Nothing like a good old fashioned half-truth to get people riled up. Here's a different take on the subject of military desertion rates.
Military desertion rates down since 2001
By Pamela Hess
Washington, DC, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The number of annual military desertions is down to the lowest level since before 2001, according to the Pentagon.
The Army said the number of new deserters in 2004 -- 2,376 -- was just half the number of those who deserted prior to Sept. 11, 2001. That number was 4,597.
The numbers of deserters has dropped annually since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The fiscal year 2004 total number of Army deserters is the lowest since before 1998, according to Army data.
Cumulatively, more than 6,000 service members from all branches have deserted the military since fiscal year 2003, when the war with Iraq began. About 3,500 military service members have deserted their jobs in the last 14 months.
"On average the number of soldiers, for example, who are classified as deserters is less than 1 percent, and the vast majority have committed some criminal act," said Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Joe Richard. "It's (generally) not for political or conscientious objector purposes. Any insinuation that large numbers of military service members have deserted in opposition to the war in Iraq when in fact desertion numbers for the Army are down since 9/11 is incredibly disingenuous."
The CBS program "60 Minutes" on Dec. 8 reported on at least three deserters who fled to Canada because they did not want to fight in Iraq: Marine Pfc. Dan Felushko, Army soldiers Brandon Hughey, and Spc. Jeremy Hinzman. They will have to make their case to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board to be allowed to stay.
The Army convicted Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia in May on charges he abandoned his unit in the middle of the war in Iraq.
The Marine Corps charged Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun with desertion on Dec. 10. He went missing from his base in Fallujah in June and later turned up an apparent hostage of Iraqi insurgents. He eventually made it to Lebanon and was returned to the Marine Corps.
Calculating the number of Marines who have deserted is complicated, because the Marine Corps carries on its books those who have deserted in previous years, according to Richard. The Marines count 1,297 deserters in fiscal year 2004 and 1,236 in fiscal year 2003. Roughly 623 AWOL Marines were returned to Marine control in 2003.
The Army counts 2,520 deserters in fiscal year 1998; 2,966 in 1999; 3,949 in 2000; 4,597 in 2001; 4,483 in 2002; and 3,678 in 2003.
The Marines count 1,297 deserters in 2004; 1,236 in 2003; 1,136 in 2002; 1,603 in 2001; and 1,574 in 2000.
The Air Force had considerably lower numbers of deserters: four so far in fiscal year 2005; 50 in 2004; 56 in 2003; 88 in 2002; 62 in 2001; 46 in 2000 and 45 in 1999.
The Navy did not return its data at press time.