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The South's War 

NY Times poll, ISS report confirm impact on region

Last week, a New York Times/CBS News poll on the war in Iraq confirmed the conclusions of a report by Durham's Institute for Southern Studies: in short, the South is feeling a larger impact from the war than the rest of the nation.

The mainstream media reported widely on the poll's revelation that a majority of Americans now advocate a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, whether the country has become a stable democracy or not. Left largely unreported, other than by the Times itself, were findings about the effects of the war on the nation's various regions, including the South.

Seems Southerners feel the war is impacting them more than most. "A majority of all respondents said the war in Iraq was having an impact on their communities ­-- 27 percent rated the impact as major and 37 percent as minor," the Times reported. "Those in the South were affected more than those in other regions: 34 percent said the impact was major and 31 percent said it was minor."

Those poll findings didn't come as a surprise to Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) in Durham (www.southernstudies.org). The ISS has reported for some time on the effects of the military and the war on people in the South. "Almost everybody in the South knows someone in the service, who works at a base, or is otherwise connected to the military," said Kromm, executive director of the institute. "That has a big impact on how Southerners view the military and foreign policy."

A recent report from ISS, Missiles and Magnolias: The South At War 2005, found that this region supplies a disproportionate share of the armed services' new recruits, with 35 to 40 percent of new enlistees coming from below the Mason-Dixon line. The report also showed that 38 percent of US troops who have died in Iraq were based in the South, as well as 47 percent of troops who have died in Afghanistan (based on Defense Department statistics).

In addition, the report says North Carolina is one of seven Southern states among the top 15 where military personnel were born, while four of the top five states stationing troops are in the South, including North Carolina.

"Politically and economically, the South remains the heart of our country's military," said Desiree Evans, co-author of the report and fellow at the institute. "The South stands the most to gain -- and the most to lose -- from the fortunes and misfortunes of war."

Ironically, despite the South's higher price tag for the war, Southern politicians continue to be some of the war's strongest supporters, with the notable exception of NC Congressman Walter Jones who has called for a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. According to non-profit group Peace Action, 58 percent of Southerners in the US House and Senate scored in the bottom one-fourth on the group's yearly scorecard of Congress members' votes on issues of war and peace.

More Numbers: Kids at War

• Number of 16-to-25-year-olds in the Pentagon's military recruitment database: 30 million

• Percent of schools receiving No Child Left Behind Act funding that must give personal student information to the military unless student opts out: 100

• Annual military recruitment budget: $3 billion

• Amount this represents per enlistee: $11,000

• Percent of enlistees that don't receive funding for college: 66

• Minimum number of years new enlistees must serve: 8

-- Institute for Southern Studies

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