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Letters to the Editor for Thursday, July 19, 2007

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)

Who will enforce OPSEC?

How much closer to violating operational security is Stars and Stripes willing to go to publish stories (“Secret aircraft gets new life targeting IEDs in Iraq,” Mideast edition, June 13; “Three soldiers hurt as mortar, rocket rounds hit Camp Echo,” July 4)? Have we lost the realization that anti-Iraqi forces can read/speak English and can easily get their hands on Stars and Stripes as they float freely through forward operating bases? Publishing that three soldiers were wounded and that 25 out of the 75 rounds landed inside the base is deplorable.

If we are to win this war, there are certain details that should be omitted from newspaper stories. Publishing that indirect fire rounds had impacted Forward Operating Base Echo is perfectly understandable, but to include details on how many rounds hit the base and especially the details of wounded is an extreme OPSEC violation. The first action of OPSEC is to identify critical information (protecting vital information). This leads to analysis of threats, analysis of vulnerabilities, assessment of risk and then the application of appropriate OPSEC measures.

I have begun to wonder whether these steps are being analyzed before “military officials” release information to the press.

First Lt. Michael D. Mosca
Camp Victory, Iraq

Troops source of positive news

This is in response to the July 6 ombudsman column “Taking care that articles don’t aid enemy’s efforts”: It is important that all those in the service understand what is in the public view. It is also important that every soldier, sailor and airman pay attention to source attributions (bylines). If the article is released by a news agency, Stars and Stripes should feel free to publish it. Perhaps an editor’s note would be useful to highlight the source. Knowing what has been published will tell you some of what the enemy knows.

While U.S. military members have taken well-deserved pride in keeping their politics separate from their duties, today’s civilian media follow no such guidelines. Regardless of reasons or propriety, direct communications with soldiers paint a very different picture. The words we receive direct from the “front,” tell us about the positive side of the war, and how much progress is being made.

The totality of the preceding amounts to understanding the information environment. In the information age, a small force can defeat a large one, if the large one loses faith. The U.S. military cannot be beaten by force. It takes constant propaganda. U.S. forces begin with the people at home.

Everyone in the military is gainfully employed and, thus, must have some positive news to relay. Servicemembers should identify the positive acts they have done daily, and relay them to their families at home. They should endeavor to do something they can report every day. It can be as small as learning a new word in the native language. This exercise will bolster those who support the servicemembers, bring to light the error of those who would hold them back, and hasten the day that combat operations cease. Positive letters home will be much more effective than content complaints to this editor.

Sgt. Bill Scherr (retired)
Herndon, Va.

A challenge for Stripes’ staff

After 16 months in Iraq, I assume my knowledge of this country will improve once I am back in the USA. I guess that one has to return to the States in order to really know what’s happening in Iraq. Buying syndicated stories from The Associated Press, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, etc., that offer political grandstanding rather than objective news and thoughtful analysis does us wrong. The Stars and Stripes reporters would better serve us by interviewing us daily as we come inside the wire at our combat outposts and camps. The paper would then get factual, real-time reportage and analysis from those who are actually out there patrolling, making contact and defeating the enemy.

Why did Stripes decide to print (in the same edition) July Fourth highlights and the placement of a pentacle in Arlington National Cemetery? Why is a Masonic-derived quasi-religion created by a British bureaucrat in the 1950s even newsworthy? However, the newspaper sent a staff reporter to file a lengthy story (“Wiccans dedicate grave at Arlington,” July 5). That story was as pathetic as your steady pablum on being “gay in the military,” wasting print space to rationalize a behavior practiced by 2 percent of Americans.

Do you really think that a story of the occult getting the right to put its symbol at Arlington, or those who fail to grasp basic sexual anatomy, is any more newsworthy than the battles in Diyala or Salahuddin provinces, or the incredible calm in Anbar province? Where is the real news? It’s not in your lengthy comics and sports sections.

I challenge Stripes to live up to Pulitzer Prize-winning Ernie Pyle’s standard, who informed and inspired the servicemembers who fought in the war zone as he did the civilians back home.

Maj. Erik C. Rivers
Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq

Too many illegal immigrants

I hit the White House Web site in order to comment on the illegal alien issue, and imagine my surprise and dismay to see an “En Espanol” link. America is for Americans and legal immigrants who speak English — not for the illegals who don’t.

Also, it is ridiculous that the primary measure proposed to keep illegals out is to increase border security. The primary tactic should be to monitor and heavily fine businesses that employ illegals, and landlords who rent to them. I just saw in the news that an entire town on the border admits that most of its residents are illegals. Where is Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

Most important, America is already crowded with 300 million residents. The illegals come to this country, produce too many children who, since being born on U.S. soil are citizens, which is increasing the population when we should be working to keep the population at or under 300 million. Children born in the U.S. where both parents are illegal aliens should not be granted citizenship status. It’s estimated the U.S. population will soon balloon to 400 million, with the 100 million increase being progeny of illegal aliens speaking Spanish. This I find simply unacceptable.

I have never been so disillusioned with any presidential administration as with this one. If we as a nation survive and recover from this Bush administration, it will be a miracle. I won’t even get into the bungling of the Iraq war, the misguided “drill for more oil” energy policies — which either directly or indirectly fund the very terrorists this administration purports to defeat — the tax cuts that favor the already-too-rich elite … but they are other reasons for my strong disapproval.

Matthew J. Brandstetter
Stuttgart, Germany

Other theories of origin

In a letter to the editor questioning the American Civil Liberties Union and the teaching of evolution in classrooms (“Would ACLU defend teacher?” July 11), the writer states that “the opposite view of evolution is creationism as contained in the Bible.” I imagine this would come as quite a surprise to the approximately 6 billion people on Earth who are not Christian and therefore do not believe the biblical creation myth.

Master Sgt. James King
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Pacific edition

The defense should rest

I figured it was only a matter of time before someone came rushing to the defense of the writer of the June 15 letter “Pagans don’t belong in chapel." Not trying to pour salt in old (or new) wounds, but here’s some interesting facts that the writer of the July 11 letter “Everyone has a bias” overlooked:

The original letter was in regard to a chapel that pagans were using in Japan because they had nowhere else to worship, which is what I thought a military chapel was for. The letter writer was furious that she might have to go to the same chapel used by pagans on different days. Kind of does sound a little “narrow-minded” or “discriminatory” to me.

I seriously doubt people of all backgrounds (yes, even to include those evil Christians who pagans so hate, according to some) who had an issue with said letter were showing their “anti-Christian” sides.

Last time I checked, we didn’t base right and wrong on a book written 2,000 years ago by a group of old men in our Constitution (except, of course, for the old men who wrote the Constitution to separate church and state for exactly the reason that they didn’t want a government run by religion), but rather on combined moral beliefs and common principles almost any faith would embrace. (If this was true, we’d have more people in jail then free for practicing premarital sex, or some other outrageous ideology.)

How does caring if a pagan or any other person uses a military chapel have anything to do with “watching the people for whom we care suffer needlessly”? The writer of “Everyone has a bias” has figured out there are “zealots” in every religion, but he should do his best to actually check the things he is trying to defend.

Yep, got me. I’m biased against people who speak without thinking first. I’ll do my best to open my mind before it happens again.

Sgt. Noah Cormany
Camp Red Cloud, South Korea

Bush is in a difficult spot

I witnessed last week’s news conference with President Bush. He went out of his way to explain that he was “not making excuses” for the situation in Iraq. When any politician carefully explains he is “not making excuses,” you can be quite certain he is.

You know, at some point, you have to feel sorry for the man. I’m sure he means well. But he finds himself in a position where all he can really control is his own spin.

Whenever he has to ask for more money for Iraq, he cannot say, “I need more money for the war.” The war is unpopular. So instead he has to say, “I need more money for the troops.” We troops are always quite popular. He can’t say, “Give me a chance.” He is unpopular. So he has to say, “Give Gen. [David] Petraeus a chance.” From Douglas MacArthur, to Dwight D. Eisenhower, to H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, our generals have always been more popular than our presidents.

And most of all, our president can’t say, “The Iraqis must succeed.” That’s because precious few Americans believe the Iraqis are capable of succeeding. Instead, our president is forced to say, “America must succeed.” You can make the argument that by removing Saddam Hussein, America has already succeeded to the extent it can, and that for some time now, it’s been up to the Iraqis to succeed, if they can.

Yes, few things are quite as sad as seeing a man being forced to assume responsibility for the course of events that are beyond his control. But that’s where our president finds himself.

Sgt. Al Fecteau
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Troops bear bulk of war effort

The report on the mixed progress in Iraq is a stark reminder of the sacrifices that our military’s courageous men and women are giving in support of our country. Unfortunately, a sad truth that no one in our government will admit is that these lives are wasted in a large part to the failed policies of the neoconservatives who have orchestrated this war. Although I do not consider myself a liberal Democrat, I do agree with Cindy Sheehan and her stance on getting our troops home as soon as possible.

Don’t misunderstand me — those serving in the military are without a doubt heroes in every sense of the word. The ironic thing about the human toll being expended is that the military and their families are the only group sacrificing anything in support of this war. Nowhere else do I see anyone giving in support of the troops. Likewise, the only government agency that is fighting this war is the Department of Defense; the rest of our government is operating in a peacetime mode.

I see it every day when I read about the problems that our returning veterans face when they try to obtain much-needed health care for myriad medical issues that are, in many cases, life-threatening. It’s time to stop giving lip service with “Support our Troops” bumper stickers and start giving more substantial, material sacrifices to show our support.

If our country is unable or unwilling to do so, then our troops should be brought home from Iraq before the end of the year.

Chief Petty Officer Bernard Burawski (retired)
Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Marines: Issue weapons wisely

This is in response to the article on plans for the Marine Corps to issue M-4 rifles to Marines to replace M-9 pistols (“Marines, sailors get firepower boost,” June 30). The possible decision to allocate M-4 rifles to Marines and sailors who currently carry the M-9 service pistol needs to be carefully thought out.

Marines who currently reside at Camp Fallujah, Camp Taqaddum and Al Asad Air Base and spend their time on staffs and not going outside the wire do not need M-4 rifles. These weapons should be sent to squad leaders, platoon commanders and other company-level personnel who will benefit from having a smaller weapon system. Lead gunners who need to fire 5.56 mm rounds during escalation of force incidents need them as well.

Members of a general’s staff do not need the rifles to effectively carry out their assigned tasks. Microsoft Outlook, Blue Force Tracker and other computer systems are their tactical-operations weapons. They need bigger bandwidth, not a compact carbine; if anything these individuals need not carry weapons at all since the enemy is not inclined to assault our fortified camps and bases. Besides, why are all the private security forces here if not to protect us from threats trying to enter the post exchange or chow hall? We need to ensure Marines and sailors outside the wire get the first crack at receiving these weapons, not the ones living the sweet life behind Hesco and concrete.

1st Lt. Brandon Davis
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

Happiness and military service

Aristotle termed happiness as the “highest good,” and I can only imagine that when the main drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, included the word “happiness” (“in pursuit of happiness”), he was referring to the highest good. It is unfortunate that most people have always equated it with material gain. Happiness is not an exercise of self-indulgence. The paradox is lack of money causes unhappiness, yet money can’t buy it.

Let’s understand what the Declaration of Independence’s “in pursuit of happiness” really means, for then we might understand why we serve. Happiness is what we do with other people. Our source of happiness is what we do for the benefit of others. Others could be your family, the men or women (battle buddies) to your left or right, for the society, for your country and above all for humanity.

President Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for, but what you can do for your country.” So with that, I urge all servicemembers who may sometimes question themselves as to why we serve, or why we are at war: To be or not to be, the answer is in the Declaration of Independence: “in pursuit of happiness.”

Sgt. John Ochieng Okumu
Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq


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