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Is Chicago More Dangerous Than A 'War Zone?' Not Even Close

By  Alex Nitkin and Tanveer Ali | September 22, 2016 2:54pm | Updated on October 9, 2016 9:25pm

 A U.S. Army captain trains local soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2008.
A U.S. Army captain trains local soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2008.
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Flickr/U.S. Army

CHICAGO — Talking about Chicago's gun violence on "Fox & Friends" Thursday morning, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump indulged in a common, but misleading, political talking point.

"When you hear about...so many people in Chicago dying, it's worse than some of the places we're hearing about like Afghanistan," Trump told host Steve Doocy over the phone. "You know, the war-torn nations — it's more dangerous."

The term "war zone" has become a fashionable way for observers around the world and across the political spectrum to describe the city, which so far this year has seen more murders than New York and Los Angeles combined.

But taken at face value, the "war-torn nations" Trump referenced see violence on a scale incomparable to any pocket of the United States.

Afghanistan, in particular, saw 6,637 military deaths and 3,545 violent civilian deaths in 2015, for an overall homicide rate of 33.3 per 100,000 people, according to data published by the U.S. military. That's not including deaths inside Taliban-controlled territory, which are harder to track.

Chicago, meanwhile, recorded a homicide rate of 18.1 per 100,000 people in 2015. Even when accounting for the city's 50 percent spike in murders this year, Afghanistan sits in its own category.

If you count U.S. military deaths during the 13-year war in Afghanistan, the difference is even more dramatic. Between 2001 and 2014, the death rate for U.S. military personnel in the country ranged between 250 and 600 soldiers per 100,000, according to data compiled from the Pentagon and an Associated Press report.

It's true that Chicago's murder rate far surpasses the U.S. national average, which sat at 4.5 per 100,000 people in 2014, according to FBI statistics.

But to measure the city up against literal battlegrounds, as rappers and filmmakers have done by popularizing the term "Chiraq," distorts the danger of literal war zones.

The database Iraq Body Count pegs that country's 2015 homicide rate around 52 per 100,000 people, nearly three times that of Chicago.

And in Syria, whose ongoing civil war has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the 2015 homicide soared to 241 deaths per 100,000.

Rates of violent crime on certain parts of Chicago's South and West Side, if they were isolated, might stack up against the danger found in countries like Afghanistan or Iraq. But to cast the whole city as less livable than "the war-torn nations," as Trump did, misses the mark by a mile.

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