European edition letters forthe week of Jan. 5-Jan. 11, 2003
Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)
January 5 Torturing suspects Spouses should plan Thanks for praiseJanuary 6 Parking story Ali letter AFN programmingJanuary 7 Military wives Military pay FitnessJanuary 8 Deployment story Warriors columnJanuary 9 Stop-loss response Parking articleJanuary 10 Muhammad Ali bashings More on Ali Closing bases opens woundsJanuary 11 Column off-base War on terrorism Ali has integrity
As a citizen and Army officer who has served the United States for 16 years, I’m fearful that the American principles I’ve defended are in jeopardy from our own de facto practices of torturing suspected terrorists as described in the story “For CIA interrogators, the gloves are off” (Dec. 29).
It may be technically legal for American interrogators to “render” or turn over suspects to allied intelligence agencies that we know will not respect the Geneva Convention. But to deliver suspects under our control to someone we know is going to torture them is to condone torture.
I want to do my duty and defeat our enemies as much as the next patriot, but I don’t condone torture. Torture is the greatest of evils, and if we condone its use our enemies will not hesitate to reciprocate. If our enemies learn that surrendering to Americans may result in torture, they will fight to the death, costing us many more American lives.
If I’m captured by our enemies, I don’t want to be tortured. But if I am, I expect my country to take the high road that I believe I’ve defended all my life and never, ever reciprocate.
When the then head of the CIA Counter-terrorist Center, Cofer Black, addressed a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Sept. 26, he said, “...There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11... After 9/11, the gloves come off.” Black was telling us that the U.S. will take advantage of our “allies” lack of moral principles.
If we deliver even our most hated enemies into the hands of those whom we know will subject them to the unspeakable hell of torture – and then benefit or not from any possible resulting intelligence – our hands are bloodied for allowing it to happen, and our enemies have made us what our forefathers dreamed we would never become.
We cannot just pretend this is not happening. We must do all we can to ensure victory in the war on terror while safeguarding our most treasured values. Sept. 11, 2001, changed a lot of things. But if it changed America’s principles of dedication to human rights, then our enemies have won.
AuthoThomas J. Cuscito, Jr.Chief Warrant Officer 3Wiesbaden, Germany
Spouses should plan
This is in reference to the letter “Spouse’s perspective” (Jan. 4). It was responding to the letter “Former spouses act” (Dec. 22) on divorce and retirement sharing. The writer of “Spouse’s Perspective” could not be any farther from the truth. It’s all about planning.
The writer said a military spouse puts her career on hold. Why? And if so, doesn’t the writer think one should have thought of this before marrying a servicemember? Why not plan for the future? Many spouses go to school or get job-preference employment. In doing so, the spouses raise their level of education at partial military expense for future careers. (Military members may never have time to do this.) Or they could get their foot in the door to jobs they may never have had a chance to get unless their spouse was in the military. Yongsan Army Community Service in South Korea, for example, has an excellent spousal preference program. Officials go to great lengths to ensure spouses are successfully placed and even hand-tailor résumés.
The writer also said that when it’s time to PCS, the spouse has to quit her job and basically start from the bottom. Again, she’s wrong. Why not transfer? The military gives enough of a heads-up to prepare for such transfers. A perfect example is the Defense Commissary Agency. DECA employees can get placed almost anywhere in the world that a servicemember is assigned. Again, this starts with proper planning.
The writer also said that day care is expensive. Is this the fault of the military or the spouse? This was a dual choice. The writer knew what she was getting into when she decided to have children. Hence, the brunt of the responsibility is on the non-working member.
Finally, the writer said that a military spouse puts his/her financial security on the back burner. Why? If the spouse is at home all day making all these sacrifices, then she/he has access to the bank account, and therefore should be saving for the future, correct? In my marriage, I made sure that my wife went to school, transferred into the same company when we moved, and had stocks and bonds in her name to protect her future. This wasn’t done out of necessity. It was done out of responsibility.
The military member has the hardest job in the world. The spouse has the second hardest. Retirement division should be judged in court, not by someone who has never been in the military.
Is it fair to work on one’s career while the spouse is in the military? Yes. Is it fair to divorce him/her, get half of the retirement and child support, and then move onto a great-paying job while the servicemember starts from the bottom, at half retirement, and loses loved ones and probably property? No. Sounds like a scam to me.
Don MitchellCamp Howze, South Korea
Thanks for praise
I’d like to send my warmest regards and appreciation to the writer of the letter “Military wives” (Dec. 29).
On many occasions, I and thousands of other spouses have been one of those “home” warriors. As I read the letter, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had never before seen our duties related so eloquently to those of active-duty military members. We all have an important role in the security of our country. As we prepare for the unknowns ahead, I thank the letter writer for recognizing us. May God bless “all warriors” as we embark into the future.
Christine E. DavisCamp KinserOkinawa, Japan
I had to laugh out loud when I read the article “Numbers add up to big parking problems” (Jan. 3) about the availability of parking at most European military facilities. Especially amusing was Lt. Col. Mike Morris’ comment, “If you expect there to be a parking space right in front of your office, you’re going to be disappointed.”
Well of course I’ll be disappointed. I’m just a civilian with a junior noncommissioned officer for a spouse. I’m sure Lt. Col. Morris parks right in front of his office, since he’s vice commander and probably has a slot reserved for himself.
Which brings me to another point: A sure way to free up many parking slots on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and other bases is to do away with the reserved slots at the commissaries and base exchanges/post exchanges for generals, colonels, and first sergeants. These slots frequently outnumber the handicapped parking spaces and are often the only slots open when making one of many circuits around a parking lot while looking for a spot.
Commanders and first sergeants should make a statement. They should give up their slots. They encourage people to get out and exercise, so they should practice what they preach. Instead of parking close to the door, they should walk a little. Why not let a woman who’s eight months pregnant use a parking space so she doesn’t have to walk through the snow or rain just to buy some milk or get some items at a BX?
It’s true that in some instances these slots make little to no difference in the entire scheme of available parking spots. But why not make the effort to ease the problem? Every little bit helps.
Mark R. SockmanRamstein Air Base, Germany
I’d like to commend the writer of the letter “Muhammad Ali” (Dec. 29) for his honesty concerning Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay. Individuals who represent the true meaning of serving our country should be mentors of great character. Ali doesn’t fall into that category because he used religion as an escape route from serving in Vietnam.
I had a cousin who was killed in World War II by a sniper. My father served in the Korean War for two years. I had another cousin who was shot during the Vietnam War, and I served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. My family clearly understands the meaning of sacrifice. A broadcast of Ali put in the category of people who have served the military shows ignorance by AFN’s management.
In the future, I hope AFN will choose more wisely who represents the U.S. government as a great mentor to our soldiers. Classifying Ali as a mentor is similar to Jane Fonda speaking at a South Korean convention for human rights.
Scott GwaltneyKaiserslautern, Germany
I have a comment about AFN programming. Recently commercials are being aired at what seems to be twice the volume of the scheduled programs. I understand that it’s common in the States to run commercials at twice the volume of scheduled programs in order to get viewers’ attention. It’s bad enough that we viewers in Europe are subjected to the same redundant, commercial-filled programs that we have absolutely no interest in. I feel as though I know them word for word, phrase for phrase and part for part. But now all of a sudden they are at twice the volume. I don’t want to hear or see them at all, much less hear them at twice the volume. But if I want to watch American programs in English, I realize I have no choice.
If AFN isn’t making any money on commercials, why not show a movie in its entirety and then run the redundant commercials afterward? What’s to lose? I suggest a poll. AFN is here to please, right? AFN should throw it out there and see what kind of responses it gets.
And what about the scenes that repeat themselves at least twice during a program? I think I’ve seen one or more scenes of “The Practice” at least twice — once or twice before a loud, redundant commercial that’s repeated again once or twice. Why is this happening? Is there anybody monitoring the studio at AFN, or is it automated? Does anybody really work there? Is anybody really in charge?
I could go on and on about AFN’s problems, but I don’t think anybody is there to listen. Hello! Hello!
Robert DuncanGiebelstadt, Germany
I’m the wife of a soldier in the U.S. Army. I’m proud to say that, and I don’t regret one decision made along the way.
My story no doubt resembles that of most military wives. We’re the wives who support our husbands. We’re the transient wives who tag along with our husbands from assignment to assignment, holding it all together. I’m by no means bragging or boasting. It’s by choice that I support my husband in his career. In fact, as the wife of a soldier, it’s become my mission to make sure that my soldier — my husband, my friend — has no stress.
My soldier’s duty is to be the best he can be and meet the high standards that are set for him and to protect our country. Those are responsibilities that are difficult enough to meet.
So here we are, the military wives who choose to take the long, hard road. It takes courageous individuals to keep it all together and not just be satisfied, but also be grateful. We move wherever our country sends us, and we find ways to make sure our families are pleased about it. We uproot our children from their schools on every tour, and we find ways to make it exciting for them. We change jobs from place to place, and we find ways to tell ourselves that it will better our own careers to work in new environments. We make and lose friends from post to post. But again, we find ways to get through it.
We move out of houses that we’ve made into homes to start over in new and foreign places, and we find ways to make it an adventure. We wait in our new homes while our soldiers are on deployments or in training schools, and we use that time alone to enrich the relationships we already have. We are away from our families for years at times, but we use that time to fine-tune our letter-writing skills.
We military wives play an enormous part in the security of our country. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our soldiers know their families are safe and comfortable. If our soldiers are worried about us, they won’t be exceptionally worried about our country.
So I tip my hat to the rest of the military wives who are taking care of their soldiers so that my soldier has a unit he can count on.
Ronni M. WrightHohenfels, Germany
Unless one has walked in the shoes of military personnel, one cannot make decisions on pay hikes for these folks. What people fail to realize is that there’s no amount of money that justifies what soldiers put out when wearing the uniform.
People don’t get rich in the military — not those lowly “grunts” on the totem pole. Top echelon people are raking in the dough, but not the true soldiers. Decision makers should put on the uniform, leave the comfort of their homes and be away from their loved ones. They should work in uninhabitable places for six months and see how they would survive.
Military pay is not keeping up with today’s inflation. I’d like to know what pay grade these decision makers are working against. Are they World War I or World War II pay hikes? They need to put out the bucks for those who are sacrificing and working for a boss who is bent on going to war.
Patricia PayneBronx, New York
This is in response to the letters “Physical fitness” (Dec. 7) and “PE teachers” (Dec. 14). They concerned the Nov. 22 Stars and Stripes photos of Department of Defense Dependents Schools physical education teachers taking part in a dance class.
The adage “there are fat people who run, but there are no fat runners” is an apt commentary on the PE teachers. It’s difficult to avoid judging when fitness and health are creeds of one’s existence and when medicine confirms that disease induced by obesity equals that of smoking. “What [a] person calls … healthy,” as stated in “PE teachers,” should at least adhere to a standard of fitness.
As a DODDS teacher, I was chagrined for those PE teachers. I also concur with the writer of “Physical fitness” that they should be physical models of what they teach, thereby making the instruction more effective and themselves more credible. Aptitude for teaching neither excuses ponderous weight nor the potential to be negative role models. In fact, it perpetuates the pervasive fallacy that fat should be accepted.
The arguments in “PE teachers” were invalid associations. The writer equated “curvy” with fat and attributed anorexia to the quest for health, when in actuality a “beautiful” body and fitness are the culmination of lifelong habits of diet and exercise. The revealing question is, where but amongst Americans are so many overfed?
Marguerite LeavittAviano High SchoolAviano Air Base, Italy
I’m a military spouse in Vilseck, Germany, who found out that my husband is deploying to the Persian Gulf from the story “F-16s sent to ‘CENTCOM area’” (Jan. 3). This really angers me. I’ve been a military spouse for 13 years and was in the military myself. A pending deployment isn’t a big deal to me. But I wonder what the motivation was behind the decision to let Stars and Stripes break the news. I’d much rather have gotten the information through official channels first. I’d think that journalistic integrity would require Stripes’ writers and staff to check that the families have a heads-up first.
Then there’s the question of operational security, a term I’ve decided doesn’t exist at Stars and Stripes. Stripes is easily available and online as well, so anyone who wants access to its information can get it. I thank Stripes for telling every terrorist in the world where my husband is soon to be deployed and where his unit will be located. Does Stripes not realize that there are known terror cells in Germany?
I also thank V Corps officials for not caring enough about my feelings as a family member. I’m so discouraged by this action. I don’t know if I will ever buy another Stars and Stripes. And I don’t feel terribly secure anymore under V Corps’ leadership. I hope it does a better job protecting our soldiers after they deploy.
Ginny HawkensonVilseck, Germany
The Robert Jensen column “Noble warriors, yes, but an ignoble pursuit” (Jan. 2) addressed uses of the military for “ignoble pursuits.” I won’t attempt to argue the merits of his arguments related to U.S. policy. Perhaps he’s correct. But my disagreement with his “message to the troops” is for a very simple reason: I’m sworn to protect the U.S. Constitution. It’s not up to me to decide what wars are just or unjust, regardless of my personal opinions related to the execution of national policy.
My rights as a citizen are the same as Jensen’s. I vote. I have distinct personal views when it comes to the uses or misuses of the military. But I take my orders from the National Command Authority, an authority vested in the Constitution. Congress is required to regulate the military. Its members are elected by the people, not appointed. The laws of war, the Code of Conduct, and rules of engagement constrain what I can and cannot do in a given situation. My personal world view is irrelevant.
What “resistance” does Jensen suggest? Refuse the orders of our elected leadership? Every soldier a sovereign? This is a slippery slope. No doubt Jensen cheered when the United States intervened militarily to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Many “ordinary” people didn’t want to see their sons and daughters inserted into another Balkans quagmire. Maybe we should have refused that mission. Perhaps the chairman of the Joint Chiefs should declare martial law and depose the president, Congress, and any elected official. Who, then, should the military take its orders from?
Jensen can call U.S. foreign policy empire building. He can clearly state his objections to war. I respect his right to voice these opinions. I am sworn to protect that right.
But Jensen shouldn’t patronize us. He has no message of support for the men and women of the military. His message is anti-constitutional. It isn’t mainstream, either. I suggest Jensen leave the military out of his messages. We are noble because we support and defend an ideal higher than ourselves — the U.S. Constitution.
Maj. Kurt P. VanderSteenCamp Monteith, Kosovo
When I read the letter “Stop-loss” (Dec. 31) from a dependent Army wife, I knew I had to respond. I’m an Air Force wife of 18 years. The writer’s question was, “How can a person be involuntarily extended when he enlisted in a volunteer Army?”
First, her husband doesn’t work in a civilian workplace where the only issue is profits. He’s a member of a proud heritage of people who’ve dedicated their lives so that others like her and her children can sleep peacefully at night and even complain about the government as she has without fear of persecution.
These brave men and women, as well as their family members, are constantly asked to make sacrifices for the good of the United States and the world. These sacrifices often include living in substandard conditions far from family and friends with inadequate pay and, more often than not, long separations from loved ones. I can’t begin to tell readers how many days, weeks and months my children and I have been separated from my husband. We’ve done remote tours, overseas tours, multiple deployments and numerous temporary duties. These separations are a way of life in the military, and I find it hard to believe that the writer wasn’t aware of this possibility when her husband enlisted.
I must also remind the writer that although she and her husband are separated at the moment, they did in fact choose this separation. I can understand the reasoning behind the decision. But the writer, not the Army, decided to return to Texas without her husband. The writer should stop and think about the thousands of military families whose spouses are currently spending time in Afghanistan or worse. At least the writer knows her husband is safe and living a life of relative ease.
Second, I think the writer contradicted herself. She said, “The Army is all volunteer, yet it has the right to extend my husband involuntarily in a time of peace because of what might happen in the future.” Then she went on to say, “Under today’s circumstances, I have to believe a war is a distinct possibility.”
I think the writer’s last statement says that we aren’t truly living in a time of peace. I don’t think we have since Sept. 11, 2001. That day should show us how vital our military is. It enables normal civilians to live the lives we do. The terrorist attacks also show why it’s so important for those who volunteer to serve in the armed forces to do so with a committed spirit and a love of country and their fellow man, not just to “pay off student loans.” These volunteers just might be called upon to actually defend our beloved country.
I’m sure the writer’s husband has “served his promised time with honor and dignity” and that he’s “given 100 percent to the Army.” What her husband needs now is the writer’s love and unconditional support, despite the current trying circumstances. I don’t know what the writer’s marriage vows consisted of, but mine included for better or for worse.
Glenda BatesRAF Croughton, England
I noted with interest the story “Numbers add up to big parking problems” (Jan. 3) regarding on-base parking. I ride my bicycle or take the bus at least three days a week. It’s funny, but on those days I never have a problem finding a parking place. I admit that Italy could be different. But Germany has one of the finest public transportation systems in the world.
There are alternatives for those who are tired of parking problems. I assure these people that it won’t kill them to walk 300 yards. The one drawback is that they might become as slim as I am. (I’m 47.) Then their problem will be that AAFES’ clothing stock is targeted toward those who are too lazy to exercise. That of course is a letter for a different day.
John J. BombergerHanau, Germany
Muhammad Ali bashings
After reading the several letters bashing Muhammad Ali, I had to write. As a black man, I respect and stand by everything that Ali did. One writer said Ali used religion as a shield to escape serving in Vietnam. So what? Rich white kids have been using their various means of not serving. So why denounce Ali’s actions, which were based on his religious beliefs? George W. Bush used his father’s political power to join the Texas Air National Guard. I’m sure he personally kept the Viet Cong from storming downtown Dallas.
During the Vietnam War, before the war, and even right now, minorities have been and are being denied their basic civil liberties. Ali spoke up for the rights of black people everywhere. He did more for black people than Michael Jordan’s basketball shoe-endorsing self has ever done. I bet the writer of “Ali letter” (Jan. 6) has no problem putting a certain high-flying, bald-headed dude up on a pedestal.
I served in the military, but I don’t think that I’m better or more patriotic than someone who hasn’t served. If the writer of “Ali letter” thinks that he and the members of his family are better Americans than me and my family, then they’re probably suffering from Gulf War syndrome. The writer of “Ali letter” also said that he and his family “clearly understand the meaning of sacrifice.” That’s absurd and selfish. And comparing Ali to Jane Fonda is a slap in the face. Ali never caused the death or torture of one soldier.
Ali is by far the most courageous and honorable athlete of our time. He stood up to the powers that be before there were any Johnnie Cochrans. Ali faced the possibility of being killed or imprisoned on a daily basis. So the writer of “Ali letter” and all of the Ali bashers should stop acting so holy and get off their high horses. What did they do to change the racial issues that Ali addressed? How many times were they jailed for speaking up against racism or racist policies? Until they have walked a mile — no, make that one foot — in Ali’s shoes, then and only then can they blow their own horns.
As Ali said, the Viet Cong weren’t burning crosses on his front lawn. The Viet Cong weren’t denying him his human rights. So why should he go fight a war? I felt the same way about the Gulf War, but I didn’t have the courage to stand up like Ali did. So I went and “served my country.” Ali was a courageous man, regardless if one liked his religious beliefs or politics.
Stephen MaloneKaiserslautern, Germany
More on Ali
I read the letter “Muhammad Ali” (Dec. 29) in which the writer expressed his opinion about one of boxing’s greatest. The writer said he was “shocked and disgusted” after watching an AFN television segment called “To The Troops” which briefly featured Ali. The writer said Ali should be discredited as a hero because of his refusal to serve in the military during the Vietnam War.
For that refusal, Ali was stripped of his boxing title and license for three years. The punishment was just and correct. But I’d like to remind the writer that our nation’s last president also avoided that conflict.
I’m not writing to justify these actions at all. I have much respect for those who served and will serve in our nation’s battles to defend our values and way of life. I, too, am a veteran. But I’d like to personalize this a bit more. We African-Americans don’t have many heroes from that turbulent time in our history. This could be a topic for debate for many Americans, black or white. But my point is, this period in history wiped out many of our heroes, two of which were household names. This dark and painful part of America’s history can never be undone. I express great sympathy to the writer for his pain. But he should always look at all sides before offering an opinion.
Ernest AdamsHanau, Germany
Closing bases opens wounds
I just want to know what Defense Department officials are thinking. I don’t understand all of these overseas base closures. Are they designed to save money? I’d like to know how much money in the long run they are actually going to save when they close a base, since the economy that’s supported by that base is hurt. Then if the base has to be reopened, it costs money. Or if a base is given over to civilians, there’s the cost of building a new base. Why isn’t anyone thinking of that?
Surely there has to be better ways for the government to save money than closing bases. The military is shrinking, and I don’t think it’s necessarily for the better.
Tammy LitzRamstein Air Base, Germany
I appreciate the fact that Stars and Stripes sometimes publishes articles that will irritate the majority of its readers, because a newspaper that just publishes what its readers want to see isn’t much of a newspaper. Stripes has certainly done it again with the Robert Jensen column “Noble warriors, yes, but an ignoble pursuit” (Jan. 2).
As Jensen criticized U.S. policies and theorized about President Bush’s motives, at least he refrained from Vietnam-era bashing of the military itself. But he was way off base when he urged troops to “… please join the resistance to this unjust war.” There’s only one way a uniformed member of the armed services can express resistance to the policies of his commander in chief, and that’s to vote for somebody else in the next election. Jensen’s failure to understand this very basic tenet of American democracy makes one wonder how much else he doesn’t understand.
Robert JordanStuttgart, Germany
War on terrorism
I must be one of the few people concerned about the fate of Western civilization in general and the United States in particular. I realize that it’s currently quite popular to think that our enemies hate us for our freedom. As a result, many seem to believe that once we’ve surrendered the last of our rights, Osama bin Laden’s next special delivery will be chocolates and a bouquet of roses with a little card reading, “Let’s be friends!”
Instead of providing leadership and safeguarding our freedoms, Western governments (first and foremost our own) have compounded the problem by only offering their citizens a choice between tyranny or terror. The war on terrorism is not a civil liberties issue. It’s a foreign policy issue. As such, I’d like to make the following foreign policy proposals:
1. End all military and dual-use foreign aid to all Middle East countries.
2. Open government-regulated commerce of a nonmilitary/dual-use nature on an equal quota basis with all Middle East countries. This applies to both foreign aid and humanitarian missions.
3. Strip all dual nationals of Middle East countries of U.S. citizenship, provided they voluntarily relinquish their foreign citizenship.
4. Ban immigration from Middle East countries. America’s interests are not served by importing the conflict to our soil.
5. Seeing as there is no separation of church and state in these countries, and seeing that this conflict is both religious and political in nature, it’s a violation of our constitutional separation of church and state to allow religious doctrine to dictate U.S. foreign policy in support of one side or the other. Therefore, all religious groups favorable to one or the other of the parties involved in the Middle East conflict would be banned from giving political or financial support to any side in the conflict, including any effort(s) designed to influence U.S. public opinion in support of one side or the other.
Combined with a redeployment of our forces from overseas to North America to defend our borders, I feel that these policies could end the war on terror, now into its second year, within six months if properly executed. But I fear that we are so far gone as a people that these sane, fair and impartial proposals will fall on deaf ears. Benjamin Franklin once remarked that those who would sacrifice their freedom for a little security deserve neither. What troubles my soul is the fact that people tend to get the government they deserve.
Chass WaughBabenhausen, Germany
Ali has integrity
There are many reasons to criticize the U.S. government and AFN, but displaying Muhammad Ali as a great American and world citizen is not one of them. Ali stood up for his personal and religious beliefs, which is what our military is prepared to fight for. He risked jail and millions of dollars. Ali has also been a great ambassador for the United States on many occasions.
Some people may not agree with his beliefs, but Ali is truly a man of integrity and character who many people throughout the world continue to admire and look up to. The ignorance here is the attempt to assassinate this man’s character and integrity, as the letters “Muhammad Ali” (Dec. 29) and “Ali letter” (Jan. 6) tried to do.
Gordon UscierWürzburg, Germany