A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Military Deaths Under Clinton and Bush


Q: Did more soldiers die during Bill Clinton’s term than have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan?

A: Actually, even counting non-combat fatalities, more military personnel died during the first six years of George Bush’s tenure than during the entire eight years that Bill Clinton was in office.

FULL QUESTION

This is something that is circulating on the Web right now. How much truth is in it?

MILITARY DEATHS FOR TWENTY YEARS— Bet you didn’t know the following! I surely did not.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

These are some rather eye-opening facts: Since the start of the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sacrifice has been enormous. In the time period from the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 through now, we have lost over 3000 military personnel to enemy action and accidents. As tragic as the loss of any member of the US Armed Forces is, consider the following statistics: The annual fatalities of military members while actively serving in the armed forces from 1980 through 2006:

[EET ]

1980 ……… 2,392
1981 …….. 2,380
1984 ……… 1,999
1988 ……… 1,819
1989 ……… 1,636
1990 …….. 1,508
1991 ……… 1,787
1992 ……… 1,293
1993 ……… 1,213
1994 ……… 1,075
1995 ……… 2,465
1996 …….. 2,318 Clinton years @13,417 deaths
1997 ……… 817
1998 …….. 2,252
1999 ……… 1,984
2000 ……… 1,983
2001 ……… 890
2002 ……… 1,007 7 BUSH years @ 9,016 deaths
2003 ……… 1,410
2004 ……… 1,887
2005 ……… 919
2006 ……… 920

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If you are confused when you look at these figures…so was I. Do these figures mean that the loss from the two latest conflicts in the Middle East are LESS than the loss of military personnel during Mr. Clinton’s presidency; when America wasn’t even involved in a war? And, I was even more confused; when I read that in 1980, during the reign of President (Nobel Peace Prize) Jimmy Carter, there were 2,392 US military fatalities!

These figures indicate that many of our Media & Politicians will pick and choose. They present only those ‘facts’ which support their agenda-driven reporting. Why do so many of them march in lock-step to twist the truth. Where do so many of them get their marching-orders for their agenda?

Our Mainstream Print and TV media, and many Politicians like to slant; that these brave men and women, who are losing their lives in Iraq, are mostly minorities! Wrong AGAIN — just one more media lie! The latest census, of Americans, shows the following distribution of American citizens, by Race:

European descent (White) 69.12%
Hispanic …………………………. 12.5%
Black……………………………….. 12.3%
Asian ………………………………. 3.7%
Native American ………………… 1.0%
Other ………………………………. 2.6%

Now… here are the fatalities by Race; over the past three years in Iraqi Freedom:

European descent (white) 74.31%
Hispanic ………………………….. 10.74%
Black …………………………………. 9.67%
Asian ……………………………….. 1.81%
Native American ………………. 1.09%
Other ………………………………….. 0.33%

You do the Math! These figures don’t lie… but, Media-liars figure…and they sway public opinion! These statistics are published by Congressional Research Service, and they may be confirmed by anyone: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

Most of the numbers in this e-mail are completely made up. We were particularly amused by its bravado in providing a supposed source for the information – but anyone who bothers to check that source will find that it contradicts the information presented. The truth is that more military personnel died during the first six years of the Bush administration than died during the eight years Clinton was in office, even counting military deaths in the U.S. from accidents, murders, suicides and natural causes.

According to the Congressional Research Service report that the e-mail cites, the breakdown of fatalities by race during Operation Iraqi Freedom is more-or-less accurate, but the breakdown of total military fatalities by year (which counts both combat and non-combat fatalities) is wildly inaccurate. Here are the actual numbers in graphic form:

As you can see, the e-mail grossly distorts the numbers in several years. For instance, the e-mail claims that 2,465 military personnel died (of all causes) in 1995, but according to the CRS report (which obtained its numbers directly from the Department of Defense), you have to go all the way back to 1980 – when the military was nearly 50 percent larger than it is currently – to get close to that figure. The true figure is less than half what the e-mail purports. In point of fact, 7,500 troops died during Clinton’s eight years in office. During Bush’s first six years, the number was 8,792. And that excludes the 899 combat deaths in 2007, which was the deadliest year of the Iraq war for U.S. troops. (We don’t yet have figures for total deaths for that year.)

Flunking Arithmetic
 
Even if the numbers in the e-mail were correct, which they are not, its author adds them up improperly. The eight years of Clinton’s term run from 1993 to 2000, so according to the numbers the e-mail presents, Clinton’s tally should be 14,107, while Bush’s six years (not seven, as stated) total 7,033. That’s dismal arithmetic, especially from somebody who uses these fake numbers as a basis for accusing others of lying, twisting the truth and publishing "agenda-driven reporting."
 
Fruit Salad
 
We should also note that the message is artfully worded and invites a false conclusion. It argues that the loss of U.S. military lives "from the two latest conflicts in the Middle East" is less than "the loss of military personnel" under Clinton. Thus, it attempts to compare only the deaths due to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with all military deaths during Clinton’s eight years. That’s not even comparing apples with oranges. It’s really, to use a fruit-salad metaphor, asserting that George Bush’s apple collection is smaller than Bill Clinton’s collection of apples and oranges.
 
Why So Many?

It may surprise many to learn that there are so many military deaths during peacetime. But this is just the law of averages at work. In 1993 the military had 1.7 million men and women in uniform. During that same year, 1,175 of them died from accidents, homicide, suicide and illness. That makes the 1993 non-hostile death rate for military personnel 69.1 per 100,000. That’s actually fairly low; the rate for all Americans age 20 to 29 is about 97.5. Today’s military is considerably smaller, with just under 1.4 million personnel.

To make an apples-to-apples comparison, we would need to separate combat and non-combat deaths. According to the CRS, during the Clinton administration, one person in uniform died as a result of hostilities and another 75 died as a result of terrorist attacks. By contrast, during the first six years of the Bush administration, 2,596 troops died from hostilities and 55 from terrorist attacks. Looking at the non-hostile deaths (i.e., accidents, homicides, suicides and illnesses), we find that an average of 947 military personnel died each year during the Bush administration compared with 913 during the Clinton administration .

Soldiering has never been a particularly safe occupation. But it is absurd to suggest that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are somehow safer during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than they were during the relatively peaceful Clinton administration.

– Joe Miller

Sources

Congressional Research Service. "American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics," 29 June 2007.

Department of Defense. "Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by
Regional Area and by Country
," 30 Sept. 1993.

Department of Defense. "Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country," 30 June 2007.

Kung, Hsiang-Ching Kung, et. al. "National Vital Statistics Report — Deaths: Final Data for 2005." January 2008. Centers for Disease Control. 28 January 2008.