GYI0050788887.jpgAcross the political spectrum, you won’t find much support in America for reinstating the military draft.

As Republicans are well aware, neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama served in the military. On the other hand, neither did Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Bill Kristol, Sean Hannity, Clarence Thomas, Ralph Reed, Mitch McConnell, Saxby Chambliss or Karl Rove, George W. Bush, as has been well documented, barely served on a sweet deal that required little sacrifice.

No criticism is implied here. Not one of these people did anything remotely illegal. It is also easy to understand that even Americans who are most willing to commit our country’s troops to war might not be so avid to sacrifice their own children to that cause.

I, for one, strongly oppose any efforts to reinstate the draft by itself. I’m open to a required year or two of service for young Americans that includes a range of options — one of those options being the military but others including alternative forms of service from teaching to helping to improve the environment to working with the homeless or mentally ill.

But the unintended downside of not having the military draft that I and others oppose is that the burdens of fighting the wars our nation enters into fall disproportionately on some segments of our population. And, because our nation is so diverse, many people can manage to isolate themselves from the personal havoc that these wars cause for the people who volunteer to serve.

For that reason, I’ll share this report, distributed by  the Georgia Online News Service and originally from the excellent Web site, Facing South:

From Facing South:

Memorial Day was especially hard in places like Fort Hood in Texas, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Fort Campbell in Kentucky. That’s because these and other military base towns in the South have lost more soldiers than any other part of the country — accounting for nearly half of the U.S.-based troops killed in Iraq so far.

The new analysis by the nonprofit Institute for Southern Studies finds that base towns in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas have suffered the most. North Carolina and Texas have each lost over 500 troops in Iraq from local bases; Georgia and Kentucky have each lost more than 200.

“Iraq is really taking a toll on these Southern communities,” said Chris Kromm, author of the analysis and executive director of the Institute.

“Troops stationed in these towns become part of the community — and their deaths leave behind broken families and neighborhoods.”

Drawing on the latest Department of Defense statistics and data collected by icasualties.org, the Institute’s analysis shows how a concentration of military bases have caused Southern states to suffer disproportionate losses from the Iraq conflict:

* Half of U.S.-based troops killed in Iraq were stationed in the South: Even when one includes all U.S. troops — including the 9% stationed overseas — Southern bases have still accounted for 43% of those killed in the war.

* More than a third of those killed in Iraq have come from bases in just four Southern states: Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas.

* Of the 20 military bases that have lost the most troops in Iraq, eight are in the South: Fort Hood in Texas has lost more than any other base (479). Camp Lejeune, N.C. (294), Fort Campbell, Ky. (224), Fort Bragg, N.C. (190) and Fort Stewart, Ga. (171) are among the 10 bases in the world that have lost the most U.S. troops.

The issue will only become more salient as the South’s share of military bases continues to grow. In a 2002 study, the Institute found 56% of U.S. troops were stationed in the South. The South’s share has only increased since then: Another Institute report in 2005 found that, during the Pentagon’s latest round of base closings and realignment, Southern states actually gained 15,000 military personnel at over 50 bases.


This originally appeared in Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies: http://www.southernstudies.org.

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Keith Graham

Keith Graham

Keith Graham was among the recipients of the prestigious Stella Artois prize at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. Named for a blind piano player, he is also well known for always giving money to street accordion players. A quotation that he considers meaningful comes from the Irish writer Roddy Doyle: "The family trees of the poor don't grow to any height." In addition to contributing to Like the Dew, Keith frequently posts quotations and links and occasionally longer articles at http://tartantambourine.com/