Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Song Remains The Same: Liberal Myths Of War

I found this on

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties.

- John Kerry, 1971 Winter Soldier Testimony

What the draft does is it spreads risk among all economic levels, and it brings it closer to home because right now, inner-city kids, blacks and Latinos and poor rural kids are dying on a daily basis in Iraq, and it's not fair."

- Senator Neil Breslin

The disproportionately high representation of the poor and minorities in the enlisted ranks is well documented. Minorities comprise 35 percent of the military and Blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population. They, along with poor and rural Whites do more than their fair share of service in our ground forces.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D, NY War's Burden Must Be Shared

When you take a look at who the liberators will be, who will be put in harm’s way, it won’t be the sons and daughters of members of Congress or the President’s cabinet. It won’t be the rich and affluent who insist that we “take them out now.” No. It will be good Americans, patriotic Americans, who evaluated the economic situation in this country, and decided that the military gave them a better shake than they could get in the private sector.

And so they, like me and so many others, go into the Army. When the flag goes up, they salute it because they made a contract to fight--if they were called on. Don’t tell me that they’ll be checking out who is in the foxhole to see whether they were drafted or volunteered. Don’t tell me that, in this great country, only those who can’t do better economically should be forced to carry the burden of being killed in war. I refuse to accept that.

- Rep. Charles Rangel, D, NY Burden of War Must Be Shared By All

Well Rep. Rangel, I refuse to accept it too. Because it's untrue.

These are the Liberal Myths of War. Cherished grievances, nourished by willful misdirection, elliptical reasoning, and half-stated conspiracy theories that won't bear close inspection. But they serve well enough for those who need little convincing to think ill of their government.

Let's start with Mr. Kerry's quote. This is the Grandpappy of all grudges: blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties in Vietnam. It's been used to great effect by the anti-war Left to foster distrust and opposition against the war in Iraq. Democrats persistently misuse statistics (the overrepresentation of blacks and minorities in the Armed Forces) to imply that blacks, minorities and the poor suffer a disproportionate percentage of combat casualties during wartime. There's just one problem with this theory: it just isn't true. A look at the facts is instructive:

During Vietnam, the Army was neither disproportionately poor, nor disproportionately black. Nor did the casualties suffered by Americans unfairly impact blacks or the poor:
86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians, 12.5% were black, 1.2% were other races
Black fatalities amounted to 12 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia - a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war."

Myth: The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.

Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers.

Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better.

Facts are stubborn things, aren't they? But that was under the draft, which could be said to be an equalizing force. Now let's look at the Gulf War: a war fought with an all-volunteer force:
"Minorities make up 35 percent of the military, and blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population," Rangel wrote. The Pentagon released the number on minorities in the volunteer army on Jan. 13; 21 percent of the enlisted force is black (and blacks comprise 15 percent of infantry, armored and artillery units), while 12 percent of the U.S. population is black.

This sounds darned unfair on the face of it, until you wonder how loud Rep. Rangel would scream if someone tried to prevent his minority constituents from signing up for reenlistment bonuses on the basis that they were overrepresented in the services.
In the Gulf War, however, minorities didn't suffer more casualties than whites. African Americans accounted for 23 percent of troops sent, and 17 percent of the deaths, the Washington Times reported; Hispanics represented 4 percent of Gulf War troops and 4 percent of deaths, while whites made up 71 percent of Gulf War troops, and 76 percent of Gulf War deaths.

As KGO news anchor and Vietnam veteran Pete Wilson noted, the myth that minorities will suffer disproportionate casualties is "one of those things that people have come to believe that isn't backed up by the facts." Since Vietnam, Wilson adds, whites have been over-represented in combat service.

One interpretation would be that this is quite possibly a side-effect of eliminating the draft. Care to discuss this one, Rep. Rangel?

One other very interesting side note in all this discussion: what ever happened to Asians? They tend to disappear in any discussion of minorities. Last time I checked "Hispanic" was not a race; it's an ethnicity. When's the last time you saw "Oriental" broken out on any of these studies? Are we now ignoring the contribution of Asians to our Armed Forces? How did an entire race become invisible during a study of... dare I say it... minority and race? I'm confused. I often suspect it's because Asians aren't causing any problems. They do just fine on their own and would throw off the studies of well-meaning sociologists who want to find inequities in the system.

On to OIF. And here I'd have loved to bring you the story straight from the horse's mouth, but oddly I can't seem to find the original piece anywhere in the New York Times, even using the search feature. I wonder why? So I had to dig it up on FreeRepublic:
Two years after the invasion of Iraq, the rising American death toll has prompted some commentators to suggest that poor and minority soldiers are bearing the brunt of the war's human cost. An analysis of casualties by the Center for American Progress in Washington suggests otherwise. The majority of the dead are Army and Marine enlisted personnel, white men in their mid 20's, who graduated from high schools in major cities and suburban areas. (Navy and Air Force personnel accounted for less than 3 percent.) Moreover, a look at the poverty rates in the high schools many of them attended suggest that these young men and women are from working-class communities that are neither disproportionately poor nor rich.

Well dang... let's take a look at the numbers:
Race of personnel killed
*72.5% were white vs. 67% of all military personnel
*11.5% were Hispanic vs. 8.7% of all military personnel
*10.9% were African-American vs. 18.6 of all military personnel

Apparently, despite Rep. Rangel's much-ballyhoo'd overrepresentation of blacks in the armed forces, they are in fact UNDERREPRESENTED in the combat arms and are dying at a far lower rate than their representation in either the military or the general population.

Furthermore, his contention that minorities are doing "more than their fair share" in the ground forces is intentionally misleading and contradicted by the facts. He seeks to imply that minorities are overrepresented in the combat arms by including the clerical MOS's (where they are indeed overrepresented) in the "ground forces", in hopes the careless reader will equate "ground forces" with "combat arms" and conclude that a disproportionate number of minorities are therefore placed in harm's way. This is a conclusion that has NEVER been supported by the facts: not in Vietnam, not in Gulf I, and not in the current war.

It would seem that perhaps a draft is needed - to remedy the tragically high death toll among whites and Hispanics in the combat arms. So far no reaction from Senator Kerry.
Age: Average age of personnel killed
*Enlisted: 25 years vs. 27 years for all enlisted military personnel
*Officers: 31 years vs. 34 years for all military personnel who are officers
Education Level of personnel killed
*95.5% graduated from high school vs. 94.2% of all military personnel, and 85.5% of all Americans 18 to 44 years old

Military casualties are much more likely than the average American to have graduated from high school.
Total U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq
*1,512 as of March 9
*2.5% were women vs. 16% of all military personnel
Branch of service of personnel killed
*29.9% were Marine Corps vs. 11.6% of all military personnel
*50.7% were regular Army vs. 21% of all military personnel
*16.1% were Army National Guard and Reserve vs. 24.3% of all military personnel

The Army and Marine Corps are bearing a disproportionate share of the casualties, but do not enjoy a disproportionate share of the defense budget.
Geographic Distribution of personnel killed
*26.2 were from cities and large towns
*40.5% were from suburbs
*33.3% were from rural areas

So much for the military preying on inner-city youth.
Poverty: Average poverty rate of public schools attended
*29.1%* vs. an average poverty rate of all public high schools of 30.1%
(Figures are weighted to reflect the fact that of the 1,213 casualties whose high school information was available, 1,084 attended public high school. Poverty data was available for 1,034 of those 1,084 schools.)

And poor kids who only join the military because they have no other options...
Rank of personnel killed
*89.2% were enlisted (i.e., not officers) vs. 85.5% of all military personnel

The poverty and geographic data is borne out by this article on military recruiting:
Representative Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, says society places what should be a shared burden of defense only on those poor enough to be induced to risk their lives for a chance at college or a signing bonus. Those who sign up with the infantry for five years get $12,000 in cash or a smaller bonus, as well as up to $70,000 in college aid.

"These young people are not 'volunteers,' " Rangel said. "They're not there, because they're patriotic. They're there they need the money."

Rangel's critique also has a strong sense of racial grievance, but data suggest that the military is not putting its energy into high schools attended by poor minority students. Instead of race, the clearest indicator of how hard a sell a student will receive is class. Generally, recruiters focus on the lower middle class in places with little economic opportunity 1999, the RAND Corp. conducted a study seeking patterns among qualified high school seniors.

"It turned out that kids who were of upper income were more likely to go to college, but it also turned out that kids from lower incomes had better chances of getting need-based financial aid to college," said Beth Asch, a RAND military personnel analyst. >"So when you look at who goes to the military, you tend to get those in the middle."

Local recruiters use a computer system that combines socioeconomic data from the census, high school recruiting data for all four services, ZIP codes with high numbers of young adults, and other information to identify the likeliest candidates.

The obvious school districts that get screened out are those affluent enough that most of their students are probably college-bound. But recruiters also put less energy into underclass high schools, because they do not want prospects who might be ineligible because they drop out of school, have criminal records, or do not score high enough on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

Facts are stubborn things.


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