – men, women and children – were murdered this year by illegal aliens than the combined death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since those military campaigns began."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:09 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, April 28, 2008 1:52 AM EDT

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