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Letters to the editor for Wednesday, December 3, 2003

By STARS AND STRIPES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 3, 2003

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)

Bush’s Iraq visit

As a soldier deployed in Iraq, I hear all the complaints from individuals who think they have it worse than the next guy. I’m lucky enough to be with soldiers who often complain amongst themselves, but all they expect are good leadership and three square meals a day.

As part of the main push during major combat, our battalion was scattered all over the battlefield. We supported other units and paved the way (and roads) that others would use to get to the front lines. Our D9 teams helped push units as famous as the 101st Airborne Division from Kuwait to as far as Mosul. We took mine blasts and got shot at as we breached obstacles and cleared roads. Again, all we asked for was leadership and three squares a day.

During the war, Meals, Ready to Eat were naturally the way to go. They were appreciated, even by the vegetarians who had only crackers and cheese after the veggie meals were gone. Now that we’re stationed at Baghdad International Airport almost 10 months later, my soldiers believe that several comforts have finally arrived for them, like the post exchange and dining facility. But imagine their dismay when they walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit.

The one thing that they find a requirement was denied to them. They understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away? Why wasn’t there a special meal for President Bush and that unit in the new dance hall adjoining the 1st Armored Division’s band building? And all of this happened on Thanksgiving, the best meal of the year when soldiers get a taste of home cooking.

Were the local national servers also kept out of the building because of security reasons? Regardless, my soldiers chose to complain amongst themselves and eat MREs, even after the chow hall was reopened for “usual business” at 9 p.m. As a leader myself, I’d guess that other measures could have been taken to allow for proper security and still let the soldiers have their meal.

Sgt. Loren Russell
Iraq

Keep letters coming

I’m active duty and have been for 23 years. Do I think that I’m superior to Guardsmen or reservists? No, and I’ve never put much thought into it. I’m stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. I have running water, hot showers, high-speed Internet and the NFL sports package on my DIRECTV. Before anyone says to walk a mile in my shoes, I got that T-shirt, get a life, etc., what can I say except that I’ve been there and done that.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with airing grievances, and Stars and Stripes has a pretty good forum for doing so. But I can’t believe what I’m reading. A Guard noncommissioned officer said that if they were “man enough to show up when alerted and deploy,” they have a right to complain. Man enough to show up? What Army is he in?

Then there’s the never-ending saga of stop loss for Guardsmen and reservists. Stop loss has been prevalent in the active ranks for years, and still is in the form of unit stop loss.

The comparisons between the amenities, or lack thereof, between Kuwait and Iraq are ludicrous. So what if Kuwait is a “paradise” compared to where a soldier might be? A rear area or a combat zone. It’s kind of like apples and oranges to me. Did these soldiers complain if their siblings got a bigger piece of pie than they did as children? Would it make them happy if everyone slept on the ground, went days without showers and ate Meals, Ready to Eat three times a day? Well, that’s not bound to happen. So they should continue to march, keep their weapons clean, check and double check before each mission, refit after each mission, and enjoy those rear area niceties when they rotate out of theater through Kuwait.

I know it’s difficult, and I pray for the safe return of all soldiers. In the meantime, they should keep those letters coming. They’re great. I welcome responses.

Master Sgt. Bryan Brown
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Attacks on Limbaugh

I found the themes and tones of recent letters that ripped Rush Limbaugh to be very disturbing and troubling. Two letters even demanded that AFN remove his radio show from the air. My sad experience with most of Limbaugh’s critics is that they frequently resort to name-calling, slandering and personal attacks. Rarely do they engage in substantive discussion of the topics and issues that Limbaugh presents on his show. Apparently these individuals are unwilling or unable to meet Limbaugh in the arena of ideas and must resort to character assassination, which is the very thing they accuse him of doing.

These writers have either never listened to Limbaugh’s show or they’re in serious need of an audiology exam. Limbaugh is certainly passionate about his beliefs, but he doesn’t mistreat callers who disagree with him. In fact, callers with different viewpoints are automatically moved to the front of the line and treated respectfully. I encourage these writers to call Limbaugh to see if this isn’t true.

Limbaugh’s show is the most listened to talk radio show in America. I thought AFN was supposed to air shows that are popular back home. It’s interesting that AFN broadcasts only the first hour of Lim- baugh’s three-hour show, but we get all three hours of the very liberal, left-leaning Morning Edition from National Public Radio, which has minuscule ratings in the States and wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t propped up by taxpayers’ dollars. Who wants to discuss political propaganda now?

Whatever happened to, “I may not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it”? That attitude is the underpinning of the First Amendment. I thought that’s what America stood for, not for crying and demanding that one’s opponents be shut up. It’s an essential pillar upon which our democratic form of government is based. It’s also something that our servicemembers took an oath to uphold and that countless men and women have defended for more than two centuries.

The letter writers can disagree with Limbaugh or anyone else. But do they really want him censored or silenced? Let’s hope that AFN doesn’t cave in to a few vocal letter writers who couldn’t put forth one valid reason for terminating Limbaugh’s show. The writers’ letters were certainly without merit or substance. But at least I’m willing to defend their right to express themselves — a right they are apparently unwilling to extend to others.

Donald K. Morris
Wiesbaden, Germany

Thanks to GIs downrange

I want to say thanks to everyone serving all around the world. I’m stationed in Hanau, Germany, and I think about my friends downrange all the time. We see a lot of negative things in the newspaper, some of which are very valid. But I just want to get across to everyone that they’re in my thoughts and prayers.

I look for e-mails from my friends downrange every day just so I know that they’re doing OK. I thank everyone for the hard work they’re doing and I wish them the best.

Sgt. 1st Class Christine Brosius
Hanau, Germany

Pacific edition

U.S. efforts helped Liberia

“If you kill, the law will kill you.” This statement is displayed at the Ministry of Justice in Liberia. But for 14 years, the “law” watched as Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia and other factions indiscriminately killed nearly 250,000 Liberians.

Peace is gradually returning to Liberia, my native land, thanks to President Bush, who sent peacekeepers and money to that war-ruined nation. President Bush’s “48 hours” demand was paid a special heed. Taylor is in Nigeria, and Liberia is better off without him.

Liberia and the United States “go way back,” as we say in Harlem. The country was founded by freed American slaves in 1822 and became independent in July 1847. Monrovia, its capital, is named after James Monroe. Maryland County is Liberia’s eastern province, and Mississippi in Africa (Sinoe) is another province. These are a few of the many reasons why Liberia is called “Little America” in Africa. May God bless America and Liberia.

Spc. Winn Wilfred
LSA Anaconda, Iraq

GIs in Iraq need vests more

I’m serving in Kosovo. Almost all the members of my task force and I have been issued Interceptor Body Armor with ballistic plates. We received these vests shortly after arriving in Kosovo back in July.

There’s little to no threat to any of us here compared with the troops in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Certainly there always exists the possibility of something happening here. But in Iraq it’s not simply a possibility. Several times a day, day after day, the need for this body armor is demonstrated. With every incident that occurs in Iraq in which a soldier is lost due to substandard body armor, the other soldiers and I who have the armor but don’t need it have to live with the guilt of their loss.

I’m embarrassed to even have the Interceptor vest. The sad truth is that we rarely wear the vests. They’re seen as one more piece of useless equipment that soldiers are forced to tote along with them on patrols. A lot of us are often left to wonder how the U.S. military can be so incompetent and so seemingly brainless.

How was something like this allowed to happen? What command personnel would submit a request at this time for this level of armor for the troops in Kosovo? Moreover, what kind of person would even knowingly consider approving such a request? It would also be interesting to know when this request was submitted. Was it submitted years ago when the need for such armor in the Balkans may have been necessary? Is the paperwork trail so long, redundant and defeating that it’s possible this request is in fact several years old? If that’s the case, is the military so inept that it couldn’t stop the ball from rolling? Either way, the military has failed its fighting soldiers.

In addition to the body armor, I also take issue with the “up-armored” Humvees. We arrived to a full complement of these vehicles. Shortly afterward, we were told the vehicles would be shipped to Iraq. Finally, something right was going to happen. But we’re now well into our fourth month in country, and there are still “up- armored” Humvees here in Kosovo. To my knowledge it’s a slow process and few have been shipped. I’d venture to say that even fewer, if any at all, have found their way to the soldiers in Iraq. I’m certain the KFOR command and its soldiers would gladly hand-deliver these vests and vehicles today if it were only that easy.

The U.S. military will defend its time-consuming incompetence by saying the vehicles first have to be overhauled and painted before they can be delivered. And of course let’s not forget the paperwork. While this is certainly true, one could make the sarcastic argument that MAACO could get it done in a day.

Is the U.S. military so crippled by its enslaving obsession with paperwork, tracking and accountability of supplies and equipment that it doesn’t see what’s happening, or is it simply turning a blind eye? I consider it to be a combination of both.

Spc. Michael Young
Kosovo

Rules handcuff interrogators

I was deeply troubled by the Nov. 20 article “Hearing begins in alleged mistreatment of Iraqi.” It concerned the conduct of Lt. Col. Allen B. West. I’m alarmed that we seem to be taking an approach with regard to the war that is destined to cost many lives and which might potentially compromise our very involvement itself.

I’m mindful of the common rules of decency that must guide our course. These rules must set our conduct apart from that of our adversaries. I’m also aware of the need to take the moral high ground. These are the tenets that have made our country great and will keep it so.

But to set the bar so high on such crucial and seminal issues as prisoner handling and interrogation is to jeopardize the lives of our own soldiers and our brothers in arms. The policy with regard to interrogations is so strict that a schoolgirl with an attitude would have little difficulty withholding information.

U.S. pilots and special operations personnel routinely undergo forms of training to prepare them for possible capture. In some cases this training is harsher than treatment afforded to prisoners of war in our camps. It would seem to be illogical, unnecessary and extremely costly to afford our adversaries greater protection than our own military receive during training.

I salute Lt. Col. West. His conduct was clearly motivated by courage, integrity and loyalty to his men. It was, however, sadly out of keeping with the rules of war mired in the complexities of political correctness.

Lt. Cmdr. Rich Cobb
Naples, Italy

Put charities above pettiness

This is for the writer of the Nov. 24 letter “Not giving enough?” I remind the writer that we’re an Army whose ethics preach selfless service, among many others. I was appalled by the writer’s selfishness and pettiness regarding donating to the Combined Federal Campaign. It wasn’t the fault of the soldier who delivered CFC information to the writer that the writer’s oil, mail and parts are late. The writer was unfair to that soldier and many others in his poor decision to banish the soldier from his higher tasking because of the writer’s unfounded anger.

As for who to donate to, that deserves the writer’s five minutes and every penny he can give to make himself just a bit better person. The writer need look no further than the United Service Organizations when he’s in an international airport looking for a place to stay for a bit. Or how about the American Red Cross, which helps soldiers in the writer’s unit (and maybe the writer himself) every day of every year? What about the fund for the children of soldiers killed in the line of selfless service so they can go to college?

The writer’s small, immature decision cost these and many other organizations much more than the measly $24 that the writer will no doubt spend on a big dinner when he gets home. With all due respect, the writer’s poor decision disgusts me.

Sgt. Mike Miller
Baghdad, Iraq

Take Limbaugh off AFN

Rush Limbaugh is a drug addict, and a rich one at that. He should be treated just like our young troops — get caught once and you’re out. Limbaugh is some role model for our armed forces. He should be taken off American Forces Network. That’s what we call zero tolerance. Limbaugh should take his own advice and go to jail.

Alexander J. Fiore
Camp Darby, Italy


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