Bloodiest wars were waged by drafted armies

Talk about dM-ijM-' vu. Gregory D. Foster's column "The case for a draft" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 13) made me feel like I had fallen through a time warp and landed back in the mid-1960s.

The notion that a military draft would serve as a check on the political and military leadership's propensity to get us into inappropriate foreign misadventures was a stock argument of the advocates of conscription back then.

Even the fact that our increasing entanglement in the Vietnam quagmire was giving the lie to that argument didn't seem to make a dent in their enthusiasm for involuntary service.

Mr. Foster seems to believe we stumbled into Iraq because the elites in the political and media establishments for the most part did not serve in the military and do not have children who are serving.

But this was pretty much true back in the '60s, when we had a draft, and the draft certainly did not keep us out of Vietnam.

Mr. Foster's answer to that problem is to make the draft "fair." But a "fair" draft is no more achievable than a "fair" death penalty.

What Mr. Foster and other advocates of conscription usually mean by "fair" is universal service - draft everybody, with no exceptions.

But this makes no allowance for cases in which compulsory service would impose genuine hardship, and this would be even worse than "unfair."

The most horrible wars of the last two centuries were fought largely with conscript armies, with combat deaths on all sides totaling in the millions. By contrast, those fought with volunteer forces have tended to result in relatively light casualties.

While any death on the battlefield is to be deplored, it should be pointed out that the total number of American deaths in Iraq after nearly two years of our involvement there is a little more than 1,000.

Compare this with the nearly 20 times that number of British soldiers who died on the first day of World War I's Battle of the Somme.

Phil Manger


Draft would prompt more careful debate

Kudos to Gregory D. Foster for his column "The case for a draft" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 13). While I find the draft repugnant, it seems to be the only way to get the citizens of this country to consider the consequences of its actions.

As it stands, the United States is able to fight a war in which few of us anticipate making a personal sacrifice.

While my respect and admiration for the men and women who constantly put their lives on the line for the orders they are given will never wane, I wish for a country where those orders are given more than a detached consideration by its population.

Blood shed for a cause is precious. This country needs a mechanism to help determine if the cause is worth the enormous cost.

A draft for which my president's daughters are just as eligible as my children seems to be the only way to ensure that the population of this great country carefully debates the course it takes.

Cameron Huey


Put Iraq casualties in holiday lights, too

If it's OK for the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, Cuba, to put the number 75 in its holiday display to remind the world of the number of dissidents in Cuban jails ("Cuba puts swastikas on anti-U.S. display," Dec. 18), then it should be equally OK for the Bush White House to prominently display the number 12,000 in its holiday display - to remind the world of the number of Americas wounded or killed in its ill-planned and unnecessary war in Iraq.

Herman M. Heyn


Accused abuser unfairly destroyed

I must write to protest the news coverage of the alleged sexual abuse of two sisters in 1977 and 1979 by a man who was a teacher at the time ("Principal denies claims he abused pupils in '70s," Dec. 16).

Of course I have no sympathy for abusers of children. But I do think there should be more evidence than "recovered memories" before a man's life is ruined.

The accusations may or may not be true, and that is a matter that needs to be investigated thoroughly. But Kevin M. Lindsey seems already to have been found guilty.

He was forcibly removed from his home in handcuffs, refused admission to his school and had his name published in The Sun.

The alleged victims' names are not revealed, but the alleged abuser's reputation has been destroyed.

This is totally unfair.

Peg McAllen


D.C. Council sends the right message

Congratulations and kudos to council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp and the Washington City Council for refusing to fully fund a stadium for Major League Baseball in Washington ("D.C. team is ordered to shut down," Dec. 16).

By rejecting the giveaway of a publicly funded stadium to baseball owners for their personal profit, Washington may have fired the first shot in a revolution that will eventually return sanity to professional sports.

If other cities hold the line and refuse to give the owners a free ride, baseball may find that it needs to restructure its financial model into one in which it must pay for its own facilities and be responsive to fans' needs.

Let's hope every other municipality considering public financing of a stadium for private use follows Washington's example and sends the owners of sports teams this simple message: "If you want to make money off of our citizens, you will have to contribute to our community."

Mac Nachlas


Council's dithering will hurt the capital

After looking south to Washington, it feels good to be a Baltimorean ("Tuesday may be bottom of 9th for baseball in D.C.," Dec. 17). We don't make deals and renege on them.

Baseball was a foregone conclusion there only a month ago - until the D.C. Council got involved.

Political posturing and deal-breaking are the two sports that Washington has now showcased to the nation.

What this tells business leaders is: "Bring your business to Washington, the land of the bait-and-switch."

Ray O'Brocki


Thankful for vets who help our pets

Kevin Cowherd's column "Sudden trip to vet leaves dog owner all choked up" (Dec. 16) was a slap in the face to animal lovers.

We recently lost our wonderful 15-year-old Lab.

We would have paid anything, gladly, to have restored her to her old self. Unfortunately, that couldn't be done.

But thank heavens for the veterinarians who help the people who can't tell them what's wrong with their pets.

Jayne Barko Jim Barko Baldwin

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