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December 1

Why shift focus to Iraq?

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

December 1 Why shift focus to Iraq? Control terror from within

December 2 Wearing on a mom’s nerves Make a list, check it twice

December 3 Just U.S. flag for the Foster AFN soldiers work hard … … and deserve their medals

December 4 Shut out from AAFES … … and it limits camaraderie Punish whoever killed soldier A knock at the door-to-door

December 5 Soldier’s slaying Role of U.S.

December 7 Moderate role right for U.S.

The other night, while watching my son’s karate practice, I was disturbed to hear another father say, “The upcoming war with Iraq is just what we need to turn around the nation’s economy.” He continued by saying that the economy had improved in all the wars of the last century. “This war,” he said, “would be just the right fix for our recession-plagued economy.”

I was deeply saddened by his comment and responded that the byproduct of those previous wars was more far-reaching than just an improved economy. Our national cemeteries and veterans hospitals were filled with the human toll of those wars. His comment made such a distressful impression on me that I began to wonder if the real purpose of our latest Middle East expedition was truly to prevent Iraq from possessing weapons of mass destruction or had this pre-emptive war on Iraq been set in motion for other reasons?

President Bush has not established any clear evidence of a link between al-Qaida and Iraq and he has yet to make a credible case that Saddam Hussein poses a clear and present danger to the United States. In a report released in October, the CIA provided clear evidence that Iraq poses less of a threat to the world today than at any other time in the past decade. What other reasons could President Bush have for war?

Is it possible that we have such a decided advantage in the war on terror that we can open another front? Recent news from around the world may provide some answers to this question. In October we learned that North Korea had acquired nukes and that our new ally Pakistan had likely transferred the technology to them. Next Osama bin Laden popped up on Al-Jazeera television in a new audiotape praising his network’s terror attacks from 9/11 to Bali. On Nov. 15, the FBI warned that al-Qaida may be planning “spectacular attacks” in the United States that will cause “mass casualties” and “severe damage” to the economy. Then we learned that Saudi Princess Haifa al-Faisal provided tens of thousands of dollars indirectly to two of the 9/11 suicide hijackers.

As if these events were not enough, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the former head of the Soviet Union’s KGB, took it on himself to warn President Bush that the focus on Saddam Hussein is a distraction from the international antiterrorism fight. “We should not forget about those who finance terrorism,” Mr. Putin said. “Of the 19 terrorists who committed the main attacks on Sept. 11 against the United States, 15 are citizens of Saudi Arabia, and we should not forget about that.”

Mr. Putin also struck a sour note with Mr. Bush when he asked the question: “Where has Osama bin Laden taken refuge?” It seems absurd to me that President Bush is setting course for a pre-emptive war with Iraq when the ongoing war on terrorism is so far from its conclusion.

Without a compelling reason for shifting our national focus from a justified war on terror to this obsession for another war with Iraq, it seems reasonable to conclude that he may have an alternative motive for war. Perhaps President Bush’s goal in shifting the focus to Iraq was Republican gains in the just-concluded midterm congressional elections.

It is also plausible that grabbing Iraqi oil for U.S. consumption and oil industry profits is his motive. It could also be that a war-based economic stimulus is his reason for seeking war.

This drive to war with Iraq is led by President Bush’s inner circle of advisers, a select group of CEOs who look at war from the perspective of the bottom line. One of their key concerns is the economic impact of war on key industries and their corporate allies.

This inner circle of CEOs is a group of “fortunate sons” who have never seen combat. These are people who do not know what war is really about. Most did not answer the call to serve in our nation’s uniform when it was their turn. Consider the personal histories of this group and you will see that the tag of “fortunate sons” is a good fit.

President Bush received a slot in an overmanned Texas Air National Guard unit and then went 14 months without reporting for duty while engaged in campaign activities. Vice President Dick Cheney received multiple draft deferments to further his education and stated that he had “other priorities” during the Vietnam War. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (all Republicans) claimed education deferments from the draft. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spent his time in a Princeton classroom as others of his age group were fighting and dying on Korean battlefields (he later joined the peacetime Navy).

Additionally, President Bush’s chief strategist, Karl Rove, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle never served in uniform.

To my conscience these issues do not constitute a just cause for placing our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in harm’s way. War is hell. War is a card that should only be played in the gravest of circumstances.

Unfortunately, President Bush, his administration (with the exception of Secretary of State Colin Powell) and the congressional Republican leadership look at war from another perspective. Their perspective is that of the corporate CEOs and “fortunate sons” who had “other priorities” when it was their time to serve.

J.D. MitchellSan Antonio(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander.)

Control terror from within

Why should Canadians worry about Canadians being fingerprinted and photographed at the U.S. border? After all, only criminals and terrorists would fear this, right?

In fact, Canada could help the United States by requiring that all Americans be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter Canada. Then Canada would catch more criminals, and then Canada could share all the prints and photos with the United States, which doesn’t permit such arbitrary fingerprinting of ordinary citizens.

Perhaps that is what Canada’s foreign affairs minister discussed with the U.S. secretary of state on Nov. 14?

After all, isn’t this similar to Echelon, where the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand eavesdrop on satellite and microwave signals the United States is forbidden to listen to by U.S. law, and vice versa, and then share the information?

We will then be able to further emulate much more secure countries, where all citizens have to fear is the police and the government — like Iraq.

Tom TrottierOttawa

December 2

Wearing on a mom’s nerves

The writer of the Nov. 24 letter “Why wear hubby’s clothes?” had reason to comment on spouses wearing physical training clothing. But I found it very offensive when she suggested that stay-at-home parents “should get up in the morning, take showers, apply a little bit of makeup and do their hair to make themselves feel a little better. And they should please put on some of their own clothes!” The writer’s comment about PT clothes was one thing. But the rest went somewhere she shouldn’t have gone. Did the writer think about what she was writing or reread what she wrote? Or did she just spout off without thinking? That’s how it appears.

I’m a stay-at-home mom. I have a college degree and had a very fulfilling career before I chose motherhood. I got up every day and did the things the writer said people should do. Then I chose to give all of that up to do the most important job in the world: raise my children myself.

Can the writer explain what doing any of the things quoted above have to do with being a stay-at-home parent? Why would I force myself to neglect my children if time and opportunity did not allow me to put on makeup, fix my hair, etc.? Who is the writer to say that I don’t feel wonderful about myself without putting on clothes and a face for others? My children don’t care how I look. They only care that I’m here for them and that I put them before laundry, dishes, showering, phone calls, family readiness group meetings, coffees or anything else in the world less important than they are. And if I choose to wear my clothing or my husband’s clothing, that’s my business. Fashion police aren’t needed in my world.

I think implying that everyone should do certain things to feel good about themselves is a sad cry of the way the writer may feel about herself. But she need not put her own personal self-confidence issues on others. Sometimes people should learn to state an opinion and stick to the topic at hand. This one went too far.

Cris ButlerBaumholder, Germany

Make a list, check it twice

The holiday season is upon us, so I decided to think of just a few of the things I’m thankful for. I invite everyone who sees this to write in with their own lists. It doesn’t matter how they’re written, how long or short they are, or even what’s on them. They don’t even have to be distinct. I suspect that we’re all thankful for pretty much the same things.

I’m thankful for:

the roof over my head and the walls that hold it up;the food in our cupboards;the right to attend school;my family;the right to work outside the home;free speech;access to medical care; andthe military folks who help keep us all safe and free. I thank them all.Maybe this all sounds corny, but there are far too many people without some or all of these things. Readers should appreciate what they have. Someday they may lose it. The last time I made up such a list, there were far more things on it. I need a reminder of the things I’ve forgotten.

I hope the holidays go well for readers and everyone stays safe.

Lori GreenAviano Air Base, Italy

December 3

Just U.S. flag for the Foster

When I first heard the story on American Forces Network radio that the American destroyer USS Paul F. Foster had pulled into the Chinese port of Qingdao flying both the American and Chinese flags, I thought I had heard wrong. Then there was the Nov. 25 Stars and Stripes story “Warming U.S.-China ties.”

The USS Foster is still a vessel of the U.S. Navy and is therefore under no jurisdiction of any country other than the United States. It is incomprehensible to me that we would allow one of our warships to fly any flag besides that of the United States. Have we become so politically (in)correct that we allow our vessels to fly not only a foreign flag, but that of a communist country? I don’t care if President Clinton gave China favored nation trade status.

This is an outrage that should turn the stomach of any American citizen. I understand that foreign relations need to be kept up to prevent acts of war, which should be a last resort. But there’s a big difference between diplomacy and cowering to a foreign government.

Gene HensleyStuttgart, Germany

AFN soldiers work hard …

This is in response to the Nov. 24 letter “Medals need another look.” I fail to understand why the writer pointed out American Forces Network soldiers specifically when he obviously has no idea what AFN does. I think I’m in a position to have an opinion.

If the writer thinks for one minute that all AFN soldiers do is the news, he’s sorely mistaken. These soldiers are all out on point more times than most people think or know. Wherever the Department of Defense goes, so does AFN or some element of the Army Broadcast Service.

Take a look at the number of military broadcasters that the Army currently has, and one sees that they deploy just like everyone else. More times than not it’s on their own, meeting up with elements they’ve never operated with before. These are supported units that usually take AFN soldiers for granted. Members of these elements usually have the same opinion as the letter writer, which means these soldiers are automatically set up for failure from the get-go.

I’m not a broadcaster, nor do I want to be. The mission these individuals chose to take on when they joined is a 365-days-a-year mission with no training holidays or weekends off. And if something happens to the radio or television signals in the middle of the night, they don’t fix themselves.

I know there’s usually only one channel for both radio and television. But it’s American, and AFN tries to cater as much as possible to soldiers. AFN is important to me because my soldiers like AFN, and that’s enough. I think AFN soldiers earn what they get, so the writer should cut them a break. I do.

Staff Sgt. Gregory GrayCamp Darby, Italy

… and deserve their medals

For the writer of the Nov. 24 letter “Medals need another look”: There’s a journalism award floating about known as the Department of the Army Keith L. Ware Award. The general idea is to bestow the award on public affairs soldiers and civilians to recognize quality in print or broadcast journalism. Gen. Keith L. Ware was a career infantry officer killed during the Vietnam War. As the story goes, Ware was the Army’s chief of information from 1966 to 1967 (thus the journalism/grunt connection). He was killed by enemy fire in a combat zone. (I’m sure there were places in Vietnam that were not combat zones during the war, but Ware was in one when he died).

While stationed at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, a few years ago, I asked an ex-American Forces Network reporter turned “combat” photographer about her rather large assemblage of uniformed fruit salad. She explained how the number of combat zones and peacekeeping areas she had deployed into in the past 10 or so years had provided her with an inordinate number of campaign ribbons. She recounted the number of places where she could have taken a bullet because she was right there in the mud with the grunts, tankers and artillerymen, documenting their efforts with a camera. Facts are facts.

Richard HenricksBamberg, Germany

December 4

Shut out from AAFES …

The U.S. Army recently deployed a task force from Germany to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The task force is made up of slice elements from units throughout Germany, with the core of the force being the 2-6 Air Cavalry Apache attack unit from Illesheim. Supporting units include the Alpha and Bravo Company 7/159th Aviation Regiment from Giebelstadt and Illesheim, the 159th MEDDEVAC unit and the 5/158th Aviation Regiment.

The first stop for the task force was Camp Doha, Kuwait. An AAFES post exchange there was available for all military branches to use. After two weeks at Camp Doha, the task force moved to Ali Al Salem Air Force Base, Kuwait. Our troops expected to still have the same luxuries that we had at Camp Doha. Unfortunately, the U.S. Air Force thought otherwise. Are we all here in support of the same country and the same (if not similar) missions? Don’t we all fall into the category of the U.S. military? Don’t we all have the same commander in chief? Or is it the U.S. Air Force and then the rest of the services combined? It certainly seems like that at Ali Al Salem. Our brothers in arms have turned on us and made us outcasts from the military.

The Army’s use of base facilities at Ali Al Salem, such as the gym and post exchange, are totally out of the question. How can this be if AAFES stands for Army and Air Force Exchange Service? Has it been changed to NAAFOES (No Army Air Force Only Exchange Service)? How can this be if funds to build the exchange were generated by both the Army and Air Force? Does the Air Force not realize that we, too, have contributed to AAFES during our years of dedicated service? If so, why does the Air Force insist that we Army troops are not permitted to use these services at Ali Al Salem?

Are members of the Air Force afraid that our soldiering skills may rub off on them? Do they think we’ll show them up just because of our high and tights? Do they not want to be corrected for walking around with their hands in their pockets? What’s the problem?

We’re all here for the same reason: to fight for freedom. Are we going to have to tell war stories about how we were mistreated by Air Force personnel while deployed in a faraway land, just like them? Someday it may be the other way around. The Army will have a base and Air Force personnel will need access and accommodations. How will they expect to be treated?

The Air Force should remember its roots. It branched off from the Army. The Air Force should never forget that, because the day will come when it will need the Army’s assistance. So we should start working together now and not wait for that day to come. If our troops are kept happy, they’ll give 110 percent. Sharing is caring, and caring is the will to fight as one unit.

Sgt. Niall M. TwomeyAli Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait

… and it limits camaraderie

My name is Sgt. John Ray. I’m in the U.S. Army. I’m currently deployed in southwest Asia at a base shared by the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force has a compound on this base. It allows members of the British military and U.S. Navy to utilize its AAFES post exchange facility. But we in the Army are not allowed to set foot on the compound.

I’m under the impression that AAFES stands for Army and Air Force Exchange Service. It’s not “AFES” or just the Air Force Exchange Service. We even have a problem with the AAFES trailer entering this air base. It seems the Air Force says who can and cannot enter this base, even though the Air Force is just a tenant unit like us.

This is even worse: The other day we had an injured soldier. Our medics didn’t have the equipment or facilities to handle this soldier. The soldier needed to be taken to the Air Force’s medical facilities. When the soldier and medics reached the gate, they were told: “If it’s not life-threatening, then go to the next Army base.” It’s 45 minutes to one hour away.

Sgt. John RayAli Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait

Punish whoever killed soldier

It’s with mixed emotions that I write this letter. Today I mourn the death of Pfc. Clint Lamebear. I didn’t know him personally, but I’m also an American Indian from New Mexico. This young soldier was a proud person. He pursued his dream and joined the U.S. Army after high school. Coming from a family with a military history — Navajo Code Talkers, to be exact — Pfc. Lamebear was rich with pride and family honor. His dream became reality on Nov. 12 when he reported for duty in Germany. It ended 96 hours later when he was slain. Two U.S. soldiers have been charged with robbery and murder. Why?

If convicted, the charged soldiers need to be punished to the fullest extent. Murder does not deserve a slap on the hand. I encourage U.S. Army officials to seek the death penalty. Anything less is absolutely unacceptable. And think about how Pfc. Lamebear’s family found out that he had been slain. It was through the media, not the U.S. Army. This was an ultimate dishonor to Pfc. Lamebear and showed no respect to his family. This was also a slap in the face.

As an Indian, I’m outraged. Now is the time for the Army to prove it’s an “Army of One” — not an “Army of One minus the Indians.” We are not savages.

If convicted, the suspects must pay for these crimes. If they had the choice, would they choose a one-way ticket to Fort Leavenworth’s prison or a one-way ticket to face the family of Pfc. Lamebear for life?

Trudy Garcia-DeeleyNaples, Italy

A knock at the door-to-door

Is there a law or regulation against door-to-door evangelists? Readers know who I mean. They’re people who come to our doors asking if we know where we’re going when we die. (I do. Thanks.) In all my time in the military — as an Army brat, soldier and now dependent spouse — I’ve had the uncomfortable experience of discussing my religion with a complete stranger.

Perhaps I was foolish in believing that, since we’re spared telemarketers in Germany, I would not have to endure door-to-door missionaries. But a man has visited my home three times in the last year. The first two times, I thought I made it abundantly clear that I didn’t want to talk to him.

During my first visit with him and his wife, I told him I’m a Wiccan and had converted from Christianity 20 years ago. So I was already aware of everything he wanted to tell me. I just didn’t believe in it. I didn’t say he was wrong. Christianity just doesn’t work for me.

The second visit, the evangelist brought a young middle school girl with him. While I understood that the Bible expected him to spread the word of God, I wasn’t interested. What did he say? “Well, if you have a delicious chocolate cake recipe, wouldn’t you want to share it with everyone?” Excuse me? “Not if they did not like chocolate,” I replied.

On the evangelist’s last visit, he brought along another child. Was that supposed to make me more receptive? Before I even said hello, he launched into his spiel about how science would not save the world, and he pulled out an article on stem cell research.

I firmly but politely told him that I didn’t want to have this conversation. He said he would return at a more convenient time. I told him quite clearly that I didn’t want to talk to him again and that I never wanted to see him at my door in the future. Maybe this time he’ll remember my words as well as he remembered my name.

If I want to revert to Christianity, I’ll talk to the local chaplain or attend one of myriad churches in the area. I don’t want to get the evangelist in trouble. But I want him to stop coming by to talk to me like we are old friends. I can’t be the only one experiencing this.

Connie L. RobertsWiesbaden, Germany

December 5

Soldier’s slaying

When I read online about the murder of Pfc. Clint Lamebear, my heart was full of sorrow. I ask all readers to remember Pfc. Lamebear and his family, and to remember the names of those accused of taking the life of a fine young man. Those suspected of killing Pfc. Lamebear must be forgiven, for somewhere in their backgrounds they most likely were victims of emotional and/or physical abuse. But for some uncanny reasons, they were able to obtain entrance into the U.S. military.

I’ve read many stories about military servicemembers who committed heinous acts against mankind and animals, and I’m convinced that the entrance requirements for military servicemembers are lacking and compromising. The compromising is due in part to maintaining troop levels, etc. When will the U.S. military stop looking the other way when it comes to the mental health of its troops? I know the Defense Department has conducted numerous studies on the mental health of its troops, but it’s apparent that many mentally disturbed individuals have committed crimes while serving on active duty. Therefore, I have no doubt that there are many mentally disturbed servicemembers who are lingering in the shadows.

I don’t know the Lamebear family, but as a former Army specialist I shared the uniform that Pfc. Lamebear wore with pride. Instead of so many readers crowing about what the military hasn’t done for them, perhaps they should write more about the inhuman acts which many of their own commit against one another and seriously address those acts in an intellectual forum. They should keep Pfc. Lamebear and others who have passed away due to the horrors of mentally sick people in their hearts and minds.

Carlos Lee RawlsGiessen, Germany

Role of U.S.

What’s the appropriate role of the U.S. in foreign and domestic affairs? Whatever’s in the best interests of the U.S. without infringing on its citizens’ rights or taking away life or whatever liberty others have in the world. The U.S. needs to be less intrusive in its foreign policy — politically, socially, economically, and most importantly, militarily. We need to take a moderate approach on terrorism at home and abroad. We don’t need to invade every country that has weapons of mass destruction or harbors terrorists. If we did, we’d be economically and militarily drained. It might be OK to invade Iraq. But we must be careful and determine whether Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden and others are worse threats. Is Hussein the biggest threat right now? The answer is an emphatic no.

The biggest priority for the U.S. in the 21st century should be how to keep our standard of living and continue to advance and prosper. How do we keep our American republic from becoming an American empire? How do we keep the U.S. a dominant force and a great power? How do we keep the U.S. from the same fate as the Roman and British empires?

Ways to save our republic include writing more letters to newspapers and to congressmen, as well as voting more often. A republic requires the participation of nearly all adults. So we need to encourage people to participate in governmental affairs. We don’t have the security and liberty we want and need because our government has failed us and we’ve failed ourselves.

Allowing freedom of religion would help bring back morality. Allowing school children the freedom to worship without governmental interference would bring much-needed morality and structure to their mostly unorganized, high-speed, stressful lives. Finally, everyone needs to read more newspapers and news magazines and think critically. They shouldn’t believe everything that’s nursed to them by the federally-controlled media.

The U.S. should also be deeply involved in the world’s economy. We need a fresh economic approach to combat weapons of mass destruction and terrorists in the Middle East. We could create a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, which would economically build up the region. But we have to leave the region’s culture and religion alone. To receive monetary assistance, each Middle Eastern country must get rid of weapons of mass destruction and hunt down terrorist organizations. We should build more bridges than we burn to ensure liberty and security at home and abroad.

We should highly encourage other nations to create democratic institutions. But we can’t force our will upon the world. The best governments are those that govern least. Let the people decide what form of government is best for them. If a government doesn’t meet the needs of its populace, its people should have the right to peacefully change their bad government for a better one.

Jeffrey Lee WellbaumHeidelberg, Germany

December 7

Moderate role right for U.S.

What’s the appropriate role of the United States in foreign and domestic affairs? Whatever’s in the best interests of the United States without infringing on its citizens’ rights or taking away life or whatever liberty others have in the world. The United States needs to be less intrusive in its foreign policy — politically, socially, economically and, most important, militarily. We need to take a moderate approach on terrorism at home and abroad. We don’t need to invade every country that has weapons of mass destruction or harbors terrorists. If we did, we’d be economically and militarily drained.

It might be OK to invade Iraq. But we must be careful and determine whether Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden and others are worse threats. Is Hussein the biggest threat right now? The answer is an emphatic no.

The biggest priority for the United States in the 21st century should be how to keep our standard of living and continue to advance and prosper. How do we keep our American republic from becoming an American empire? How do we keep the United States a dominant force and a great power? How do we keep the United States from the same fate as the Roman and British empires?

Ways to save our republic include writing more letters to newspapers and to congressmen, as well as voting more often. A republic requires the participation of nearly all adults. So we need to encourage people to participate in governmental affairs. We don’t have the security and liberty we want and need because our government has failed us and we’ve failed ourselves.

Allowing freedom of religion would help bring back morality. Allowing schoolchildren the freedom to worship without governmental interference would bring much-needed morality and structure to their mostly unorganized, high-speed, stressful lives. Finally, everyone needs to read more newspapers and news magazines and think critically. They shouldn’t believe everything that’s nursed to them by the federally controlled media.

The United States should also be deeply involved in the world’s economy. We need a fresh economic approach to combat weapons of mass destruction and terrorists in the Middle East. We could create a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, which would economically build up the region. But we have to leave the region’s culture and religion alone. To receive monetary assistance, each Middle Eastern country must get rid of weapons of mass destruction and hunt down terrorist organizations. We should build more bridges than we burn to ensure liberty and security at home and abroad.

We should highly encourage other nations to create democratic institutions. But we can’t force our will upon the world. The best governments are those that govern least. Let the people decide what form of government is best for them. If a government doesn’t meet the needs of its populace, its people should have the right to peacefully change their bad government for a better one.

Jeffrey Lee WellbaumHeidelberg, Germany


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