Letters to the editor for Thursday, January 6, 2005

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 6, 2005

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)

U.S. isn’t ‘stingy’

The attack on President Bush from CNN and the rest of the left leaning media is really hurtful ... and a shame.

To accuse the United States of being stingy is a character attack that is, if nothing else, unfair! The United States is generous to a fault when it comes to a disaster anywhere in the world, regardless of the political bent of a country.

I might add that when we had our own disaster from hurricanes a few months ago in Florida and Louisiana I do not recall C-54s landing with blankets and water from other countries. It was our disaster and we were, as usual, on our own.

Richard H. Frese
Stuttgart, Germany

Smoke-free needed

There are many of us overseas who like playing the slot machines. It’s our personal choice, just like smoking is an individual’s personal choice. However, the nonsmokers are made to suffer; it’s as if they are being punished for not smoking.

Someone needs to do a walk-through of the Morale Welfare and Recreation club facilities and note the small areas they have for nonsmokers versus smokers. At the Mannheim Top Hat club, they have four or five machines for the use of nonsmokers and about 40 for smokers. This room is the only room in the club that you can smoke in, so people from the ballroom and restaurant area use this room. Pipe and cigar smokers, it’s absolutely horrible. Secondhand smoke kills, and just because you have a love for playing the slots, why should we be penalized?

Realizing that some of these guys are fighting a war and smoking should be secondary, they will be no good to us with cancer. It has been my experience that if a person has difficulty trying to smoke that cigarette, they eventually give it up.

I request the U.S. Army Europe commander and the MWR chief look at the smoking policy closely again and make our facilities smoke-free.

Barbara Smith
Wiesbaden, Germany

Thanks for improving Taji

Into my eleventh month in Iraq, and being a faithful reader of the letters section, it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had anything good to say about Taji.

In spring 2004, people would give you sympathetic looks and comments when you told them you were going to Taji. Compared to pretty much everywhere else, this place was the pits. What our predecessors hadn’t blown to total smithereens was taken over by mangy dogs, littered with unexploded ordnance or flooded with black water. Throw in rocket attacks, and this was another world compared to what most people were calling “home” around Baghdad.

It’s a completely different story now. Of all the forward operating bases I’ve been to in the Baghdad area of responsibility, this one has more going for it — including the palatial digs of the Multinational Force. It didn’t just “happen;” nobody came in and fixed it for us. WE did it: the Readiness Management Systems and KBR civilians, the contracting officers, the engineers who changed the physical landscape, the unit leaders who were both the rubber and the road, the local nationals and local contractors, the loggies and money counters at 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps who funded our dreams, Army and Air Force Exchange people, and the general officers who supported our requests for funding and provided the emphasis to get through tremendous bureaucracies. There were many who said these things would never happen — none of it was easy and it had to be done while fighting in combat. Yes, it was hard, very hard.

We continue to improve and now people are going to ask how they can get posted at Taji. Perhaps few will appreciate what went into those huge efforts, but before I get out of here, I just want you to know that some of us will never forget it. Thank you!

Lt. Col. Christopher A. Joslin
Taji, Iraq

Media can help win war

To watch the media and read the papers over the past two years, one would get the distinct impression that no amount of military might can win the war in Iraq.

All of our soldiers are in constant danger everywhere in country. Coalition victories over the insurgents (save the highly successful assault on Fallujah) are few and are so insignificant that they aren’t worth reporting.

Even when victories are reported, the reporting tends to concentrate on negative aspects of the battle (i.e. U.S. losses, or the amount of insurgents who escaped).

It’s been some time since I saw a newspaper headline that listed something other than U.S. deaths. I want to congratulate Stars and Stripes and The Associated Press for publishing an article (“U.S. troops kill 25 insurgents in Mosul,” Dec. 31/Jan. 1 print edition) that shows a battle with insurgents in a relatively positive light.

If there were more articles like this, public opinion about the war would be very different from what it is right now. I believe that if there had been more articles like this when the insurgency was just starting, it would be nowhere near as strong as it is now.

The insurgents gain information from newspapers and television. It’s a simple and effective way of finding out how successful their attacks are — as well as finding potential weaknesses to exploit, not to mention a useful recruiting tool for the insurgents.

If the media instead concentrated on how ineffective the insurgent attacks usually are, concentrated on enemy losses instead of coalition losses, and quit violating operations security, then the insurgents would have a much harder time finding recruits and funding.

The media can play an active role in winning this thing, and it wouldn’t be that hard to do. Getting on our side of the fight would probably make people trust the media more, as well.

Spc. Ken Warner
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq

Clemency for GI scroungers

I am appalled by what I’ve read concerning Maj. Cathy Kaus and her soldiers’ conviction at a court-martial for scrounging (“Why not hold Rumsfeld to same standard?” — Trudy Rubin column, Dec. 27 print edition). She and her soldiers made the right decision to accomplish the mission. Who was in charge of the legal team that charged her and her soldiers? They are the ones who should be put up on charges for stupidity.

I served in Iraq in 2003 and was maintenance chief for one of the largest maintenance detachments in the country. Abandoned and damaged vehicles were everywhere. One of our tasks was to retrieve them. Then we scrounged everything we could from these unserviceable vehicles to maintain the ones the units needed to accomplish their mission. If the vehicles were abandoned by units headed north, then they had what they needed to accomplish their mission or they would not have left them behind.

All I can do is compliment Kaus on good judgment and a job well done in accomplishing her mission. I agree with the senators who want all of these fine men and women to receive clemency.

Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. A.R. Nichols (retired)
Camp Kinser, Okinawa

Pacific edition

Disservice announcements

To the leaders of U.S. Forces Korea: We get it. The command is against human trafficking and will take harsh measures against those who participate in these activities. Everyone who is anyone in South Korea has made a public service announcement on the subject.

Could someone in leadership make a few PSAs explaining some of its other policies? Could they make a PSA explaining how they took the driving privileges away from E-5s and E-6s because of the dangers of that supposed “age group” but did not limit dependents or lieutenants in the same age group from driving? I am sure that there are a few 30-something noncommissioned officers who would like to hear about that one.

And while they have the cameras rolling, could they once again tell us what intelligence or reasoning justifies a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew? Force protection? Then tell us what information it is based upon so that we can better watch for these dangers. Good order and discipline? I wonder if someone did a review of the [crime] blotters from three years ago and compared them to today’s, which would have the more incidents? I would wager there are more curfew violations and on-post assault incidents now than there were off-base incidents before the reimplementation of the curfew.

Maybe they could explain why antiquated prohibitions such as placing off-post barber shops and pharmacies off-limits are still on the books. I doubt if many know the history behind this and are aware that, for the most part, they are no longer valid concerns.

My point is this: There are a few policies on which the troops would love more clarification. Don’t just concentrate on the politically correct flavor of the month. I would suggest taking a cue from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry Scott. He addresses a new area of concern for his sailors every few weeks. Couldn’t someone in the chain use these PSAs to give an honest voice to real local issues that are of interest to USFK personnel?

Air Force Master Sgt. Kenn Lett
Taegu, South Korea