Monday, April 28, 2008

Veteran Suicides - When Will They Learn? Updated!

“More than 120 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq commit suicide every week,” according to veterans advocates, began a San Francisco Chronicle front-page story: VA stalls on care while 18 veterans a day commit suicide, judge is told, by Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.

The San Francisco Chronicle is trying to be as incompetent reporting veteran issues as CBS News and Perky Katie Couric.

Veteran suicides are terrible. The journalism in reporting them is even worse. The rate of 18 veterans a day committing suicide is for all veterans, not just veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For comparison purposes, the acknowledged VA veteran suicide rate is 19 per 100,000 per year, which is about the same or lower than the suicide rates for both sexes in entire countries: Japan, Belgium, Finland, Cuba, France, Austria, Korea, and Switzerland. In a US male veteran to all males comparison, which is the closest I could get to “apples to apples,” the entire male populations of over forty nations have higher or similar suicide rates than our veterans, including all American males.

Our active duty military suicide rate is 11 per 100,000 per year, about half our civilian rate for same-age males. From an analysis of suicide statistics, it actually shows it is safer from a suicide perspective to be a veteran or serving on active duty.

True, but you’ll never see that in a Chronicle headline on the front page.


The Chronicle finally buried a correction to the error on April 25, saying that their article "mischaracterized" the report. It reminded me of Hillary saying she "misspoke" about ducking sniper fire in Bosnia. Apparently the new way the Left avoids admitting a lie is to use the mis- prefix.

This is the Chronicle correction:
-- An article on Tuesday about the trial of a lawsuit by veterans' groups over health treatment mischaracterized a government report that 18 veterans a day commit suicide. The report referred to veterans of all wars, not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lest we forget, the original Chronicle article ran a direct quote: “More than 120 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq commit suicide every week,” by Gordon Erspamer, the lawyer for the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit against the Veterans Administration. Does that sound like someone mischaracterized a government report?

It sounds to me like a lawyer lying through his teeth, not only to a mere reporter for a Left-wing newspaper, but to the judge trying the case.

To confirm his lie, he later gave an interview to one of my favorite columnists for the Chronicle, C. W. Nevius, and amplified the lie he told the judge. This is what CW reported from his interview of Mr. Erspamer:

"If you add up the veterans' suicides among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and compare it to the total combat deaths, the veteran suicides are higher," says Erspamer, who introduced a VA e-mail at the trial that showed an average of 18 vets a day are committing suicide. "The VA doesn't want that out."

CW noted that Mr. Erspamer is not being paid for this (it looks like you get what you pay for), and is doing it as a personal crusade. That explains his total lack of objectivity, I suppose.

This ran in CW's column the day before the correction, and a day after I had urgently emailed the Chronicle letters editor and Readers Representative about Mr. Erspamer's lie. It is hard for me to believe that highly paid and experienced journalism professionals would have given an OK to CW's article while they had information in hand that led to issuing their misleading correction the following day (there's that mis- word again).

It's the old story of the journalism of the Left: Tell the lies with headlines, bury the truth.

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