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October 13

Employment letter

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

October 13 Employment letter Day of reckoningOctober 14 Iraq war wrong Unaccompanied tours idea Medal of HonorOctober 16 Marshall Center story $1 million digsOctober 17 Gen. Clark Demeanor of NCOsOctober 18 Employment response Part of the package

October 19 Time to vote Paratroops

I really agreed with the letter “Employment” (Sept. 25). My issue is in reference to the military spouse preference (MSP) regulation. MSP is the preference that spouses receive when they PCS to a new duty station with their military spouses. In essence it’s a “trump card” that allows a spouse to have priority when it comes to being hired. But once a spouse accepts a full-time or part-time NAF or GS job, he or she loses the MSP. The MSP is also lost if a spouse is the only person offered a position and the spouse declines to take it. This regulation was meant to help military spouses find work, but for some of us it has hindered any advancement.

I’m currently employed at a child-care center in Grafenwöhr, Germany. I lost my MSP because this position is full time. When I first arrived overseas, I was unemployed for the first several months and my family’s finances were seriously unbalanced. This position was the first one I was offered, and I had to take it because I was the only person on the MSP list. Two incomes are needed in my family to pay our bills. I’m not a housewife who just “wants something to do.” I need to work, and I’d like to work in an area that will benefit my career goals. I’ve been applying for GS and other NAF positions for more than 18 months now. I’ve been to several interviews and was even hired for a GS-5 position. But it was only because the employer thought I still had my MSP due to an error at the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. After the employer realized that I no longer had MSP, I was told that I couldn’t work there. Each interview has been the same: “I’d like to hire you, but you do not have MSP.”

It’s been disappointing to get my hopes up over and over again when I apply for a job, only to have them destroyed because of the MSP regulation. Now that CPAC has fixed the error with my records, no one has even called me for interviews. I guess I don’t even make it to the hiring list.

I have an associate’s degree in criminal justice and I’m about 10 classes away from my bachelor’s. And here I am working at a job that has no beneficial experience that will aid my future goals. I’m doing administrative work for a child-care center. Childhood education has absolutely nothing to do with criminal justice. And I’m not the only one. So many people are educated but have to settle for low-paying jobs because they can’t wait for the “miracle job” to arrive six months down the road. One of the other staffers here has two bachelor’s degrees, and she could only get a job as a child-care worker. That is not fair and it isn’t right.

I believe that MSP is also used in the States. Well, in the States if a spouse has used her MSP, she can always look for employment off post. But we families overseas can’t just go off post and find jobs once we lose our MSPs. We count entirely on this post for work. If I were in the United States right now, I could be a police officer. But here, neither the Criminal Investigation Division nor the military police station hires civilians. And I’m not German, so I can’t work for the German police. And when I apply for NAF/GS security positions, I find out that I qualify but I can’t be hired due to MSP. It’s just really frustrating to be a spouse shipped halfway around the world for one’s husband and have to deal with this issue.

I don’t quite understand why the whole MSP regulation is used overseas in the first place. Employers should be able to hire who they want to hire. CPAC should submit a list to employers of all qualified people. Then the employer should interview them all and pick the one who would do the best job. What’s wrong with that? That’s how it is in the real world, and it seems to be working just fine. I was also informed that MSP is now used when hiring in-service employees. Well, so much for having any advantage to gain new employment. There must be a solution to this problem.

I took a job that I had no interest in because I had bills to pay. Now I’m unable to get a better job. It’s depressing to come to the realization that I’m stuck in this position for the rest of my time here in Germany. Unless I want to work a flexible shift for less than $8 per hour at the bank, AAFES, education center or food court, I don’t have any options. I’ve worked hard to get an education so I can work in a rewarding career. The MSP regulation may work for many spouses, but for those of us in my current situation, it feels more like discrimination.

Jennifer R. HernandezVilseck, Germany

Day of reckoning

It’s time for us as a nation to say, “No more.” No more to tyrants who threaten free societies. No more to tyrants who invade neighboring nations in the hope of stealing their oil reserves. And no more to tyrants who scheme to delay inspections while they frantically construct ever larger weapons of terror.

It’s quite well established that Saddam Hussein’s regime has been working diligently toward developing nuclear weapons, and had Israel not removed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, it would certainly have succeeded in that task long ago. Two decades ago it was possible to thwart Saddam’s ambitions by bombing a single nuclear installation. But with today’s technology, Saddam no longer needs a large reactor to produce the material necessary for atomic weapons. He can now use certrifuges the size of home washing machines that can be hidden anywhere in the country. Even without the noncompliance practiced by Saddam’s government in the face of previously attempted inspections under the U.N. agreements, inspections cannot now be reasonably expected to uncover these newly portable manufacturing sites of international terror and mass murder.

We can have little doubt that once acquired, any such weapons would be used to threaten and attack all who stand in his way. We have clear evidence of that in Saddam’s use of his already existing weapons of mass murder against his own citizens, as well as against Iran during Iraq’s long war with that neighboring country. Saddam then turned his attention to Kuwait in an effort to take over Kuwait’s oil fields. And in that attempt we saw the slaughtering, pillaging and raping of the citizens of that sovereign nation.

It’s my expectation that the fear of aiding in the creation of a Pan-Arab state that would have allowed Iran to gain control of much of the Persian Gulf region stemmed our enthusiasm to remove Saddam when he was previously in our sights. But now we must weigh that possibility against the virtual certainty of the ultimate risk of having Saddam utilize nuclear weapons against America and others.

Iraq now wants to call for a “do over” with the readmittance of the previously rejected United Nations inspectors. What should we answer to such a last-minute “time out?” Saddam’s Iraq has repeatedly committed offenses against the law of nations as recognized by the civilized nations of the world, as well as the United Nations. In addition to the atrocities that I’ve already enumerated, it’s well established that Iraq plotted to assassinate former President Bush in 1993. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, has said that Iraq would now increase its offered payments from $10,000 to $25,000 in cash to the families of suicide bombers. Iraq is thereby directly purchasing suicide bombers to the considerable grief of all civilized people.

Obviously, we would all opt for a negotiated resolution of all international disputes, just as we would opt for peace and peaceful relations with all nations, including the theocracies and dictatorships of the Persian Gulf region. But time has grown late and our patience is not limitless. We have learned some hard lessons in and from that part of the world.

We must now say to those who would threaten the otherwise peaceful nations of the world that the day of reckoning is upon them. We have witnessed these rogues and rogue nations radicalize, politicize and bastardize one of the major religions of the world. It has been made clear to us that negotiations are meaningless when dealing with these radicalized would-be martyrs. Measured and restrained retaliation to this terrorism merely purchases and generates another round of terrorism. When terrorists try to obtain nuclear weapons, certainly eradication is the only means of dealing with them.

Fortunately, even the rogue nations of the world have a significant population of those who can be made allies in our now necessary and lawful fight. The realization that those held captive by rogues and terrorists in such countries as Afghanistan and Iraq will benefit as much as ourselves should again greatly assist us in maintaining a coalition of nations to assist our efforts. But coalition or not, never doubt that any appearance of weakness on our part will not go unpunished by the terrorists of the world, and the price of weakness will again be the lives of our citizens. We dishonor ourselves and those who have already perished at their hands if we give heed to those who would once again call for appeasement. An agreement grounded in appeasement is a contract written entirely in fine print — an illusion that only gives temporary pause to the real necessity of confronting evil and thereafter most certainly exacts an even greater price for maintaining our freedoms.

Again the tyrants of the world fail to understand America. They don’t truly understand the nature of a free people who are dedicated to the ideals of democracy and freedom worldwide. They don’t understand that freedom is a part of our national soul. In America, freedom lives in each of us, and freedom’s reckoning is coming for Saddam.

Sam C. MitchellWest Frankfort, Ill.

October 14

Iraq war wrong

On Sept. 23, Al Gore made a major speech accusing President Bush of having an increasingly stubborn stance on Iraq. Gore questioned the wisdom of targeting Saddam Hussein at this time. He was also concerned with the president wanting to take unilateral action against Iraq should U.N. backing not materialize.

The response from President Bush’s White House was predictable: Gore’s comments were “irrelevant.” This response was not only crude, but also insulting to a man who served eight honorable years as vice president and was the Democratic candidate for president in 2000. While making its statement of “irrelevancy,” the White House conveniently forgot that Gore received 500,000 more votes for president than Bush. Who is “irrelevant” here?

Gore doesn’t stand alone in his convictions. He’s joined by such notable retired military generals as Anthony Zinni, Bush’s trusted peace envoy for the Middle East; Norman Schwarzkopf, a veteran fighter against Saddam Hussein, Wesley Clark, ex-NATO commander; Brent Scowcroft, a veteran presidential adviser, and finally, Colin Powell, Bush’s own secretary of state. Are all of these military experts “irrelevant?” I think not.

The current President Bush’s father, who received my vote for president, wore the uniform of the U.S. Navy and was a true hero as a young man. He was one of the most experienced incoming presidents in modern times. Even with all his experience and with the advice of his generals, he ended the Persian Gulf War without eliminating Saddam.

On Sept. 26, Bill Clinton said Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. But Clinton warned that we should work through the United Nations and not go it alone. The former president has as much knowledge of Saddam as does the present administration. As yet, President Bush has not classified Clinton’s words as “irrelevant.” Does the possibility exist that Gore may be Bush’s opponent in 2004, and as such, affects Bush’s opinion as to what may be “irrelevant” or “relevant?” I’ll bet it does.

The Bush administration bases its position of “relevancy” on the statements of Vice President Dick Cheney. On the Sept. 8 “Meet the Press” TV news show, Cheney said, “We assume that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.” In his Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations, President Bush said that “when we would know for sure that Iraq has nuclear weapons is when they launch them at us.”

These less-than-positive statements don’t support the reason for going to war. President Bush is placing himself in the position of committing a criminal act in violation of the U.N. Charter. Violation of international law is not “irrelevant.” The charter mandates that members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means and shall refrain from threatening or using force against the political integrity or political independence of any state. If Bush invades Iraq without U.N. backing, he will be committing a criminal act. Is this “relevant” or “irrelevant?”

President Bush would be wrong to commit the young people of our country to die in a foreign land to satisfy his personal agenda, which is the control of Iraq’s oil and the need to finish his father’s war. President Bush must have better reasons than these to commit our youth to disaster. How many of President Bush’s children, and the children of members of Congress and those in his administration, would be in the first wave of an attack on Iraq?

There are many in the Bush administration, including Vice President Cheney and the assistant secretary of defense, who have never worn a military uniform. But they all stand tall as warmongers, willing to sacrifice our country’s youth to premature death. Without a doubt, all those in Washington, D.C., who want to go to war are motivated by profit in one way or another. The losers are our youth, who will be making the supreme sacrifice, along with those who survive and mourn them. This is a “relevant” statement.

Donald ClarkPark Forest, Ill.

Unaccompanied-tours idea

I’m a wife, a military spouse and a mother. I’ve read quite a few of the letters sent in about the unaccompanied-tours proposal, and I understand where everyone is coming from. But the point is still being missed by a long shot.

The military wants to save money. Isn’t that the reason this idea to end accompanied tours has been brought up? That seems to be the reasoning behind this idea, right? Well, has everyone forgotten about the separation pay and basic allowance for housing, depending on one’s ZIP code, that the military would have to pay out? Can readers imagine the waiting list for military housing if everyone has to stay put? And what about all the money that has gone into renovations to military housing, playgrounds, roads and piping for underground water? Was that a waste of taxpayers’ money? We spouses pay taxes, too.

But unaccompanied tours would increase esprit de corps, right? What? I belong to a very active family-readiness group. We’re always there for our military members and soldiers. We have our boss too, and we’re the spirit of our soldiers with our “hail and farewells,” “welcome homes,” and parties aimed at raising morale among soldiers and their families. Take that away, and what does a soldier have? A microwavable dinner and AFN.

An end to drugs and drinking? Or worse yet, driving while under the influence? What is a soldier to do with all the free time on his hands with such an abundance of clubs on and off base? And who would work in these clubs, base exchanges, commissaries and shoppettes? Who will need a job at one of these places? A soldier? Are readers seeing the bigger picture yet?

What about leave? Everyone, single or married, would be fighting tooth and nail to get home for the holidays. Who would make that decision? And what about the families who come to Europe to visit? Would they stay in barracks or at an expensive hotel off base? Without families here, there really wouldn’t be a need for our on-base hotels and fixed rates.

I’m not writing to bash anyone’s idea of a better environment for soldiers. But does something that has worked for so long really need a solution? Does someone really see a problem that needs to be fixed in something that American soldiers and their spouses have been doing for so many years? People should look at the bigger picture before forming their opinions, because it would affect everyone, no matter who they are.

No matter what happens, I want readers to know that military members go to work every day because they know that their families will be there at the end of each day with open arms. They not only fight for their country knowing that they may go to war one day and might never come home, they are also fighting for families who will never forget them.

Tressa L. LloydLandstuhl, Germany

Medal of Honor

The article “Shelton overcomes severe spinal injury” (Oct. 6). on Gen. Hugh Shelton, the retired former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided an excellent profile in personal courage and determination. But the caption under a small picture with the story bothered me. It said Gen. Shelton was being presented with “the Congressional Medals of Honor” on Sept. 19. The story also said that Gen. Shelton “went to the [U.S.] Capitol to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award Congress can bestow, in honor of his 38 years of military service.”

I’ve always believed that the highest honor a military person can receive is “The Medal of Honor” and that the word “Congressional” is not part of the title. And I’ve also always believed that this medal is awarded for acts of uncommon valor and bravery, usually in conjunction with great personal sacrifice in the cause of helping one’s unit or fellow soldiers, and almost always in combat. Is there more than one Medal of Honor, and can it be awarded simply for length of service?

.

Dennis E. O’NeillNaples, Italy

October 16

Marshall Center story

This is regarding the story “IG clears Marshall Center official in discrimination allegations” (Oct. 3) by David Josar. Stars and Stripes has presented information “spun” by European Command or Marshall Center officials to mislead its readers. The story acknowledged, but minimized and cushioned, critical inspector general findings about the Marshall Center’s deputy director while tarring my reputation through skewed language and factual omissions. I was given no opportunity to respond or rebut.

In his first false statement, Josar wrote that I “could not be reached” after I retired and returned to the United States. In fact, Josar has had my personal e-mail address since April 2002. He could have contacted me easily at any point.

In his second false statement, Josar wrote, “Investigators concluded that Parson received a letter of reprimand because of her ‘documented unprofessional behavior’ and that her ‘performance and conduct over time demonstrated a lack of potential for promotion in the Air Force.’”

In fact, the investigators concluded, in the actual language of the IG report, that “Mr. McCarthy recommended adverse action against Lt. Col. Parson because of … his [referring to McCarthy not the investigators] overall view that Lt. Col. Parson’s performance and conduct over time demonstrated a lack of potential for promotion in the Air Force.” (Summary, page 2, paragraph 4) [Editor’s note: A correction that appeared on Page 2 of Stars and Stripes on Oct. 13 said McCarthy decided to “issue” the letter of reprimand; it should have said he “recommended” it be issued.]

Related key points in the IG report which Josar omitted or glossed over are as follows:

¶ “With respect to undermining Dr. Kennedy in the Lt. Col. Parson matter, Mr. McCarthy asserted that Dr. Kennedy was ‘overtly biased’ toward her and failed to give appropriate consideration to the ‘victim’ whom Lt. Col. Parson allegedly assaulted. However, we found that Dr. Kennedy objectively considered all the evidence … in determining the appropriate corrective action in the matter. In that regard, Dr. Kennedy identified the conduct of the ‘victim’ as an extenuating factor. The majority of witnesses shared Dr. Kennedy’s view of Lt. Col. Parson, describing her as a professional, dedicated and compassionate officer who was a strong candidate for promotion to colonel.” (Summary, page 9, paragraph 1)

¶ “Irrespective of the merits of Mr. McCarthy’s position in the matter, we consider troubling his failure to accept the decision of his superior (Dr. Kennedy) and to instead circumvent the chain of command by taking his argument directly to EUCOM officials. By demonstrating such an open disregard for Dr. Kennedy’s views (especially since Lt. Col. Parson served as Dr. Kennedy’s executive officer), Mr. McCarthy undermined Dr. Kennedy’s position at the Marshall Center and created a situation that gave rise to allegations that the disciplinary process concerning servicemembers serving at the Marshall Center is flawed.” (Summary, page 7, paragraph 3)

¶ “In numerous e-mail messages to EUCOM senior officials, Mr. McCarthy strongly urged endorsement of his recommendation that career-ending action be taken against Lt. Col. Parson. In that regard, Dr. Kennedy opined that ‘the skids were greased’ at EUCOM to ensure that a letter of reprimand was issued and ‘nothing I said would make a difference.’” (Summary, page 7, footnote 7)

¶ “Mr. McCarthy denied knowing about the protected communication as it was described to us by Lt. Col. Parson and denied making the inappropriate comments attributed to him. … Nevertheless, based on a preponderance of evidence, we concluded that Mr. McCarthy was aware of her displeasure with his management style and that she mentioned those concerns during her frequent interaction with Dr. Kennedy. Col. Daniel Willison, U.S. Air Force, then chief of staff at the Marshall Center, told us that Dr. Kennedy regularly spoke to him of concerns expressed by Lt. Col. Parson and that he (Col. Willison) routinely conveyed those concerns to Mr. McCarthy.” (Summary, page 2, paragraph 1)

¶ “Although we found no evidence to support allegations of a perceived physical threat, we obtained evidence to corroborate the allegation that Mr. McCarthy resorted to threats of career harm on occasion as a tactic to obtain compliance with his guidance. One military officer (not a complainant) told us that during his courtesy call with Mr. McCarthy after first reporting aboard, Mr. McCarthy threatened to ‘crush him’ if he (the officer) ever betrayed a confidence.” (Summary, page 8, paragraph 2)

¶ “Mr. McCarthy suggested that our conclusions regarding his use of threats were based on the testimony of one person. However, we based our observation in that regard on the testimony of eight witnesses who described either personal encounters they perceived as threatening or first-hand impressions of Mr. McCarthy they had developed over time. Moreover, two witnesses told us that the former chief of staff at the Marshall Center warned them that they placed their careers at risk if they engaged Mr. McCarthy on contentious issues.” (Summary, page 8, paragraph 5)

In an earlier story about my case, “Accusations target Marshall Center” (July 28), Josar wrote, “Officials from the Marshall Center and the U.S. European Command, which oversees the center, said Parson’s punishment was appropriate. And although the inspector general has not completed its investigation, her allegations could not be independently verified by investigators despite dozens of interviews with center employees, according to a preliminary report reviewed by Stars and Stripes.”

Readers of that story may not have realized that the “preliminary report” mentioned by Josar was a restricted draft document. It is exempted even from Freedom of Information Act disclosure and was being shared illegally and manipulatively in clear violation of Department of Defense regulations and law by EUCOM or Marshall Center officials to shape Josar’s story.

In this limited space I cannot begin to address all the issues of failed leadership and integrity that surround the Marshall Center, including its manipulative long-term oversight by EUCOM and DOD. But I want to close by making four essential points:

¶ I served my country faithfully and honorably every day of my military career. Unlike some who have risen to high places, I never threatened subordinates or withheld information from superiors.

¶ A full-blown congressional inquiry into the history, causes and continuing state of dysfunction at the Marshall Center is long overdue.

¶ Responsibility for this situation goes straight to the four-star level at EUCOM and to officials at the top of the DOD.

¶ The recent IG investigation, like its predecessors, has ignored, excused or concealed more than it uncovered.

Lt. Col. Deborah ParsonPacific Northwest, U.S.

$1 million digs

I’m fascinated by the furor over the new European Command deputy digs being thrashed out between U.S. Army Europe and EUCOM. I do think that modernization is a good idea. Why, if we build the new, modest $1 million home with its minimal upkeep, I estimate we’ll be in a positive cash flow situation in only 41 years. Super! But has anyone told the Germans we plan to be there that long?

William E. HarperCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

October 17

Gen. Clark

The article “Still no decision on Kosovo medal” (Oct. 8) said “Pentagon brass” ensured a waiver was granted so that Gen. Wesley Clark received the Kosovo Campaign Medal, the first one minted, at his retirement ceremony in 2000. The waiver was necessary because Gen. Clark’s service didn’t meet the criteria for the award, even though he led the international alliance in its “78-day blitz” against Yugoslavia. An earlier article, “Army can’t explain how Clark got medal” (June 16, 2001) said, “The Army is at a loss to explain who granted a waiver awarding retired Gen. Wesley Clark the Kosovo Campaign Medal,” and that, “After four months of repeated queries, Army officials say they’re still not sure who approved the medal.”

To date, we still don’t know who granted Gen. Clark the waiver. I guess that’s one of the unsolvable mysteries of that era, like law firm billing records. In the meantime, as the story said, thousands of others who supported the campaign at bases in England, Spain, Germany, Turkey and even the United States are still waiting to learn if waivers for their eligibility will be approved.

As a Vietnam combat veteran who had “awards and decorations” as an additional duty, I can understand the intricacies of determining who deserves the medal. Given the scope of the campaign, virtually everyone in the military, active and Reserve, contributed in some way. If the criterion is based on a combat zone defined as “in and around the Balkans,” Gen. Clark certainly does not deserve the medal, even given that vague definition of the combat zone. Gen. Clark led the campaign from Mons, Belgium. If the waiver was based on Gen. Clark’s contribution to the campaign being more important than that of the ground support troops at places such as Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, or Whiteman Air Base, Mo., then maybe we should look at just what his contribution was.

In his book “Waging Modern War,” Gen. Clark wrote about his fury to learn that Russian peacekeepers had entered the airport at Pristina, Kosovo, before British or American forces. In the article “The guy who almost started World War III,” (Aug. 3, 1999), The Guardian (U.K.) wrote, “No sooner are we told by Britain’s top generals that the Russians played a crucial role in ending the west’s war against Yugoslavia than we learn that if NATO’s supreme commander, the American General Wesley Clark, had had his way, British paratroopers would have stormed Pristina airport, threatening to unleash the most frightening crisis with Moscow since the end of the Cold War. ‘I’m not going to start the third world war for you’, General Sir Mike Jackson, commander of the international KFOR peacekeeping force, is reported to have told Gen. Clark when he refused to accept an order to send assault troops to prevent Russian troops from taking over the airfield of Kosovo’s provincial capital.”

Gen. Clark’s buddy in Kosovo was Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which, according to the Belfast News Letter (Northern Ireland) of July 30, is engaged in sex slavery, prostitution, murder, kidnapping and drugs. The Daily Telegraph reported on Feb. 19 that “European drug squad officers say Albanian and Kosovo Albanian dealers are ruthlessly trying to seize control of the European heroin market, worth up to $27 billion a year, and have taken over the trade in at least six European countries.”

Another Clark buddy was Agim Ceku, who commanded Croatia’s army during “Operation Storm,” when ethnic Serbs were driven out of their ancestral homes in the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995 in what columnist Charles Krauthammer described in Newsweek on April 5, 1999, as “the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkans wars.” This is the same Gen. Ceku who commanded the KLA.

The shortsightedness of Gen. Clark’s consorting with KLA thugs, whom he is largely responsible for putting into power in Kosovo, is borne out by the Washington Times article “Kosovo Albanian attitudes change; Some see U.N., NATO as foes.” (Sept. 21). It said, “Where once NATO troops were greeted with cheers, those cheers have now changed to anger and occasionally violent protests since the arrest of several leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army.”

As for his ability as a military leader, Gen. Clark failed on two counts — the air campaign and his plan for a ground campaign. While the questionable effectiveness of the air campaign was not solely his responsibility, his acquiescence to the strategy and his cover-up of the results detailed in the Newsweek story “Kosovo Cover Up” (May 15, 2000) are testimony to his dedication to power and career. As for a ground war, which Gen. Clark admits that he favored, he insists that he could have conducted a successful ground war in Kosovo by sending Apache helicopters and ground troops through the mountain passes between Albania and Kosovo, a plan which was described to me by an Apache pilot as a “hare-brained” idea. Gen. Clark planned to support the Apaches with “50,000 Albanian troops,” a statement he personally made to me at a Washington, D.C., book signing. There’s no doubt that a ground war with the might of 19 NATO nations eventually would have been successful. But at what cost and why? To feed Gen. Clark’s ego and ambition!

If Gen. Clark had had his way, we might have gone to war with Russia, or at least resurrected vestiges of the Cold War. And we certainly would have had hundreds if not thousands of casualties in an ill-conceived ground war.

Col. David Hackworth, in his 1999 commentary “Defending America,” wrote of Clark: “Known by those who’ve served with him as the ‘Ultimate Perfumed Prince,’ he’s far more comfortable in a drawing room discussing political theories than hunkering down in the trenches where bullets fly and soldiers die.”

In my opinion, Gen. Clark is the kind of general we saw too often during the Vietnam War and hoped never to see again in a position of responsibility for the lives of our GIs and the security of our nation. That it happened once again we can thank that other Rhodes scholar from Arkansas.

Col. George Jatras (Ret.)Sterling, Va.

Demeanor of NCOs

This is in response to the letter “Correcting soldier” (Oct. 9). I’d like to congratulate the letter writer for his courage in making an on-the-spot correction. This is very uncommon in today’s Army. As I read the letter, I looked back on my 20-year military career, and the episode just laid emphasis on why I plan to retire soon. I’m absolutely furious with the demeanor of our senior noncommissioned officers in the Army today. It turns out that the majority of senior NCOs are focused by and large on themselves and their positions rather than doing what they were promoted to do — enforce the Army standards and not invent their own.

The letter described an Army captain and Air Force master sergeant walking without their headgear along with a command sergeant major who was covered. The captain is my wife of more than 16 years. The day this happened, my wife came home and explained at the dinner table how she was standing in the doorway of her building and the CSM called her over. My wife didn’t have her headgear at the time, so the CSM said, “Don’t worry about it. You’re with me.”

Wrong! I instantly voiced my disagreement about the confrontation. I felt it was totally wrong and could ultimately discourage the writer from making future on-the-spot corrections. We need NCOs like the writer, not the incompetent ones who plague the Army today.

After a couple of minutes discussing the topic, my wife agreed that she could have handled the situation differently, regardless of what the CSM said. But what’s bizarre about this entire issue is that my wife, who is soon to make major, was an NCO for the better part of nine years. So there’s no possible excuse for not complying with the rules.

Readers shouldn’t misinterpret my comments. My wife’s an exceptional Army officer and a very caring mother. I admire, love and care for her very much. But when one’s wrong, just admit it and drive on. I suggest the CSM and captain apologize to the letter writer. It’s only a suggestion. I’ll let their consciences be their guides.

Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth DrummondKaiserslautern, Germany

October 18

Employment response

I’m writing in response to “Employment letter” (Oct. 13) which concerned the military spouse preference. As a nonappropriated fund human resource specialist, I see the benefits and ramifications of this preference on a daily basis.

Currently as a test program, the MSP rule has been changed to allow spouses to utilize their MSP without losing it for many positions as long as they take a flexible (NAF), intermittent (AAFES) or temporary (GS) position. Spouses only lose their preference when they accept a regular or permanent position. I have many spouses who request to be referred out for only flexible positions. This gives them the opportunity to earn money for their families while they are waiting for that “perfect job.” If the letter writer accepted her position at the child development center within the past year or so, then she could have used this to ensure her MSP was not utilized.

The letter was correct in that MSP does block a lot of people from positions. That’s one of the reasons why spouses only get MSP for one regular position, thus allowing others the opportunity to get positions.

The letter writer also said she doesn’t understand why MSP is used overseas in the first place. Families routinely ask the Army to afford them special benefits solely based on the fact that servicemembers have spouses. This is just an example of the Army doing that — taking care of its families. The writer should remember that when she used MSP to get her current position — which she needed to pay the bills — she possibly knocked another candidate more qualified than herself out of the running. Spouses shouldn’t apply for positions that they’re not interested in holding.

In a perfect world, managers could hire anyone and choose the most “qualified” person. In the “real world,” when I once applied for a server job (which notoriously has the highest turnover rate), I was told that I wouldn’t be hired although I had years of restaurant experience because I was a military spouse and could move at any time. I bet in the “real world” that the writer wishes the Army operated in, we’d be reading letters about how the Army isn’t doing enough to take care of its families or help spouses get jobs.

Leigh DrescherStuttgart, Germany

Part of the package

Our civilian leadership in both the executive branch and the Department of the Army appear to be completely out of touch with their servicemembers, especially those deployed downrange. It’s beyond belief that a “family values” administration would propose such a highly-charged issue as unaccompanied tours at a time of sacrifice from exhaustive deployments.

The motive evidently has nothing to do with GIs’ welfare and morale. So what’s the motive? With unit rotation, who wins?

The Sept. 13 issue of Stars and Stripes published a photo of Brown & Root employees constructing a temporary camp for Marines in the Balkans. Kellogg, Brown & Root is a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former parent company, Halliburton. It has been contracted to provide support services — construction, maintenance, food, laundry, airfield services, supply operations, power generation and property accountability — for the Balkans and also for a “Force Provider” camp in Afghanistan, three Air Force Harvest Eagle camps in Uzbekistan, and prisons in Guantanamo Bay. Other proposed work sites are in Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

According to the New York Times, a lucrative 10-year contract to provide worldwide support for military operations recently won from the Army by KBR “has no lid on costs, the only logistical arrangement by the Army without an estimated cost” and is “shrouded in secrecy.” In fact, Halliburton has earned millions in federal contracts over the past 10 years by supplying military support services in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Italy and Bosnia. Earnings from current missions in the Balkans ($2.2 billion, according to the General Accounting Office), Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Cuba would be peanuts compared to what KBR would reap from unaccompanied Army tours in Europe and South Korea, as private contracts would replace the Base Support Battalions now doing the job. KBR is already running Army support operations in the United States. Army bases in Europe and South Korea are the obvious next step.

Unaccompanied tours is not about saving money. According to the Times, “by hiring an outside company to handle much of its logistics, the Pentagon may wind up spending more taxpayer money than if it did the work itself.” Rather, it’s a scathing plan for diverting part of the military budget to private corporate accounts.

Privatization is where President Bush continues to head with our Social Security retirement despite the toll taken on self-directed Thrift Savings Plans/40l(k) retirement accounts in the past 15 months due to corporate scandals, threats of war, and investors’ votes of “no confidence.” We saw how privatization worked for Enron shareholders as well as Florida state pensioners, the second biggest losers to Enron, whose trustee was Gov. Jeb Bush. His State Board of Administration continued to buy shares of Ken Lay’s Enron as the price bottomed out, resulting in a $300 million loss for retirees. Meanwhile, Enron CEO Lay was the single largest corporate contributor to the Republican Party.

It can hardly be called coincidence that Halliburton was awarded the job to study and implement privatization of routine Army support functions under then-Secretary of Defense Cheney, who, according to the public watchdog group CorpWatch, truly personifies the “revolving door” between big business and government. When Cheney left the Pentagon to become CEO of Halliburton, bringing with him lucrative federal contracts, Halliburton started to move from construction to base support. Cheney “retired” from Halliburton with a reported $34 million bonus for his five years of service, in addition to his $1.3 million annual salary and millions in stock options, after the 2000 election — not bad for a guy with five military deferments (four student, one paternity). Cheney said he “had other priorities than military service.” Yes, like using his government position to funnel federal contracts to him and future campaign contributors — what the rest of us in government positions have been counseled not to do because of conflict of interest laws. Under the Bush administration, conflict of interest went the way of deregulation, conveniently packaged to get the government off its back and its budget deficits onto taxpayers’ backs. With a near evenly-split Congress, Senate probes for war profiteering will remain a World War II relic.

Secretary of the Army Thomas White is no stranger to privatization or questions of ethics. The watchdog group Public Citizen (www.citizen.org) has suggested that the Army secretary engaged in conflicts of interest pursuing changes in Army energy policy that could have benefited his former employer, Enron. “Though Secretary White recused himself from dealing with Army contracts involving his former employer, he continued to play a role in advocating the privatization of energy services at Army installations,” it said. White, “a major-league Martha Stewart,” has been asked by many major newspapers to resign. Yet he remains on the public dole, able to transcend the military rules of “perception of wrongdoing” which seem to apply to everyone but himself. Certainly government officials have resigned for lesser reasons. Pentagon adviser Richard Perle suggested that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder resign upon winning re-election. So why is White still Army secretary? Because he’s the money pipeline between the military budget and corporate interests. He won’t be going anywhere if Bush can help it, but Army dependents in Europe might be.

Most of the members of our CEO-laden executive branch bypassed the hardships of combat, unit downrange deployments, and family separation by taking the path of the privileged. The nature of their business has to do with war despite never having fought in one, and wars are what Bush is promising us, ensuring a never-ending cycle of taxpayers’ money and war booty flowing into the corporate coffers of our leaders and their contributors. Unit rotation is just a part of that package.

Michele WinterWürzburg, Germany

October 19

Time to vote

It’s time for U.S. citizens in Europe to request their absentee ballots and vote in the November elections. Both major political parties are in basic agreement on the war on terrorism and using force in Iraq. So other issues, such as the economy, may determine voters’ choices.

The bad economy coincides with President Bush’s term in office, and the number of unemployed has increased in that time by 2.2 million. But we must understand that the administration’s concern is planning the war with Iraq rather than economic problems. Patriotic Americans should lay aside concerns like company layoffs, bankruptcies and the bad stock market so that the White House can focus on this more important issue.

Republicans want to privatize Social Security and put it into the stock market because that government program really just covers up for people’s failures. Why should we bail out spendthrifts who did not properly manage during their working years? The Bush plan does call for reducing the total benefit, but only society’s ne’er-do-wells could really depend on such a small check. A long weekend out of town costs more than that.

Senior citizens groups want a prescription drug benefit which Republicans oppose. Instead, families should pitch in and help grandma buy what she needs. There is also some complaining about the Republican budget cuts of $300 million for the Low Income Heating Oil program for seniors and $21.7 million for homeless children’s educations. While the White House makes war preparations, U.S. patriots shouldn’t be asking for every little thing. President Bush and the Republicans are trying to make America a strong nation that doesn’t have to consult the United Nations before we take action. If we had more Republicans in Congress, all of this could just be pushed through without questioning the president so much and having concern for whether our allies will participate.

The Republican-supported tax cuts which erased the surplus and put us into deficit spending are really not that big of a deal. The president has an MBA from an Ivy League school, and I’m sure his economic advisers are also smart. Even though household incomes are declining and the number of people living in poverty have increased, the president’s time right now must be spent on the Iraq war and not on improving the economy.

The corporate scandals also aren’t Republicans’ fault, even if wealthy friends of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were involved. Some were major donors to the GOP and Bush’s campaign, but that’s just a coincidence. Democrats’ overreaction in wanting tighter regulation of the stock market is typical. It would constrain businesses and therefore is opposed by Republicans.

Finally, Republicans have a good stance on education. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush opposes mandating class size reduction because it costs money. Public schools are mostly a mess anyway, and the gaggle who go to them these days (including some teachers!) are just wasting tax dollars. In order to afford private school tuition, people should give up buying a new car every year or building that dream house. After all, kids come first.

Contact information for readers’ voting assistance officers can be found on the Internet at www.fvap.gov/vao. Readers should vote and remind their friends to do the same. Election Day is Nov. 5, but ballots have to be mailed and received before each state’s deadline.

M. D. WooldridgeWürzburg, Germany

Paratroops

There have been so many angry letters in the paper lately that I think it’s time for some positive stuff.

My husband has been a paratrooper for the past four and a half years, first in Alaska and now here in Germany. He loves what he does and I’m so proud of him, but I’m also worried.

I’m not able to watch him jump here, but I had a few opportunities to witness some “fun jumps” in Alaska. It’s really awesome to see the aircraft — C-130s, C-141s or helicopters — come in low toward the “drop zone” and then see everybody jump out. But it’s also really scary.

I was able to tell which one my husband was since he was usually the jump master and therefore the last one out of the aircraft. (He also waved at me a time or two.)

One thing I also remember is standing there praying to God: “Please let the parachute open! Please let everything be OK during the jump!” And for all those years it opened every time.

I know I don’t have only God to thank for that. I also thank the riggers who do a great job in packing the parachutes and keeping my husband and those other men safe for all this time. I thank those guys for making sure all those paratroops land safely. They are the ones who help the wives and families at home worry a little less about their men. They should keep up the good job. We rely on them.

Marion LanceDarmstadt, Germany

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