Fighting Stereotypes: “Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home” is less deadly than the general population

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Chicago Police, Huffington Post

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Chicago Police, Huffington Post

The media’s reaction to the Fort Hood shooting was somewhat expected.

The unfounded accusation brands Veterans as ticking time bombs, intentionally or not. Veterans, advocates and other less reactionary journalists responded by pointing out that PTSD does not equate to violence.

Apparently everyone didn’t get the memo. On Tuesday, April 8, Huffington Post published “This Map Shows The Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home,” a headline sure to have great click-through rates.

The article and graphic compares Veteran-connected homicides in the U.S. per year to U.S. military combat deaths abroad per year. We weren’t the only ones to notice that this connection is unfounded. Gawker and Business Insider both weighed in as well. The response was enough to prompt Huffington Post to add “We regret the lack of contextual information in highlighting these tragedies,” but the graphic remains unchanged.

I’m an intelligence analyst by trade. Trained by the U.S. Marine Corps, I spent 5 years creating intelligence products. I then used the GI Bill and earned a bachelor degree in intelligence studies from the oldest civilian intelligence program in the country, Mercyhurst University in Erie, Penn. For nearly a decade of my life the most important thing in my work was the source of my data. I could not consider someone else’s work as verifiable because somewhere down the line a general, a professor or a client was going to ask me where the numbers came from.

So when reading this Huffington Post article I naturally asked, where did the numbers come from?

The first was from a 2008 New York Times article that listed 121 Veterans who committed or were charged with committing a killing. Notice it does not say murder. The source of this data is not published other than “The New York Times found” them.

Next was from a Current TV, GOOD and MGMT.design collaboration infographic that listed another 43 Veterans who were charged with murder from 2008-2010. The source is simply listed as “Current TV.”

The article does mention and source that there is no connection between war trauma and violence back home, but the graphic’s first caption quickly contradicts this with “The deadly shooting at Fort hood on April 2 wasn’t the first time a recent veteran has returned home to commit a deadly crime.”

The map plots the crimes, highlighting dense areas of murders around U.S. military bases. What calculation was used for the murders per square mile density?  Seattle, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, St. Louis and Chicago also have high densities but were not highlighted.

By the way, in 2008, the number of people murdered in Chicago – 511 – was more than 56 times the number of people murdered by Veterans – nine – according to the research presented by the Huffington Post. Both populations – citizens of Chicago and Gulf War II Veterans – were around 2.6 million in 2008.

Take the larger U.S. population into account and the Huffington Post’s Veteran murder rates are dwarfed by the national numbers as compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

Huffington Post did later revise the article to read, “the veteran population is no more violent than the general population.”

That’s one way to put it.

Using the graph’s data from 2009 and taking into account that the Gulf War II Veteran population was .62 percent of the total population, I find that the general population is more than 4 times more likely to murder than Gulf War II Veterans.

I’m guessing the title “General Population Murders Four Times More Than Returning War Veterans” wouldn’t be as interesting.

Every day combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were based on data sources my fellow military intelligence analysts and I compiled and disseminated.  We knew that faulty information could result in loss of life and we held ourselves to high standards.

Fortunately, the unverified sources and findings presented in this article won’t get anyone killed. But it does tarnish the reputation and character of every Servicemember who may now be looked at differently, even possibly as “an at-risk murderer.”FACT CHECK huffpo graphic_graph

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6 Comments to “Fighting Stereotypes: “Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home” is less deadly than the general population”

  1. Joseph Richker says:

    The Fourth Estate (news media) and political ads have this in common: truth is not necessarily what is presented. Whatever generates the most readership, often without regard to the Truth, is what is put forth. The general decline in public morality has resulted in the idea that Truth is relative. Moral Relativism is a dangerous and slippery slope: all kinds of injustice can be sanctioned and promoted by it. Whatever accomplishes the goals and agenda of the writer/publisher, either hidden or public, is what we read or hear.
    There are three possible answers to this problem:
    1.) Expose the agendas of the Fourth Estate, both hidden and public.
    2.) To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin “Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see”.
    3.) A return to the moral beliefs and principles on which this country was founded.
    Of the three possibilities, only “A return to the moral beliefs and principles on which this country was founded” fulfills the need. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to implement and achieve…

    • Allen says:

      Our third President, one John Adams, signed a law passed by the 6th Congress, that any public display, including speeches and printed matter. Was treason and would be punished as such.

      So much for the “moral beliefs and principles upon which this country is founded.

  2. the va in arizona dos;nt represent the hole va!.they should all use south carolina and gorgia as examples! in my state sc. this would have never happened! my state loves there veterans! so does georgia! all the people in charge at the arizona va should be fired!!! and mr mc cane should make sure of this!. i never . ever. had to wait for treatment in sc! my poor brother trusted the va as i do. i dont even like out side doctors!. the va got a black eye on this one! but i know my va… and i know they are going to clean house now in arizona! im so greatfull for my states love for there veterans. and im greatfull for all my good doctors in charleston sc and sav georgia clinic. and for people like mr sedowski in columbia sc. and all my department of veterans affairs reps.they are like pit bulls when it comes to protecting the veterans in sc! and fighting for them!. look at sc and georgia…. arizona! learn something!

    • SGT John T says:

      Hooah Thomas and thank you for your service brother. I have had a growth in my stomach for over two years now. It has been a year and a half since i have been told by the VA in Tucson, AZ. They will call me right back, or your next appointment is in 6 months. Or is this an emergency? I called again this morning at 0900 and spoke with them again and now the pain is to the point i wish someone would just put me out of my misery. The clinic said they would call me right back due to the ‘LONG DELAY” it has now been over FIVE HOURS and still no call. My wife just called back. They put her on hold and never connected the call and hung up on her. This isn’t Phoenix, however Tucson could also be a big part of this investigation. I called for an outside appointment and they stated they need a referral from my VA Doctor. What the Heck? I guess I’ll either die from whatever this is or live in agonizing pain for the rest of my days. 90% service connected and I have to go through this?

      • give em time to clean this mess up soldier. there is a light at the end of the tunnel. my advice to you is get in your car go to the next closest va hospital. even if itys a two hour drive . walk in to the lobby and yell out your pain. they will help you! let the va in tuscon get fixed. dont think for a minute your goverment dosnt care what happened down there. they do! and they are mad as hell! sorry for your pain my brother. but step out of the box for now. go to another va hospital. if its an emergancy . you can go to a regular hospital. the va will pay the bill if its from service connection. i l now you must be on the va health plan. if you need to stay in the hospital as long as you let the va transfer you to a va hospital they will pay. you might get stuck with a co pay but.hey. if i was in bad pain i would go to the er of the va hospital in your area and lay in the lobby. they will help you. go in person. good luck soldier.maby we will meet someday. when its our turn to go inside the wall and imbrace our brothers again that are there already.i feel bad for the va. they just made an era hiring these people. i hope they clean house at that va hospital.

  3. my reginal in columbia fights for its veterans! and they make sure we all get ttreated fare! if it wasnt for mr sedowski in the columbia sc reaginal office. i would have not herd from anyone after five years . he called me and said. tom gomez. im on your file. and he resolved it after all those years. i fell through the cracks. he looked in the cracks. that tells me my state south carolina. loves its vets. and cares about us….. i know its sad what happened to our brothers in arizona! but dont stop trusting the va! sometimes the wrong people slip in. they cant control that! try to imagine the size of the va operation. it cant be perfect!. but as far as im concerned its close to it. considering the scope and the size of the issues it faces every day. we are still the best treated veterans in the world.please don’t blame the whole va for arizona.. that would not be fair. good luck soldier. tom gomez.sr