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March 2

Loves U.S., but is anti-war

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

March 2 Loves U.S., but is anti-war Best, brightest in military Not weak to oppose war Smoking areas needed Give German people their due Protests seen in States, too Beneficial investment needed Wives know how they feel Comments disrespectfulMarch 3 Focus on GIs, not spouses Project Bold is special Five-year rule enforcement Shop around for auto parts Top ones always do their best Be stronger than situationMarch 4 Children’s fitness Saddam, Hitler similar Dental staff amazing Keep Doner KebabMarch 5 Irrational journalism Protesters are patriots Baby-formula response Smokers’ rights Turkey visa price shockingMarch 6 Boycott not answer Solutions for writersMarch 7 Think before writing Media reports aid enemies Smoking reduces readinessMarch 8 Critics should think twice Headline appalling Vegetarian food French have helped U.S. Extension of empathy

At first I thought the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23) was a joke. After reading it, I realized the writer was serious. The writer’s bullying attitude is not going to get the support of Germans or other Europeans that he so cried for. It did the exact opposite. It irritated and hurt the image of America.

The writer said, “Germans are spoon-fed by the German media and systematically brainwashed.” Most Americans stationed in Germany don’t read anything other than Stars and Stripes, which is written for military members and is pro-military. Are Stars and Stripes readers “spoon-fed” and “brainwashed”? I regularly read newspapers from different countries in different languages. My opinions are based on my personal views, not on the newspapers’ views.

The writer seemed to think the Iraq situation is like an old war movie with a happy ending when he said, “We’ll be marching through Baghdad drowning in the cheers of the liberated Iraqi people.” The Iraq issue is a whole lot deeper and more problematic than what the letter writer seems to think. We’re talking about the stability of the whole Middle East region and safety and economic consequences for the whole world.

Does the writer really believe that a pro-American/Western government with an American military presence in Iraq is going to be cheerfully accepted by the neighboring countries in this predominantly Muslim part of the world? The writer also seemed to forget that demonstrators are protesting against the war, not against America or Americans. Like most European countries, Germany has experienced wars at its doorstep. America has not. War is not something to be comfortably watched on television.

I love America and Americans and I’m against a possible war against Iraq. I’ll continue drinking my American Coca Cola and German beer. What this world needs is more tolerance between nations and religions.

Tarja LashbrookRhein-Main, Germany

Best, brightest in military

I’m writing in reference to the letter “Drop weapons” (Feb. 7). I read it several times to make sure it wasn’t satirical. After determining the writer was dead serious, my comments are in order.

I’ve had the privilege of directly being associated with the military for most of my adult life as both a soldier and now a civilian. The writer had the temerity to suggest that all servicemembers joined the military to escape social, economic, or racial pressures. This may be true in some cases. But the overwhelming majority of military personnel I’ve known in more than 25 years joined because of a sense of gratitude. They wanted to give something back to America, as good citizens should. They love the profession of arms.

I know these concepts must escape the narrow and stilted thinking of the writer, notwithstanding his Ph.D., which he probably obtained with government assistance. He claimed to be an intellectual and a scholar. His suggestion that soldiers should simply drop their weapons and opt for prison instead of going to war against Iraq showed an appalling lack of reasoning and logic. It places serious doubt on his cognitive abilities.

What the writer should really know is that many of America’s best and brightest are serving in the military, such as our astronauts. Servicemembers are not dumb, non-thinking morons, as the writer so arrogantly suggested. I know many servicemembers who have advanced degrees, include Ph.D.s. They could easily double their compensation in the civilian sector if they so chose.

Finally, the writer held his father out as a shining example of someone who refused military service during the Vietnam War and served a year in prison for his decision. The writer calls this honesty. I call it cowardice. I have a wonderful suggestion for both of them. They should tour an American cemetery in Europe or even in Arlington, Va. They should think of the 19- and 20-year-old kids who lie in those graves. They are kids whose lives were cut short and who never had the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. or raise families. They paid the ultimate sacrifice so the writer and his father could be afforded the freedom to bash the military which they so obviously disdain.

Benjamin StrangeBaumholder, Germany

Not weak to oppose war

This is in response to the letter “Schroeder speaks for himself” (Feb. 25). I also don’t like war and violence. But I disagree with President Bush’s thoughts on fixing the Iraq problem as soon as possible. To paraphrase the writer’s remark regarding German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Bush speaks for himself and his political goals, not for me and a lot of other American citizens.

I’ve lived in Germany for many years, and I’d be interested to know the basis for the writer’s remark that “more and more Americans believe that all Germans are wimps.” That’s not what I see and hear in my daily life. Many of the “older Germans [who] know why Americans are in Germany” are opposed to a possible war against Iraq because they have firsthand experience in what war does to one’s homeland.

Saying “no” to war is not a sign of weakness. Schroeder has his faults, but opposition to a possible war in Iraq is not one of them.

Mary LittletonHomburg, Germany

Smoking areas needed

I’m writing in response to the letter “Smoking policy” (Feb. 26). It concerned the smoking ban that has engulfed Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities. I’m an employee of the facility mentioned in the letter and a non-smoker. Money is a huge issue in today’s world. One need only look at any newspaper on any given day to see this reality. Where I work we have a very large non-smoking area that encompasses many activities for our soldiers other than gambling, which seemed to be the writer’s main concern. But the writer need only come in on any given evening to see that business has dropped dramatically.

Where are all these non-smoking people who are supposedly going to flood into these areas? I had a grand total of five customers visit the non-smoking area on a recent night to play a game of pool, watch some TV or enjoy a refreshment from our bar. My sales were atrocious. But the funny thing about my sales was that 50 percent came from cigarette purchases. This is no exaggeration. But these customers are simply buying the cigarettes and taking their social life to places where they are free to smoke — on the German economy.

My job and those of my fellow employees could be in jeopardy because of the dramatic drop in sales. So for the writer to say that this isn’t about money is ignorant. This is a business, and I know of no business that can survive without customers. I’ve talked with some of the managers from other facilities that are completely non-smoking, and it’s clear that the revenue from both the slot machines (which is only 10 percent) and MWR facilities has dropped significantly.

I believe we’re fortunate to have a smoke abatement room, although it could have been built much better to provide cleaner air inside. Revenue for the Army Recreation Machine Program seems to be on par to sales prior to the ban. But I strongly believe this would not be true if we were entirely smoke-free. So facts are facts, and this is reality.

Betsy ClemensWiesbaden, Germany

Give German people their due

I’m a British citizen (Scottish) and have lived and worked in Germany for more than 30 years. During the last 15 years, I’ve worked for the U.S. Army in Frankfurt and Hanau, Germany. It’s with sadness that I noted the hysterical ravings in the Feb. 27 letter “… but Germany let us down.”

The average German citizen is much more politically aware than the average American, especially concerning foreign policies. The German press is so varied in both quality and political perspectives that it puts the largely conservative U.S. press to shame. Germany’s citizens are not brainwashed. They just don’t believe in the Bush administration’s cause, along with most other governments and citizens in the world.

If the letter writer wishes to isolate himself with on-post activities — which I suspect he has pretty much done since he’s been in Germany — good luck to him. The U.S. Army doesn’t need this kind of person representing U.S. interests abroad. I feel sorry for all the good friends I’ve met during my time working for the U.S. Army — many of whom are married to German nationals — who don’t share this kind of narrow-mindedness.

The letter writer should go home and not bother coming back. I sincerely hope his projections of the oncoming events in Iraq don’t literally blow up in his face.

William D. GilliesHanau, Germany

Protests seen in States, too

I think the Feb. 27 letter “… but Germany let us down” wasn’t right, because after Sept. 11, 2001, we started the war against terrorism and the target was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. Now the United States may start a war in Iraq for oil and revenge.

There have been a lot of anti-war protesters all over the world, not just in Germany. There have been a million protesters in the United States, too. If the writer goes back in history, he’ll see that it wasn’t Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who tore down the Berlin Wall. It was John F. Kennedy and Willy Brandt.

The only reason for war against Iraq is revenge. President Bush will be stronger than his father, and Secretary of State Colin Powell will finish his battle, which started with Operation Desert Storm. If Bush needs help for war against bin Laden, the Germans are there.

Willi MüllerHanau, Germany

Beneficial investment needed

This is in regard to the Feb. 26 letter “Military might is required.” The writer said that countries unable (meaning too small) to provide the same amount of military aid as the United States in the event of a crisis should not have a vote in the United Nations or NATO. With this the writer denounced as unfair the very design of America’s democratic voting system, the Electoral College, which protects small states from being ignored.

The writer also overlooked that many of these small countries pay extra money for contingency operations that they are unable to support militarily. I agree that one cannot weigh in money the risk that soldiers take, but small countries just cannot produce soldiers by a miracle. For example, Germany is the most populous country in the European Union with 81 million inhabitants. The United States has around 271 million inhabitants.

The possible argument that even Great Britain is providing around 40,000 soldiers for the possible war in Iraq leads me to the fact that other countries spend a much higher percentage of their gross domestic product on Third World economic and social development. This is the best preventive action and defense a nation can take against extremism, terrorism and hatred. It’s surely cheaper than a war.

In Iraq, just a war itself could potentially cost $100 billion. But the best plan for development cannot work if it’s not carried out with strength, effectiveness and an attitude that failure is not an option. So far other countries have only achieved a drop in the bucket, and I think it will take the United States to do the job here as well.

Maybe it’s too late to avoid military intervention in Iraq. But it would be desirable if from now on countries would unite to invest more money and spend it more effectively on civil-military and psychological operations. These would be activities that encourage democratic reform for governments as well as building schools in which moderate religion, agronomy and technical education could be taught. Spending $100 billion in this way would provide a tremendous bang for the buck. We can all be sure that where this aim is not achieved is where the next wars will take place: North Korea, Iran, the Philippines, Nigeria, Sudan, etc.

Brigitte SteinbergHeidelberg, Germany

Wives know how they feel

No wives go unforgotten. We’re truly unsung heroes when it comes to managing the home front. We’re a distinct and elite group of spouses who stand out from our civilian counterparts. We’re stronger, more flexible and wiser in our ways when it comes to giving and understanding.

A deployment order knows not discrimination, only the mission at hand. A deployment order doesn’t exclude those with kids, those with expecting wives at home, or spouses who are just frightened and sad at the thought of being alone.

When my husband left in October in support of Task Force 2-6, I didn’t look at it as if he was leaving our three children and me behind at home. I tell my children, “Daddy is just on a small trip and will return soon.” I didn’t feel like I was getting a coinciding order that said I was to be left behind to be a single parent. If anything, it should be one that says to continue giving positive support to my deployed spouse, to reassure him that all is well on the home front, and to drive on with patience and understanding.

For more than four months I’ve made sure that every time my husband hears my voice or reads my letters that it’s positive. Many days have been emotionally challenging, but there are some things with which he doesn’t need to be concerned. How is he supposed to focus on the mission if all he’s worried about is how I’m dealing with the daily drama of life?

We have our friends, our Family Readiness Groups and family. These luxuries are not as accessible to our soldiers downrange. But they’re expected to cope with separation and loneliness and still get the task done. Our spouses downrange are sleeping on cots, living in tents in the desert and missing home-cooked meals. What do we have to complain about?

I want people to see I’m strong. I don’t want pity. I want them to be proud. Isn’t that what being an American is about?

Since the deployment orders, I’ve found inner strength that I didn’t know I had. I’ve found friends willing to support me in my dark hours. And most of all, I’ve found the opportunity to return that support. I’ve been told of my husband’s living conditions, working environment, etc. I get somewhat regular e-mails and phone calls. This was unheard of in past conflicts.

The writer of the Feb. 25 letter “Wives work through worries” shouldn’t forget that deployed soldiers read Stars and Stripes. I don’t need to worry about my husband worrying about me and my family. I don’t feel it was appropriate for the writer to speak for all the wives here. Everyone knows deployments are difficult, no matter the duration or location. The emotions that come with deployments are obvious. They don’t need to be made public.

Again, I’ve spent more than four months keeping communications between my husband and I positive. I don’t need a letter in Stars and Stripes to add any doubts.

Sunisa C. BridgforthBurgbernheim, Germany

Comments disrespectful

As the wife of a disabled veteran, I found the Feb. 9 letter “No honor or logic in service” to be disrespectful. It was also an indication that the writer, a Ph.D., got his degree only through the blood and sweat of others rather than his own. I found disgusting the writer’s pride in his father having done jail time for not serving his country during the Vietnam War. I think the writer’s father should have served more than a year in jail. But I don’t write the laws or set jail terms. I’m just an ordinary citizen of a great nation.

I’m an ordinary citizen of a great nation that ensured the country the writer expressed his views from is free today to allow the writer to express those views. It’s a great nation that supplied many men to ensure the writer has the right to express his views. Similarly, this also gives me the right to tell the writer what I think of his views.

While the writer sits in his warm little office condemning them, the servicemembers of this country are saying goodbye to their families and loved ones. They will again go out there and fight for the writer’s right to live and condemn them.

The writer is not honorable or moral. He couldn’t care less about the conditions American soldiers face. So he shouldn’t try to convince those of us who are honorable, do have morals and really care that he does, too. If the writer were concerned about soldiers rather than condemning them for doing what they believe in, he’d be living in the United States and using his degree — bought with others’ blood — to make things better for soldiers.

As I write this letter, my husband is watching the news and praying for his military brothers and sisters. He wishes with all his heart that he could be by their side serving his country with them.

My husband was not in the military to escape social, economic or racial problems, nor does he wish he could be back in the military now to escape any of these things. He was in the military because he believes in what this nation stands for: the right to freedom for all. My husband doesn’t possess a doctorate like the writer claims to hold. But even as a disabled veteran, he’s an educated, productive member of our society.

May God forgive the writer for condemning those who fight for his right to free speech, liberty and equality for all.

Diane L. GunstCleveland, Miss.

March 3

Focus on GIs, not spouses

I’d like to congratulate the soldiers of Task Force 2-6 for a job well done. Task Force 2-6 deployed to Kuwait in October, taking with it more than 400 soldiers, many of whom are from our community in Illesheim, Germany. Task Force 2-6 dissolved recently and rejoined with its sister unit under Task Force 11th Regiment, which arrived in Kuwait two weeks ago.

I also congratulate the hundreds of spouses whose soldiers were with Task Force 2-6, including spouses from 2-6 Cavalry and 7-159th Aviation. What an awesome job they’ve done caring for their soldiers in Kuwait and their families here in Germany. Their positive attitudes throughout these past four months have carried their weight in gold. I know that there are both good and bad moments during an extended deployment, but they’ve made the best of a difficult and frustrating situation.

I’m incredibly proud of the spouses in my troop. Because of their positive attitude, outstanding care of the home front, and continual and unconditional support of their soldiers, the soldiers of our troop and the entire task force can completely focus on the mission at hand. When needed, I’ve seen spouses rise to the occasion of helping their fellow unit spouses, friends, and neighbors. I’ve been inspired by the strength and kindness that I’ve experienced from this amazing group.

I ask all Americans to focus on the deployed servicemembers rather than on the spouses. I can’t speak for other spouses, but I’m very comfortable in my home in Germany. I’m surrounded by many caring people, including the spouses of my troop and squadron, my close friends, my co-workers, and my neighbors. I’m constantly informed of unit and deployment news from the rear detachment, my Family Readiness Group, and the Army Community Services facility.

The thought of leaving Germany has never occurred to me. I’m only one of many thousands of spouses who are “left behind” to take care of the home front. I don’t ask for anyone’s sympathy, and I’m certainly not deserving of anyone’s sympathy. My job is not nearly as difficult as my husband’s job, and my job is certainly much more comfortable and safer than his. My husband and his soldiers are sleeping on cots while I sleep in a bed with real sheets. My husband talks to his children once every two or three weeks, while I see, interact with, and hug them daily. The soldiers at Camp Udairi don’t have the luxuries we have, such as real running toilets and personal phones. I have nothing to complain about in comparison.

As a military spouse, I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers for those of us “left behind” in Germany. But the real heroes are the soldiers who are ready to fight for our freedom. Readers should please keep them in their continual thoughts and prayers.

Becky LenzmeierIllesheim, Germany

Project Bold is special

Most people think of hairy legs and smelly people when Project Bold is mentioned. That’s because they haven’t been there. I’ve been there and done it, and I’d love to do it again! I probably drive some people crazy because I talk about the three-week experience all the time. It just seems like everything relates to it. Or maybe it’s just that Project Bold changed my life. Because of Project Bold, I can enjoy sitting on a bench all by myself and looking at the grass dancing in the sunshine and wind. Maybe it’s because I’ve become so incredibly strong mentally that I feel like I can climb the highest mountains and sail the seven seas. Or maybe it’s because Project Bold made me realize things that I never thought of before and helped me become a more patient, open-minded, determined and ambitious person.

I was hoping to find out what makes Project Bold so special. I thought I could discuss it with my friend who was determined to go this summer. But he’s been denied the right to probably one of the most important experiences in his life because of a budget cut. All I can say is that the cancellation of Project Bold is a shame and a tragedy, and I’m one lucky girl for attending it last year!

Angela BoneyAviano High SchoolAviano, Italy

Five-year rule enforcement

I’m currently deployed as the morale, welfare and recreation director in Qatar. After 12 years in Germany, I always look at the letters to the editor first. I was surprised to find the letter “Trouble at fitness center” (Feb. 18). It was written by an old employee of mine. The writer complained about fair implementation of the five-year employment rule. He also made accusations of unfair or biased hiring practices. I believe I’m the previous director in question.

The 26th Area Support Group enforced the five-year rule as required, but the command did its best to try to take care of good employees. Extensions were granted based on current policy, which at that time allowed for 25 percent of the work force to be extended.

I’d like to clear up a few things the writer said. No one was promoted. Jobs were announced, and the current staff had the opportunity to compete for the vacancies. The best qualified people were selected. Priority placement does work. The employee was provided a new position so he could continue his career. He chose to resign.

As a white American, I take pride in my record of selecting the best qualified person for the job. The letter writer should have provided some details regarding his job performance so the disapproval of his extension would be apparent.

The employees who work at Patton and Campbell Fitness Centers in Heidelberg, Germany, are some the hardest working sports professionals I’ve ever worked with. Once they’re forced to leave because of the five-year rule, I’d be glad to offer any of them a position.

Bob VogtQatar

Shop around for auto parts

I have to add my opinion of AAFES’ handling of auto parts. I spent 10 years in Germany and had an American-specification car for most of that time. I paid more than three times the stateside price for parts. I had worked part time for an auto parts store in the States and was used to paying less than $1 per spark plug. Imagine my shock upon seeing the $3-plus price listed by AAFES. I ordered mufflers and had to wait two weeks while they came from the United States. When they finally arrived, I paid the more than $60 apiece for them. And again I was shocked when I noticed that the customs tag said the value per muffler was less than $20.

I’m all for putting money into morale support programs. I just feel it’s wrong to be systematically gouged by a system that’s supposed to look out for my best interests.

I’d tell any patrons of AAFES garage/auto parts stores to shop around before spending their hard-earned money. The Internet is a great place for purchasing parts and accessories. I’d stick to the big companies like Carquest, NAPA or even JC Whitney. All of them have pretty good customer service and will go the extra mile to help their customers. People can even access their local hometown car dealership’s parts department. Most bigger car dealerships have Internet sites and would love the business.

Don’t forget local national car dealerships either. I’ve gotten lots of parts from them along with some good help and advice. I’ve even gotten parts for my American car for about the same price that AAFES would have charged me.

Customers shouldn’t be hostages of AAFES. They should get out there and get their money’s worth.

Staff Sgt. David Coates (ret.)West Columbia, S.C.

Top ones always do their best

Wonder why people join the service? For a career, places to go and people to see? Or is it the money?

We hear stories of people joining because it’s their civic duty, their right to protect and serve their country. Some join on a short-term basis for college or on a long-term basis. Some join and then decide they don’t like it. They don’t like their superiors, can’t handle it or don’t want to do it. But they joined the service. They have jobs to do for the time that they’re in. If they don’t like it, then they should do us all a favor and get out.

We all start from the bottom and work our way up. Those who work hard to be at a certain level deserve it. They are the ones who are accomplishing their goals. They have passion and heart and drive for their jobs.

As a spouse I’m not one to join anything because I have to or I’m supposed to or because I want to feel as high ranked as my husband and let everyone else know about it. If I join anything it’s because I want to help try to make things better and easier for soldiers, their families and anyone else who might need someone to talk to.

I’m also not one to go calling my husband’s superiors because he’s coming home too late or being treated unfairly. If a soldier is doing what he’s supposed to be doing, there shouldn’t be any issues. We all have rotten days. But like anything else, we do the best we can and deal with them the best we know how.

I cherish the soldier who works really hard at the task at hand and the next soldier who helps accomplish that task.

Irene BensonKitzingen, Germany

Be stronger than situation

This is in response to the Feb. 25 letter “Wives work through worries.” I, too, am a stay-at-home mom and the wife of a deployed soldier. (It was to an unknown place for an unknown amount of time.)

I guess it’s all in the way that we look at our situations that either make us or break us. The writer made it seem as if she’s somewhere on the North Pole with nothing but ice and snow. There’s a whole world out there that extends beyond the gates of the post on which she lives. OK, so it’s not the United States. But she should make the best of what she has.

We all miss our spouses. But the writer really needs to stop her self-pity act of the poor wife who was left behind with the children in a “foreign land.” The writer is now the backbone of her family. She should be strong for her spouse and her children. The writer holds the key to her own happiness and that of her children. Does the writer have any idea what her outward attitude does to the morale of deployed soldiers? If not, she should.

Christine GenslerKaiserslautern, Germany

March 4

Children's fitness

When is the “Army of One” going to realize that we’re playing a vital role in the development of the Nintendo/couch potato generation? My son is 13 years old. He’s logged more than 100 hours and 400 miles on the aerobic equipment at the Harvey Physical Fitness Center in Kitzingen, Germany. He’s completed most of this while I’ve worked out with him. But the gym staff has told me I can’t do this because it’s not direct supervision. The fitness center’s policy is that children ages 10 to 15 must have direct supervision, which means actually standing next to one’s child. But it’s only enforced sometimes.

I work out with free weights and Nautilus machines while my son completes his aerobic workout. I check on him every five minutes to make sure he’s OK. Not once in almost three years have I had one problem with my child’s ability to operate any of the aerobic equipment. At no time has he committed an unsafe act. At 11 years old, my son completed three miles on the treadmill in 28 minutes. That’s not an eye-opening time, but it’s a better time than many soldiers can do today.

A short time ago the Army changed its physical fitness standards. This was clearly done to help the new generation of soldiers adapt to the Army’s physical requirements. Mental toughness is something that can’t be taught. One thing that leads to building mental toughness is for a person to build his own physical toughness. It’s the ability to push one’s self beyond the first body ache, stiffness or cramp.

By restricting our dependents’ use of fitness centers, we’re contributing to a time in the near future when the Army will once again have to re-evaluate and lower its physical fitness standards. Leaders should allow the next generation to be “all they can be” so that they may grow up to be an “Army of One.”

There are many other organizations that limit children’s activities. Youth Services’ baseball season lasts six games. In my community there’s no organized football. All home basketball games are in Giebelstadt, which is a 30-minute drive for most parents. Children must be 15 years old before they can become really involved with the teen center.

I’d be the first one to say that we soldiers are here to do a mission. Always without a doubt the mission comes first. But I’d like to be upfront with my family about what I’m getting them into when I bring them overseas. After this experience, I’d counsel incoming soldiers with families to think twice about bringing them to Germany. I’m truly a family person, but if I had it to do over again, I’d have left my family in the States. It would have been a tough decision, but one that I believe would have better served my family.

Sgt. 1st Class Darren BranhamKitzingen, Germany

Saddam, Hitler similar

When I was growing up, I learned that World War II was one of the greatest tragedies in history. I was also taught that the knowledge of the past does in fact allow us to understand the present. History gives us the tools to solve the problems that we face today. Unfortunately, many Americans seem content to ignore the valuable lessons of the past. They often make hasty decisions based on emotions rather than historical facts. In the end, these failures of judgment and perspective will almost certainly come back to haunt us.

Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and outlined his violent plan in speeches. We ignored him. He scrapped the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, and immediately began a massive buildup of Germany’s military. We paid little attention. We did nothing when he reoccupied the Rhineland, seized Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland. By then it was too late to stop Hitler without a war.

At first Germans aided Hitler’s rise. In the end, Germany was in shambles. In 12 years, Hitler exterminated more than 6 million Jews. He used terror and intimidation to control opponents.

It appears the Allies could’ve stopped Hitler before he became a serious menace. But the West responded with appeasement, reinforced when the League of Nations did little to prevent Germany from rearming. Meanwhile, millions of American isolationists cried out against U.S. involvement in European affairs.

Today history is repeating itself. Appeasers, isolationists and others who believe in peace at any price are protesting. Our allies are selling out the safety of our nation and abandoning a friendship built on American sacrifice and death. An international organization of nations is being subverted by an evil regime. Peace should always be desired over war, but never through concessions and negotiations with violent megalomaniacs. Appeasement only makes the aggressor stronger.

In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. When Iraq’s defeat was inevitable, the allies refused to impose a democratic alternative to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. So Saddam lived on to fight another day. And since 1990 we ignored Saddam when he continued to build up his weapons of mass destruction, despite U.N. resolutions.

Saddam’s Iraq, like Hitler’s Germany, is an oppressive dictatorship. When Saddam took office, he promised Iraqis a bright future. In time, like all tyrants, he stopped delivering the benefits. Throughout his 24 years in power, Saddam has used chemical weapons against his own people and murdered those who speak out against him, including members of his family.

Evidence has mounted against Saddam regarding his al-Qaida ties. If history’s taught us anything, it’s that we have a responsibility to stop Saddam before more innocent lives are lost. Now’s the time to act.

Daniel R. ChampagneRamstein Air Base, Germany

Dental staff amazing

Recently my 3-year-old son had dental surgery at the Würzburg, Germany, hospital. With the recent deployment of my husband, I unfortunately had to make the trip on my own with both of my children. I expected a normal recovery, but my expectations were incorrect. My son’s recovery was difficult. But throughout the whole period, the Würzburg staff was amazing. From the time we entered the hospital for the pre-operative assessment until the time we left the hospital, the staff was so helpful.

I thank Maj. Raw, Ms. Ross, 2nd Lt. Kinshella, Sgt. Cheung and the recovery room nurse. These people were key in helping me understand my son’s progress (or lack of it). The quality of care was excellent, and I truly believe this makes a great difference in the stay of a patient and his family. This is one time that telling the staff “good job” isn’t enough. I believe the public as well as their commanders should also know.

Charlene BambaVilseck, Germany

Keep Doner Kebab

I recently heard that Vogelweh and Ramstein Air Base, Germany, will be losing our Doner Kebab vendors. When I knew that I was coming back to Kaiserslautern, I told my friend that the first place I’d go was to Vogelweh to get a kebab. It’s the best meal deal on post. Talk about getting your money’s worth.

I don’t want a Subway or whatever else AAFES plans to put in. Those who feel like me should e-mail, write or call AAFES-Europe and let it know they feel the same way. I have to live without MTV, but not without my Doner Kebab!

Don ThompsonKaiserslautern, Germany

March 5

Irrational journalism

I was very disappointed to read the Kathy Coogan column “Supporting servicemembers means OK’ing mission” (Feb. 27). It was an irrational and failed attempt to label Americans who oppose a potential war with Iraq as not supportive of our fine men and women in uniform. It was ludicrous writing that purported a conclusion for which the major part of the column was not relevant. I’m doubly disappointed in that I’m a commander in the Navy and Ms. Coogan resides in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

I won’t debate Ms. Coogan’s lesser point that the conjoint of hating the military and supporting our soldiers is an oxymoron. But insisting that those who are unconvinced about a possible war in Iraq are therefore not supportive of our troops is an effort to disparage some Americans. Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni is one of the Americans who isn’t persuaded that war is necessary, and I have great faith that he supports servicemembers.

Ms. Coogan likened the group that is not supportive of the war but supportive of our soldiers to someone in “the bad old days” who would say, “I’m not prejudiced against ---. Some of my best friends are ---.” This is a mechanism meant to insinuate hypocrisy, yet there’s no rational correlation between these positions. Her next six paragraphs were devoted to illustrating how people are often wrongly labeled by overzealous, politically correct thinkers. She then suggested a scheme for pejoratively labeling the Americans she attacked. By default she settled on “the misguided.” Does Ms. Coogan not see this is duplicitous?

Then, as if in a self-debate, Ms. Coogan fabricated the statements of her hypothetical anti-war group and proceeded to criticize their (her own) word choices. She continued to drag us through self-constructed innuendo against the military by the “unsupportive Americans” who are irrelevant to her premise of “why supporting servicemembers means OK’ing the war in Iraq.” She nearly waxed poetic in her admiration of servicemembers, but never explained why a decision to wage war on Iraq is necessary to support servicemembers.

Ms. Coogan’s attempt to taint the patriotism of those with a different opinion of the possible war than hers was thoughtless demagoguery and did not merit to be printed in Stars and Stripes. Further, those of us who serve must obey the orders of our commander in chief on whether to make war or peace. No one need consider if such decisions of state are supportive of military men and women. Worst of all, in Ms. Coogan’s haste to be supportive and patriotic, she tread upon the greatest values we have as Americans — the freedoms of thought, opinion and expression.

Steve DorffGaeta, Italy

Protesters are patriots

In a democracy, the people control the government. In a tyranny, it’s the other way around. When our government tries to control us, we stop it by saying, “Stop right there.” It’s clear to me that anti-war protesters express the views of many in the military community, where dissent is artificially suppressed. The anti-war protesters are taking democracy seriously. They are patriots of the highest order.

Debra Rosenthal, Ph.D.Stuttgart, Germany

Baby-formula response

The following information is provided in response to the letter “Baby formula hard to get” (Feb. 20) about a lack of baby formula at the commissary in Grafenwöhr, Germany. We’ve sent a personal response to the letter writer, but wish to address the subject for other customers who depend upon Defense Commissary Agency commissaries for their baby formula.

At DECA Europe, we have buyers assigned to specific categories of product. The buyers are responsible for placing the major orders for delivery to our distribution centers. Individual stores must then place an order for their particular needs, and the distribution center fills that need from stock on hand in Germany or England, as appropriate. Our buyers can research movement data on any product on our extensive stocking list.

Researching the baby formula issue revealed two brief periods in which Good Start formula was not available to a few stores in January and February. One factor that contributed to these two brief shortages was a sudden, increased demand for this item during December and January. The increased demand of around 1,200 units per month is being factored into all new orders. No shortages were reported at all for the Carnation Follow-Up formula that was also mentioned in the letter.

I want to assure our customers that baby formula and food are very high on our list of items demanding special attention. Quantities on hand and due in are monitored closely, as is the shelf life of a product. Being out of any baby formula in any store is an unacceptable situation. As long as high-quality product is available from the manufacturers, DECA Europe should be able to provide it to our customers. To not be able to do so is below the standard we’ve set for ourselves. Please be assured this subject has been reemphasized throughout the region.

We encourage any customers who don’t see the baby formula they need readily available on the shelves of their favorite stores to speak to a manager. That manager is expected to investigate the situation thoroughly in search of baby formula which can be supplied from another store nearby or from our distribution centers. The formula may be sold out from a particular supply in one store but readily available in another store. We will do all we can to see that customers’ needs are filled. If customers’ efforts at their local stores fail, they should please call Consumer Advocate Kay Blakley at 0631-3523-108 or e-mail her at: kay.blakley@deca.mil. The full attention of our buyers will kick into action to remedy the situation.

The well-being of our customers and their families are important to us, and none more so than babies with special needs.

Bonnie KanitzDirectorDefense Commissary Agency Europe

Smokers' rights

I’m getting sick of anti-smokers these days. Everywhere I go on post now is non-smoking. What happened to freedom of choice? I have no choice now in where I smoke.

I agree that if a person doesn’t smoke, he shouldn’t have to breathe in my cigarette smoke. That’s why the Department of Defense came up with the policy for morale, welfare and recreation facilities. The writer of “Smoking policy” (Feb. 26) should go play the slots somewhere else. He’s been provided with four nonsmoking facilities to better serve him. Yet this isn’t enough?

What about the smokers who play the slots? Can they have just one place? I guess the DOD should make it easier for the writer to waste his money and not breathe cigarette smoke.

I’ll stop now. I need a cigarette.

Sgt. N. Keefe Schwandt Sr.Stuttgart, Germany

Turkey visa price shocking

I agree with the letter “Turkey visa prices” (Feb. 27). My wife and I vacationed in Turkey several months ago and were totally shocked when the passport inspector told us to return to the airport and get visas. All of the Germans and everybody else in front of us got right through passport control.

We were very angry when they told us we’d have to pay $100 each to get into Turkey for just a one-week vacation. We complained bitterly to the gentlemen at passport control. They just shrugged their shoulders.

Wayne SmithEinsiedlerhof, Germany

March 6

Boycott not answer

This is in reference to the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23). After I calmed down about the rather one-sided letter and the immature reaction of its writer, something struck me as very odd. It was that the writer’s accusation about the German media is exactly the opinion of Germans about the American media.

How often does the writer hear on nonmilitary broadcasts reports about Germany or even Europe? How come nonmilitary children think Europe is next to Canada? And how come during my last trip to the United States, I was asked if “that war with that Hitler guy” was still in progress?

According to the writer, Germany’s media and politics have brainwashed all Germans into “parading around the country on weekends with their anti-Bush banners.”(Hopefully the writer speaks fluent German, which helped him make this accusation.) How does the writer explain the numerous protests in major American cities? If this is the result of a brainwashing government, which government might have brainwashed the protesters?

I agree with one part of the letter: “This is not about Iraq or weapons of mass destruction or U.N. inspectors.” This is a crisis that began during the presidency of the first President Bush, and which his son has the urge to finish.

Of course Germany wouldn’t be behaving this way if Bill Clinton were still president, because Clinton’s politics were more liberal. Maybe one could say more “European.” Clinton’s solution to this conflict would be rather different.

The letter’s next paragraph must have been copied from Ceasar’s “Bello Gallico” (Gallic Wars), which was written more than 2,040 years ago. It’s the heroic tale of a dictator whose empire went to ruins. Let’s assume taking Baghdad happens as easily as the writer thinks. Does he actually believe the Iraqi people will consider it a victory? Has the writer forgotten the American flags that were burned by Arabs after Sept. 11, 2001? Has the writer considered the extreme difference in cultural traditions?

I know the writer is in the U.S. armed forces and so is restricted in his criticisms toward the U.S. government. It’s also only natural that should the writer deploy to Iraq, it would be close to impossible to endure the deployment while unconvinced of its purpose. Nevertheless, I don’t believe the solution is for the writer to turn his back on his host country and close the door because the voices he hears don’t reflect his own beliefs.

A resolution might come from the opposite: exchanging opinions, listening to different attitudes, reasoning in letters to the editor and taking advantage of our cultural-inflicted differences. Kind gestures, such as Germany’s military guarding U.S. posts to protect their families, is a step toward a resolution. And let’s be honest. Isn’t the resolution we all want a world of freedom, peace and fairness filled with the laughter of our children?

Katja ChatfieldBamberg, Germany

Solutions for writers

I’ve been reading a lot of letters lately, and I have a few solutions.

First is regarding two letters on racism in Army civilian employment programs. One writer said he couldn’t stay because he’s black and not because of the five-year policy. The other writer said he couldn’t get promoted because his boss doesn’t like white people.

What have either writer done to better their chances of being promoted or retained? Have either studied physical education? Does either have a degree? If the writers feel they’re being discriminated against, why not file a legitimate complaint?

The second issue concerns the writer who said that soldiers should protest a possible war in Iraq. Does the writer know that he’s just as much a part of “the system” as I am?

I’m not saying that my country is always right. But America has done its best to make the world a better place. When’s the last time the writer made a commitment to something? The writer should make a commitment to change what he doesn’t like. But I don’t think the writer can live such a life.

I’m happy with Army life and I thank God I was born in the United States. Our leaders might not always make the right decisions, but I know they always handle things in our best interests.

Next are all the chronic complainers. They should stop complaining and start changing. They shouldn’t wait on others to fix problems. They should change things themselves.

How about offering solutions instead? I know. Long hours, hard work, no time off. I didn’t say everything can be fixed. Let’s just think about all our fellow servicemembers who are deployed right now. We have a long road ahead of us.

I think all the servicemembers who have gone before us would agree that if they had it to do all over again, they would. There is a great feeling of pride that can only be achieved by serving one’s country in a time of need. We should honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by doing our jobs and doing them well. Let the sacrifice of others before us not be in vain.

God bless America and all those who serve. May God keep us all out of harm’s way and give us the strength to see the mission through, no matter how long it takes.

Sgt. James WestGiessen, Germany

March 7

Think before writing

I’m writing in response to the letter “Boycott Germany” (Feb. 23). It showed a lack of intelligence. I thought the writer was joking when he said the Germans are spoon-fed and blah, blah, blah. Why go so far as to boycott the economy? Does the writer realize how he made other Americans look when he wrote that?

I’m a military spouse. I love what the Army can do for my family, and I love the fact that my husband loves serving his country. I love my country. I love Germany. But I hate the whole war thing. I fully understand why Germany doesn’t want to send in its troops.

Think about it. When President Bush said, “You’re either with us or you’re against us,” he should have explained it a little more. Germany, Belgium and France have gotten a bad rap for not wanting to go to war. That’s their choice. Just because they don’t want to send their troops in doesn’t mean that they can’t back us up with moral support.

I’m thankful for the German soldiers who are now guarding most of the U.S. posts in Germany. I’m thankful for Germany and the people who live here. I won’t let myself go as low as the letter writer did. I’m not that self-centered. People should think before they write things like the writer wrote. Reading it made me and other people sick.

Leah HoganMannheim, Germany

Other side of story

This is in response to the letter “Sportsmanship” (March 1). While well written, it lacked the other side of the story.

The writer stated a lot of the facts as they unfolded at the basketball game that afternoon. But he didn’t mention an incident at the end of the game. The SHAPE, Belgium, team played an exceptional game that day and won hands down. The team members did cheer and savor the moment as any team would. But they also went to the middle of the court and used a cheer that their opponents, the Mannheim Bison of Germany, used before every game they played. This included the two games that Mannheim played against SHAPE in the regular season. This was taunting and a slap in the face to the losing team.

Before every game, the Bison would go to center court and chant, “We ready, we ready.” This was their tactic to get hyped. Every team knew this was their signature. For the SHAPE players to do that after all their other celebrating was very tasteless. The letter writer might not have known exactly what it meant. But all 12 players on Mannheim’s team knew, and I’m sure that contributed to why they behaved the way they did. After SHAPE’s initial celebrating, their coach should have corralled his players and brought them back to the sidelines for what usually takes place at the end of all games. Mannheim should have done the same. And then all celebrating and sulking should have commenced.

As a former coach and the father of two players on Mannheim, I don’t condone this type of behavior on either team. I’ve always taught my kids and players to win with pride and lose gracefully. If a team makes its best effort and loses, that’s all a coach can ask for. Coaches should teach their players to be competitive and how to conduct themselves after the games. It’s easy to hang one’s head in defeat, but much easier to gloat in the face of a defeated opponent. The Youth Services’ motto should still reign supreme: “Youth and sportsmanship first, winning second.” That should hold true even in competitive leagues, because they both go hand in hand. It makes better young adults of our future leaders. So I think an apology is warranted from both sides. Both teams have valuable lessons to learn.

I congratulate SHAPE’s coach and his players for a great showing. SHAPE’s coach put in a lot of work with those kids. I saw the first two games SHAPE played against Mannheim, and SHAPE was vastly improved in tournament play. I also congratulate Mannheim and its coaches. They had a heck of a season and have absolutely nothing to be down about. To end the season at 17-1 was a truly great accomplishment. I’m proud to have seen every game. And there isn’t a father who’s more proud than I am of my two sons, James IV and Jimmy. They should continue to grow and learn from every experience.

Sgt. 1st Class James B. Meeks IIIMannheim, Germany

Media reports aid enemies

“What units are deploying?”

“What are their capabilities?”

“What are their vulnerabilities?”

“How many troops are assigned to each unit?”

“When are they leaving?”

“Where are they leaving from?”

“When will they arrive?”

The answers to all of these questions are plastered all over the visual and written airways every day by our media.

I wonder how the outcome of World War II would’ve been affected if our adversaries had known how many carriers we had and where they were deployed. Or if they would’ve known how far, in what condition, and from what direction Patton’s troops were coming.

Just because you don’t promulgate exactly when the action will commence doesn’t mean that you aren’t threatening the safety of the troops. If the adversary knows exactly what it is facing, especially the limitations, it can develop a much better plan to combat it.

When is enough information enough?

Cmdr. Daryl R. HallSasebo, Japan

Smoking reduces readiness

This is a response to letters I have seen in Stars and Stripes recently by people commenting on the new Department of Defense no-smoking policy, complaining about it affecting soldiers and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities.

I agree that there are a lot of people will now chose to take their business off post where they can continue to smoke. Some say military members are risking drinking and driving to have a smoke. Give me a break! Responsible soldiers are going to act responsibly, no matter where they might smoke. As far as force protection, leave that to the professionals. The number of people staying on or going off post has zero impact on force protection, so that shouldn’t be brought up.

As one letter writer stated, the purpose of the MWR clubs is to provide a safe and convenient place for military members to enjoy a night out. I guess in the writer’s mind that does not extend to people who do not smoke and/or are allergic to cigarette smoke. When I go to a smoky club, I end up having to take breaks a couple times an hour to go out into the cold just to breath some breathable air.

Eliminating smoking in MWR clubs is yet one more step in the right direction in DOD’s effort to eliminate smoking from the military completely. In the past 18-plus years I have seen the Army move from allowing smoking whenever and wherever to smoking only in designated areas. I even had one NCO tell me when I was a specialist that I had no business taking a break because I did not smoke.

Smoking reduces readiness and is a health risk. By reducing or eliminating smoking — or making it more difficult for smokers to smoke — there will be a long-term effect on reducing smoking. That’s good for business.

Smoking is not a right, and it never has been. It is a privilege and, take it from someone who has picked up about a million cigarette butts, I will never be sorry to see it go.

Army Staff Sgt. George R. BauerCamp Carroll, South Korea

March 8

Critics should think twice

As a soldier deployed in the Middle East, I’d like to give heartfelt thanks to all American civilians who support the military. I won’t mislead anybody. Being deployed is rough on everybody, from spouses and family members to the soldiers themselves.

Those who criticize President Bush and our military are technically enjoying their freedom of speech. But let’s look at this criticism from the perspective of soldiers. As we leave our loved ones, our homes and our country for lands unknown, how do these critics think we feel to see the very people who we’re fighting to protect demonstrating against a possible war in Iraq and the soldiers who would fight in it? How do critics think we feel when they second-guess our president? Most soldiers don’t want to go to war any more than the critics do. But if we don’t, who will defend our great nation? Who will defend the liberties which everyone, myself included, take for granted? Do the critics really want to live in a country where they have no rights or freedom?

The critics should think about these questions the next time they protest any U.S. action against Iraq. They should think about everything deployed soldiers sacrifice to fight for their rights. Would the critics be willing to live for any amount of time in tents that leak, with no hot water for showers? Would they want to not be able to eat whenever they’re hungry? Would they want to work 36 hours, sleep 45 minutes and then go back to work for several hours? And then there’s the ultimate sacrifice. Are they willing to give up their own lives?

It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and complain about what’s happening. But if the critics really want to know how things are, then they should try walking in the boots of a deployed soldier. They’d learn to appreciate the things in life that they normally take for granted.

Spc. Jacqueline JohnsonIsrael

Headline appalling

My co-workers Ursula Mendoza, Cassandra Zeller and I were appalled by the headline “Talks on U.S. pullout from Germany all over the map” (Feb. 28).

Is Stars and Stripes into sensationalism nowadays? Does it need headlines such as this to sell the paper? Is Stripes not aware of the sensitivity of this subject and the impact on those living in German communities? It wouldn’t have been so bad if the article supported the headline, but it clearly didn’t.

The article quoted dignitaries as saying, “Pulling our troops out of Germany would destroy NATO,” the proposal to pull back is “ill-advised and untimely,” “I’m not suggesting … a complete withdrawal of troops in Germany” and “… they have been great allies for the past 50 years.” It was also said that rotations “would place a significant new strain on the soldiers.”

Therefore it’s obvious to my co-workers and I that by being cavalier, Stars and Stripes sorely missed the mark in informing its readers. Why such a misleading, sensationalistic headline? We’re surprised that Stripes doesn’t get slammed by our command for such a misrepresentation of the facts.

Elke GlavanHeidelberg, Germany

Vegetarian food

As a vegetarian, I find myself part of a growing community of individuals who, for various reasons, have ceased consuming meat. Our commissary at RAF Lakenheath, England, had started carrying a variety of premade foods that cater to vegetarians, such as the superb Linda McCartney products and Boca items. Neither of these contain genetically modified ingredients. Several weeks ago, two of the Boca sausage products were discontinued, and recently the Linda McCartney line seems to have been dropped. I’ve spoken with the commissary’s management and to date have not received an explanation for the shrinking vegetarian section. But they did try to put me in touch with the person who handles the Boca line. I’ve not heard back since.

Vegetarians are part of the base community, and our only alternative at times is to go off base to Tesco, Waitrose or other British establishments, which carry a marvelous selection and variety. We have to pay in pounds, but sometimes there’s little choice. I urge folks who enjoy vegetarian meals, which are lower in fat and healthier than animal-based products, to speak up and support their local commissaries’ ability to carry such items and to ensure a proper variety.

Those who are not vegetarian or vegan should try the site www.peta.org and find out about alternatives. They can learn how most meats are obtained. (They’ll be shocked. I was.) If they’re curious about genetically modified foods, they can go to www.truefoodnow.org and learn why most American companies don’t want more specific labeling of their products. The public has a right to know what goes into their food, and it’s good to know that one may obtain healthy foods conveniently.

Joel J. DrouetLakenheath, England

French have helped U.S.

I am tired of the negative talk about the “ungrateful French” and their refusal to go to war with Iraq. People, including members of the media and several narrow-minded talk-show hosts, are saying that the French have forgotten how much we, as Americans, have done for them. They say: “We went to France’s rescue during World War I and World War II; how could the French forget that?”

Nobody seems to remember that if it had not been for France, we would not be the United States of America. In 1776 John Adams declared France was “a rock upon which we may safely build." Later it was the French navy, with Gen. George Washington at Yorktown, Va., who accepted the final surrender of the British forces, thereby allowing us to become a nation. If it had not been for the timely arrival of the French navy, we never would have made it. Some of us have forgotten our history; we only want to remember the stuff that makes us the heroes and not beholden to someone else.

We have a long history with the French. From them we received the Statue of Liberty, which was erected to celebrate our centennial year of independence. It shines as a beacon of freedom, hope and refuge for the entire world, and represents our untiring friendship with the French people. There is so much more, but what more could we have asked from a friend?

Friendship is not always easy. It does not mean that we will always agree with the other party just to keep them happy. To do so would change one partner into a sycophant. Friends try to keep friends out of trouble. The French advised us to stay out of Vietnam, but we did not listen. Now they are advising us not to start a war with Iraq, and we still will not listen. We must be slow learners.

We accuse the French of being ungrateful and self-centered because they do not support our desires to kill, maim and demolish an entire country. Maybe after the war starts, there will be a few American families who will understand what the French were trying to tell us. After two major wars on their homeland, the French know the horrors of war much better than we do.

I have traveled to France and found the French people to be pleasant, helpful and friendly. They told me not to judge the French by their government; let’s hope they do not judge us by ours.

Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Extension of empathy

I’ve just read the news of the tour extension for 2,800 U.S. troops. In 1961, we also were extended 90 days because of the Berlin Wall being erected. At that time, everyone on duty in South Korea was extended. You can imagine the varied reactions from the troops.

Rest assured, U.S. servicemembers’ efforts are not ignored by the millions of Americans who have served in Korea. In conversations with others who have served there, it is evident that we know and understand the current mission.

U.S. servicemembers in South Korea are always in our thoughts. There are many who have not forgotten neither our tour nor those who serve there now. God bless our troops.

Frank JonesMyrtle Beach, S.C.

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