Letters for the weekof April 20-April 26, 2003
Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)
April 20 Mail delivery Give lower-enlisteds credit Camp conditions Cover photo ‘Little Red Hen’ Support for military There’s power in dissent Truly for troops, against war Old Glory appropriate in Iraq
April 21 Thanks for war coverage Germany’s support Disagreeing with United States Germans bash U.S. on whimApril 22 Price of gas Gas prices Dead body photo Release of POWsApril 23 School trip Tax exemptions Gas price questions ‘One world’ letter Coalition ignored friendshipsApril 24 Do Iraqis value their gift? Hear actors, then ignore them Teed off at Masters Rooting for better mail routeApril 25 100 percent support Families of troops Freedom Front page picture Kids should read all about itApril 26 Opening people’s eyes Operation Iraqi Freedom Photo system
I was very disappointed to read the letter “Mail/AAFES downrange” (March 23) which defended the hard work and dedication of mail handlers during the protracted lethargy of our soldiers’ mail delivery. Regardless of hard work, dedication to an inefficient system and strict adherence to a failed bureaucratic process, the mail delivery system is broken.
Stringent efforts, dedication, and long hours put in by the labor force do not excuse an entire process that is culpably inefficient. Operating systems that are inherently flawed by a failure to provide a timely mail delivery mechanism is a severe morale detractor and source of discouragement to all deployed soldiers. Hard work accomplished to facilitate an inefficient process that miserably fails its mission is a waste of time and energy.
I know soldiers and civilians are working hard. Those hard-working and dedicated individuals should be given a mail delivery system that actually works and can provide soldiers who are deployed mail from home in a reasonable amount of time: seven to 10 days. Waiting in excess of a month to receive a letter from home is unacceptable and discounts every effort put forth in the process of getting that letter in my hands.
Staff Sgt. Jason C. RussoCamp Wolf, Kuwait
Give lower-enlisteds credit
This is in response to the letter “Stop complaining” (March 21). Apparently the writer saw things differently than the writer of the letter “Stop loss” (March 16), who has served 22 years in the Army and is unable to get out due to stop loss. Yes, he might have been complaining. But that gave the writer of “Stop complaining” no right to stereotype lower-enlisted people by saying that he’d expect these types of comments from them. There were lower-enlisted people on my team who were affected by stop loss, and we’re about 120 kilometers from Baghdad. They’ve never said one negative word because they’re proud of what they’re doing.
I’m sure the writer of “Stop complaining” didn’t make his rank without his soldiers who worked hard for him. The writer should give us a little more credit.
Pfc. Jason SmithIraq
I know we can’t expect miracles out of the United States. Other countries are set up differently. I read an article in Stars and Stripes about Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I heard other camps were worse than ours. I have no idea. From what I’ve seen, other camps don’t have warehouses.
I was in a warehouse too. Now I’m in a tent. It has more privacy. I’m glad we don’t have dust or sandstorms every day. Think of the camps that don’t have a post exchange tent at all at their new locations. They have to receive their stuff by mail or call to tell family or friends what’s needed.
This leads me to agree about phones and the lines to get to them. I was told we were going to get 30 more phones. Did they decide not to get them? Why isn’t a unit in charge? Noncommissioned officers time us for 20 minutes. How do you know that an NCO might be scheduled for something important and an NCO gets picked out of a waiting line?
My main concern is MPS mail. You’d think the postal unit would give us an estimate time. Does anybody know anything? Did the war slow down the process? MPS should go faster.
As for e-mail, we were told that computers would be set up. The cords are, but you need laptops.
The warehouses are to process units until they get to tents or other camps. That’s why it was so crowded. The first night my wallet was stolen. It’s never showed up. I checked with the military police station and Brown and Root.
My suggestion for the PX tent is to have a line for checks, a line for credit cards, and a line for cash. It has changed. Now there are two lines for purchases of $10 or less, cash only. The PX tent got worse since we left the warehouses. The war made it worse. Are there more civilians? They have trouble with stocking. They ran out of Pepsi and Mountain Dew. Cameras are also a problem. What I don’t like is shutting things down while the war is going on.
I know the camp has been being developed with barracks and all. Overall, I’ve lived in worse during training in the Army Reserves.
We’re just trying to explain how we feel and correct the problems.
Spc. Beverly GreeneCamp Arifjan, Kuwait
I’m the leader of the U.S. community in southern Spain. I’m also an officer who has spent an inordinate amount of time since the buildup of Operation Iraqi Freedom began trying to keep the U.S. media message above the low journalistic standards of our local host nation media. So I was appalled by Stars and Stripes’ April 13 cover photo. The graphic photo of a dead Iraqi, be he military or civilian, appearing on a Department of Defense-sanctioned publication opens the door to similar treatment from the press worldwide. I believe it’s time for a thorough review of Stars and Stripes’ editorial policy.
Capt. John H. OremCommanderNaval Station Rota, Spain
'Little Red Hen'
I just saw on CNN that France, Germany and Russia are having a summit meeting on Iraq. Does anyone but me remember the story of the “Little Red Hen”?
Karen McGowenGaeta, Italy
Support for military
My husband Bruce and I would like to express our utter support for our military men and women in Iraq. I come home nightly from my comfortable job to my very comfortable home to more revelations about the horrors that the Iraqi people have faced for so many years. How can anyone say that this war is not just?
For years Saddam Hussein has murdered and tortured millions of children and their parents. The very freedom that gives the protesters their right to speech has been denied for decades by Saddam to the people of Iraq. For three weeks now I’ve been horrified to learn of the plight they’ve suffered. As the regime has fallen, I find myself rejoicing with the Iraqi people in their new sense of freedom.
God bless our military men and women for the great work they are doing. They make us proud.
Marge CharbonneauGrafton, Mass.
There's power in dissent
Stripes has run many letters in the past few weeks regarding the prelude to the war in Iraq and, then, the war itself. There have been several outstanding letters — both in support and dissent of this war.
As a member of the U.S. armed forces for the better part of 17 years, and veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Operation Northern Watch and the Kosovo Conflict, I want to say thank you to the readers and writers for all the support that has been issued. I also want to say that I feel genuine support coming not just from those arguing for war, but also from those who exercise their right to disagree. Unlike what one of the letter writers said, I have never felt that a war protester was “lowering my morale.” Quite the contrary, I feel that those protesters have my best interests in mind. I applaud their efforts, and it fills me with pride that they are still protesting.
I know I am doing my job when there is still open protest in the streets of my home. What a sad place it would be if that were not the case.
Those that have protested the use of force in Iraq have been labeled as being “unpatriotic,” “uncaring about the events of 9/11” and even being “sympathizers” with the regime in Iraq. This thought and attitude is not only false and insulting, it is also blatantly ethnocentric. How dare anyone say that an American is unpatriotic because he or she is exercising his constitutional rights? How dare anyone say that the grief felt by the nation on Sept. 11, 2001, was not a collective grief, just because an American does not believe in vengeance? How dare anyone draw a line so distinct as to say that an American who doesn’t support war is against the United States or, worse, that he or she supports the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, when everyone knows that war is ugly, gruesome, disgusting and immoral, regardless of its justification?
I firmly believe that people, including my friends and family, can support me, and still not support this war, or any other war.
Additionally, the narrow “us vs. them” mentality displayed in many of the letters is dangerous. It is dangerous to all that sets us apart from that which we seek to destroy.
Do we want to be in a country where the freedom and right to dissent is stifled or nonexistent? If we say that people should stop protesting as soon as we start dropping bombs, then maybe we just include that time before the war starts? Just eliminate dissent altogether? Does that make sense? If we can’t air our differing opinions about a governing administration’s policies, especially policies that affect life and death and the spending of billions of dollars, then should we even make an issue out of street improvement fees or exchange gasoline prices? What do you think I’ve been fighting for?
The right to hold and espouse one’s own view is paramount to our existence as a nation. It is truly an ethical position to do so, and it is guaranteed in the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States of America is the most remarkable document ever penned by mortal man. I firmly believe that as a governing order for a nation, there is nothing better, not even close. The ideals and rights held in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the bedrock of our nationhood. They are not there just for those who think we should do whatever our government has decided is best. The Constitution is also there, in equal measure, for those who dissent. The Constitution gives every American the absolute right to peaceably dissent and protest. It codifies a time-honored method of showing displeasure with the government.
The famous Boston Tea Party was carried out prior to the Constitution even being written; it wasn’t even peaceable, and yet that protest is still celebrated. If not for protest and dissent, Tony Blair would be our prime minister, and not our ally.
I have pledged my life to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I am honored to have that choice to make, and to have your support to do it. But please don’t make a mockery of that which I am defending by claiming that those who utilize their right to try to prevent war somehow don’t deserve or appreciate those rights. You may disapprove of what they say, but I will defend to the death their right to say it.
Daniel M. JafferWhite Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa
Truly for troops, against war
While there are a number of people protesting the war in Iraq, we Americans are very proud of our brave servicemembers who are courageously serving throughout the world. They are all in our thoughts and prayers. We know that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans are ours only because of the selfless sacrifices of these servicemembers who have fought to ensure that we have them.
I’m one of those people who disagree with President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq when we did. But don’t think for one minute that I and the rest of our nation aren’t behind all of our troops 100 percent. Instead of demonstrating, I chose a more subtle approach to voice my disagreement.
Before the war began, I wrote several letters to the president hoping to affect his decision. I wanted the president to continue the efforts in the United Nations to arrive at a peaceful method of disarming Saddam Hussein. Or barring that, I wanted the United States to build a broad-based, international, U.N.-supported invasion of Iraq. I believe it was possible, but would have required more time and effort.
Once the war began, I prayed our troops would achieve their objectives quickly and with as little bloodshed as possible. I hoped they would return home to their families who love them and to their grateful nation. I believe it’s my duty as an American not only to support our armed forces, but to inform the president and members of Congress who represent me when I believe they have made mistakes in judgment or are proceeding in ways contrary to how I wish to be governed. Along with voting, I believe that these are my patriotic duties, and to do anything less would be unpatriotic. I believe the anti-war demonstrators have similar feelings that they’re trying to express.
We live in the greatest country on Earth. It’s become so great — and will become even greater — by our willingness to question our leaders when we feel it is necessary. But servicemembers should please not mistake our desire to improve the governing of the United States with a lack of appreciation for our servicemembers. Americans, both pro-war and anti-war, appreciate all that servicemembers do for us, whether we agree with our leaders or not. We appreciate what servicemembers do for us in times of peace as well as in times of war. We pray for their safe and rapid return home. I thank our servicemembers. God bless them and God bless America.
Joe MurphyPrairie View, Ill.
Old Glory appropriate in Iraq
I was overjoyed to see the American flag draped over the face of a Saddam Hussein monument the day the Marines liberated Baghdad. But my joy was short-lived as I began to hear CNN and National Public Radio repeatedly suggest that displaying the American flag was “counterproductive” and indicative of America’s “neo-colonial aspirations” in Iraq. These notions were subjective and far from truthful. The smiles on the countless faces of liberated Iraqis proved it.
Unfortunately, some leaders have fallen victim to these same liberal notions that U.S. fighting forces shouldn’t have displayed Old Glory after soundly defeating the enemy. They were more concerned about creating “further tensions” and “maintaining good public relations” than they were about allowing our soldiers the reward of proudly displaying Old Glory. This was not an unreasonable reward, considering the blood and lives that were given for that victory. People, especially Americans, must understand that the proud display of Old Glory on any prominent feature formerly belonging to the enemy shows that our fighting forces have been victorious.
I was disappointed to see that the Marines were quickly given a politically correct order to take down the American flag from the Saddam statue and replace it with the Iraqi flag. (As if flying the American flag is an offense!) I can only imagine how hard it must have been to carry out that order.
Replacing Old Glory with the Iraqi flag would have been appropriate if the victory had been achieved by anti-Saddam freedom fighters who spilled their blood on their own soil for their own freedom. But this wasn’t the case. It was the efforts of Americans that liberated Baghdad. They arrived first through the jeers of protesters around the world and then through the fears of danger and death. They spilled their blood and sacrificed their lives to defeat the enemy.
If the establishment of Old Glory in the Baghdad town square was all it took to get the enemy to come out instead of hiding behind women and children or in hospitals and schools, then we should display Old Glory with a brass band playing our national anthem.
I’m thankful this political correctness and fear to fly Old Glory didn’t exist during World War II when Marines raised her on Mount Suribachi. If this were the case, today’s monument of Iwo Jima would be flying the Japanese flag instead of the American flag.
It’s obvious that taking down Old Glory from the Saddam statue was very poor judgment. Military leadership should avoid making this mistake again in future battles. I implore military leaders to consider when and how to fly Old Glory in victory. America’s fighting forces, and especially the Marines, should always be granted the right to display Old Glory after victory is attained through American bloodshed.
Bill WillettHeidelberg, Germany
Thanks for war coverage
I want to let readers know how much I’ve enjoyed the stories that Steve Liewer has written for Stars and Stripes about the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment and the 11th Aviation Regiment. My son is a helicopter pilot in the 2-6, and I’ve found it a great comfort to know a little bit about his mission and his general whereabouts these last few weeks during the war in Iraq. Mr. Liewer is a good writer and does his best to find new soldiers to quote in every story so that each family can hear something about their soldier.
The reporting that Stars and Stripes does in general is a great service to those of us on the home front who read Stripes’ Web site. We worry about our GIs, even though we know they’re the best trained, most disciplined soldiers in the world. Those few lines that may be in a story make us swell with pride for our soldiers.
But what Mr. Liewer did for me went above and beyond the call of duty. I sent him a similar message about my appreciation for his writing and leaving the comforts of home to follow the 2-6. I also asked Mr. Liewer if he would say hello to my son if he saw him again since Mr. Liewer had quoted my son in a story about the 2-6. Mr. Liewer sent me a personal message and said he’d just seen my son and that he was in good health and good spirits. Then Mr. Liewer found my son and allowed him to use his e-mail account to write me a short letter. My son let me know that he’d gotten a package I sent and when he thought he might be returning to Germany.
I cannot express in these few words how much it meant to me to get that e-mail from my son. It brought tears to my eyes to know that my son was safe and that he had gotten the care packages that I had sent.
Mr. Liewer deserves a special commendation for his dedication to the troops and to the families on the home front. He certainly has my gratitude. He didn’t need to take the time to find my son and allow him to send an e-mail. Mr. Liewer showed that he has a deep concern for the soldiers and their families. I will never forget what he did for me.
All of us on the home front should never forget what Stars and Stripes does for those of us waiting for word about our soldiers. Again, I thank Mr. Liewer and Stars and Stripes for their coverage of the war and their dedication to our troops.
Carol BeronichDes Moines, Iowa
I’m a military spouse in Germany. With all that’s going on in the world, I’ve received tons of e-mails about the war in Iraq and soldiers dying for freedom. The majority of the e-mails are positive, patriotic and right on the money. But there’s one big misconception I’d like to address. Lately we’ve heard so much about which countries are U.S. allies and which countries have stood by the United States. What people don’t realize is that although the powers that be in Germany didn’t choose to join the United States in fighting the war in Iraq, German soldiers are guarding our installations here in Germany while our soldiers are away.
The German soldiers have done a great job. They’re always courteous and respectful, so much so that they salute all Americans when they enter posts and bases. They are always eager to do things that will help improve their friendships with American soldiers. If not for the German army guarding our installations in Germany, all our military families would have to go back to the States.
While some families have chosen to go back, others want to stay and help support their spouses and “military families” that they have here in Germany. By staying in Germany, we get updates about our spouses quicker. This also gives us the opportunity to maintain a stable home for our children and to try to keep things as “normal” as possible. And any time that a soldier gets wounded or worse, we’re here to rally for the family of that soldier.
I guess a person would have to be here to understand the support and incredible feeling of family that we have. A military life is not easy for any family member. It’s a hard life for soldiers, spouses and children. But no one can relate more to this than the members of other military families who are going through it. When times get tough and I just can’t seem to go on, I know I can call my military family and friends to help get me through it. I know my husband is grateful that I’m staying in Germany. He knows that I’m proud of him. I was there to see him off and I’ll be the first one to welcome him back.
Supporting our country shouldn’t be based solely on who’s out there fighting in Iraq with our troops. While there may be some countries that haven’t supported the United States in any way, Germany’s not one of them. So I have to thank the German army for giving me the opportunities I have with my family. It’s because of the German army’s commitment to our GIs that we families are here. So when readers hear talk about the lack of support by other countries, let them know that there are other ways those countries may be supporting us. They shouldn’t be so quick to judge unless they have all the facts.
Awilda Chile RodriguezBaumholder, Germany
Disagreeing withtUnited States
The letter “Forging diplomacy” (April 16) was unfortunately too typical of opinions that I’ve heard lately. It was single-minded and arrogant. The letter derided the likes of France, Germany and Russia for casting aside “our long-standing friendships to oppose us but also hindered us in every possible diplomatic way.”
There are about 180 recognized nations in the world. The U.S. and England led a coalition of 33 (18 percent) plus an additional 12 that did not wish to be named. That’s about 25 percent of the world’s nations. The 33 nations included such economic and population giants as Micronesia, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tonga. The 33 also included such nations as Turkey, which refused to allow U.S. troops to use its bases because the majority of the Turkish people were against the war in Iraq. Other heads of state who signed up for the coalition included Spain, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, even though the majority of their people were against the war. So since most of the world’s leaders and most of the world’s people were against this action at this time and in favor of further diplomatic efforts, it might be more accurate to say that it was the coalition that cast aside long-standing friendships to oppose the will of the world.
Further, what was the letter writer basing the success on when he said that U.S. foreign policy has proven successful? Is it that the well-trained, well-equipped, technologically superior military of the coalition soundly defeated the ill-equipped, poorly-trained, sixth-rate Iraqi military that essentially had no will to fight (low morale) and also had no air support?
We can and should be proud of our military personnel and their dedication to duty to fight and win a war and their dedication to preserving life and property. But the fact that our military did its job and did it well does not mean that U.S. foreign policy has proven successful. U.S. foreign policy will prove successful when we learn to work with the rest of the nations of the world to make the world more peaceful and better for all, not just when the United States expects them to follow our lead.
The fact that a despicable, vicious tyrant was removed from power is wonderful for the Iraqi people and the world. But the objective laid out by the United States to the United Nations was not the removal of this regime. It was to require that Iraq eliminate weapons of mass destruction and show proof that the weapons were indeed eliminated. Most members of the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. in general thought that the process in place to meet the stated objective was succeeding.
Finally, disagreeing with the U.S. administration does not make a person unpatriotic if he’s a U.S. citizen. And it doesn’t make a person unfriendly if he’s the head of state of another country or the citizen of another country. Disagreeing with the U.S. administration doesn’t mean that a person does not fully support all the fine coalition military personnel who put their lives on the lines doing their duty and doing it well.
Gordon UscierWürzburg, Germany
Germans bash U.S. on whim
Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there has been an increase in anti-American rhetoric in most of the German media. The primary focus has been “aggressor America” and resulting Iraqi civilian casualties. Comparisons have been made between the “senseless” Allied bombings of Hamburg, Nuremberg and Dresden during World War II and the bombing of Baghdad by coalition forces.
The German media also has said America’s treatment of Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is inhumane. Palestinians have been portrayed as victims of Israeli suppression supported by America. Some talk-show participants have said that Americans are historically warmongers, and this war is about Iraq’s natural resources. President Bush has been compared with Adolf Hitler. I also detected malicious joy, covertly and overtly, over American casualties in the Iraq war. Apparently there was no differentiation between being anti-war — any war — and anti-American.
One can argue for or against the war. But subjective journalism reinforces anti-American sentiment. In addition, anti-American sentiment has been further reinforced by the incumbent German government’s alliance with France regarding the Iraq war. I don’t suggest that all Germans were infected by this phenomenon. But I think that the majority of them may have either latent or overt anti-American feelings.
German anti-Americanism was also prominent during the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Central America (especially Nicaragua), and during the installation of cruise missiles in Germany. Demonstrations took place when Frankfurt International Airport expanded. It became the antecedent in the Frankfurt region for hatred toward almost anything American. Many violent clashes followed. Rhein-Main Air Base was targeted and its entry blocked by demonstrators.
Truthfully, the only times I’ve experienced pro-American attitudes in Germany since World War II were when President Kennedy visited Berlin, immediately after the Cuban missile crisis, and when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Anti-American demonstrations in Germany were, and still are, probably orchestrated by communist sympathizers and other leftist groups who take this opportunity to disseminate their hatred toward America.
I wonder if the younger generations among them know that without the United States entering World War II, they wouldn’t enjoy the right to demonstrate.
There are currently about 50 different conflicts in Africa that have resulted in thousands of deaths. Yet Germans are not demonstrating against these conflicts. Why not? I assume because the United States is not involved. The point is that Germans are not demonstrating against war so much as they are demonstrating against the United States.
Heinz WeingaertnerChief Warrant Officer (Ret.)Vilseck, Germany
Price of gas
It’s nearing summertime, and we all know what that means. AAFES needs to come up with a whole new batch of reasons why gas prices are so high. I particularly liked the December 2001 winners: “We subsidize diapers with high gas prices.” (I suppose so privates can change their kids and be stuck on post without enough money for gas.) Then there’s the ever-popular, “We can’t lower our prices because we buy all of our gas at the beginning of the year at one price.” That practice is ludicrous considering how volatile the fuel markets are. And if that were the case, then why have prices gone up as they have? AAFES also says, “We have to match the prices in the States.” That sounds good. But if AAFES managed to actually play the fuel market well and get a good deal on a year’s supply of gas, then why gouge servicemembers when prices go up in the States?
According to the American Automobile Association, the average price in the United States for a gallon of gas on April 3 was down 12 cents since March. The prices were $1.595 for unleaded, $1.695 for mid-grade, $1.755 for premium and $1.658 for diesel. This is according to the AAA monthly Fuel Gauge Report, which is based on more than 60,000 credit card transactions from the previous day, with the exception of Saturday and Sunday. Check www.aaa.com for more details.
Currently at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, fuel prices have continued to increase. Customers are paying 49.2 cents a liter for leaded gas. What really irritates me is how surreptitiously AAFES does it. Prices go up at the pump, and the only sign that is prominently displayed is a conversion chart for octane ratings. Where is a chart that shows how much a gallon of gas costs? Having the pumps show only liters gives a vague idea of the price. After pumping gas, who thinks, “OK, 49 cents a liter and 3.78541 liters in a gallon equals $1.8549 a gallon”? Yep folks, that math is correct. We are paying close to $1.86 a gallon compared to the U.S. national average of about $1.59 a gallon. Hopefully, those poor privates live near their base exchanges or post exchanges, because they sure can’t afford gas to go buy those “subsidized diapers.”
I demand that AAFES prominently display its current gas prices in gallons as we are all accustomed to seeing in the States. Printing a neat little Power Point slide or Word document with the current gas prices should not be too difficult for any service station, especially since gas prices don’t change daily. If AAFES really has the best interests of servicemembers in mind, it has no excuse for keeping its fuel prices vague.
Robert WillsChief Warrant Officer 2Ramstein, Germany
Hey AAFES! Gas prices in the United States have dropped about 13 cents a gallon in the last four weeks! Is AAFES listening, or does it even care?
Mike CauseyMannheim, Germany
Dead body photo
I believe the writer of the letter “Photo of body” (April 17) has misplaced her concern for her son. The letter was about the Page one Stars and Stripes photo of a dead Iraqi surrounded by U.S. soldiers.
Any 13-year-old boy who is old enough to read the news and think that military weapons are “cool” is old enough to see the results when those weapons are used. Our soldiers not only may be killed, they may have to kill. Protecting young people from these realities only glamorizes war. It’s important to teach our children that war, while sometimes necessary, is not cool. War by definition causes loss of life on both sides, and we must face up to this. I’d be far more concerned if Stars and Stripes sanitized the news to spare us the reality of conflict than I’m disturbed by a photo that reminded us of the inherent violence of war.
Elaine WhiteWiesbaden, Germany
Release of POWs
The recent release of U.S. prisoners of war brought elation to many in the Kaiserslautern, Germany, military community as well as to others. Initially I thought the POWs were through, especially the women. I shared my feelings with friends and co-workers alike. We all prayed for their release. A heavy burden was lifted from my heart when Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson, Pfc. Jessica Lynch and the other POWs were found. God bless the Iraqis who released them.
I’m not the most religious person in the world, but I remembered fundamental worship. One church in the KMC area will soon have a returning member of its congregation. See you there!
Clarence J. SpencerKaiserslautern, Germany
My daughter attends fifth grade at Vilseck Elementary School in Germany. I consider myself to be what the Department of Defense Dependents Schools claims it wants. I’m an active parent in my daughter’s education, having served on the School Advisory Committee for three years, the past two as chairperson. My daughter’s teachers are wonderful people who have always made me feel that my participation is welcomed and appreciated. But recent events have led me to feel that the VES school administration only welcomes limited parent participation as long as not too many questions are asked.
For the better part of this school year, the VES fifth grade classes have been raising money for a study trip at the end of May. Students and parents have raised approximately $12,000. Other parents and I have had an active role in helping the teachers with the trip. On the eve of spring break, the administration sent a letter home to parents informing us that the trip was cancelled due to security and force protection. Parents understand the need to secure our children’s safety. But needless to say, many parents had questions regarding the quick cancellation and were unable to ask them because of spring break.
Upon returning to school, there seemed to be a calmer atmosphere regarding security and a lessening of restraints on travel. This was evidenced by DODDS allowing Math Counts students to travel on an international flight to a major American city. The parents of the fifth grade students wondered if we could also salvage their trip. So the paperwork for approval was resubmitted to the appropriate people.
Because of time limits on reservations and cancellation fees, I tried to help expedite procedures. I hand-carried a document from the Base Support Battalion security office to the school. In doing so, I performed an unspeakable breach in procedure and protocol. I was immediately telephoned by the school liaison officer, who asked me “what part I played in this whole process?” When I said I was a parent of a fifth grade student trying to help (and SAC chairperson), I was told that I was “nobody in this process and had no part or place in this procedure.” I was also told that I was “confusing the issue.” Nobody? Confusing the issue? By simply asking for a copy of a document and delivering said document to the school to help expedite approval, or disapproval, at the next level?
I’m aware that procedures are in place for a reason. I follow them daily at work and have followed procedures closely as SAC chairperson for the past two years. But as President Bush recently showed us, sometimes action needs to be taken to expedite procedures for quicker results.
Does DODDS really want to send the message that parents are nobodies in school procedures that affect their children? If it does, I have my own message: I am somebody. I am a parent, and I will continue to participate in, assist with, and question any school policy or procedure that I think needs to be questioned, especially if it directly affects my daughter.
Catherine L. ChallVilseck, Germany
Is there anyone willing to take up the cause of tax exemption status for civilians deployed with U.S. servicemembers in combat zones? I work for the U.S. Army alongside troops in Kuwait. When servicemembers walk off the plane here, they get tax-free status, hazardous duty pay, family separation pay (if they have dependents) and free mail. Those of us who aren’t Department of Defense civilians but work for DOD still have to pay taxes on our income.
A lot of us are living and working in the same conditions that servicemembers are living in. We eat the same food and share the same risks without the added bonus of having sidearms just in case. Since Oct. 14, 2001, I’ve been deployed with U.S. troops in Uzbekestan, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait and Utah.
Is there someone out there who’s willing to help out on this issue?
Rick PattersonCamp Doha, Kuwait
Gas price questions
I’d like to know why AAFES is raising the price of gasoline at the pump and for its coupons when gas prices are going down in the United States. On a recent afternoon I heard on AFN television that the average price of gas in the U.S. had dropped another six cents and now costs $1.61 per gallon for regular. We pay much more than that here in Germany.
I’d also like to know why AAFES charges 49.2 cents per liter for regular gas for military and civilian patrons but charges official vehicle buyers 26 cents per liter. Why do AAFES patrons pay 23 cents per liter profit to AAFES? Why the wide difference in the cost of the gas and what patrons are forced to pay? Seems like a big rip-off to me.
Michael L. BurkertMannheim, Germany
'One world' letter
The letter “One world” (April 16) perfectly made the point of the letter “Anti-American rhetoric” (April 7).
“Anti-American rhetoric” did not suggest that the billions of dollars poured into Europe was to “buy” minds. The money was and is an investment by the United States in the people of European counties who would embrace liberty, justice, human rights and dignity as absolute conditions of acceptable government, not as rhetoric (which can be bought), but as uncompromisable truths (which cannot). Many governments claim to hold those convictions, but as usual, there is a lot of talk and not much action in support of such claims.
If the “allies” had presented a solid, united political front in the United Nations, they may have convinced the Iraqi regime to take serious steps toward compliance with Resolution 1441. As it was, Iraq had been playing political games for 12 years, and there was no real reason for it to think that it couldn’t continue for another 12 years. The Iraqi regime had the apparent support of a good portion of Europe. Even if there had been individual members of the regime who had wanted to affect some sort of real change, neither the U.N. nor Europe provided any reasonably secure venue of support. Had we all stuck together, perhaps things would have been different. That’s the tragedy of the whole situation.
It’s interesting that the writer of “One world” did not decry the possibility of supporting Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists, free-love advocates, anarchists or other fanatics. She didn’t dispute the assertion that not one banner against Saddam Hussein could be seen, nor did she take any exception to the idea that the European media is much more controlled by governments than in the United States, thus making it easier to indoctrinate people with anti-American rhetoric. The writer preferred to leap to the conclusion that someone was covertly trying to buy her mind, and she sanctimoniously declared that she could not be bought. It ought to be of some comfort to the writer to know that it’s perfectly impossible to buy a mind. And now that the writer has double-checked her information and verified that there is, in fact, only one world, perhaps she can now take time to concentrate on the idea of a one-world government.
Socialism, fascism, communism, a dictatorship, democracy? The writer should not blithely assume that a one-world government would necessarily be one she could comfortably live with, nor that her idea of good government would satisfy the needs of various people around the world.
Carol GiffenMannheim, Germany
Coalition ignored friendships
The April 17 letter “Seeking a piece of the peace” was unfortunately too typical of opinions that I’ve heard lately. It was single-minded and arrogant. The letter derided the likes of France, Germany and Russia for casting aside “our long-standing friendships to oppose us but also hindered us in every possible diplomatic way.”
There are about 180 recognized nations in the world. The United States and England led a coalition of 33 (18 percent) plus an additional 12 that did not wish to be named. That’s about 25 percent of the world’s nations. The 33 nations included such economic and population giants as Micronesia, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tonga. The 33 also included such nations as Turkey, which refused to allow U.S. troops to use its bases because the majority of the Turkish people were against the war in Iraq. Other heads of state who signed up for the coalition included Spain, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, even though the majority of their people were against the war. So since most of the world’s leaders and most of the world’s people were against this action at this time and in favor of further diplomatic efforts, it might be more accurate to say that it was the coalition that cast aside long-standing friendships to oppose the will of the world.
Further, what was the letter writer basing the success on when he said that U.S. foreign policy has proven successful? Is it that the well-trained, well-equipped, technologically superior military of the coalition soundly defeated the ill-equipped, poorly trained, sixth-rate Iraqi military that essentially had no will to fight (low morale) and also had no air support?
We can and should be proud of our military personnel and their dedication to duty to fight and win a war and their dedication to preserving life and property. But the fact that our military did its job and did it well does not mean that U.S. foreign policy has proven successful. U.S. foreign policy will prove successful when we learn to work with the rest of the nations of the world to make the world more peaceful and better for all, not just when the United States expects them to follow our lead.
That a despicable, vicious tyrant was removed from power is wonderful for the Iraqi people and the world. But the objective laid out by the United States to the United Nations was not the removal of this regime. It was to require that Iraq eliminate weapons of mass destruction and show proof that the weapons were indeed eliminated. Most members of the U.N. Security Council and the United Nations in general thought that the process in place to meet the stated objective was succeeding.
Finally, disagreeing with the U.S. administration does not make a person unpatriotic if he’s a U.S. citizen. And it doesn’t make a person unfriendly if he’s the head of state of another country or the citizen of another country. Disagreeing with the U.S. administration doesn’t mean that a person does not fully support all the fine coalition military personnel who put their lives on the line doing their duty and doing it well.
Gordon UscierWürzburg, Germany
Do Iraqis value their gift?
The writer of the letter “There’s power in dissent” (April 22) is confused about the origin of the freedoms he tried to defend.
Protest and dissent brought thousands of British troops and ships to America. Eight years of bloodshed, deprivation and resolve brought freedom to a new nation. Iraqi citizens are following the cue of our own disgruntled peaceniks in protesting the coalition’s presence. Where were the protests against their hated oppressor during the past 25 years? They protest now because it’s without risk. Their new freedom is a gift from thousands who risked and hundreds who lost their lives fighting for it. Time will tell if they value this gift, not their ability to chant in the streets.
Dissenters have the right to voice their opinions. But the writer seemed uncomfortable that the rest of us should exercise the same right. Servicemembers’ First Amendment rights are restricted only by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not by the fragile egos of dissenters. And yes, we “dare” to point out that the protesters aided and abetted a brutal regime. Actions have consequences. It’s not necessary to have warm feelings for Saddam Hussein for actions to embolden him.
Even after the start of combat operations, Western protests continued to feed Saddam’s propaganda machine, keeping his subjects in fear. It’s not the protesters who paid the price for this. Should the rest of us be overly concerned about their feelings? They have shown little restraint or good judgment themselves, and they took no personal risks in the process of undermining those who risked everything.
The writer said his friends and family can “support” him without supporting “this war, or any other war.” Well yes, as long as they define “support” in a way that makes the statement irrelevant. If opposing war has any meaning at all, it means withdrawing moral support from those who execute it. People opposed to the action in Iraq cannot claim to “support the troops” in any meaningful way. Those who oppose war in all cases cannot even condone the existence of the armed forces.
No one questions their right to express such beliefs, but why are they trying to have it both ways? Where is their moral courage and clarity, of the kind displayed by our troops in this war?
If the war’s a crime, then our warriors are criminals. “Just following orders” wasn’t a successful defense at Nuremberg. Protesters shouldn’t be using it to weasel a “support for the troops” they have no right to claim. If their opposition is based on moral conviction, then they should have the courage to voice the logical consequences of that conviction and stop patronizing those who’ve put everything on the line for their own moral choices.
Most surprising was the writer’s statement, “Everyone knows that war is immoral, regardless of its justification.” Why is the writer in the armed forces?
If the writer believes what he wrote, I suggest he look into conscientious objection or some other means of relieving himself of his duties. Either way, his moral conflict is of his own making.
Hear actors, then ignore them
At a time that’s deadly serious for many of our countrymen, I still find myself chuckling as the media continues to hawk stories about those who openly opposed the war with Iraq or the way in which it was conducted. I have dedicated my life to the preservation of America, and I’d never begrudge the freedom of speech to anyone. But it seems that many of these individuals have stretched their right to speak on any given topic into a right to be relevant in the discussion. They act as if social prominence or title makes them a force to be reckoned with.
Hollywood has given us both sides of the fray. But Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore and a few others have gotten most of the column fodder. They are as irrelevant to this issue as politicians and generals are on the state of the entertainment industry. We the people will decide for ourselves, and we can cast our votes for or against them at the ticket counter if it means that much to us. Most of us just don’t give a hoot what they say as long as they do their jobs and don’t run for public office.
The “armchair generals” and aptly named members of “think tanks” are equally absurd. The honorable retired generals would be first to tell us that, when in command of a force at war, the relevance of past generations only extends to comparable circumstances and lessons learned. The think tanks are comparable to fish tanks, in which the occupants risk nothing and are hand-fed. Yet they insist they can offer great wisdom to other fish in the open waters on how best to survive. Chuckle, chuckle.
Voices of dissent are a healthy part of the American way, and we have always been able to see clearly between right and wrong. We are also pretty good with the gray areas. As these people speak, they must recognize the right that the rest of us have to not care what they say. They are no more or less relevant than the rest of us inside a voting booth, where true relevance is established.
Gunnery Sgt. Jerry MiltonCamp Foster, Okinawa
Teed off at Masters
Now that the war is just about over, can we turn our attention toward the States for a moment? How many of us realize what was allowed to happen at The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.? We, the land of the free, let someone tell us that females could not play in his golf tournament and would never be allowed on his golf course as members — maybe to serve tea and cookies, but never to play golf as members.
It’s true that the United States is a free country. Augusta National Golf Club is a private country club, and the golf tournament has a long history dating back to Bobby Jones in 1934. But is this how we define freedom? Do we allow one man’s freedom to negate the freedom of others — in this case, women golfers? The Masters has become larger than life. For a small moment in time, it was watched by most of the civilized world. What happened in Augusta was an embarrassment to the United States and our way of life. Some of us just forgot to notice.
Do the people in the Augusta country club realize that women are now “allowed” to be doctors, lawyers, pilots, teachers, cops and, oh yes, prisoners of war? In our male enlightenment, we allow women to go to war and get shot, beat up, tortured and even killed. Next time readers meet a woman police officer, they should ask her what she thinks about women’s rights. Upon exploring this “good old boy” philosophy, one will see that women are only accepted in the kitchen and the bedroom.
Telling women that they can’t be members at Augusta is un-American. What happened in Augusta was not a stand for individual rights, but a demonstration of ignorance and meanness. We should not allow a group of men to discriminate against women golfers because women don’t conform to the group’s male standards of female behavior.
If this is allowed to happen next year, then the media and the public should ignore the tournament. Newspapers, TV, radio and the Internet should not advertise, broadcast or support the tournament in any way. I doubt that this will happen, because money speaks louder than actions. But if the public stops watching, the money will dry up and the players will not attend.
The real danger is that this time it was women and golf. What will be next?
Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa
Rooting for better mail route
I am a Marine mama that is upset. I had sent four letters and got all four back. I have sent at least three letters a week and heard the troops would get envelopes faster than boxes. I have mailed at least one envelope a week with “poogie bait” and jerky beef, of course, because of Iraqi law. I even sent three self-addressed stamped envelopes to my son with notes already written to me saying he was OK, telling him to send my note back with sand if he didn’t have anything to write with.
I have not gotten one word from my son. It is sad to think our men are out there fighting for our freedom and they don’t even have the freedom of mail and packages from all whom love and appreciate what they are doing for us. No wonder they think that a lot of Americans are against what they are doing. Polls show that is not true, and I hope the embedded reporters are telling our men how proud the USA is of them. Also, thanks for all the articles about the troops in Stars and Stripes.
Ellen FagundesSan Jose, Calif.
100 percent support
Our troops have 100 percent support from my family and me. We’re so proud of all of them. It’s a great sacrifice that they’ve made. We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of our fallen heroes.
We have three sons. At one time all three were in three different branches of the service. Fortunately, only two of them were involved in the Gulf War. I used to light a candle for them every day and pray that they’d come back safe and sound. They did.
I pray that this conflict will be over very soon and the troops can get back to their families. I know the families miss them very much. I don’t know the troops, but I miss them.
I also want to thank the troops for the freedom my family and I enjoy. Every night when we go to bed and lay our heads down, we feel safe. The troops shouldn’t believe any of the trash some people are saying about Americans not supporting them. We all do. No matter what our opinions about other things, we are still proud that the troops are doing such a fantastic job. They can be proud of themselves for a job well done.
Again, I thank our troops. God bless them. I’ll keep them in my prayers and in my heart. If they ever need someone to write to, I’d be glad to answer their letters.
Maureen KleinPanama City, Fla.
Families of troops
We in the Vicenza, Italy, community are very proud of our deployed troops. I’m also astonished at the remarkable way the families of those troops are handling the enormous difficulties of just carrying on. God bless them all.
Joseph L. PelleritoVicenza American SchoolVicenza, Italy
Freedom. It’s not just a word. It’s America in all its beauty. This has been partially taken away from us by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. America has risen above this, and now we seek to give freedom to Iraq. But around the world we are condemned for it. We still live in the darkness of 9/11. It’s been almost two years since it happened. We need to remember what freedom is. People like Michael Moore need to remember that they have the freedom to blast America’s leaders, their policies and what we stand for. These people shouldn’t forget that this government’s leadership and policies have given them the right to protest and open their mouths and insert their feet.
All these actors, musicians and war protesters have no idea what this is because it’s never been taken away from them. Why? Because American soldiers have stood in the way of people who desire to take it away from them. And yet these protesters stand at my gates and demonstrate against me!
Don’t protest against American soldiers. The soldiers follow orders. They don’t question them. Yes, we have our inner emotions and our own beliefs in what’s right or wrong, and believe me, we know the difference. War is cruel. It always has been and always will be.
The ignorance of people amazes me. Where have they been? Where were they when Saddam Hussein killed his own people, attempted genocide against the Kurdish population, invaded Kuwait and launched chemical attacks on Iranian soldiers? Saddam even abandoned his own people. We’ve seen how Iraqis have greeted coalition troops. We bring them water, food and aid. Yet the protesters condemn us because we give Iraqis what the protesters have — freedom.
Where were the protesters when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Russia invaded Chechnya, when the Chinese government stamped out freedom protesters, and when the Serbian government committed genocide in the Balkans? Where was America? We were standing with open arms offering these people freedom. I doubt the protesters even understand the word. They’ve always had their freedom. It’s never been taken away. The protesters were born free with spoons in their mouths. They should first experience the loss of freedom like the Iraqi people have and then open their mouths. The protesters should bite their tongues or seek freedom elsewhere.
I’m a soldier in the U.S. Army. I’m proud of our soldiers and saddened by the protesters’ lack of patriotism. If not for soldiers, protesters wouldn’t have the right to speak as they do.
I’m willing to die for our nation and freedom so that protesters may keep their freedom. When I’m gone, there will be others to replace me so that there will always be freedom.
Sgt. 1st Class David PickardBamberg, Germany
Front page picture
Who’s idea was it to print that horrible picture on the front page of the April 13 Stars and Stripes? (The photo showed the body of a dead Iraqi surrounded by American troops.) Was that really necessary? I’m not only upset for my own sake, but think about the height of Stripes’ vending machines. It may be at my knee level, but it’s right at eye level for my children. What was Stripes thinking?
Jennifer WilliamsVicenza, Italy
Kids should read all about it
I must respond to the article “Bigger books: Long-winded authors make reading an investment” (April 20).
I’m rather disturbed at the writer’s protestations regarding book length. The assertion that many books don’t need to be as long as they are smacks of an underdeveloped mind more familiar with reading text in bubble cartoons than in books.
Additionally, complaints regarding the length of the Harry Potter series of books are disturbingly shortsighted. Encouraging children to familiarize themselves with books of substantial length will benefit them in the long run. The article was insulting, particularly to a military audience. In the wake of funding cuts to the Department of Defense Dependents Schools and a lack of emphasis on education in our military culture, we should be encouraging kids to read whatever they can.
Daniel R. ZolbergSasebo Naval Base, Japan
Opening people's eyes
It’s really about time someone spoke up. I’ve read magazine and newspaper articles and watched the news about those in Hollywood who are narrow-minded and opinionated. Of course my saying all of those in Hollywood would be wrong. But they know who they are.
A military lifestyle is not for everyone. That’s fine. I don’t recall there being a draft for some time now. We servicemembers all chose this life knowing that war was probable in this day and age.
I’ve served five years in the Air Force. My younger brother served five and a half years in the Navy. We’re very proud of what we do for our country. On the whole, we’re not looking for recognition. None is needed. But support from our fellow Americans is not too much to ask. Or is it?
Many people don’t understand the aspects of war and the decisions that are made for our country by our commander in chief. I honestly don’t always understand them myself. That’s why I’m not making the decisions. But I’ll carry out the orders given to me and put faith in President Bush and, most of all, in God.
It amazed me that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks there were displays of patriotism in every yard and store window and on vehicles and all over television. It’s a shame it took something so horrific to make people display their patriotism.
Now we’ve had Americans stand up and publicly condemn the United States for our efforts in Iraq. Yet if it wasn’t for war, violence, crime and abuse, what would we watch on TV and at the movies? Our actors don’t seem to think twice about promoting these acts when they put dollars in their pockets. I believe we call that hypocrisy.
My intention is not to offend anyone, but to open people’s eyes to our world’s realities. We all have the right to freedom of speech. Remember, we live in the land of the free because of the brave. People should speak their minds freely. But before they speak, they should understand what they’re speaking out against. Ignorance is no excuse for Hollywood actors or anyone else.
Instead of bashing our efforts in Iraq, which is helping to liberate an oppressed people, the critics should speak out about child abuse, drugs in schools, our children’s lack of values and morals, and taking God out of anything and everything because one person finds it offensive.
Senior Airman Holly MaserIncirlik Air Base, Turkey
Operation Iraqi Freedom
The war’s over. Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Freedom has returned to Iraq. But in the triumphant aftermath, I urge Americans to remember the utterly repulsive behavior of the obstructionists leading up to Iraq’s liberation. As we bask in the air of victory, let’s not forget the appalling actions of the few who attempted to prevent Iraq’s long-awaited liberation.
The nations that made up the “coalition of the willing” are too numerous to list. There were more than 30. Those in opposition were but a handful. I hope Americans never forget the deplorable actions of Germany, France, Austria and Belgium before the war. The selfish reasons why these few nations opposed the war are now public knowledge. The only explanations for their mind-boggling behavior are their fear of America’s status as the world’s lone superpower and their fear of losing financial deals with Saddam and other terrorist regimes.
Operation Iraqi Freedom boasted numerous achievements. Two of them are detested by the nations who opposed the war. First, the United States solidified its status as the world’s lone superpower. Second, we terminated billions of dollars in commerce (proclaimed illegal by the U.N. embargo) between countries opposed to the war and the Saddam regime. The United States is now the world’s lone superpower. But we don’t aim to conquer or colonize any nation. Our only goal is to protect freedom and liberty. The lone agency that the world can consistently depend on to ensure world peace and stability is not the U.N., but the U.S. Department of Defense.
The actions of the countries against the war also accomplished something very significant. Their obstructionism caused the unnecessary deaths of many coalition troops and innocent Iraqi citizens. If these nations would have stood up against Saddam and showed their support by joining the coalition, it would have sent a crystal clear message to Saddam that the world was adamantly against him. He then most likely would have relinquished his weapons of mass destruction to U.N. inspectors and stepped down as Iraq’s president, thus preventing the war.
Shame on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac! The blood of coalition soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqis is on their hands. Several Germans have told me that the views of the German populace do not match those of the German government. I tell them that maybe the German people should do something at the voting booth about the politicians who represent them and ultimately make abject fools of them.
I strongly urge Americans stationed in Europe to carefully choose where they spend their money on this continent. I believe we should reward coalition nations such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. My future vacations will be in these nations. I won’t spend any money in Germany, France, Belgium or Austria until these nations make formal, public apologies to President Bush, the American people, and the Iraqi people for their despicable and inexcusable behavior. Only then will I forgive. But I will never forget!
Eric WhiteheadChief Warrant Officer 2Ansbach, Germany
I’m the U.S. Army Europe visual information manager. I’m responsible for visual information policy and guidance for the command. Since the Department of the Army Photo Management Information System falls under my purview, I’d like to respond to the letter “Official photo problem” (April 10). The letter writer had a problem with a DAPMIS-scanned hard copy photo overwriting a current digital photo. I contacted the Department of the Army functional proponent to verify the writer’s claim and to gather information to provide an answer.
The findings indicate that there was in fact a small problem with DAPMIS caused by the software. The Department of the Army Photo Functional Policy Proponent, Mr. Kenneth Washington, said that the DA is aware of the technical problem that has led to scanned hard copy photos overwriting a very small percentage of more current, electronically-uploaded DAPMIS photos. Mr. Washington also said that appropriate modifications have been designed to correct this systemic shortfall.
I’d like to emphasize that the DA has not yet started using digital photos from the DAPMIS repository for centralized selection boards. The Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center anticipates using this system later this year after the Army Selection Board System and DAPMIS are fully automated. Personnel Command and EREC are currently still using a soldier’s most current hard copy photo submitted by each soldier for centralized promotion boards. In the letter writer’s case, his most recent hard copy photo on file is dated Dec. 12, 2002. That photo was in the soldier’s promotion consideration file and was reviewed by the respective selection board panel.
Future concerns with DAPMIS may be addressed through our office.
Sgt. Maj. Javier OteroHeidelberg, Germany