Posted by Wordsmith on 12 March, 2006 at 12:00 am. 3 comments already!


The USA Today headline blurb reads: “8,000 desert during Iraq War“. Now I’m not one to jump quick to shouting out “liberal media bias!”; but it most certainly is a misleading blurb. Not because it is saying something untruthful. 8,000 have indeed deserted. That is fact. But what if I am someone who doesn’t really pay close attention to the news? Someone who likes news in 30 second tv soundbytes? Sure that’s my problem, but it’s also the responsibility of newspapers not to mislead, in my opinion.

How many USA Today “readers” and subscribers, do you suppose, saw the headline, and just skimmed over it, not really bothering to read the article? I can tell you that I skim by tons of news articles that don’t really interest me; with my one source of judgment of whether to read or not to read, being the headline blurb. (Sometimes it’s a matter of economizing my time, and not just that I am flat-out uninterested in a topic matter). All those headline blurb-readers who did not read the article are probably now floating around out there thinking, “our soldiers hate it so much over there…they so disagree with the war in Iraq and this Administration, that they are deserting in droves.” Perhaps a conversation touching upon the war makes that person recall seeing the article headline, and he now perpetuates this false impression- that the desertion rate is unparalleled, since the war began. I mean, if it wasn’t, why then would USA Today report it?

I understand blurbs are supposed to be eye-catching, and that they are often created by someone in the newsroom, other than the one who did the article report. But they should also not leave a casual glancer with false impressions.

The following headline could also be eye-catching: “Desertion rate drops, since the Iraq War”. Such a headline would also pique my curiousity enough to stop and read, as much as the actual headline might do. Now that I have your attention, here’s the substance of the article itself:

At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Gets even more interesting….

Some lawyers who represent deserters say the war in Iraq is driving more soldiers to question their service

The only problem here, is the fact that desertion has dropped since 9/11. During Vietnam in ’71, Army deserters numbered at 33,094. That’s 3.4% of the Army. Contrast this to 2005, when desertions amounted to 0.24% of U.S. armed forces.

Opposition to the war prompts a small fraction of desertions, says Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins. “People always desert, and most do it because they don’t adapt well to the military,” she says. The vast majority of desertions happen inside the USA, Robbins says. There is only one known case of desertion in Iraq.

I think those who serve in today’s military have so much to be proud of. They are not only serving to protect this country in an important global conflict in a new kind of war; but they are also taking part in the shaping and writing of history. The hard work they do today- the blood, sweat, and tears- will benefit Americans, Iraqis, and world civilization for generations to come. May we never let a moment go by that we don’t thank a uniformed soldier; may we always honor the sacrifices of the military enlisted, and that of military families. God bless.

Hat tip to The NJ Blog by way of Miriam’s Ideas.

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