Monday, April 12, 2004

Andy Rooney is a turd 

Andy Rooney has a recent column declaring that our soldiers in Iraq "aren't heroes." The column is a re-hashing of the old leftist arguments that a large proportion of the people in the military are there because they do not have other economic alternatives, and that military traditions such as the awarding of medals are fundamentally deceptive. Money quote:

We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours, but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. A relatively small number are professional soldiers. During the last few years, when millions of jobs disappeared, many young people, desperate for some income, enlisted in the Army. About 40 percent of our soldiers in Iraq enlisted in the National Guard or the Army Reserve to pick up some extra money and never thought they'd be called on to fight. They want to come home.

Of course, some of this is true, however demotivating it may be to express it so crassly. However, Rooney's partial truth, expressed without regard for other truths -- that there are many good and noble motivations for soldiering, even (or especially) in Iraq -- is debased. He is looking only at the dark and cynical, and denying other plausible and inspiring reasons to fight for the right things in Iraq. That's why I think Andy Rooney is a turd.

He is also disingenuous. He supports his argument with very misleading evidence:

One indication that not all soldiers in Iraq are happy warriors is the report recently released by the Army showing that 23 of them committed suicide there last year. This is a dismaying figure. If 22 young men and one woman killed themselves because they couldn't take it, think how many more are desperately unhappy but unwilling to die.

Of course, Rooney did not bother to look into suicide rates for the American population as a whole, which are quite obviously available on the National Institutes for Mental Health website. According to my back of the envelope calculation, the soldiers in Iraq are committing suicide at a rate no greater than typical for Americans of that age cohort and gender (men over 20 commit suicide at the more than 20 per 100,000 per year).

So Rooney is not only a turd (my term), but in the writing of this cramped and cynical column he practiced very shoddy journalism.


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