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Letters to the Editor for Tuesday, April 18, 2006

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)

To servicemembers’ children

I want to take this opportunity to recognize the extraordinary contributions of our nation’s military families, who have faced many challenges — from family separations to frequent moves — with great courage. I would especially like to acknowledge a special source of inspiration: children of military families:

You are patient and understanding when duty calls and your mom or dad cannot attend a soccer game, music recital, birthday party, or other important family or school activity. You are heroes in a quiet, thoughtful way, and I am grateful for the unconditional love you give your mom and dad. Many of you have experienced the sad and sometimes frightening experience of having your mom or dad far from home, serving around the globe in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Through your personal courage and support, you serve this nation too — and I am proud of you!

Frequent moves are a way of life for the military child. It is never easy to say goodbye to friends and familiar routines, to begin again in a new school, a new neighborhood — and, sometimes, a new country! But your resilience and self-confidence are strengths that others, including your parents, admire.

Growing up in a military family offers some challenges, but it also provides some special rewards. You can be proud of your mom and dad for their brave defense of this great country. Your love and support sustains them. So thank you for being there for Mom and Dad. You are American patriots and role models for us all.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Washington

WWII vet an inspiration

The story about Joe McCarthy and his dedication to duty should be a sterling example to all of us to emulate (“Dedicated WWII vet bucking to keep Grafenwöhr VFW job,” article, European edition, April 9).

This man continues to serve our nation and our veterans, not for the almighty dollar, but out of a sense of mission to our great nation. Soldiers who are drawing these big bonuses for enlisting and re-enlisting should take a good look at this soldier showing us all what selfless service truly is.

For all that he has done and will do, I say a hearty “Well done, sir!”

Warrant Officer 1 Gerald Kuruc
Iraq

In support of “Boondocks”

As a longtime reader and fan of “Boondocks,” I read the criticism and calls for the comic strip’s removal from Stars and Stripes with dismay.

It seems many readers are hypersensitive to the racial issues explored in the strip. Some object to Aaron McGruder’s criticism launched at our leaders and the war in Iraq. Others are simply unaware of the context in which the characters were created. McGruder is an intelligent, incisive political satirist. The strip is obviously politically charged, and there is an argument to be made that maybe it doesn’t belong in the comic section of a “family newspaper” and might be better suited for the op-ed page. Nonetheless, there is a place for it.

The oft-cited “racist” moniker is misapplied. The characters are caricatures, representations of an array of personalities and viewpoints steeped in African-American experience, tradition and history. McGruder’s experience as an African-American informs his art. The mere mention of race — even if caustic — is not necessarily racist. We are not yet a nation free of racial and ethnic tension, and remaining tight-lipped won’t cure us. McGruder’s sometimes-scathing criticism is not narrowly aimed at whites, though. Rather, it is a shotgun blast. He pokes fun at various aspects of African-American life and institutions. He is critical of President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and our involvement in Iraq as well as “Star Wars,” BET and P Diddy.

Not everyone will find the “Boondocks” interesting or humorous, but we should proceed with extreme caution when suggesting what is “suitable” or “acceptable” for a free press to print. The ensuing discussions, debates and harangues are an indispensable part of the occasionally chaotic free exchange of ideas. Let the gadflies have their say, but we, too, have ours.

Spc. Robert Ortiz Jr.
Tal Afar, Iraq

Lessons in ‘Boondocks’

I have been reading all the negative comments about “Boondocks” and here is my question: What is the big deal?

I have been reading “Boondocks” since it first appeared in Stars and Stripes and I have always found it to be funny. I found it to be a cartoon version of “All in the Family.” The point is always the same. It teaches us to look into our own fears and prejudices and laugh at how foolish we are.

We all have some form of prejudice in our subconsciousness, and if you say you don’t, you’re lying. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, gay or straight. We have some fear about a person or group. And it has always been up to certain individuals to make us look inside ourselves, to see what we really are.

From Norman Lear to Aaron McGruder, these are the people who look at bigotry and make us laugh about it. Lighten up, people.

Spc. Roger Thompson
Schweinfurt, Germany

Strip tackles key issues

I love the comic strip “The Boondocks” and its central character, Huey Freeman, the radical scholar. Aaron MacGruder is not afraid to print in your face truths in his work. I especially respect the strips done about the injustices committed against the poor people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There were mercenaries all over the place; just a bunch of bullies obsessed with guns ready to shoot anyone looking for food or water. “The Boondocks” brought this situation to light.

So I say to the rest of you “Boondocks” haters, there’s a lot more who like this comic strip than there are of you. And to the naive kid who wants the strip removed from the paper (“‘Boondocks’ unfit for Stripes,” letter, April 3), just don’t read that particular comic, OK?

Janice Byrd
Seattle

Comforts take a back seat

The writer of “Garrison or combat zone?” (letter, March 28) makes readers wonder if he is mature enough to handle being in the military. Is he blinded by his “hero” status?

The writer complains about regulations in Iraq; he obviously forgets about his enlistment oath (“that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice”). What part of “obey” is not understood? By his very own words, “give me a break”: He is one of thousands of enlisted “heroes” who cannot simply “obey.”

What exactly are “garrison-style restrictions and guidelines”? No beer? No three-day weekend? A smoking policy? A big “boo-hoo” for the writer; he’s (supposed to be) a soldier in the U.S. military; I suggest he start acting like one.

I recommend he remember that taxpayers are paying his paycheck and benefits, along with education benefits that come with his enlistment. Does he really believe Americans want to read or listen to his whining and sniveling because he can’t drink a beer and needs to walk 50 feet away to have a smoke? Would he really want his family possibly being shot at or kidnapped “in a garrison environment” in Iraq?

To use his words, I’ll “call it like it is”: He is supposed to be a “hero.” He shouldn’t whine about beer he doesn’t have or snivel about walking 50 feet to have a smoke.

The grief he should feel is the loss of fallen comrades. He should act like a hero instead, or go to the nearest noncommissioned officer and tell him he wants out of the military.

Bradley Simpson
Dallas

Pacific edition

Regarding ‘breaking news’

In “Was Judas following Jesus’ instructions?” (article, The Associated Press, April 9), doubt is cast on the Bible’s story of Jesus’ and Judas’ relationship, with National Geographic promoting the Gospel of Judas.

It seems interesting that these stories that cast doubt on the Bible never fail to come out during Easter. Why wait until this time of year or Christmas to bring forth this “breaking news”? If we are searching for truth, do not hold back. Let the world know that Christianity is suspect if you can.

By the way, why not tell the world what Gnostics believed? It was an elitist group who thought that only a few could attain knowledge of heaven. Talk about being exclusive! True Christianity does not exclude anyone. All are welcome to come and believe in Jesus.

It would be nice to see equal time for the scholars who have shown the authenticity of the Bible. Naturally, this is what the media ignores.

With this in mind, the Judas controversy is just another vain attempt to cast doubt on the Bible and Jesus, which stand on the Resurrection.

Capt. Mike Burgess
Vicenza, Italy

Generals must step in

Grand jury evidence from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald almost certainly proves that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney exposed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame by leaking selected portions of a report that seemed to rebut criticism for invading Iraq.

Cheney aide “Scooter” Libby, indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, testified that he met with reporters to leak this information. The reporters testified that Libby did reveal the agent’s name.

The most recent Gallup poll showed that 63 percent of Americans believe that Bush acted illegally or unethically in the “Plamegate” affair. If not prosecutable, exposing an agent is a national security betrayal. Bush’s subject-changing lie that he declassified information so the “American people could know the truth” is irrelevant. Bush’s “declassified” information was cherry-picked from a report that in subsequent paragraphs discounted that same information. It’s news to the CIA, the Pentagon and Congress that a presidential leak equals declassification.

The special prosecutor states that the “presidential leak” was a vendetta against the CIA agent’s husband, who disputed Bush’s false justifications to invade Iraq.

Bush’s similar plans to bomb Iran with tactical nuclear weapons are documented by Seymour Hersh in the April 4, 2006, New Yorker magazine and The Washington Post’s Tom Ricks. The too-familiar goal to control oilfields by U.S. energy companies with Halliburton no-bid contracts is again called “regime change.” Cheney’s daughter, heading the State Department’s Iran-Syria Operations Group, controls $80 million to develop this agenda.

This radical endangerment of national security and world stability reportedly caused several Joint Chiefs of Staff to threaten resignation. They are disgusted at the brazen incompetence of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Bankrupting the treasury, creating crushing debt, and sacrificing lives to reward friends with war profits will persist until our bullied generals stop it.

M.D. Wooldridge
Berlin

Policymakers not in the fight

My son, a two-tour Iraq war veteran, recently told me about the Army’s new policy regarding responding to attacks on convoys in Iraq. The convoys will now “stand and fight” rather than fire and run as was previously the practice. According to an officer quoted in the April 1 article “Convoys to ‘take fight to the enemy,’” the old policy “gave bad guys the perception that Americans run away.”

I have two children in this war, one active and one reserve, and I am a Vietnam War veteran who has had infantry training that I put to use. I learned one thing in Vietnam that has held me in good stead regarding military adventurism: One who spouts bravado is usually not the one taking the fire.

This seems to be the case in this new policy.

President Bush and his crew created a mess that we will live with for years; many have died for already, and some, like my son, may die for in the future. When policies such as the one identified in your article are put in place to give a perception that we are brave (this has never been in question), it does nothing more than give some of the gutless wonders who make our policy the sense that they are brave. How about the men and women who are affected by the policies? “Bring ’em on” is a term used by those who have no backbone and less foresight. It is these people who will send others off to die for a questionable cause while telling their own to go shopping.

As for my son, he told me that he and any crew he is part of will not be made grease spots for this policy to “stand and fight.” He will be putting the pedal to the board and getting out of a fight as quickly as possible so that he can possibly come home in one piece.

After having read some letters published in your paper, I have the impression that only those who are pro-war and pro-Bush are represented there. I hope that isn’t your policy and that my view will be given notice.

David Kannas
Seattle

Beyond a reasonable doubt?

After reading “Ex-CID agent: Sex assault program ‘antiquated’” (article, April 13) and the other numerous articles that have taken shots at the military justice system, I must respond.

Sexual assault is a very traumatic and stressful event. The Department of Defense and the individual services have established programs to address the needs of victims, including the Victim/Witness Assistance Program, creating sexual assault response coordinators (SARC), victim advocates, etc.

Agents for the Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Investigation Command and Naval Criminal Investigative Service are not social workers, and judge advocates are not clinical psychologists. Law enforcement officers and judge advocates must focus every case through the lens of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is reckless and unethical for a judge advocate to recommend a case go forward to court-martial if that JAG officer does not believe he/she can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the “he said, she said” rape scenario, where the alleged victim has told inconsistent statements, lied to investigators and has an evident motive to fabricate, it’s incumbent upon law enforcement officers and JAGs to find out what the evidence would show in court, then determine if the case is one that can be successfully prosecuted. This decision is not a judgment on whether they believe the victim’s story or not — it is simply a legal determination.

To the charge that military prosecutors aren’t taking otherwise-worthy cases to trial, it’s been my experience that just the opposite is happening — well over half of the rape cases in U.S. Air Forces Europe are ending in acquittal. Clearly, the government is bringing more cases to trial than can be justified on a “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” basis.

Capt. John Harwood
Incirlik Air Base, Turkey


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