Iraq Veterans Crazy Murderers
Today’s NYT marks the start of the “War Torn” feature, “A series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.” The first installment begins with the obligatory gut wrenching anecdotes and then gets to the point:
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.
About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain.
As sad and shocking as 121 incidents sounds, though, that’s not a high number when you’re talking about well over a million veterans of a five-year-old conflict. As Phillip Carter, one of the lucky Iraq War veterans who has managed to lead a crime-free existence since his return to civilian life, points out,
The article makes no attempt to produce a statistically valid comparison of homicide rates among vets to rates among the general population. Nor does it rely at all on Pentagon data about post-deployment incidents of violence among veterans. It basically just generalizes from this small sample (121 out of 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan vets, not including civilians and contractors) to conclude that today’s generation of veterans are coming home full of rage and ready to kill.
Marc Danziger attempts to fill the gap of the innumerate Times editors and calculates that “the NY Times 121 murders represent about a 7.08/100,000 rate” at the low end and 10/100,000 at the high end. Placed into context, “the US offender rate for homicide in the 18 – 24 yo range is 26.5/100,000. For 25 – 34, it’s 13.5/100,000.”
So . . . why is the Times commissioning a series about crazy veterans who come home and kill rather than about the remarkable fact that these people, exposed to stresses beyond what their civilian counterparts could possibly fathom, nonetheless returning home to be model citizens?
UPDATE: Megan McArdle points out that, “More than 20% of these psychotic murders are . . . drunken driving incidents. Yes, the New York Times has discovered, with great fanfare, that military-aged males like to consume alchohol and then drive home.”