Military Desertion Rates and the Associated Press

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on November 28, 2007

According to America’s biggest news agency [the Associated Press], the U.S. is facing what amounts to a desertion crisis in its military. Lolita C. Baldur of the Associated Press writes a story headlined, “Army Desertion Rate Up 80% Since ’03.” [She states]:

“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% 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% jump since last year….Army desertion rates have fluctuated since the Vietnam War – when they peaked at 5%.”

According to this AP story, 9 in every 1,000 soldiers “went AWOL” in fiscal year ending September 30, 2007.  In the year ended September 30, 2006, nearly 7 per 1,000 were AWOL.  ……………………

When you click on a side-box video on MSNBC’s version of the AP Story, NBC’s Brian Williams tells us that “the number of desertions is way up since the 6 years we’ve been at war.”  Then Jim Miklaszewski tells us of a dramatic spike in the last two years that appears to be due to multiple combat tours in Iraq.  Miklaszewski  tells us that during the (you guessed it!) Vietnam War, deserters fled to Canada.  Likewise in this war, after 6 months in Iraq an Army PFC fled to Canada with his family… just like Mik’s generation did 40 years ago.  And of course they interview the other solider who fled to Canada, who is naturally against the war, and therefore is shown denouncing the war, stating that his reason for deserting was that it was a “bogus war”… no WMD… “no links to international terrorism”….  You’ve heard it all before.

This is all interesting. But are these rates that AP hypes in its article high or low relative to other periods in history? Relative to other wars, for instance. …rates of Army desertion in the years just prior to the Iraq war, [y]ears 2000, 2001, and 2002 (8.16, 9.5, 9.26 per thousand) show higher rates than we have had during the…Iraq war, with its multiple tours of duty.  

Why doesn’t AP correspondent Lolita C. Baldur discuss that? ………………………..  

The AP article also does a poor job of putting these desertion rates in historical context. …  

With about 15 minutes of internet research, even a non-journalist can put the Iraq War desertion rates in context.  What was the desertion rate during World War II?  

“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…” … 

That was “The Greatest Generation”!  So how great is today’s generation of soldiers who have a desertion rate of 1/10th  the rate of The Greatest? 

How do the desertion rates of today’s soldiers compare to the rates during the Vietnam War? …in 1966 the rate was 14.7 per 1,000; by 1970 the Army had a rate of 52.3 per 1,000. …  The Vietnam rates are all lower than the rate of the Greatest Generation.  The desertion rate for the Korean War was 22.5 per 1,000. …

There is nothing new about the AP story.  It’s very much in keeping with the mainstream media agenda.  Now that the war in Iraq has turned dramatically in our favor, they are desperately fighting to demoralize the public, discourage volunteers for an all-volunteer army, force a premature withdrawal, and thereby ensure a victory for both al Qaeda and Iran. ………………….

Alan Fraser is the father of a United States Marine. 

Go to for the complete article.