Pacific edition letters for the weekof October 6 - October 12, 2002
Mideast always hostile to U.S.
Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)
October 9 Story a disservice to Kubasaki
October 10 Missing the point on tours President doesn't act alone DUI punishments unequal
October 11 Event not on Stripes' radar Collision course with balance Accentuate the positive
Iraq is certainly unfinished business. A war is not won until a parade is held in the enemy’s capital, leaders we dislike are gone and leaders supporting our objectives are installed.
However, a solution to Middle East terrorism, regional instability, continuity of oil flow and the Iraq problem are found in a simple set of new policies.
First, the United States should adopt a policy that any weapon of mass destruction attack causing the death of a single American will result in the destruction of that country’s capital city. That includes attacks by al-Qaida, which is staffed, directed and financed from within Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Second, withdraw U.S. military forces from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Inform all Mideast dictators that the United States no longer cares who is in charge of that region as long as oil continues to flow at current prices. Further, a disruption in oil flow or price hikes will result in devastating retaliation.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia support world Islamic terrorism from the highest echelons of their respective governments. We should no longer ignore this fact. Both countries use their militaries not for defense, but to suppress their own populations. Neither country is a democracy, both oppress women and there is no freedom of speech, press or religion.
The ungrateful Saudi and Kuwaiti governments speak in international forums about friendship with America. But their internal rhetoric for domestic consumption consists of attacks on our country, fans the flames of hatred among their citizens and encourages attacks against America. The purpose of this two-faced policy is to provide a foreign non-Muslim enemy to distract their citizens from the failures and oppressive policies of their own governments.
Preservation of the status quo in the Middle East should not be a priority for America. There are no regimes in that region worthy of our support. Protection of the anti-American, terrorist-supporting dictators of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is certainly not worth the life of a single U.S. soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.
Let the collective self-serving dictators of the Middle East slug it out among themselves and, after the dust settles, we can deal with whoever is in charge. Our policies with the new Mideast order should be simple and support our interests. A stable Middle East is to our advantage but responsibility for that stability belongs to the inhabitants of that region.
Eugene A. WarfieldYomitan Village, Okinawa
Follow the money
We spend billions for war and occupation, but just nickels on health and education.
Roger AunePyongtaek City, South Korea
First, prevent suffering
As I sat on a recent night unable to sleep, my mind considered the ramifications of potential and ongoing military actions and economic sanctions. As a disabled warrior with combat experience in Vietnam and Desert Storm, I can only hope and pray that the outcomes of these actions do not leave another trail of adverse health and environmental problems. I’ve concluded that we must unite in a concerted effort to prevent additional suffering.
Throughout world history, those who have made a commitment to peace have endured isolation and retaliation when they challenged the individuals and governments seeking economic and political advantage. A vision of peace in which all nations can live together for the common good is an ideal dream, but it may be unrealistic. War is the ultimate weapon a nation or leaders can use to control the allocation and use of food, water, terrain, shelter and mineral resources. War occurs when nations or individuals fail to reach a satisfactory compromise on sharing these limited resources.
Today we are reaching another crossroads in history when we must decide which road to follow. We can select peace or go to war. One means life and the other death. The prevalent modus operandi of those seeking power and control is currently to threaten economic sanctions or military attacks in order to achieve their goals and objectives. This is unacceptable. We must act with a unified and strong voice to prevent nations and leaders from imposing their demands on others. At the same time, we must also make sure that those nations and leaders who pose a viable threat to peace are checkmated.
But that doesn’t mean that we should resort to military force. There are many options, but only wise people are willing to discuss and mutually select the option most beneficial to all.
Today, information control is used to prevent discussion and debate. If people don’t have adequate and validated information, they’re unable to contribute to the resolution of serious problems. We should ensure the complete dissemination of information, even if that information reveals illegal or disturbing actions by our own or any other nation. These ways to achieve peace would require a commitment of time, financial resources, knowledge, attitudes, life, liberty and a willingness to endure isolation and retaliation by any person who wishes to contribute toward the resolution of local, state, national or international problems.
The choice is ours. We can select a life as a mushroom or we can decide to act. I select action, for if peace is to be achieved, then I must let peace begin with me.
Doug RokkeRantoul, Ill.
Bush actions don't match talk
Was President Bush out of line when he said Senate Democrats are not interested in the security of the American people? You bet he was!
As a Vietnam-era “role model,” Bush rates close to last. His wartime “actions” showed little regard for the security of America when it really counted. His most recent divisive remarks have once again exhibited the same self-serving behavior that kept him out of harm’s way during the Vietnam War.
To me, President Bush’s words are a dagger in the heart of our Constitution and in the hearts of those who fought to preserve it, Democrats and Republicans alike. And yet Bush seems all too eager to send other Americans where he feared to tread.
Americans have been the big losers in the “war against terrorism.” The true heroes were the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. But since then, we’ve all been victimized by the Bush administration’s whittling away at our constitutional rights. It was these rights that many democracy-loving veterans paid for with the ultimate sacrifice during combat to ensure the security of each and every American.
Bush must be reminded that it wasn’t the bungling of the Constitution that provided the open door for terrorists to enter the United States and carry out plans that were well-documented by our beleaguered intelligence agencies before Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t the Constitution that granted a visa to a terrorist six months after he died committing the atrocities of Sept. 11. It wasn’t the Constitution that gave 48 classified documents to accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
The security of this country became President Bush’s responsibility the day he took office, as well as the responsibility of Vice President Dick Cheney, who Bush named to head the domestic terrorism organization within the Federal Emergency Management Agency in May 2001. If Bush wants to cast aspersions regarding the lack of interest in the security of our country, he should concentrate his crusade within the Oval Office.
Edwin ThornburgWürzburg, Germany
Story a disservice to Kubasaki
As an educator at Kubasaki High School, I am furious concerning the article in the Stars and Stripes depicting our school as a drug haven for teenagers.
“Over the Counter High” was especially mean-spirited. This article is the poorest excuse for writing I have ever seen in this paper, and both the individual who wrote it and his editor should be held accountable for every word.
To write something as damaging as this, it would appear the writer would want to speak with someone other than 9th or 10th graders who may have questionable motives. Why no seniors? Why no military people?
Why no teachers, coaches or administrators? Why no parents, other than a mother who saw the need to invade her daughter’s personal diary? Why would you exclude interviews with a high school having a significantly larger population located in the same general area?
Anyone who says most students at our school have tried Bron, hallucinogenic mushrooms, Percocets and other prescription drugs “brought from home, and sold on campus” is either out of touch or has another agenda.
Further, Kubasaki High School does not have a smoking area, and we had one incident with Percocets last year … one. As I recall, that individual was expelled from school.
This article is based completely on hearsay and does a real disservice to the many fine, upstanding students who grace our halls every day and others who have graduated from Kubasaki High School.
Many of these students have gone to top universities and military academies. When you watch Army’s basketball team, check out number 20. He is junior Andy Smith, who graduated after four years at Kubasaki High School and will be one of our military leaders one day. We had three individuals selected for the academies last year! There are a number of other fine young men and women who have passed through Kubasaki High School en route to their life goals.
Shame on you Stars and Stripes for allowing your “Hometown” newspaper to print Enquirer-type material, which is an injustice to everyone associated with Kubasaki High School. Our young people deserve better than this!
As for Carlos Bongioanni, I have one suggestion: Perhaps you could find time in your busy day of attempting sensationalist reporting to audit Ms. Kowalski’s class at Kubasaki High School. She teaches high school journalism. Perhaps this could be a learning situation … for you!
H.L. PuzeyTeacher, Kubasaki HighOkinawa, Japan
Missing the point on tours
I’ve read a number of recent letters to Stars and Stripes discussing the proposal to make overseas tours for servicemembers unaccompanied. Arguments have been presented that soldiers function better when they know that they can come home to a warm and loving family environment at the end of the duty day. Arguments have been presented that drug and alcohol abuse are likely to be lessened by the proximity of families. Arguments have been presented that the opportunities for cultural enrichment provided by the presence of families in a foreign tour area — tourism, exposure to alien cultures and attitudes, etc. — are sufficiently valuable to make the monetary cost of such tours to the government a bargain. And the argument has been presented that families are more important than military duty and deserve more consideration. I don’t dispute any of these arguments, but they all miss the point.
The business of soldiers — and I use this term to encompass not only U.S. Army servicemembers, but those of the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force as well — is warfare. Warfare is, in the best of times and under the best of conditions, unpleasant. It is harsh, dangerous, brutal and cruel. It is the organized application of violence against human beings with the intent of causing harm to those human beings to the extent of maiming, causing permanent disability or killing them in the interests of the government or governments involved. That is what every soldier who voluntarily joins a military service or is conscripted into a military service is paid to do.
Warfare, and military service in general, is undemocratic. Armies are organized in hierarchies in which activity is directed from superior to subordinate in the form of commands. Not “consensus,” not “will of the people,” not “suggestions” but “commands.” The agreement of the subordinate is not required. Coercion is available. Discussion of the advisability of an action is not required. Once a decision has been made, a commander’s word is law. This is reality.
Soldiering is the acceptance of these realities. To be a soldier means that there is an understanding that some rights and privileges common to and taken for granted by citizens are forfeited for the duration of the period of service. Unfortunately, one of these privileges is being with one’s family. There is not now nor has there ever been an explicit or implied guarantee by the Department of Defense or any of the services that servicemembers’ families will be located with servicemembers. It is always based on the needs of the service. In addition, it’s worth noting that our commander in chief says the United States is at war.
It can be argued that the safety of military families is no greater in the continental United States than in a foreign tour area because of the nature of the war we are involved in. But the potential for hazard is increased when an American community is established in a foreign country. The American community sticks out. It’s visible, centralized and established as a specific target. Consequently, it must be protected. That protection diverts resources from the business of prosecuting warfare.
The cost of maintaining military dependent communities is also much greater than the cost of maintaining a strictly military force. If one doubts this, one need only compare currency exchange rate patterns from the first of the month with those of other periods during the month. Invariably, the dollar loses value temporarily around the first of the month. Overseas spending by Americans on rent, utilities, local bill payments and so on are sufficiently great to actually affect the value of the currency. That’s a lot of money being spent outside the United States. It’s money that could instead be directed toward war-fighting.
One letter writer said the proposed policy would sacrifice families to save a few bucks. Granted, that’s exactly what’s intended. And from the standpoint of the DOD, that’s entirely appropriate. The DOD is charged with managing the defense of the United States, period. It is not a social service agency. It may concern itself with the welfare of the families of its servicemembers, and it’s laudable if it does. But it’s not and shouldn’t be the DOD’s priority.
Another comment was that a servicemember’s participation is “just a job” while the family is the servicemember’s life. That’s fine. But that servicemember should probably consider whether military service is the right job for him or her. Military service, regardless of the servicemember’s occupational specialty, requires a commitment to kill or be killed in the line of duty. In my opinion, that sort of commitment takes it out of the “just a job” category.
Finally, a letter writer said that adoption of this proposed policy would adversely affect enlistments. That’s probably true, and I’m sure that the personnel folks are looking closely at that. It may be a sufficient reason to abandon the proposal entirely. But of the reasons I’ve seen presented so far, it’s the only valid one.
Mark HammellHeidelberg, Germany
President doesn't act alone
I don’t know what President Bush did during the Vietnam War. I don’t know if it was right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury. But I see something in Bush that’s strong and real. It’s something that nobody can take away, even with our great losses on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s our determination to see that nothing like that terrible day ever happens again.
I don’t know if some people realize this or not, but we do have checks and balances. The president and vice president don’t sit in the Oval Office and pull every string there is to pull in America. Some individual agencies must take responsibility, like the FBI, the CIA, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If we’re prepared to go to war, I’m prepared to back my commander in chief all the way. I wish everybody would feel more like me — a true American.
Spc. Alan J. WolferGiessen, Germany
DUI punishments unequal
DUIs seem to be a big problem in U.S. Army Europe. They’re on the rise. Here’s a question for anyone who can answer it. I have two friends, both with recent DUIs. One was a specialist in an infantry unit. The other is a sergeant in base support. Both are good, hard-working soldiers. Both just got their punishments for their DUIs. The specialist received the maximum punishment: 45 days of extra duty and the loss of all his rank. The sergeant received probation. The specialist has six kids and one on the way. The sergeant has one kid and this was his third offense.
What I take from these situations is that it’s all right for a noncommissioned officer to drink and drive. The punishment is just a mere slap on the wrist, while a lower-enlisted soldier gets set up for failure by putting his family in a financial bind. He’s set up for more problems and possibly another Article 15 for debt. I thought NCOs were supposed to lead us, be our role models and set an example. From what I thought I knew, there was no tolerance for NCOs — one strike and you’re out. This will be the NCO’s third. If the Army makes the rules, why don’t we follow them? Why punish one so harshly and not the other one? Could someone please explain this to me?
Spc. William D. ColsonHohenfels, Germany
Event not on Stripes' radar
Does anyone remember when there was no advertising in Stars and Stripes? Do the publishers remember when they promised never to cut out news events because of the need for advertising space (dollars)? The 14th Asian Games are being played in Pusan, South Korea, but other than one picture in a supplemental section, there has been no other mention. I guess the Stripes reporters cannot find anything negative enough to print, such as high school drug use or riots, to come down to Pusan.
John AceCamp Mobile, South Korea
Collision course with balance
Once again something happens that makes the politicians’ day. A U.S. servicemember does something that can be labeled seriously stupid and the press has its frenzy. I am speaking of the gunnery sergeant who is alleged to have done the wrong thing: drink and drive. Then, to further the stupidity, he had an accident and is said to have left the scene (“Okinawa officials demand tighter leash on troops after Marine arrest,” Sept. 11).
The easiest way to describe his situation is: “Stick a fork in him, for he is done.”
Let no one mistake this letter as sympathy for his predicament, however; it is not. He will undoubtedly have a few years to contemplate the error of his ways.
I do wonder, though, why there are never two sides to the story. Why can’t the press report all aspects of an incident? Let’s explore a couple of the facts reported: A 16-year-old is driving a mo-ped at 3:20 in the morning — does anyone see something that contributed to this accident? There is a youth curfew, but it seems that the only time it becomes an issue is when the other side violates it. It would be nice to see balanced reporting for a change. I doubt seriously the 16-year-old was going out for medicine for his sick granny.
John BowersGinowan City, Okinawa
Accentuate the positive
Has Stars and Stripes ever thought about devoting one or two pages to positive things that happen daily in the States or overseas? There must be something, anything. Stripes’ features are primarily negative. It’s depressing. On a recent day, for instance, out of 19 “roundup” items, three were positive. For this reason, I’m not a subscriber.
Elke ZschaebitzBitburg, Germany