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October 21

Try getting into the games

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

October 21 Try getting into the games Tours plan par for the courseOctober 22 Acts belie concern for troops It's all about oilOctober 23 No apologies for free speech

October 24 Permit concurrent receipt

October 26 Bush holds respect

I agree with John Ace’s Oct. 11 letter (“Event not on Stripes’ radar”) decrying Stars and Stripes’ lack of coverage of the Asian Games, recently held in Pusan. I would also like to see some coverage. I buy Stripes because it usually offers news and events that I can’t get from cnn.com. if I have to find other news/sports sources, then I will be reading Stripes less and less. I also would appreciate more local sports coverage in South Korea and Japan, similar to your sumo coverage.

The Asian Games and Korean baseball league are two examples where Stripes has failed to take the opportunity to offer us something that we can’t find from other mainstream news sources.

Heads up: The Winter Asian Games will be held early next year throughout Aomori Prefecture in Japan — including several events at Misawa Air Base. Don’t let this opportunity slip by like the Pusan games did.

Kyle BaumanMisawa Air Base, Japan

Tours plan par for the course

Our civilian leadership in both the executive branch and the Department of the Army appears to be completely out of touch with servicemembers, especially those deployed downrange. It’s beyond belief that a “family values” administration would propose such a highly charged issue as unaccompanied tours at a time of sacrifice from exhaustive deployments.

The motive evidently has nothing to do with GIs’ welfare and morale. So what’s the motive? With unit rotation, who wins?

The Sept. 13 issue of Stars and Stripes’s European edition included a photo of Brown & Root employees constructing a temporary camp for Marines in the Balkans. Kellogg, Brown & Root is a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former parent company, Halliburton. It has been contracted to provide support services — construction, maintenance, food, laundry, airfield services, supply operations, power generation and property accountability — for the Balkans and also for a “Force Provider” camp in Afghanistan, three Air Force Harvest Eagle camps in Uzbekistan, and prisons in Guantanamo Bay. Other proposed work sites are in Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

According to The New York Times, a lucrative 10-year contract to provide worldwide support for military operations recently won from the Army by KBR “has no lid on costs, the only logistical arrangement by the Army without an estimated cost” and is “shrouded in secrecy.” In fact, Halliburton has earned millions in federal contracts over the past 10 years by supplying military support services in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Italy and Bosnia. Earnings from current missions in the Balkans ($2.2 billion, according to the General Accounting Office), Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Cuba would be peanuts compared with what KBR would reap from unaccompanied Army tours in Europe and South Korea, as private contracts would replace the Base Support Battalions now doing the job. KBR is already running Army support operations in the United States. Army bases in Europe and South Korea are the obvious next step.

Unaccompanied tours is not about saving money. According to The Times, “by hiring an outside company to handle much of its logistics, the Pentagon may wind up spending more taxpayer money than if it did the work itself.” Rather, it’s a scathing plan for diverting part of the military budget to private corporate accounts.

Privatization is where President Bush continues to head with our Social Security retirement despite the toll taken on self-directed Thrift Savings Plans/40l(k) retirement accounts in the past 15 months due to corporate scandals, threats of war, and investors’ votes of “no confidence.” We saw how privatization worked for Enron shareholders as well as Florida state pensioners, the second biggest losers to Enron, whose trustee was Gov. Jeb Bush. His State Board of Administration continued to buy shares of Ken Lay’s Enron as the price bottomed out, resulting in a $300 million loss for retirees. Meanwhile, Enron CEO Lay was the single largest corporate contributor to the Republican Party.

It can hardly be called coincidence that Halliburton was awarded the job to study and implement privatization of routine Army support functions under then-Secretary of Defense Cheney, who, according to the public watchdog group CorpWatch, truly personifies the “revolving door” between big business and government. When Cheney left the Pentagon to become CEO of Halliburton, bringing with him lucrative federal contracts, Halliburton started to move from construction to base support. Cheney “retired” from Halliburton with a reported $34 million bonus for his five years of service, in addition to his $1.3 million annual salary and millions in stock options, after the 2000 election — not bad for a guy with five military deferments (four student, one paternity).

Cheney said he “had other priorities than military service.” Yes, such as using his government position to funnel federal contracts to himself and future campaign contributors — what the rest of us in government positions have been counseled not to do because of conflict-of-interest laws. Under the Bush administration, conflict of interest went the way of deregulation, conveniently packaged to get the government off its back and its budget deficits onto taxpayers’ backs. With a near evenly split Congress, Senate probes for war profiteering will remain a World War II relic.

Secretary of the Army Thomas White is no stranger to privatization or questions of ethics. The watchdog group Public Citizen (www.citizen.org) has suggested that the Army secretary engaged in conflicts of interest pursuing changes in Army energy policy that could have benefited his former employer, Enron.

“Though Secretary White recused himself from dealing with Army contracts involving his former employer, he continued to play a role in advocating the privatization of energy services at Army installations,” it said. White, “a major-league Martha Stewart,” has been asked by many major newspapers to resign. Yet he remains on the public dole, able to transcend the military rules of “perception of wrongdoing” which seem to apply to everyone but himself. Certainly government officials have resigned for lesser reasons. Pentagon adviser Richard Perle suggested that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder resign upon winning re-election. So why is White still Army secretary? Because he’s the money pipeline between the military budget and corporate interests. He won’t be going anywhere if Bush can help it, but Army dependents in Europe might be.

Most of the members of our CEO-laden executive branch bypassed the hardships of combat, unit downrange deployments and family separation by taking the path of the privileged. The nature of their business has to do with war despite never having fought in one, and wars are what Bush is promising us, ensuring a never-ending cycle of taxpayers’ money and war booty flowing into the corporate coffers of our leaders and their contributors. Unit rotation is just a part of that package.

Michele WinterWürzburg, Germany

October 22

Acts belie concern for troops

Our federal government has recently made a decision that will have our country expanding its war on terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In light of this decision, I feel that I, as a U.S. soldier, should issue a dire warning to the U.S. public concerning the state of military morale and our prospects for victory.

I’m willing, even eager, to go into combat for my country. I’m willing to fight and even to die to protect the United States and the world at large from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. In this I am not alone. But I’m considerably less willing to fight for a president who himself lacked the courage to fight, for an administration clearly representing big oil, and for an Army leadership that seems unconcerned with the rights and welfare of its soldiers. In this, too, I am not alone.

Once again, our country’s top leadership is asking us to live and die by principles that they do not possess themselves. The first President Bush was a war hero. Jimmy Carter’s credentials as a humanitarian are stellar. For these men I would fight with all my heart. But for an administration clearly representing the interests of the wealthiest people in America, and for a president with no personal courage or dedication to his country, I’m only willing to obey orders. The difference is crucial. Wars are not won by people obeying orders. They are won by people fighting with passion.

Our current president and vice president are oilmen. Our national security adviser used to be on the board of a major oil corporation. Any examples of volunteer service or charity on the part of any of these people could easily be exposed as having been done merely for the public relations value. Thus we have an oil-rich administration telling us we must invade an oil-rich nation, and to trust these people when they tell us it is in the best interests of our country. The inevitable skepticism that has resulted from this is shared by many decorated and respected veterans, including several retired generals.

In recent months, there has been much talk about the Army’s decision to reduce re-enlistment bonuses. At the same time, the Army is using stop loss to keep its most experienced soldiers in the ranks to fight a war. For those not familiar with how this works, stop loss is the means by which a soldier, who signed up for a specific period of service, is required to extend his or her enlistment beyond this time.

In other words, stop loss is a draft. Soldiers who have fulfilled their obligations, who have done more in the service of their country than their current commander in chief, are required to extend their commitment against their will so that their government and their Army do not have to provide them with the incentives and rewards that they deserve. If soldiers were treated with the respect and gratitude that they have earned, stop loss would be totally unnecessary.

Adding insult to injury, the Army has ordered Special Forces soldiers serving in Afghanistan to shave off their beards and wear their uniforms strictly according to regulation. This was done because aid workers in Afghanistan complained that these soldiers looked like civilians. This, of course, was the whole point. If aid workers in Afghanistan think the Army’s policies make the environment in which they have volunteered to serve too dangerous, they can pack up and go home. The soldiers cannot. The humanitarian mission in Afghanistan is important and honorable, but it’s still the secondary objective. The primary objective requires that our troops be effective and protected from the enemy.

So let’s sum this up. America’s soldiers are fighting for a commander in chief who lacks the courage to fight, for an administration more concerned with oil profits than the well-being of its country, and for an Army with little gratitude for the sacrifices of its soldiers, concern for their well-being, or respect for their rights as citizens. This high-tech military force is now engaging in a long war, on multiple fronts, with a low-tech enemy who fights with fanatical passion and devotion against impossible odds.

The last time we did this, we lost more than 50,000 Americans for nothing. This time we may lose far more. The last time, a small, rather unimportant nation fell to communism. This time, a large, powerful region of the world may fall to something even worse. America’s sons and daughters will die, indeed are dying already, fighting this war. Only selfless and principled leaders can ensure that they not die in vain.

Spc. Adam RedgraveCamp McGrath, Kosovo

It's all about oil

The only reason President Bush wants to invade Iraq is so his Texas oil buddies can control the Iraqi oil fields. This Iraqi oil acquisition is a business deal by an administration full of businessmen with questionable business practices. Both of our top two leaders have had their oil dealings questioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the past. So before we get emotional and bring up Sept. 11, 2001, patriotism and terrorism, let’s just put the facts on the table.

Texas oil money contributed heavily to the campaigns of President Bush and Dick Cheney, according to the USA Today story “Oil industry supports Bush campaign” (July 2, 2000). Once elected, they first tried to repay their oil friends by pushing for new oil drilling in Alaska. The American people wouldn’t stand for them destroying Alaska, so now they’re invoking Sept. 11 in hopes that we won’t mind them destroying Iraq for its oil.

In a recent speech, President Bush told the world that America would rebuild Iraq. Just a few months earlier, he was demanding that Europe and Japan rebuild Afghanistan. What’s the difference? There’s no oil in Afghanistan. Who do readers think will manage the captured/stolen Iraqi oil fields? President Bush’s oil friends! Could there be reasons other than oil for ousting Saddam Hussein? The Bush administration lists two primary reasons for wanting to invade Iraq. The first is that Saddam is a cruel and dangerous man who has amassed weapons of mass destruction, supports terrorism and is a danger to his neighbors and his own people. The second is that he has failed to follow U.N. resolutions.

If these reasons are worth invading another country, then there’s a long list of countries that should be invaded before Iraq. Why is there no talk of invading North Korea? The evilest of the “axis of evil” is not trying to amass weapons of mass destruction. It already owns them. It boasts of selling them to the highest bidder unless the United States pays it bribe money. It’s killing its own people through starvation in order to feed its military. Not only does North Korea sponsor terrorists, it produces them. Its terrorists have brought down airliners, killing American, South Korean and Japanese citizens. It has admitted kidnapping citizens of other countries and dares anyone to do anything about it.

While the Bush administration feels that Iraq may attack its neighbors at some future date, North Korean forces have already attacked its neighbors, just a few short months ago, causing deaths and sinking a South Korean naval vessel. North Korea has a long and continuous history of killing Americans. But it has no large oil fields, so President Bush is not interested.

As far as obeying U.N. resolutions are concerned, Israel has refused to obey a number of U.N. resolutions. It builds settlements on lands that the United Nations and the United States have demanded be returned to the Palestinians. This has gone on for decades. But there’s no oil in Israel, and so again the Bush administration is not interested.

Finally, how can a patriotic American question the actions of the president of the United States? It was the Republican Party that pointed out to the media and the world that a person could be the president and his actions could be wrong and should be questioned by the American public. Just ask President Clinton.

The al-Qaida terrorists who attacked us are alive and well and killing people. An example is in Bali. Our military needs to go after those terrorists and leave the acquisition of oil fields alone.

James CarrethersHeidelberg, Germany

October 23

No apologies for free speech

Apologize for what one thinks. Doesn’t that sound foreign? It sure does to me. Yet that is becoming the norm.

A young journalist recently wrote a column on the Internet called, “Why I hate Muslims.” It wasn’t a very good column. But the writer is young. Maybe he will improve when he gets older. But what happened after the column was published? He had to apologize. Free speech be damned. Muslims around the country decided that the writer had obviously made a mistake. People living in America, citizens or not, decided that the writer should have to apologize for expressing his opinion.

I have a question. Are these the same people who call us Zionist/Christian/Jewish pigs and Great Satans? Are these the same people who danced as the Pentagon burned and the World Trade Center towers collapsed? If so, where is my apology? I don’t like their views or their expressing them.

Jerry Falwell has also apparently had to apologize. Why? Because he thinks that Muhammad was a terrorist. I don’t agree with what Falwell says pretty much most of the time, so I ignore him. That’s what normal people do. They listen to other people’s opinions and choose to ignore the ones with which they disagree.

Muslims don’t think that Jesus Christ was the son of God. They’ve said so. I’ve heard it. So where’s my apology? Or better yet, they should keep their apology and take it home with them. If they don’t like America, or if they hate America so much, they should leave. But whatever they do, they shouldn’t stay in the United States and try to bully people into their narrow-minded, Dark Ages thinking.

America is a free country. So if I think someone is ignorant and terrorist-worshipping, I can and will say so. And no one will catch me apologizing, either. That’s the American way.

Robert WillsRamstein Air Base, Germany

October 24

Permit concurrent receipt

The president has unfurled the U.S. flag and stated we must pursue the war against terrorism with pre-emptive military action against Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. He’s told the American people we must once again place our servicemembers in harm’s way.

At the same time, that president has worked to stop the repeal of a little-known law that prohibits disabled military retirees from collecting their retirement pay. This provision of the fiscal year 2003 Defense Authorization bill goes by the moniker “concurrent receipt.” The Bush administration has stated we simply can’t afford to pay previous generations of warriors their retired pay, earned for arduous years of service, and provide them disability compensation, rewarded for actual disabilities sustained while on active duty. Mr. Bush’s lack of compassion toward our nation’s severely disabled veterans was formally registered with his veto threat against the entire fiscal 2003 Defense Authorization bill if it included any concurrent receipt provision.

Currently, disabled military retirees must fund their own disability compensation by forfeiture of their hard-earned military retirement pay, dollar for dollar, to receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House’s concurrent receipt provision would allow the most severely disabled military retirees (60 percent to 100 percent disabled) to receive both their military retirement and their Veterans Affairs disability compensation.

Furthermore, the House’s fiscal 2003 budget resolution funds concurrent receipt at $516 million in 2003 and $5.8 billion over five years. This action could relieve the suffering of many of our nation’s disabled military retirees by lifting them and their families out of poverty. The Bush administration has stated that even this modest version is too expensive.

After reading that, I was stunned to read the Republican-led House, with the president’s blessing, is pushing for $65 billion in new tax cuts over a 10-year period to assist bear-market-battered investors. This tax-cut proposal is far more expensive than the House’s concurrent receipt provision. So the president believes we can afford tax cuts for investors but not payment of retired pay for severely disabled military retirees?

It is time to take a stand for our nation’s severely disabled military retirees. With 83 percent of senators and 90 percent of representatives on record in support of concurrent receipt, it is time to take this to the only morally acceptable conclusion. Our elected representatives must support the House’s concurrent receipt provision or lose the trust and support of this nation’s veterans.

J.D. MitchellSan Antonio

October 26

Bush holds respect

I was incensed after reading the Oct. 22 letters “Acts belie concern for troops” and “It’s all about oil.” I can’t believe Stars and Stripes printed this uninformed, ignorant tripe. I won’t even waste my time addressing the writer of “It’s all about oil,” who said President Bush’s reason for going after Saddam Hussein is to control Iraq’s oil. That claim is intensely shallow.

Stars and Stripes’ policy says letters should stick to one subject, be short, and not contain malice. The writer of “Acts belie concern for troops” totally ignored Stripes’ policies. Yet Stripes printed this nonfactual, un-American litter and propaganda. Through intent or ignorance, this is detrimental to military morale.

“Acts belie concern for troops” began with the federal government’s decision to expand the war on terrorism. Then, through paranoia or delusion, the writer decided everyone needed his “dire warning.” Then he went on to military morale. Next he skipped to his willingness(?) to fight and die for his country, but with an exception — not for President Bush. He then babbled about the Bush administration “clearly representing big oil” and that Bush has “no personal courage or dedication to his country.” (I consider this malice.)

Then readers got a lesson in the difference between people fighting with passion and those fighting because they’re obeying orders. The latter, the writer said, would lose a war. He also wrote that Army leadership seems unconcerned with the rights and welfare of its soldiers. Then he switched to “his facts” and said he’s not alone in his beliefs. He didn’t mention one name, though I’m sure there are a few others who would turn coat. I challenge the writer to provide the names of those “respected veterans and several retired generals” who agree with him.

The writer then claimed our country’s top leadership (generals included, I assume) is asking him and his phantom others to live and die by principles that members of the leadership do not possess themselves. (This is more malice.) What a dynamite perception! Then this “soldier” explained how he would fight “with all his heart” for some presidents, but not for our current president. Then he switched from re-enlistment bonuses to stop loss, his formula to eliminate stop loss, Special Forces in Afghanistan, beards, uniforms, aid workers and the humanitarian mission there. Then the writer had to “sum it all up” for everyone by again stating that “the president of the United States lacks the courage to fight, that the administration is more concerned with oil profits than the well-being of its country.” (This is more malice.)

The writer ended his rant with his knowledge about our high-tech military force, its low-tech enemy and the impending doom of death.

The writer’s diatribe on his self-proclaimed bravery — if only others were running the country — and his illiterate knowledge of our president embarrasses me to no end. That Stars and Stripes printed this rubbish shames me as well.

Although President Bush did not serve in a war, he did serve during Vietnam. And like his father, I’m sure he would have gone had he been called. I say I’m sure because of the saying, “like father, like son.” George W. Bush followed his father all the way to the presidency. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He then served his country as an F-102 pilot for the Texas Air National Guard. I wonder what the letter writer has accomplished.

President Bush has earned a reputation as a compassionate conservative who shapes policy based on the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, strong families and local control.

The writer said he respects President Bush’s father and would “die” for him. Our current president campaigned hard to get his father elected to the position the writer says he is so willing to die for.

Our current President Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994 with 53.5 percent of the vote. In a historic re-election victory, he became the first Texas governor to be elected to consecutive four-year terms, winning 68.6 percent of the vote. Today President Bush holds the respect of the majority of our brave soldiers.

President Bush has proposed bold initiatives to ensure that America’s prosperity has a purpose. He has also addressed improving our nation’s public schools by strengthening local control and insisting on accountability; reducing taxes on all taxpayers, especially for those Americans on the fringes of poverty; strengthening the military with better pay, better planning and better equipment; saving and strengthening Social Security and Medicare by providing seniors with more options; and ushering in the responsibility era in America.

Through President Bush, the U.S. armed forces have the best equipment ever with which to fight a war. Servicemembers have also received the largest pay increases ever granted in the military. They are larger than the ones granted during President Kennedy’s term.

The letter writer is not as brave as he claims. Rather, he hides his deep fear behind false accusations, which Stripes printed. The likes of the writer and his self-proclaimed gallantry in no way represent me. He and the writer of “It’s all about oil” should be ashamed.

Anthony F. RetelMannheim, Germany

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