Letters to the Editor for Sunday, September 10, 2006

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 10, 2006

European and Mideast editions

(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the letters that appeared in each edition of Stripes on this publication date. Click here to jump ahead to the Pacific edition letters)

Muslim hatred spurred war

The writer of “Christianity vs. Islam” (letter, Sept. 5) wants to convince us the war on terrorism is for “economic reasons” or because of our foreign policy.

The writer appears to be well-informed about the Council on Foreign Affairs and the tenets of Christian behavior, but his last paragraph pretty much reflects his loss of logic. Next, he will be trying to convince us the bombings in Iraq, Britain, Thailand, Denmark, Jordan, India, Israel, Kosovo, Pakistan and many others are because of “U.S. economic reasons,” or our foreign policy.

Economics is one of the reasons I am in Afghanistan, but not the reason for war. Muslim terrorism had to be dealt with, and Sept. 11, 2001, was just the catalyst. This cancer has to be dealt with now, before we are forced to convert to Islam.

Take time to research the Quran. Listen to what is coming out of Iran, Syria and caves along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. The few times Muslim extremists are telling the truth is when they say they want us dead. That means you, me, my children, my grandchildren, along with President Bush and everyone in the Free World who has not already succumbed to the Sharia.

The writer states, “The Muslim world doesn’t hate Americans — it hates our foreign policy.” Get real. The attack on America was not because of our foreign policy; it was because they do not control us, yet. I personally prefer their hatred, as opposed to living under Sharia law.

Dwaine Nolte
Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan

Many taught to hate Americans

In response to “Christianity vs. Islam”: That it is our fault that terrorists struck on 9/11 is absurd, especially as we approach the five-year anniversary of that horrific day. Suggesting that our foreign policy is to blame for the hatred bared by the average Islamic fundamentalist is ridiculous.

The guys shooting at me in Afghanistan do not have the least bit of knowledge about American foreign policy. They barely have electricity, and that is not the fault of the American presence, it’s their choice (in one form or fashion). They are preached to from an early age to hate Americans and to not tolerate other opinions or cultures. Are all Muslims taught to hate this way? No.

I encourage readers to research the cultures and religions involved in terrorist activity. Blaming 9/11 on neo-conservatism in America does not solve problems.

Why is it people feel there has to be someone to blame, other than those who perpetrated the crime, for 9/11; London; Madrid, Spain; and many others? What has happened to personal responsibility?

No American leader is so idiotic that he would purposefully sanction a policy that would perpetuate terrorist attacks. The letter writer should realize that, just maybe, there are people out there who hate because they were trained to hate for no other reason other than to hate. It’s not our fault they hit us, but it is our fault that we let people choose their own thoughts and what information they pay attention to, so that they might think so.

Army Staff Sgt. Patrick B. Rose
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

Writer should ‘wake up’

I am writing in response to “Christianity vs. Islam.” I take issue with his positions.

The letter writer says that “strategic private sectors” strongly influence our foreign policy and cause us to get into wars of greed. Where would the letter writer recommend we get our government leaders? A lottery drawing at the local Wal-Mart?

Those in government leadership positions are there because they’ve proven themselves knowledgeable in, and capable of handling, those kinds of positions.

As for his position regarding Islam and terrorism, wake up! We are at war with Islamic terrorists because they killed almost 3,000 Americans in one day (not to mention many others over the last 30 years).

Now, let’s address his simplistic view regarding Christianity and wars. He says, “Most major wars were waged under the guise of Christianity,” in a pathetic, though sly, attempt to smear our president, who happens to be a devout Christian. To which major wars is he referring? Both world wars? Imperial Chinese or Mongol wars? Just European ones? While many significant and influential wars took place in “Christian” Europe, there are many others that would fit that qualification. Christians aren’t the only ones fighting “major wars.”

He ends by attempting to rationalize Islamic terrorism, stating that “more people have succumbed at the feet of Christianity over the past 2,000 years than have perished … due to acts of terror directly attributable to radical Islamists.” Not surprising given that Christianity has been around for close to 2,000 years.

Instead of reading Mother Jones and watching Michael Moore films, perhaps the letter writer ought to listen to what these Muslim terrorists are saying they want to accomplish: “death to America.”

Maj. Morgan Smiley
Al Asad, Iraq

The meaning of Islam

In response to “Improving Muslims’ image” (letter, Aug. 16), the writer first must know the difference between Islam and Muslim. Islam means peace. Muslim means submission to Allah. Islam is not a religion, it is a way of life, and in that way of life there are certain things you can’t commit or you will be punished. True, Muslims don’t care about their image because they please Allah and he’s the only one who has the right to be worshipped.

I think that non-Muslims should stop trying to compare Islam to a religion. With every religious group there are bad apples, just as there are in this period of time for Muslims. Remember, Jesus had a bad image — enemies called him a wine imbiber and John the Baptist a devil. Both were branded because they were against the political views of that day.

So the image of Muslims does not change my thinking about Islam, I just pray for them. And I think that’s what we all need to do.

Anthony Lewis

Pacific edition

An ‘interview’ no one will see

Coming on CBS’ “60 Minutes”: Ed Bradley and a camera crew visit the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in Dallas to find out why gas prices are going up at exchange gas stations overseas while gas prices are dropping in the U.S.

Opening scene: receptionist desk at Army and Air Force Exchange Service headquarters. “Hello, I’m Ed Bradley from ‘60 Minutes.’ We are doing a story about the gas prices that our servicemen and their families face overseas and I would like to talk to someone in authority about how AAFES manages its overseas gasoline pricing.”

Receptionist: “Please wait, sir. I will call someone to see you.”

A few minutes later, a sergeant in uniform arrives, accompanied by a staff lawyer. The sergeant says that, unfortunately, no one is available to discuss the issue, but he is prepared to provide the official AAFES position. He states, “AAFES establishes the price of gas at its locations based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s monthly average for each grade of gasoline in the continental United States. A ‘dispensing cost’ is added to the price at the pump and the cost of the coupons.”

Bradley asks, “So why is the cost in Germany $3.16 for a gallon of regular gas when some AAFES service stations in the States sell it for $2.55 a gallon, a difference of 61 cents?”

The lawyer quickly responds, “Mr. Bradley, you have the AAFES position, this interview is over. Please take your cameras and leave.”

Unfortunately, this episode of “60 Minutes” will not be seen overseas, as an American Forces Radio and Television Service special, “The History of Infomercials on AFN,” will preempt it. This is a fictional story. The only facts are the cost of AAFES gas and the official AAFES position.

Michael J. Shanahan
Stuttgart, Germany

AAFES Gas Prices 101

I contacted various levels of Army and Air Force Exchange Service management in Europe to answer a couple of questions. My concern wasn’t the cost of gas … it was if AAFES’ mark-up is applied equitably to AAFES stations throughout the U.S. and overseas. If AAFES is making about the same amount off a gallon of gas overseas vs. stateside, I have no complaints.

My quest led to a Freedom of Information Act request to AAFES headquarters in Dallas. I asked AAFES to provide me with the average price it paid its vendors for gas in Germany and at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

This is what I learned: For regular gas, there are two prices AAFES pays in Germany. The first is for bulk buys, which are delivered to AAFES. The second is for coupon buys, which allow members to receive gas off base.

In June, AAFES paid its German vendor .4283 euro cents per liter ($2.06 a gallon, using June’s 30-day euro exchange rate average of 1 euro equals .78931 U.S. cents). For coupon purchases, AAFES paid .4954 euro cents a liter ($2.39 per gallon). AAFES charged $3.08 per gallon in Germany for regular gas during June. If a customer purchased fuel on base, AAFES made $1.02 per gallon (average). If a customer purchased coupons to use off base, AAFES made 69 U.S. cents per gallon (average).

The average amount AAFES paid its vendor at Lackland was $2.54 per gallon. The station manager at Lackland informed me they charged between $2.71 and $2.79 per gallon during June, meaning, on average, AAFES might have made up to 25 U.S. cents per gallon.

Is it right for AAFES to make four times as much off a gallon of gas overseas than stateside? Is it price-gouging or abusing its monopoly?

Master Sgt. David L. Smith
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Don’t settle for ‘venting’

[L]etters about the unreasonable prices the Army and Air Force Exchange Service charges for gas and its policy for determining price might be a way for writers to vent their frustration, but we should not settle for venting. We need a clear policy change. We need to continue to make AAFES aware of how unacceptable the gas pricing policy is.

Today, as I filled up at the Esso, I noticed a sticker stating that 75 euro cent of each 1.20-euro liter of gas went to the German government for taxes. This means Esso is buying its gas, paying rent and utilities, making profit, paying shareholders, drilling for more oil, etc., at 45 euro cent per liter (the cost of gas after taxes). I assume AAFES does not pay German taxes on gas, so why is AAFES charging about 83 cents per liter (about 63 euro cents) for gas? Does AAFES need to make that much more profit than a company with shareholders and drilling responsibilities? That 18 euro cents more per liter amounts to our paying AAFES about 90 U.S. cents per gallon more than the local Esso charges (after German taxes).

AAFES has told us it is simply following “policy.” We have heard that for years now. Who sets that policy? And why do some of its stateside stations charge less than the local average costs? If AAFES policy says one thing in the U.S., why is it so dramatically different in Europe?

We realize AAFES funnels some profits into the community. I, for one, would prefer to pay for the activities I choose to use with the savings I’ll have on my gasoline after an equitable pricing policy is put into place.

Gina Ashton
Wiesbaden, Germany