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March 30

Reconsider Project Bold

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

March 30 Reconsider Project Bold Lack of yellow ribbons Try walking in his boots Some Germans support war Article sent the wrong signal Legislating morality is foolish Waiting for tax-free status No praise for playing in pain Pulse’s focus is dead wrong Spouses happy to contribute Affair not a military matter Protest Sept. 11 families’ acts Don’t forget Saddam’s victims Not deserving of basic rightsMarch 31 Mail taking too long Troops are not well-paid Taking care of each other Coin is treasured Honor in being a soldier Tune in to America’s best Front-page photo appalling Troops fight for stars’ rights No time for ‘misguided hippies’ Blame it on hanging chads ‘Selfish’ athletes owe apologyApril 1 An insult to a dead veteran Higher standard expected Canadians must do more| Benefits sought for retirees| Defenders of your rights Not hiding in fearApril 2 Undermining war Stop demonstrating A plea to Americans Child custody Honor in being a soldier Tune in to America’s bestApril 3 Town backs troops Cuba’s misery U.N.’s role Sometimes war neededApril 4 Protesters should be peaceful Arnett’s comments Message for soldier Openness harms U.S. troops Axis of Ignorance seenApril 5 Arnett’s statements Boycott could backfire Prayers for troops

After hearing that Project Bold will be terminted this summer, I was very shocked. I realize that changes have to be made to afford the war on terrorism. However, whoever is responsible for deciding where the funding is cut did a horrible job by selecting Project Bold because of the rewards it gives to the youth of the community.

Project Bold completely changed my life. My sister, who attended it four summers ago and was awestruck by it, compelled me to attend. Last summer was the most rewarding and memorable summer of my life.

In the three weeks of it, my emotional and physical determination and health strengthened more than I ever thought possible. A group of 13 became my family away from my family. I learned skills in teamwork, determination, taking risks and challenges, selflessness and that I am capable of the extreme.

Adolescents are in the period of “lost and despair.” Project Bold saved me.

Please find another area to cut the budget. The youth is the future, and Project Bold definitely has the power to shape many lives.

Danielle BenhamH.H. Arnold High SchoolWiesbaden, Germany

Lack of yellow ribbons

I am very disappointed about the lack of yellow ribbons being hung around Grafenwöhr and Vilseck in Germany. It’s surprising that being on a military post, which has many troops deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there aren’t more ribbons.

My father served during the Gulf War and my hometown had yellow ribbons posted everywhere. Now that my husband is serving in Operation Iraqi freedom I have posted yellow bows on my door at home and at work. I hope the show of support will flow over into the community. While you say a prayer for our soldier’s safe return, please take a moment to remember those soldiers who have fallen in the name of freedom.

Candi ClarkGrafenwöhr, Germany

Try walking in his boots

All those people who are protesting and opposing the war with Iraq should do some research on what they are trying to defend. Are they aware of what Saddam does to his people?

He uses torture to get what he wants. In some cases, the Iraqi regime would rape, torture and kill women in front of their families just to make a point. He has used chemical weapons on his own people, and cut out people’s tongues if they say what they think. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want somebody like that in power.

I ask all protesters to think about this and do some research on how the Iraqi people are living in fear of their leader before they pick up the signs and join the picket line.

The protesters think they know what war is like. Well, I think they need to wake up and try to put on my boots every morning, because I am looking war in the face. And I am proud of doing it.

Spc. Michael YauneridgeKuwait

Some Germans support war

Contrary to what we may see and read in the media, there also is support in the German population for the war.

Last night, my husband (American) and I (German) received a fax from our German friend Jutta. She wrote: “I feel ashamed about all these anti-war-paroles! I myself am very proud to have such wonderful Americans as friends and pray for those brave men fighting against a terror-regime. Sometimes I wish, Europe should suffer at least for one week under such a regime. I stand absolutely behind the U.S. and the decision to fight against this terrorists. Really!!! I just wanted you two to know. I am proud to have friends in the States and pray for General Frank’s men that they come home safe. …”

Additionally, I want to comment on some German schools authorizing their pupils to attend demonstrations during school hours: They clearly neglected their legal responsibility to care for these children because the parents’ permission to attend these demonstrations was apparently not obtained. I would guess that this was “something exciting to do” for the kids, but I would certainly hope that they also learn in school and from their parents about the cruelties the Iraqis suffered under Saddam and his despicable regime.

Elke GlavanHeidelberg, Germany

Article sent the wrong signal

I recently read the story in Stars and Stripes about an interview with some signalmen onboard the USS Kitty Hawk, and I must say that I was very disappointed.

First, that interview made the signalman rating look like we do nothing of importance, and gives more fuel to the fire of getting rid of our rate.

I am ashamed to think that another signalman would have so little to say about our rate. It is obvious he is new to the rating and not a very likely candidate for an interview.

I would like to point out a few things that he missed in explaining to the reporter.

Most of us “real” signalmen still stand a proper lookout. A proud signalman is a lookout who reports any and all contacts correctly to the bridge, assisting them in all contacts in visual range. We are trained to identify dozens of military and merchant ships, just by the silhouette, on the horizon, with the sun in our eyes and wind in our faces.

When and if we would ever be attacked by a “slow-low flier” (aka a plane flying overhead) dropping a suspected chemical cloud, the signalmen are the only personnel outside, using our AN-KAS chemical detector, trying to identify it to the bridge so they can use that information to help fight it and protect the ship and rest of the crew against it.

Also, we don’t fly 68 different signals. We use a total of 68 flags and pennants. There are 40 flags to a international flag bag. The Navy uses an extra 28 flags for allied use. There are more than 100 different signals we could fly, ranging from medical signals to tactical signals. On top of that, there are different procedures for allied and international that we must know, understand and adhere to.

Yes, we talk using our arms. How many people can say they can do something like that? We don’t mind the names people call us — such as “skivvy-wavers” — because while the “quarts” or “maids” — as we call quartermasters — are down making coffee for the officers on the bridge, or the boatswain’s mates are handling lines and rigging stations, or even while the hard-working engineers are down in the “pit” sweating day and night to keep the “screws turning,” we are on deck — outside, with the sun upon our faces and wind at our backs.

We are our own masters. We love the freedom of working outside, working with our hands, and the satisfaction of properly receiving a message for our commanding officer via flashing light, or “skivvy-waving,” because we know no one else can do it, and this is what we signed up for.

We signalmen may be a dying breed, but we are proud. There may not be a use for us every minute of every day, but when we are needed, there is no one else to do the job. We do our job with pride, heads held high — staring directly into that sun, or squinting away into the cold black darkness of a moonless night looking for that elusive contact that the bridge and combat know are there, but don’t know what it is.

Everyone will remember their Navy experiences. But I will always remember my signalman experiences. We have been referred to, and are, a cut above the rest. This is what we do. Our appearance and job requires we act that way.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Neal BishopAboard the USS Camden in the Persian Gulf

Legislating morality is foolish

The opinion article by Cal Thomas “Wrong sodomy ruling could open the floodgates” (March 28) was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. Thomas is obviously a master of the first rule of removing the rights of an adult: To take a right from an adult, convince people that there is a threat to their children.

The Supreme Court must make a decision regarding the activities of an adult couple in the privacy of their own home. Were the two individuals of opposite sexes, this would never have gone this far. Since it involves two men, it becomes a crime. Two adult men, incidentally, yet Thomas would make this an issue concerning children. “How about polygamy?”, he asks, as though it’s a disease — instead of a different cultural and religious custom.

The narrow-minded and self-righteous tone of this article makes me sick. Attempting to legislate morality is as dangerous as it is foolish. I hope the law can protect us from these self-proclaimed “defenders of family and morality.” If not, I fear Thomas and his cronies will have us all goose-stepping together to their version of family. That is a horrifying thought: Big Brother cloaked in “family values.”

James KluteStuttgart, Germany

Waiting for tax-free status

The United States has forces deployed in at least 17 countries in support of the current war on terrorism. Fifteen of these countries are in the Central Command area of responsibility, and all troops in those countries have been granted tax-free status.

Only two countries — Israel and Turkey — are in the European Command AOR. Neither of these has been granted tax-free status, despite the appeals of my chain of command and our congressional representatives.

With countries such as these in the Middle East that have been involved in war for many years and are subject to terrorism day in and day out, my question is why we don’t also get tax-free status? Will it take a tragedy to bring about change?

Spc. Victoria N. MassieIsrael

No praise for playing in pain

As a parent, I am responsible for the welfare of my child; as a teacher, I am responsible for the welfare of my students; and as a former coach and former activities director, I was responsible for the welfare of my players.

Now, Stripes staff writer Dave Ornauer writes an article about a minor, a 15-year-old child, playing through three sports seasons with a “deep bone bruise” in her ankle (“No time for pain,” March 27). This makes Mr. Ornauer irresponsible as a sports writer because he is giving homage and praise to this child.

It makes three coaches (volleyball, basketball and soccer) irresponsible for allowing an injured player to continue to play.

Finally, it makes her parents irresponsible for not immediately pulling her off the team and seeing to her injuries.

Mr. Ornauer owes Stars and Stripes readers an apology for this article, which might lead to other students failing to protect their health because he have given so much praise to this one student.

Matthew C. Perry High School girls’ soccer coach Mark Lange says, “She’s going to be a big-time athlete.” She may be a big-time cripple for failing to take care of her body. But Mr. Ornauer might think that was praiseworthy, also.

LaMarr Dansby BrackCamp Zama, Japan

Pulse’s focus is dead wrong

Stripes’ Pulse magazine is pure garbage. As a parent I am absolutely disgusted with the choice of advertising in the March 19 edition. In particular Stripes chose to take an entire page to glorify sexual promiscuity (condom ad), another entire page to entice my children to drink Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and publish a large article promoting obscene gestures.

I believe that Stripes is not in touch with the needs and wants of the audience that reads the newspaper.

It is easy to tell that Stripes is targeting a young audience. My children look forward to reading entertainment sections such as this and, because of Stripes’ irresponsibility, they are being exposed to very degrading, disgusting and evil practices. This kind of irresponsibility tears at the fabric of any good and positive family values. Thanks to Stripes editors’ lack of foresight, Stripes fails to recognize the clear connection between homelessness, broken families, teen pregnancy, abortion and depression with alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.

I am surprised, based on this irresponsible advertising, that ads with automatic weapons, handguns and those over-glorified cigarette spots aren’t included. Our rising generation will ultimately pay the price for Stripes’ greed and lack of foresight. Stripes is pitiful.

It is disgusting to see a respectable newspaper presume to sell out our values to the highest corporate bidder and wantonly seek to prolong our social problems.

Quinton MoffattWiesbaden, Germany

Spouses happy to contribute

I recently read the March 19 letter “Food for thought downrange” about the food shortages at Camp Udairi, Kuwait. The food shortages were in part caused by a fire in the mess tent. Therefore, as the loving, supportive, six-shooter wives that we are, we sent the soldiers food.

I and many other spouses are very grateful for the sacrifices that our soldiers have made for our freedom. Yes, it is the Army’s responsibility to feed our soldiers, but it is also our responsibility as military spouses to go with the flow and help out where needed. The packages we send are sent with lots of love and they are received with great appreciation. Being away from my husband is extremely hard because he is my best friend and soul mate, but the letters and the packages that I send make him and the guys with whom he shares them feel good.

If spouses feel it is not their job to make sure their husbands are fed, then they shouldn’t complain, because there are spouses like me who take time out to make sure that our soldiers know they are appreciated. Our soldiers are there for us and the United States of America. So no inconvenience is too great for me when it comes to helping my husband and the rest of the soldiers down there be happy. They need all the support that we can send them.

Julie MoonIllesheim, Germany

Affair not a military matter

I’m about fed up with the military sex police. Our fighting forces would be better off if our top brass spent more time in the war room and less time peeping into soldiers’ and sailors’ bedrooms.

Of course, when I was a sailor more than 40 years ago we didn’t have women aboard ship. Now political correctness demands that we do, so why should we be surprised when shipboard romances take place?

If Rear Adm. Steven Kunkle is to be punished for adultery (“Commander of Kitty Hawk group fired,” Feb. 15) it should be at the behest of his wife in divorce court, not by military “justice.”

W.L. HeubaumFountain Hills, Ariz.

Protest Sept. 11 families’ acts

The words “let’s roll” have become famous — probably the last two words ever spoken by an unarmed civilian fighting terrorism alone. Now in his name and others like him, friends and relatives of 9/11 victims rally against our president and our country. They loudly protest the war, demoralizing our country, squashing the spirit of our troops. They arm 9-year-old children with signs that read “money for jobs, not war” — as if a 9-year-old has ever worked a day in his life. They spray mace in the eyes of New York police officers — the same policemen who dug tirelessly for their relatives at Ground Zero — they attack these same officers who restored their city with dignity. Now in the name of “antiterrorism” they have become the terrorists, taking valuable time and resources of law enforcement.

I wonder if the enemy laughs at this public display of American humiliation and degradation. I wonder if enemy forces cross their hands across their respective laps and think we will self-destruct without any help from them. Now I know why the eagle has a tear in its eye as it watches our flag being burned by its own. I wonder when the eagle will be shot down by us as it soars across the skies because it, too, is a symbol of America.

Anti-war protesters proclaim loudly that they support our troops. Friends, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Right now, these protesters are part of the problem. If they really supported our troops, they would be sending e-mails of support or volunteering their services at humanitarian organizations. If each one of these 200,000-plus protesters sent one dollar for supplies rather than spending their money on poster board, then they could say they support our troops.

God bless our president and our country. God bless our troops — those serving now and those who have gone before them.

Ceji WesolickRobinson, Texas

Don’t forget Saddam’s victims

Millions of people are taking to the streets to decry America and President Bush while demanding an end to the war. I don’t understand why these protesters hate the Iraqi children so much. They should get off the street and let the coalition save the Iraqi people from their dictator.

It would take decades for the allied forces to kill as many innocent Iraqis as Saddam Hussein’s regime has killed. The collateral damage that U.S.-led forces try so hard to prevent will be sad indeed. But it won’t amount to a fraction of the deaths in the well-documented litany of atrocities committed by Saddam. The peace protesters are poorly informed indeed, to be protesting the rescue of so many people.

Conversely, the leaders of France, Russia and China are plenty informed, but morally bankrupt, because they have to know the truth. Saddam is every bit as bad as Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot.

As for the the veto-threatening countries, they will suffer the embarrassment of their complicity with Saddam. These nations exchanged banned weapons materials in exchange for billions of dollars of Iraq’s oil-for-food allotment from the United Nations — while Iraqi children died. A low estimate of Saddam’s infanticide is about 100,000 lives.

Saddam’s regime has killed more than twice that number of ethnic Kurds; killed tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims; slaughtered tens of thousands of Muslim Iranians with chemical and biological weapons; experimented on Iranian prisoners with biological and chemical weapons; and tortured and killed children while the parents were forced to witness.

The peace protesters need to shift their myopic eyes to the dangers of real evil, instead of making knee-jerk reactions. All wars are bad, but sometimes peace is even less desirable. Sure, it’s about oil, regional power equations and myriad other complex factors besides Saddam’s evil. But so are all wars. And the truth is that some wars are right. This is one of them.

Richard PrattKaiserslautern, Germany

Not deserving of basic rights

To all the anti-war protesters who seem to think Iraq is so grand and the United States is so horrible: I strongly recommend you move there. Our soldiers are there dying not only for the United States but also for the freedom of the Iraqi people, who have been mistreated for years. Our soldiers are being taken prisoner by a country that tortures its own, so I don’t want to imagine what they are doing to those young brave Americans who are fighting for your freedoms.

There should be a law that these protesters could be arrested for the disgusting displays against their own country. They can ramble on about freedom of speech, but I believe anyone who speaks badly about our great and brave soldiers and our leaders should lose those rights for not supporting the people who go out and give them these freedoms.

My heart also goes out to the many spouses, children, mothers and fathers who are now watching the news to see if their loved ones are among the missing or dead. I am proud of our soldiers and I am proud of our great leader, President Bush, who had the courage to go in and do something that should have been done long ago.

Melissa PowellMannheim, Germany

March 31

Mail taking too long

I read the story “Letters being moved to front, unlike first war in Gulf” (March 25). It is a good thing to see that the mail is being expedited to troops forward deployed. This really is a very important issue to morale.

However, I have had a very disappointing deployment. Both my husband and I are deployed in Southwest Asia, making it impossible for us to have morale calls to each other or any other communication with each other, aside from letters. The mail clerks and everyone I have talked to about mail assure me that the mail takes two to five days in-country to get between bases via MPS. However, after over a month and a half of deployment time, my spouse and I have received one letter between the two of us, out of at least two letters a day and approximately 10 packages between the two of us to each other.

I received the first letter on March 27; it was postmarked March 7 from a base 30 miles away. On the same day, I received a letter postmarked March 11 from a small town in Texas. I believe it is fair to assume that my mail circumstance is not an anomaly.

I believe that it is unacceptable that mail from the States is reaching soldiers before intracountry mail reaches its destination, especially when the two bases are only 30 minutes apart. This has made a hard deployment even harder, completely blocking my husband and me from communication. I would be curious to see what the answer is to this problem.

Capt. Tessa SnodgrassSouthwest Asia

Taking care of each other

I am a soldier currently deployed to Turkey. I want to thank every single person for the support they have given us. Soldiers out here read all the good and bad things written in the papers; it is one of the privileges we get here.

The beginning was tough for everybody and we were homesick, but now everything gets better each day. We still get our three MREs and water each day, but we also get cereal and milk, juice, etc.

We don’t complain because we could have it worse. We know our families in the rear are thinking about us and we love to get mail and packages; it’s like Christmas every time, but we also realize that we have another family – our fellow soldiers.

We support and take care of each other as if it were a normal thing, and as long as we have this, there will be no reason to worry about us.

Spc. Sherry Z. ZenkavichMardin, Turkey

Coin is treasured

I was honored to have been a part of “Operation Seasons Greetings 2002” with the USO and U.S. Air Forces in Europe in Europe as a part of the band Restless Heart. One of the stops on our tour was to Baumholder, Germany, where we met the wonderful troops of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery (MLRS) and witnessed a terrific exhibition by them. I was honored to have received a coin from the captain that has “Crusaders” and “Rock Steady” on one side, and the unit designation on the other side.

I have no way of reaching them, but I would like those troops to know that I carry this coin with me everyday to work at the hospital in Bradenton, Fla., and I pull it out frequently to show people and to say, “I met these people, shook hands with them, spoke and laughed with them, had my picture taken with them. This makes it very personal to me. I feel like I know them.”

I don’t know if they are in combat, but I say a little prayer every day for their safe return. I was honored and humbled to have been able to bring a little bit of home to them over the holidays. The captain told us that the one thing he would like us to convey to the folks back home was that the American people were in good hands and that we could sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that our armed forces were on the job 24 hours a day protecting our freedom.

I am proud of our armed forces and grateful for the sacrifice they make for all of us here at home. It makes me sad to see some of the postings on the Internet from people who do not support our troops, for they truly have no idea that it is our armed forces that have kept this country free, liberated other countries from brutal dictators and regimes, and brought freedom to millions of people around the world.

I am just one voice, but this voice says thank you. I am proud of you, as millions of other Americans are. I would also like to thank all of the people at Ramstein, Spangdahlem, RAF Mildenhall, Rota Naval Station, and Incirlik for a truly unforgettable experience that I was honored to be a part of. Hurry home and let the torch of freedom burn!

John DittrichBradenton, Fla.

Honor in being a soldier

I feel compelled to express my pride of serving in the United States Army. I wake every morning proud to put on my uniform. I want every soldier who has not sat down to think about what it means to be an American soldier; take 10 minutes to realize the honor. We have soldiers around the world who are protecting the great country that most of us call home — and can’t wait to return. Whether you are a National Guardsmen, reservist or active duty, or whether you are on a peacekeeping mission, fighting the war on terrorism, or back in the rear supporting those going off to war, we all play a vital role.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I feel protected and also relieved that soldiers are out there sacrificing their lives to make a better place for my 3-year-old daughter.

Nothing says it better that the first article of the Code of Conduct: “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” I ask that everyone continue to pray for the lives of our soldiers in the Middle East.

Sgt. Samantha BestCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Tune in to America’s best

I heard a Hollywood type say that the reason the Academy Awards show had to go on was so that the world could see the best that America has to offer. If the world wants to see the best that America has to offer, tune in to the war coverage and watch our military in action!

Angie DormuthBirmingham, Ala.

Front-page photo appalling

I was very appalled at the picture that was on the front page of the March 24 Stars and Stripes. It showed a wounded soldier with his feet hanging out of a Humvee with a bandaged wound. It didn’t show the bumper number, but it showed the face of his commander. Are Stripes editors stupid or what? They just added more worry and fear to what is already a very stressful situation for the spouses and children who are left behind.

I know that Stripes has to do its job, but all I’m asking is that editors try to be a little more sensitive to the spouses and children who happen to be big fans of the newspaper. We don’t mind the stories, but the pictures can be a lot less dramatic. At least give the family members time to become aware of the situation before reading about it or seeing it in the newspaper.

Pam PierceWürzburg, Germany

Troops fight for stars’ rights

To all the Hollywood stars who felt it was their duty to let the world know their opinions on the war against Iraq during the Academy Awards telecast on March 23: It is my duty to let you know how I feel about your opinions being aired on an international broadcast — and also being seen by some of the troops all over the Middle East.

The time for political grandstanding is over. The time for protest is over. We are at war. Our personal views should be put aside for the time being. Our support should be given to our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in combat. Our focus should be on lightening, not increasing, the burden on their shoulders. Will we greet them with stones thrown at them for doing their jobs? Certainly not I.

Shame on Hollywood, especially Michael Moore, who criticized President Bush and the war during his acceptance speech for his documentary “Bowling for Columbine.” This “fictious” war is to keep Mr. Moore safe, to allow him to make documentaries free from government influence and, above all, to ensure his freedom of speech. I’m not saying his opinions shouldn’t be expressed, but there is a time and place for everything.

The servicemembers are underpaid, overworked, tired and away from their families — mostly without thanks or credit. Part of what makes stars what they are comes from servicemembers’ pockets. Thin-lined pockets at that. So before Hollywood puts down what they do, stars should stop to think where they or all of us would be without the never-ending battle servicemembers fight for our freedoms. They fight for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without fear.

Stephanie CutshallVicenza, Italy

No time for ‘misguided hippies’

The writer of the March 27 letter “Protesters support military” says she supports the troops but not the war. I am glad she sees the difference, because I cannot. The soldiers supporting the war and those deployed on other fronts do not see the difference, either.

We are united to win and protect our country. We need the people back home to stand united behind us and our mission. There can be no mixed messages sent. The time for protests was before the war started. Anyone who cannot support us now, should bite his or her tongue.

Protesters should remember that when they are out getting themselves on camera they could be doing something much more important. They could spend their time volunteering for organizations that support the soldiers. Instead, the protesters are self-centered and self-involved.

Thank God we have a strong leader like our president. He won’t back down to a mob of misguided hippies. The latest polls show that more than 70 percent of the American people support our efforts and understand the mission. Those who think this is a war about oil would probably reduce the Revolutionary War to one about tea.

Sgt. Andrew HokensonCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Blame it on hanging chads

I am against this war 100 percent, but when the first round was fired, my allegiance went to every soldier, airman and Marine in harm’s way. As a former servicemember, I have nothing but the utmost respect for our men and women in Iraq. My problem is the way this war is being fought and the overall view of Americans worldwide; I never thought that during my lifetime we Americans would be so universally despised. It frightens me to think we are now one of the most hated countries on Earth.

You don’t need the Hubble telescope to see that we have basically become bullies. How can we say Iraq poses a bigger threat than North Korea? If North Korea were sitting on vast oil reserves, would we be there now?

When I go to sleep at night, I have no fear of any Iraqi storming into the States, raping and pilfering our cities. I guess I think about Iraq about as much as Iraqis think about me.

Iraq is not worth the life of one American. A couple of days ago on television I saw bodies of our sons heaped together, I saw frightened young men and women being held hostage, and my first thought was why? Why have our sons and daughters been placed in this predicament?

I think it’s the way we are trying to fight this war. The last couple of conflicts have spoiled us Americans into thinking that every enemy will just lie down and not fight, but this conflict is proving otherwise. We should have gone in with most the prolific blitzkrieg known to man, minimizing the lost of coalition lives. A lot of civilian lives would have been lost, but Saddam Hussein has killed and tortured more people then we would in any bombing campaign. In war there are no good guys; good guys finish last.

Some autocrat in England hit the nail on the head: If it weren’t for hanging chads and Florida, would we be in this situation?

Stephen P. MaloneKaiserslautern, Germany

‘Selfish’ athletes owe apology

I read the March 5 article in Stars and Stripes “Worried about war.” While I don’t doubt that many of the concerns expressed by some of the athletes were genuine and heartfelt, there was one paragraph that did bother me: “Two female basketball players, Toni Smith of Manhattanville and Deidra Chatman of Virginia, protested U.S. foreign policy by turning their backs to the flag during the national anthem.”

How do they protest U.S. foreign policy by “slapping in the face” everything the United States stands for? They would probably say they were just exercising their right to freedom of speech, but let’s not forget where that freedom comes from. It comes from 228 years of Americans giving their lives for this country and that flag they turned their backs on.

I am a Marine deployed to Kuwait, and I took what those two women did as a personal insult. I might not agree with everything the leaders of our country do, but I swore to do what my commander in chief says — no questions asked.

I just want those two women to think about the message they’re sending to all of the young fans when they turn their backs on the symbol of freedom for the country we all love. All a 10-year-old in the stands sees is basketball players they like turning their backs on the U.S. flag, when the child knows the right thing to do would be to look at it and put his hand over his heart.

I ask the two women to think about all the people they could be affecting by what they consider a protest. They are telling everyone they are ignorant, selfish and just don’t value their freedom. They owe everyone an apology.

Lance Cpl. Robert LeavittKuwait

April 1

An insult to a dead veteran

Before my father died two weeks ago from cancer, he made his wishes known to the family and the local American Legion post that he wanted full military rights at his funeral. When his condition worsened, I was called home to Trempealeau, Wis., and at that time I contacted the graves registrar and was assured that my father was eligible to receive full military rights at his funeral. I was called back to the Gulf and, unfortunately, was unable to return home for the funeral.

My uncle informed me that during the funeral, the priest denied my father the rights of a final salute. (This same priest thought it improper that I attend my grandmother’s funeral in military uniform — a suggestion I proudly ignored.)

At the cemetery, the priest said the concluding rights, then announced unbeknownst to the family or the military squad that there would be no firing. He reasoned that the noise created by the salute was damaging to hearing and he spoke of the impropriety of weapons in a cemetery.

The playing of taps or the flags present year-round could be considered inappropriate by some. Do we discontinue those practices, as well? Do we forget those who served to secure our future?

Slowly but surely, we are placing the opinions and values of individuals above that of the common good. We may very well come to a point when no one is willing to sacrifice to preserve freedom. When that happens we will no longer be a nation but a loose collection of selfish cowards. Such a people cannot survive.

As a servicemember, I help preserve the freedoms that citizens of our nation enjoy, but this incident goes far beyond freedom of expression. This is an insult to a dead veteran and his family. What makes the outrageous irony complete is that it happened during a time our country is at war

Before my father died two weeks ago from cancer, he made his wishes known to the family and the local American Legion post that he wanted full military rights at his funeral. When his condition worsened, I was called home to Trempealeau, Wis., and at that time I contacted the graves registrar and was assured that my father was eligible to receive full military rights at his funeral. I was called back to the Gulf and, unfortunately, was unable to return home for the funeral.

My uncle informed me that during the funeral, the priest denied my father the rights of a final salute. (This same priest thought it improper that I attend my grandmother’s funeral in military uniform — a suggestion I proudly ignored.)

At the cemetery, the priest said the concluding rights, then announced unbeknownst to the family or the military squad that there would be no firing. He reasoned that the noise created by the salute was damaging to hearing and he spoke of the impropriety of weapons in a cemetery.

The playing of taps or the flags present year-round could be considered inappropriate by some. Do we discontinue those practices, as well? Do we forget those who served to secure our future?

Slowly but surely, we are placing the opinions and values of individuals above that of the common good. We may very well come to a point when no one is willing to sacrifice to preserve freedom. When that happens we will no longer be a nation but a loose collection of selfish cowards. Such a people cannot survive.

As a servicemember, I help preserve the freedoms that citizens of our nation enjoy, but this incident goes far beyond freedom of expression. This is an insult to a dead veteran and his family. What makes the outrageous irony complete is that it happened during a time our country is at war.

Capt. John M. MotszkoCamp As Sayliyah, Qatar

Higher standard expected

For two and a half years I’ve been in Germany and have been reading Stars and Stripes the entire time. When I see the “big” news sources (Associated Press, New York Times, etc.) reporting military stories and getting substantive military details wrong, I just shake my head.

But I really get perturbed when Stars and Stripes reporters make the same, or worse, type of mistake. OK, so I hold Stars and Stripes to a higher standard of military reporting. So let me help out your reporters (and editors) with a few basic rules covering today’s military:

1. A Navy commander will NEVER be a skipper of an aircraft carrier.

2. An Army lieutenant colonel will NEVER be a combat brigade commander.

3. An Air Force lieutenant colonel will NEVER be a flying wing commander.

I don’t know if your reporters physically interview most of the subjects of their articles, but if they do, the eagles on a colonel’s shoulders should be a very big clue that he or she is NOT a lieutenant colonel.

Most recently, one of your reporters said in the story “Pilots tell of harrowing drop of 173rd” (March 29) that the commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., was a lieutenant colonel. That is factually incorrect. He is a colonel (see rule No. 3 above).

When your reporters start their articles with a factual inaccuracy, it sets the tone for the rest of the story. Is that what you want, to have the reporter’s legitimacy called into question in the opening lines of the article? I think not.

By the way, where were the editors in this process?

Clay WittmanStuttgart, Germany

Canadians must do more

As a Canadian, I want to express my appreciation and respect for the efforts of the coalition forces in Iraq. But it is a shame that we Canadians are not doing more to assist you in this battle to liberate Iraq and make the world a safer place.

The American ambassador is right. In a recent speech in Canada, he said, “There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with. There would be no debate. There would be no hesitation. We would be there for Canada — part of our family.” These words struck me to the core. Wherever there is a natural or manmade disaster or a threat to the greater security of the world, the United States, often led by the brave men and women of its armed forces, is there helping, using its resources of people and money to address the problem.

Though Canada is helping to do its part in Afghanistan, the Gulf, and to assure the mutual security of North America, there is a time when we need to put the same blood, sweat, toil and tears into the efforts to achieve victory in Iraq. This effort should include active and aggressive military support during the war and humanitarian aid after the war.

The United States stands for a greater good. It values democracy and human rights, values shared by Canada. But instead, our government has decided to use the excuses of the nations of France and Germany to wait out the war and take the benefit of your sacrifices after peace is achieved.

I want you to know there is vocal dissent with this policy in Canada and many Canadians share my shame but also the pride to have a neighbor nation that stands firm in its convictions and principles and is acting on them.

Eric EdwardsKitchener, Ontario, Canada

Benefits sought for retirees

Elderly military retirees and widows have been wronged! The U.S. government has dishonored its warriors by reneging on our lifetime, earned medical care, and it’s past time to right the wrong.

A fight in the U.S. Supreme Court is being waged for World War II and Korean military retirees who may be eligible for up to $10,000 recovery of Medicare Part B/supplemental insurance payments. The lawsuit seeks a refund of Medicare Part B premiums and a return to full, government-funded health care for military retirees and their dependents.

Retirees older than 65 who entered active duty prior to Dec. 7, 1956, served 20 or more years of active service, and enrolled/paid for Medicare Part B are eligible to join the class-action initiative.

For more information, call toll-free (800) 972-6275; go to the Web site; e-mail at; or write Class Act Group, 32 Beal Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548-5391.

(Ret.) Major James T. CookFort Walton Beach, Fla.

Defenders of your rights

I am writing this letter to all Americans. I am 22 years old and in the Army. I have been deployed to Turkey for about six weeks. Although I have not been gone long, or in the heat of battle, I am still away from my family and am still a soldier. To all of those who do not support our president, you are saying that you do not support us.

Who do you think gives you your right to protest? We do. We give you the right to curse at us. Myself, my husband, the men and women of the U.S. military, the POWs you see on television, the soldiers of Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, Somalia, World War I, World War II, the dead, the missing. We are the ones who defend that right. We sacrifice our lives, families, the right to choose where we live and when we live there. And all you can do is slap us in the face.

To those who support us: You are why I do this. You, who tie yellow ribbons, wave flags, hold up signs and write encouraging letters.

Spc. Nikki BartlettOguzelli, Turkey

Not hiding in fear

Here we sit in our vehicles ready to roll to the field. Having read Stars and Stripes again this week, I must ask: Who is Stripes serving? The overall tone of the paper is one that promotes confusion and dissension within the rank and file. We in this country enjoy the freedom of speech paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.

Iraq has deceived the world since the Persian Gulf War. If Saddam Hussein cared for his people, he would have used the food and medicine received for oil to give to his people, instead of to his military.

If I do not come back, I will not have died in vain. My nieces and nephews — along with the disgruntled youth who need a forum to vent their frustration at being young adults and think it’s neat to hold peace signs — are as much at risk, too, from American-haters as well as Christian- and Jew-hating people who claim they act for God. We won’t fall prey to hiding in fear.

Sept. 11 propelled us into a new territory, such as surveillance, that may infringe on some of our so-called rights as Americans. They drew first blood — and innocent blood at that. These cowards who creep in the dark will squeal with the tip of my God-fearing blade should they stand in the way of peace. We are there to enforce and put at bay the inevitable great war to end all wars by this action.

Our president weathers constant insults and indignation. He should profess what he believes, because it makes me believe in him and our leaders as trusted servants chosen by the masses to look out for our best interests.

Spc. Frederick MancusoCamp Pennsylvania, Kuwait

April 2

Undermining war

I’m tired of people undermining the U.S. war effort in Iraq and then glibly bleating that they support our troops. No they don’t. They can’t undermine the war effort and support our troops at the same time. In fact, these so-called peace advocates are doing more than any Baath party militia to lengthen the war by putting its ultimate outcome in question in the minds of the Iraqi people, if nowhere else.

These people, if they’re Americans, are much closer to traitors than patriots. Is it patriotic to squeal about imperfections in the war and repeat enemy falsehoods that are slanderous of the coalition? Can a “loyal American” suggest, as a recent writer did, that “there are no good guys” or that “good guys finish last”? Can those opposing the war say we are no better than the murderers who are rounding up children in Basra and shooting their own troops in the backs of their heads? To suggest that the coalition commits genocide or that we are somehow no better than those we are fighting is many things, and loyal is not one of them.

My enemy’s best allies can’t be my friends. In fact, regardless of their past service in the military, they’ve shown themselves to be my enemies. “Peace advocates” who throw chairs at police, torch Armed Forces Italy-plated cars or spit on me and burn my flag are all on the same side — Saddam Hussein’s side. The nonviolent approach of some doesn’t absolve them of the hurt they inflict on me and my brothers in arms. I seriously question their humanity if they don’t support the liberation of Iraqis from Saddam. Any pretense by them of supporting our troops is false.

Unlike Saddam and his buddies, I pray for my enemies and those who curse me, persecute me and spitefully use me. Despite what Al Jazeera says, people like me in this war are feeding and ministering to our prisoners’ needs. We don’t shoot them in the head. Saddam’s regime and this brave coalition are indeed very different.

To blame the current situation on the last presidential election must be seen as hypocritical and cynical opportunism. Making political hay out of the deaths of Americans is definitely a funny way to show support for them. After all, our current president does not lob occasional cruise missiles at Iraq to divert attention from an impeachment scandal, as the last one did. (That action, by the way, certainly earned us no friends in the region.)

Maj. Jeff WhiteNaples, Italy

Stop demonstrating

In following the recent anti-war demonstrations in the United States, I’ve begun feeling like I did during the Vietnam War. The difference between now and then is that now I’m a first sergeant in the U.S. Army. Then I was just a child, more concerned with playing games than in world issues.

I assure war protesters that I respect their First Amendment right to express their opinions. After all, that’s what we soldiers have sworn to defend. I also want the protesters to know that I don’t think they’re unpatriotic. I appreciate their support. But as a military leader, I must make these protesters aware of the effect they’re having on my soldiers and on other people who wear the uniforms of our country.

My soldiers are under a great amount of stress. Many of them are very young — 18, 19 and 20. They’re preparing to go to what may well be the last foreign country they visit in their lives. They’re working 16-hour days to prepare for the mission ahead. They’re also very much aware that they’re going away to fight an unpopular war. But they’re soldiers, and they’ll carry out the orders of our commander in chief and accomplish the mission.

With that in mind, maybe the protesters will understand that in order for these soldiers to focus on what’s at hand, they need minimal distractions. The news from home is very much a distraction. It makes us all feel sad that our country is once again divided. The unity that existed after Sept. 11, 2001, has ceased to exist. The people whose liberties we are about to go into combat to defend are fighting among themselves. So I’m appealing to all protesters to please stop their demonstrations and infighting. Their voices have been heard and their message received. The war will not end until our mission is accomplished, and no amount of demonstrating will stop it. Let those of us about to go into battle know that our country is once again united so that we can concentrate on the job at hand and return home to our families.

I leave readers with a quote from Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

1st Sgt. Mark GeorgeWiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany

A plea to Americans

I’m writing to remind the Americans who are opposed to the war in Iraq of a couple of things I heard daily after Sept. 11, 2001. One of them was, “America will not forget.” But as I read the newspaper and watch the news, I see that more and more Americans have forgotten what it’s like to live in fear, wondering when the next attack of unprecedented magnitude will come. I haven’t forgotten, and the American soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq haven’t forgotten either. As these soldiers sleep in their tents, trucks and on the hard desert ground in standing tall against Saddam Hussein and his regime, we sleep soundly in our beds. We’re protected by their support of our Constitution and in all the other things we Americans hold sacred.

Unlike Osama bin Laden, Saddam has an entire army behind him and, more than likely, chemical or biological weapons. Knowing this, some Americans still adamantly refuse to support this war. They say we’re the aggressors because those weapons have not yet been used. But if we wait, those weapons will be used, and once again our nation will grieve.

United we stand, divided we fall. As I see clips of anti-war demonstrations, I’m reminded of images of a war in our not-so-distant past. We lost the Vietnam War. It divided our country. It was a war so heinous that my father, a medic in Vietnam, refuses to discuss it.

I make the following plea to all Americans, especially those opposed to the war in Iraq: The next time you contemplate marching or raising a banner in protest, you should remember that these GIs have put their lives on hold. They’ve said goodbye to families and friends for an uncertain period of time. They’ve marched toward an uncertain fate with their heads held high with one purpose in mind — to protect us.

I thank all the GIs who have pledged their lives to supporting our country and way of life. I thank them for their honor, courage, and commitment. Godspeed.

Brienne StansberryWiesbaden, Germany

Child custody

I have a situation similar to that of the writer of the letter “Child custody unfair to fathers” (March 12) in which the German court system denies child-parent relationships. My experience is different, yet the results were the same — a lack of German court support. I lost custody of my son after it was said that I’m a good father.

I’ve asked for assistance from family advocacy, the legal office, the installation inspector general and the U.S. consulate. But assistance is very limited. All these offices empathize with my situation. But no interest is shown in my parental rights, let alone the rights of my young son.

My case is not isolated. A lack of fair decisions for foreign parents is a serious problem in Germany. It truly damages the relationships between parents and children. There are good parents out there who want to be a part of their children’s lives. In Germany we run out of time because of court delays, and it’s the children who suffer most from this injustice.

I pray my situation and others are investigated. Some form of resolution is needed for the sake of all kids who aren’t allowed to have relationships with one of their parents due to court judgments. Any investigations or resolutions can only be initiated with the courage and assistance of the highest levels of the U.S. government.

George HallRamstein Air Base, Germany

Troops are not well-paid

Last Wednesday morning a reporter on NBC News said something that is very untrue, and it frustrated me. She said the troops were well-equipped, well-trained (which they are) and then she added “well-paid.” This is ludicrous. Get hold of a pay scale for E-1s through E-5s and tell me that they are well-paid. They are most certainly not, and many with families qualify for food stamps.

Give the troops a pay raise like Congress gets and then they would be well-paid, instead of the measly 1 percent to 3 percent raise that they actually get.

S.L. Buddy WatsonLayton, Utah

Honor in being a soldier

I feel compelled to express my pride of serving in the U.S. Army. I wake every morning proud to put on my uniform. I want every soldier who has not sat down to think about what it means to be an American soldier to take 10 minutes to realize the honor. We have soldiers around the world who are protecting the great country that most of us call home — and can’t wait to return. Whether you are a National Guardsman, reservist or active duty — or whether you are on a peacekeeping mission, fighting the war on terrorism or back in the rear supporting those going off to war — we all play a vital role.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I feel protected and also relieved that soldiers are out there sacrificing their lives to make a better place for my 3-year-old daughter.

Nothing says it better that the first article of the Code of Conduct: “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” I ask that everyone continue to pray for the lives of our soldiers in the Middle East.

Sgt. Samantha BestCamp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Tune in to America’s best

I heard a Hollywood type say that the reason the Academy Awards show had to go on was so that the world could see the best that America has to offer. If the world wants to see the best that America has to offer, tune in to the war coverage and watch our military in action!

Angie DormuthBirmingham, Ala.

April 3

Town backs troops

Does anyone care that America’s young men and women are fighting for freedom? We want our young servicemembers to know the answer.

Despite threatening black clouds and dropping temperatures, March 29 was a wonderful day in the small western Pennsylvania community of Windber. More than 500 citizens gathered at Windber’s Veterans Park to show their support for our troops. While the park is physically dominated by an M-60 tank, the park’s spirit is evident in the paver stones engraved with the names of Windber area veterans. While the tank, the patriotic music, and the Army and Marine Corps color guards created a distinctive military undertone, the many children present and the red, white and blue colors added a festive flavor to the event.

Coordinators declared that the rally was meant to honor American servicemembers and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made for the freedom cherished by Americans. Windber residents want our troops to know that we care.

“We decided a rally would be a good way to show our military that we are concerned and grateful for their efforts,” Windber Mayor Art Palumbo said. The Windber Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion sponsored the rally.

Susan Gallagher, a Navy veteran with six years of active-duty service, set the rally’s mood with her opening statement. “We are here today to reflect upon the brave men and women serving in the United States armed forces.” Gallagher memorialized Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, a hero of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, who was buried in Windber in March 2002. She also reflected on the sacrifices made by veterans and military family members.

Army veteran and Richland School District Superintendent Sal Marro reminded listeners that anti-war protesters direct precious energy and resources away from our military. He asked that all Americans focus on the sacrifices made by our young servicemembers.

Alexander Bryan, Gray Bryan, and Sara Dressick read letters that they wrote to military members. Their letters were part of the Windber Area Elementary School’s “loyalty month.” Each of Windber’s 700 elementary students wrote letters to 45 servicemembers with family or sentimental connections to Windber.

Does anyone care that our young men and women are fighting for our freedom? In this small town in western Pennsylvania, the answer is yes. Windber cares, Pennsylvania cares, and America cares!

Michael GallagherWindber, Pa.

Cuba’s misery

I was stunned to read the story “Cuba’s sweet sounds: Soviet influence creates homegrown virtuosos” (March 30) about Soviet-trained Cuban musicians. I was even more stunned to read the tone of admiration that the reporter had for the Soviets. The Soviet Union funded ballet and music conservatories while millions starved, financing the talent of a few on the backs of the masses. How many of those Soviets went to Cuba not merely as musicians or music teachers, but as KGB agents or informers, whose main task was to inform Moscow of dissidents within Cuba and within Fidel Castro’s government? How can there be any admiration for the evils of Soviet communism?

What was even more appalling to me was that the Cuban musicians didn’t blame their poverty on the flawed communist system or on Castro’s brutal regime. Rather, they blamed it on being denied access to American markets and thus being unable to sell their music. Perhaps if the Cuban people were not so impoverished under Castro, they could afford to buy the musicians’ products. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, because it’s so much easier to blame America than to change their own system. It’s to Castro’s advantage that they do so. If they blame America, then the blame doesn’t fall on him, where it rightly should.

It’s not American embargoes against Castro’s communist regime that have starved Cuba’s people. Nor have the embargoes taken people from their homes in the middle of the night to be interrogated. Nor have American embargoes jailed dissidents, held bogus “elections,” or grossly violated human rights, as Castro’s regime has been doing for decades. Stars and Stripes did its readers a disservice by printing a piece that suggested Cuba’s misery is America’s fault.

Stormi St. JohnGransdorf, Germany

U.N.’s role

Why can’t the United Nations work to stop human suffering and to promote human freedom? Are we not all people of one planet? Maybe we need to stop looking at ourselves as separate people and see ourselves as one. Maybe the U.N. should be the police to all who choose to be leaders or are placed in the leadership of any single nation. If one of those leaders or groups of leaders chooses not to treat their people fairly and justly, then it should be the U.N. that removes them from power. Maybe the idea is not to say it’s not our problem or our job to change or remove a criminal leader from power. Maybe it’s exactly all of our jobs, as one, to do so. Is that not what we should be evolving into?

As an individual in a just society, I wouldn’t be allowed to kill, rape, torture, steal land or repress my neighbor. So why as a global body do we sit back and say without reservation that the way to peace is to do nothing? That the way to peace is to say it’s not my problem or my fight? Why should we sit back and say that other countries should take care of criminal leaders themselves? Are we not all here to be one people? Should we not all look after one another? Is that not the way to true and lasting peace?

Maybe the U.N. needs to be a body that says a leader is stealing land from its neighbor and repressing its people. As a body for this planet, we will come together and say no to that leader and, if necessary, stop him from criminal acts on his neighbors and his people.

Diana MascilliRAF Mildenhall, England

Sometimes war needed

It’s amazing how the war in Iraq has divided the world’s idea of who’s right and who’s wrong. Nobody wants war, but sometimes it’s needed. In the case of Iraq, maybe the picture is a lot bigger than we can see. When there are clouds of politics and economic frustration, and a few nations are diluted with arrogance, it’s forgotten how great a price is paid for freedom. Maybe other countries would remember if it were the blood of their own people that was spilled during World War II. To stand back and take a look at the big picture, we Christians go to God and his word for answers.

Let’s check out the book of Daniel. It seems that the kings of Babylon don’t have a very good track record throughout history, and the present day king of Babylon is keeping up with the reputation. Is Saddam Hussein one of the kings in Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams? Is it just me, or is Jeremiah, Chapter 51, a mirror image of what is going on right now? Readers will have to decide for themselves. I don’t claim to have any divine inside information. I’m just looking for answers like everyone else.

In the meantime, I choose to support our troops. The orders have been given and the mission is under way. Whether it’s right or wrong is not for me to decide. But I do know this: Our soldiers are willing to die for strangers in a strange land, and they’d do the same for we U.S. citizens whether we support them or not. Jesus said it best: “There is no greater love than one who will lay down his life for someone else’s.”

Our troops deserve all the support they can get. Instead of protesting, I suggest those who don’t like what’s going on petition the Lord with prayer.

Bernie RidallPerwick, Pa.

April 4

Protesters should be peaceful

I’m so grateful for all the luxuries afforded me by the United States. One of those is the right to protest. But I believe that there’s a manner in which all things should be handled. One thing I strongly disagree with is a “peace rally” that’s so out of hand that there are people laying in the streets and disrupting the great American freedom of mobility. I also have a huge problem with a “peace rally” that’s violent. So those who are against the war and want a peaceful outcome should start by being peaceful themselves.

In addition, those who have said they support the troops but not the war have no idea what they are talking about. For starters, there’s no draft and there hasn’t been in many years. So don’t forget that all the troops who are fighting for the world’s freedom are doing so because they chose it as their career. They weren’t forced to take an oath to abide by the decisions of our government. They requested it. Not only did they request it, but some of them have re-enlisted to continue abiding by that oath.

I’m a military spouse, and I hate the thought of losing my husband. But at the same time, I’m proud to say that my husband has chosen a task so large that he’d give his own life to protect our freedoms, including the right to protest. So protesters should please keep in mind that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks happened because the Middle East is out of control. Never forget that the people who perished in those attacks didn’t sign up for a war. They were forced into a life-or-death situation by a group with whom Saddam Hussein has ties. If protesters truly want peace, they’ll support our coalition effort to rid Iraq of the terrorists it has in control.

Ronni M. WrightHohenfels, Germany

Arnett’s comments

I’d like to provide my thoughts on war correspondent Peter Arnett’s recent remarks regarding the coalition’s effort in Iraq.

As a member of the U.S. military, I found Arnett’s opinions repugnant. The very ideals and values that allow him to voice his uninformed and uneducated opinions are what my forefathers and I have fought for over the past 228 years. The biased opinions that Arnett gave to the repressive Iraqi regime has only prolonged the inevitable defeat of the Iraqi government. It contributed to needless bloodshed and suffering of both Iraqis and Americans. Arnett’s one-sided view of this fight favored Iraq’s repressive government, which has demonstrated obvious and appalling brutality for more than 20 years. How quickly Arnett forgot Iraq’s use of chemical weapons on Iranians and Kurds, its Scud attacks on Israel, and the World Trade Center attacks. Saddam Hussein’s call for world terrorism by homicide bombers only solidifies America’s determination to remove him from power.

It must be nice for Arnett to sit in his glass tower, looking down upon the world and chastising the willing for doing what is morally right and just. Arnett should remember that one day he, too, must return to reality and face a nation that doesn’t easily forget. Some of us will be able to carry our heads high with pride in our accomplishments. As for others like Arnett? I think we know the answer already.

I hope Arnett is proud of his accomplishments, because I and the majority of Americans are not. I was wondering who would become the next Jane Fonda sitting behind an Iraqi weapon. Now I know it’s Arnett. Iraq uses propaganda as a weapon of war, and Arnett has played a part in that ploy. I hope Arnett can sleep at night, because his actions and biased opinions have contributed to a greater evil.

Gregory D. McCrumCamp Monteith, Kosovo

Message for soldier

A soldier recently gave me a pin for my nephew. His mother (my sister, Kelly Hallmark,) e-mailed me a letter to thank the soldier. But my sister realized that she really had more to say to the soldier and to every GI who has to be away from home. It’s a simple and beautiful letter that I want to share with all of our soldiers. I think it says so much for all of us who haven’t yet found the words. It is as follows:

“Message for Staff Sgt. Martin: Don’t forget my support for our troops is for all of them everywhere, all the time. Many feel the same way. Those of us over here sometimes get involved so much in what we have to do during the day — mostly in order to deal with our own concerns, fears, and worries — that sometimes we don’t take the time to put into words what is difficult for us to say. Thinking of our soldiers overseas, so far from their loved ones, makes many of us here look at our children with gratitude that we are here with them. It also makes it hard to voice our appreciation with the inevitable lumps in our throats. This does not mean that we forget the sacrifices that military men and women everywhere are making. I want you to know that we appreciate and are thankful every day for all of your efforts everywhere you are, even when we cannot express them for whatever reason. Thanks to you and all of your men. — Kelly”

Kim McCrackenMiesau, Germany

Openness harms U.S. troops

“When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give only name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability.”— Article 5, Code of Military Conduct.

“Jamie, you’re looking at two F/A-18s taking off from the USS Kitty Hawk loaded with 2,000-pound bombs for targets in central Iraq. Just moments ago we spoke with the flight lead who goes by the call sign …”— CNN

“In a few minutes these soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division will head north into Iraq. Let me describe what you’re seeing: led by M1 Abrams Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles …”— Fox News

“The bubble-headed beach blondw comes on at 5. She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. It’s interesting when people die …”— Don Henley lyrics, “Dirty Laundry”

This letter is to the American policy-makers who control media coverage of the war. Their approach to this war disregards the wisdom of operations security and is insensitive to the families of military members in combat.

We need to be wise and practice good OPSEC. The media have been serving up a veritable intelligence smorgasbord on the U.S. military — not just for Iraq but for other countries who are now studying us closely. For the cost of cable TV, potential adversaries are gaining information that could degrade our combat effectiveness and increase the risks to our troops in Iraq and future operations elsewhere. The United States must strive to keep our enemies — present and future — blind and confused. If they want to know with what we’re striking from where for what reason and what’s coming next, let them apply their own resources to figure it out.

Having worked at Pentagon Public Affairs, I do appreciate the desire for openness; However, I believe that this openness is now working directly against the military priorities of protecting our troops and preserving America’s very hard-earned advantages.

We can do better for the families of our combat forces in how we release U.S. casualty information. These families are under great stress, and the media are further compounding it with the frenzy over casualty information. It would show due respect for these family members if U.S. casualty information would be kept within command channels until loved ones have been properly notified.

I wonder if political considerations have disproportionately influenced media policy. When our actions endanger American lives and show lack of respect for military families, it is probably time to step back and reconsider what we’re doing. The first Gulf War public affairs approach seemed like a good template: The Pentagon kept the nation well-informed without compromising military operations or pre-empting the casualty-notification process.

Joe LehnerdYokota Air Base, Japan

Axis of Ignorance seen

We all should know our history lesson about the Axis powers and we know of the “axis of evil,” but do you know of the Axis of Ignorance? The first member of the Axis of Ignorance is France. The French are the biggest losers in human history. The French lost their country twice in the last century to their new friends, the Germans. And yes, their old friends in America had to win their country back for them both times. The French have been run over by most countries in Europe most of their idealistic lives.

The French too, created much of the mess and are responsible for much of the colonial borderlines in the Third World. The French have a blind spot when it comes to commitment and acknowledging their poor track record to defense of the free world. The real problem with the French is that they cannot handle being so unimportant in the world. After all, the Euro, the Airbus and most of the art in Paris is/are not French.

The next member of the Axis of Ignorance are the people of South Korea who have forgotten why they are alive and prospering today. Without the United Nations and America, South Korea simply would not exist. It is apparent that the current generation of Koreans doesn’t know its bloody and foolish history. South Koreans must of gotten their history books from the French because they are close to becoming two-time losers, too.

The third member of the Axis of Ignorance is the Hollywood crowd — American actors and entertainers who are misleading their fan clubs. Jane Fonda types (George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, etc.) who send mixed messages in a time of war to the American people lack true grit. The actors should get on a Lufthansa flight to Baghdad and take positions on anti-aircraft guns, Please. A human shield of entertainers would make targeting easier. Targeting would be just a matter of looking for the rings of the rich and obese in city of poor and starving. I wonder how acting pays in Iraq and what the choice of story line is there? Oh yes, we all have heard of “Baghdadiwood.”

Forget gratitude. The French don’t have it, the South Koreans don’t have it and American actors are above it. I know, let the American actors make a movie about the French colonialists in the Middle East. Shoot it in Baghdad this month. Call it the “Casablanca” of Iraq. Coming to a theater near you!

Mark ErtzCamp McTureous, Okinawa

April 5

Arnett’s statements

When I first saw that NBC/National Geographic Explorer had hired tainted — but for some reason still respected — journalist Peter Arnett, I was very skeptical. Now, following his treasonous interview on Iraqi TV, my skepticism is vindicated. While Arnett may be an award-winning journalist, it’s clear that he’s repeatedly crossed the line from “reporting” to “creating” news. Moreover, he’s not an expert on warfare, military tactics or military planning. He’s only been portrayed as such by himself and his employers. In doing this interview, Arnett again attempted to create news, jeopardizing the lives of U.S. and coalition servicemembers.

As far as I can discern, Arnett has never participated in any training that would enable him to assume the mantle of “military expert,” and he’s never been requested as an “expert” by any military organization. Even MSNBC’s biography said that Arnett’s chief qualification is that “he was in the right place at the right time when the Gulf War began.”

In the Iraqi TV interview, Arnett said, “The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan. Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces.” Arnett also went to great pains to point out that the U.S. merely claims that civilians killed in an explosion at a downtown Baghdad market were the victims of Iraqi missiles, while Iraq had said the missiles were definitely incoming coalition fire. This sounds exactly like it was written by the Iraqi Information Ministry. I can’t believe that any western journalist, except perhaps Arnett, would ever state such a thing of his own free will on the enemy’s state-run television.

I remind readers that Arnett was forced to resign from his previous position at CNN. The reason was a June 15, 1998, CNN/Time story which accused the U.S. military of using nerve gas on its own soldiers. On July 2, 1998, CNN issued a retraction, which stated in part: “CNN’s system of journalistic checks and balances, which has served CNN exceptionally well in the past, failed in this case. The fault lies with the editors, producers, reporters and executives responsible for the report, the program and its contents. We are taking vigorous steps to strengthen our internal procedures to assure that mistakes of this type do not occur in the future.”

Readers should be aware of Arnett’s record of manipulation. NBC should be ashamed of Arnett, and NBC’s owners, executives and editors should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the interview. (Arnett was fired by NBC and National Geographic Explorer and then hired by Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper.)

Maj. Marc R. RobinsonSHAPE, Belgium

Boycott could backfire

Americans should think twice before they boycott German and French products. It could backfire and cost American businesses considerable loses because these countries could return the favor and boycott American goods. Considering the state of our economy, it doesn’t appear to be a wise move for anyone.

Not all Germans or French people feel their governments have taken the right path. Recently I was at a wine tasting in France. When I asked to taste a particular wine, the woman helping me asked if I was an American. When I said yes, she said, “I’m French and I’m sorry and ashamed.” I asked her if she felt the French should have joined the United States in the war against Iraq. She said yes. Stars and Stripes has published similar letters from Germans.

My experiences in both Germany and France have been that the people of those countries have mostly warm and friendly feelings toward Americans. We must be able to separate the people from their governments.

Leonard FrankKaiserslautern, Germany

Prayers for troops

My name is Elizabeth Coronado, and my husband is a Gulf War veteran. I read with great dismay many recent letters concerning President Bush and the war in Iraq. Many people said Americans don’t like Bush. There’s a name for those people: Democrats. Chances are those who hang out with Democrats will hear the negative side of the coin regarding support for Bush. Then I read a letter about hanging chads and Florida. That’s sour grapes. The Kennedy-Nixon election might be good reading material for the writer.

Servicemembers should please know that the great majority of Americans are supporting them. When the funding of anti-war protests is discovered, it often doesn’t hit the news because by nature the media is an ultra-liberal entity. It doesn’t want the public to know that anti-American groups such as Marxists are funding and supporting these rallies.

My prayers are with military personnel everywhere.

Elizabeth Coronado, Ph.D.Maryland

Stripes in 7

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