Letters to the Editor for Monday, November 3, 2008

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2008

European and Mideast editions

(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)

Protests aren’t just Korean

Initially, I was pleased to see the cover of the Oct. 29 Stars and Stripes, with its major headline "Passion for PROTEST." Protest, and the place it has in a democracy, even had a two-page spread on the inside, with multiple protesters profiled.

But what I was sad to see is that this enormous piece was entirely about South Korean protests. What about American protests? When a major American protest happens, even when soldiers and veterans are involved, we definitely don’t hear about it in Stars and Stripes. We don’t even really hear about the veteran protesters, such as Sgt. Nick Morgan, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who suffered a cheekbone broken in three places from being trampled by a police horse recently at Hofstra University (mentioned in the Army Times, but not our daily paper). Why aren’t these protester-veterans profiled in a two-page spread, instead of three South Koreans?

We hear the reason South Koreans are protesting is that their democracy is struggling. Is our democracy still struggling? Is that why we have hundreds of thousands of people in the streets protesting various items at home?

Those of us who are overseas and find it difficult to get information about home tend to rely on Stripes for coverage. I find it a real shame that we can get coverage about dissent in South Korea, but dissent at home is judged too dangerous to be permitted to soldiers. That’s not the freedom of speech and press I raised my right hand to defend.

Sgt. Selena Coppa
Wiesbaden, Germany

Point behind letter

The respondents to "Get rid of ‘anti-military’ strip" (letter, Oct. 23) need to go back and reread that letter. It was not about politics or freedom of the press, it was a customer of Stars and Stripes complaining about the product she paid for. If you read cartoons, you’d rather pay for cartoons you like — and you do pay for those cartoons every time you buy Stripes.

Like other newspapers, Stripes is not a venue for "apoliticism" and it’s not a "neutral instrument of the state." Stripes is not published to exemplify the "grit" to print anti-military controversy or to counter what you think you’d be "allowed to read or listen to" otherwise. It’s published to sell, and we buy and read it.

The respondents need only look at their own criticizing to learn a lesson about freedom of speech.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Collins
Stuttgart, Germany

Strip’s issues nothing new

Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’ve faithfully read "Doonesbury" since I was 12 years old and, while I vehemently disapprove of Garry Trudeau’s blatant theft of Hunter S. Thompson’s personality in creating the character of "Uncle Duke," I appreciate his deft humor and tackling of what some would consider "sensitive" issues.

These issues Trudeau has addressed for more than 30 years are not modern — they’ve existed since we’ve swung from the treetops and clubbed each over the head for food. Political graft, Wall Street, homosexuality, the horrors of warfare, rabid sports junkies, modern journalism, divorce, environmental issues, alcoholism, internecine family squabbling and the complexity of human relations have all been handled by Trudeau with wry humor and wit.

To say "Doonesbury" is an affront to the military or anti-government is missing the point, but instead of insisting the strip be banned and Trudeau trotted out to the public square and brutally horsewhipped, those advocating it be yanked from Stars and Stripes should simply refrain from reading it. With a little practice and discipline I’m sure even the most fervent "Doonesbury" hater will find life far easier.

Censorship has never worked in the long run, is un-American, and places us on par with any government with a history of subjugating its masses for fear its political establishment will someday be ousted by the real power-that-be: the people.

Along with "Doonesbury," I tend to read history; I find one can learn a lot from its study — but maybe I’m weird.

Tech. Sgt. Ray Bowden
Incirlik Air Base, Turkey

The right to criticize

In response to all these slam-dunk letters regarding (legitimate) criticism of "Doonesbury," it is apparent some servicemen wrongly equate freedom of the press with freedom from criticism. The "don’t-like-it,-don’t-read-it" argument fails to persuade because Stars and Stripes is for some readers the only option available for print news.

Regardless, Stripes readers have every right to criticize the inclusion of content that is (at least arguably, in this case) contrary to our shared values or wrongly portrays our leadership. Stripes editors would not be doing their job if they disregarded the opinions of their readership in selecting content, nor would they be "censoring" the nationally syndicated "Doonesbury" if they decided to run a different strip.

If the idea of replacing "Doonesbury" based on substantial reader feedback sends you into high dudgeon, ask yourself: What if Stripes ran a daily column by Osama bin Laden, or [anti-homosexual pastor] Fred Phelps, and many readers objected? Stripes has the freedom to publish those opinions, too, but chooses not to. Would you rush as quickly to their defense, and if not, why? Could it be due to the fact that if anyone really wanted to read them, they are (like "Doonesbury") easy to find somewhere else? (I hope it’s obvious I’m not trying to equate "Doonesbury" with sworn enemies of the U.S. military.)

To turn the argument around, try these: (1) If enough Stripes readers write in, thereby convincing the editors to replace "Doonesbury," you’re free to "change the channel" yourself and go read it elsewhere; or, since (1) is rather improbable, try: (2) If reading criticism of "Doonesbury" makes you so angry, don’t read letters to the editor.

Lt. Cmdr. John McFadden
Camp Ramadi, Iraq

Justification not consistent

Since the Army and Air Force Exchange Service changed its gas pricing policy by basing prices at AAFES pumps on the average gas prices in the States, every time U.S. gas prices rose, AAFES raised pump prices every Saturday in Japan and Okinawa. When the price for gas was going up in the States, AAFES officials never mentioned that their pricing was based on the average procurement costs of the gasoline, locally. That is because they were making a killing at the expense of active-duty and retired military members and Department of Defense civilians. Regardless of its local cost of procurement, AAFES prices rose every time prices in the States went up.

Now that gas prices in the States have gone down considerably, AAFES officials are claiming that their procurement costs from Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) are higher and that they cannot afford to sell gas at a loss. The problem with AAFES’ policy is that, when gas prices go up in the States, AAFES raises its prices at the pump without regard to how much the cost of procurement is. That is, AAFES raises its prices even if its cost of procurement does not change.

However, now that the cost of procurement from DESC is higher and will not change for a certain period of time, AAFES officials claim they cannot lower their prices at the pump. In other words, when prices are rising, AAFES is allowed to make huge profits but, when the prices are going down, they do not want to incur any losses — so officials cite procurement costs as the basis for not being able to lower their prices. It is like in a coin toss: If it is heads, AAFES wins. If it is tails, AAFES wins. Where is the fairness in that?

Rey Javier
Camp Zama, Japan

Pacific edition

Media partisan, hypocritical

In "Can DC Comics do right by Supergirl?" (Captain Comics, Oct. 24) Andrew A. Smith complains that the latest issue of "Supergirl" [denigrated] journalism by depicting an unflattering "gossip" column that vilifies Supergirl on the front page of the Daily Planet newspaper.

Smith moans how this view is unfair and [although] the press is one of the "least trusted institutions in America," they, in fact, "do not write slanted stories" and "our entire foundation is objectivity."

Only fools or children trust the media. Mainstream American media have proven to be partisan, hypocritical, elitist, leftist and anti-American. The mainstream press defined yellow journalism by throwing integrity and objectivity to the wind and pursuing its pro-Obama agenda. They may still have a fig leaf of independence and objectivity, but most of them are openly campaigning for Barack Obama.

Gov. Sarah Palin was ignored in the vetting process during the run-up to McCain’s picking his running mate. [When] her nomination was announced, and the media realized she had confounded their predictions and was wildly popular among middle-class voters, they mobilized to eviscerate her reputation through character assassination and outrageous innuendo, all thinly disguised as "objective reporting." These attacks culminated in a New York Times front-page story trumpeting that she may have received $150,000 worth of clothes from the Republican National Committee for campaign purposes, which, even if true, wouldn’t be illegal. So, to the waif who says "We do not write hit pieces and put them on A-1," what was an unfounded allegation about Palin’s clothes doing on the front page?

All a free press has to recommend it is credibility, objectivity and integrity. Once the industry has forfeited that, it has lost the trust of its readership and the citizens it is supposed to speak for. Perhaps this explains why the Times’ credit rating was downgraded to "junk" status.

Sgt. Peter Cook
Forward Operating Base Falcon, Iraq

Hypocrisy of a protest

Fox News released a 7-year-old radio interview in which Barack Obama laments the Supreme Court’s failure to rule on wealth redistribution in its civil rights decisions.

According to a well-known commentator, the candidate [in the same interview] also describes the Constitution as flawed and produced by men who were blind to the ideas of true liberty. Translation: Government needs more influence over its people to ensure everybody gets a fair piece of the pie. In the latter part of the 20th century, we called this socialism with a hint of communism. We fought a world war and a Cold War to keep both out of the West.

My point here is not to emphasize Obama’s risky leftist leanings. I’m more interested in an Obama spokesman taking Fox to task for its revelation. Accusing the network of Republican bias, Bill Burton claimed Fox used the issue to benefit John McCain. Imagine this, an Obama surrogate crying about media bias! The hypocrisy here is so deep I’m getting the bends trying to swim over it.

Every other major network whose call letters aren’t F-O-X is cuddling, nurturing, beknighting, crowning and giving high-fives to the Chosen One … his Obamaness. It’s impossible that Burton is blind to such favor. I think, rather, he’s continuing a campaign-long Democratic strategy of verbally dressing down anyone who questions anything the candidate says, does or intimates. In this case, a network releases recordings of the candidate’s own words and the Obama staffer accuses it of generating "fake news."

This is loud-mouthed, bullying politics at its finest and is a recurring symptom of this year’s election. Unfortunately, such tactics are effective in today’s anti-intellectual, wired-in (but tuned out) culture — and the strategy may just net this nation of Lincoln, Jefferson and Reagan its first far-left president. I pray it doesn’t.

Chief Master Sgt. Jesse W. Hall III
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Pot calling the kettle black

Although I was not surprised by "An election without oversight?" (letter, Oct. 30) from the RAF Molesworth, England, reader, I was amused by the presumably Republican writer, who suggested that the Democratic Party is "pulling out all the stops, legitimate or not." Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

When it comes to fraud and dirty tricks, election type and otherwise, [the Republicans’ Donald] Segrettis and [Karl] Roves have a firm grip on that monopoly. And then there’s cop harassment on Election Day, roadblocks into and out of preferred neighborhoods, proof of nationality at the polls, or any latter-day Jim Crowism that this gang manages to [employ].

Concerning elitism, even Third World countries strive for competence in their leadership. This apparent Republican aversion to intellectualism (or even adequate faculties) is, however, a damning indictment.

Equally not surprising is the reader’s objection to news coverage by mainstream media that is not slanted toward or does not embellish the goods of Sen. John McCain and the one who can see Russia. That is a service that the goose-steppers at Fox News can provide.

Eric A. Emmer-Ross
Heidelberg, Germany

Spending is out of control

A change for the better is happening before our own eyes. Well, at least it may appear that way initially.

In a recent Stars and Stripes article, Tarmiyah, Iraq, was recognized as requesting funding from the Iraqi government as opposed to the United States ("Sunni city turns to Iraqi government — not U.S. — to fund reconstruction," Oct. 25). So you may ask why I feel this may turn sour.

If you look at the record, the U.S. government hasn’t been too thrifty when it comes to taxpayers’ dollars. According to whitehouse.gov, $491 million was added for improving schools, $95 billion in financial aid and $1 billion for Reading First. We will be spending a total of $2 billion on "commitment to an international clean energy technology fund." If you visit expectmore.gov most of the current programs show "Results Not Demonstrated." Pretty convenient, isn’t it?

We have $70 billion going toward "emergency allowance to support activities related to the Global War on Terror that help achieve the … goal of creating free, democratic, and self-governed ally nations in Iraq and Afghanistan."

We also have an additional $400 million "to support freedom in Iraq" and $1.1 billion to stabilize Afghanistan. As with the recent bailout plan, it seems Congress wants to believe that throwing money at any problem will make it go away.

As I go to and from work, I am constantly seeing brand-new, expensive SUVs and trucks. Come on, we are in the desert. Is there really a need for this? We should provide our high-ranking officers and noncommissioned officers dependable vehicles, but not $40,000-plus vehicles. Where does it end or will it?

I do know one thing: We as Americans cannot expect tax cuts when this wasteful spending continues. So, while the Iraqi government seems to be paying for more of the operations, I’m sure our government will find other ways to throw our money away.

Shon Hanna
Southwest Asia

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