The liberal press is at it again - this time claiming that members of the US military are deserting rate has climbed 80% since the start of the Iraq campaign. Alan Fraser at The Americna Thinker pokes holes big enough to drive a tank through the claim.
First the bad news, as reported by AP reporter Lolita Baldur headlined ""Army Desertion Rate Up 80 Pct. Since '03."
"Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003....While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year....Army desertion rates have fluctuated since the Vietnam War - when they peaked at 5 percent."
OK but percentages can be pretty tricky things - if one guy deserts out of 1,000 soldiers, and the next year two do, there you have a 100% increase in desertions!
Another note is that the historical total force has had a substantial fluctuation in numbers over the years. The best objective measure would be to examine the rate of desertions rather than the total numbers.
Fraser explains the historical record, as well as noting that this reporter apparantly doesn't know the difference between desertion and being AWOL - the AP article repeatedly refers to the AWOL rate, which is not the same as the desertion rate. AWOL is simply being absent without permission (with attendent penalities under the UCMJ, but most likely returning to duty at some point), while desertion is the much more serious offense of leaving and never returning to your unit.
Fraser looks at the rate per 1000 people in uniform from Fiscal years 1997-2004 for the Army and Marines and notes that the rate of desertion went from 4.58 per 1000 in 1997 to 9.50 per 1000 Army soldiers in 2001 - before the war in Iraq. The Marine rate peaked in 2000 at 11.66 in 2000. The three years 2000-2002 all had higher Army rates than being reported today, and the 2004 rate was 4.91 per thousand - the second lowest of the period. It is this historically low 2004 number that Baldur(apparently unable to keep fiscal years straight) refers to when claiming her 80% increase. The current Army rate of 7.6 is the same number as the figures given for 2003.
In an even more broad historical context, Fraser notes that WWII desertion rates were far, far higher than those today.
"Desertion during World War II was no less a problem than in previous wars. Desertion rates peaked at 6.3% [that's 63 per 1,000] in 1944, but dropped to 4.5% [45 per 1,000] the following year. During the war, 21,049 soldiers were sentenced for desertion..." Desertion And the American Soldier: 1776-2006, Robert Fantina, Page 116."
As Fraser points out, the rate was also much higher in Vietnam and Korea than it is today, most likely because of the draft. How many members of the current US military have been drafted? Ah, that number would be ZERO - it is an all-volunteer force. The AP report mentions Vietnam only briefly, and the other 20th centruy conflicts not at all.
Again, what we have here is an obviously liberal reporter that can't get even simple facts straight, knows little or nothing about the military or its history and one who has a political agenda slanting their reporting in an attempt to foist a sense of hopelessness and demoralization in the American public and ruin their confidence in the military and their mission.