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September 29

Gore plays situational politics

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 29 Gore plays situational politics Hershey's loyalty is sweetSeptember 30 Germany's indifference felt Letdown on concurrent receiptOctober 2 COLA reductions' aftertaste Pray for president

October 3 Our security is at risk

October 4 A raw deal for Kubasaki Speculation benefits no one Troops are up to the task

October 5 Not high on Kubasaki coverage

While Iraq may have surprised quite a few people by offering a return of inspectors “without conditions,” I’m sure no one was surprised at Saddam Hussein’s latest decision to renege on that offer and place limits on exactly what buildings may be inspected.

I also read where former vice president and presidential wannabe Al Gore took a poke at President Bush’s stance on Iraq. It’s interesting to note that, while Mr. Gore questioned the wisdom of the president’s determination to force Saddam Hussein’s compliance via threat of U.S. military action, he showed no such desire to oppose former President Clinton when Clinton proposed the same thing in 1998 by saying: “If there’s military action over this matter in Iraq, it will be Saddam Hussein’s decision, not mine. … I think it’s a no-brainer.”

It’s also interesting to note that Democrats, on the whole, staunchly supported Clinton’s threat to use our military might against this Middle East madman. Now, however, they’re stalling and backpedalling, as though they were trying to buy time. (For what?)

How is it that Mr. Gore has somehow now acquired the moral courage to speak up against what he foresees as a big misstep on our part when, before, he seemed unwilling and or unable to question the ethics or appropriateness of virtually anything his former boss did?

Dave QuistYokota Air Base, Japan

Hershey's loyalty is sweet

In a cloud of turmoil, the board of directors and top executives of the Hershey Foods Corp. have balked at the sale of the largest chocolate manufacturer in the United States for an estimated $15 billion for the sole purpose of producing prodigious profits for their shareholders. Instead of selling out, they have chosen to continue with business as usual at the request of the local populace.

So just when we thought the values, ethics and virtues that made our country great were on the verge of collapse, along comes a handful of people from Hershey, Pa., to prove us wrong. One positive step for communal pride, one giant leap for mankind and business practices.

Anyone who has ever visited Hershey certainly remembers two things about this rural community. First is the beauty of the community’s late 19th century architecture scattered throughout the town and its picturesque landscape of green grass and rolling hills. Second is the luscious aroma of chocolate that emanates from the larger-than-life factory that produces the precious commodity sought after by people from around the world.

But enough rhetoric about chocolate-producing companies. This story, and the implied message, is much more immense and important than producing brown-colored candy pleasing to the pallet. It’s about a sense of community — a term and expression in lifestyle that once made our independent counties, states and country the world-renowned role model for all societies to emulate.

A sense of community is the result of people within a community network working toward a common goal that is good for all. This also includes taking ownership of the territory within and protecting it at all costs. “All for one and one for all” seems the symbolic phrase of this classic socioeconomic structure. The fact that the Hershey factory employs 14,000 local workers is most certainly a starting point for validation.

Born and raised in a small township similar to Hershey, I can appreciate and relate to communities that genuinely foster good relations between neighbors. The benefits, as readers might expect, are immensely positive. The relatively new military “Neighborhood Watch Programs” are a mirror image of this concept and work because they promote the notion that the sum of all parts is better than the good of one. This literally means that if we take full responsibility for our communities, we can provide both a safe and accommodating environment for all to thrive.

If the successful entrepreneur Milton Hershey were alive today, he’d most certainly feel proud of what he started. He would see how a chapter in the annals of the “me society” that could have resulted in destitution for many changed. It reflects the pride and ownership of a community built from hard work, loyalty and the belief that communities exist for the purpose of supporting one another. This ultimately results in a safe and just sanctuary for local inhabitants. Just think what type of communities corporations such as Enron and WorldCom could have produced if they had only envisioned more than independent wealth for their top executives.

Command Sgt. Maj. David A. EddyGrafenwöhr, Germany

September 30

Germany's indifference felt

The Army’s controversial study of making Germany an unaccompanied tour of duty might have been overtaken by events.

More than 50 percent of Germans this month voted to retain — or at least not to remove — a chancellor who made disdain for the United States a major element of his campaign. This chancellor also has a minister of justice who likened the president of the United States to Adolf Hitler. In a statement less widely circulated, the justice minister also reportedly characterized the American legal system as “lousy.” One U.S. senator has already called for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Germany. He might not be the last.

A defeated and dismembered Germany was not in a position to construct a coherent foreign policy in the first years after World War II. The new Federal Republic of 1949 did not attempt to do so. It was content to provide forward operating bases for the U.S. Army and Air Force, to rebuild its economy behind an American shield, and to construct a massive welfare state. Its armed forces were small, its defense budget dwarfed by government subsidies and welfare payments.

The 1990 reunification appeared to do little to change this. But by late 1998, the Germans had discarded their center-right government in favor of a coalition between the Socialists, who had abandoned the Marxist concept of class warfare only in 1959, and the “Greens,” a small party of radical environmentalists-pacifists whose pacifism did not foreclose violence when it suited their purposes.

German voters have now returned that coalition to power. They did so by a microscopic margin. But even had they rejected it by the same margin, or even a larger one, it’s clear that Cold War geopolitical relationships, quietly rusting away in any event, are gone forever.

Today’s Germany is indifferent, if not actively antagonistic, to American interests. Even Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s challenger, Bavaria Gov. Edmund Stoiber, said that he would, if elected, deny U.S. forces the use of German bases in any conflict with Iraq not sanctioned by the United Nations. He retracted the statement only after his advisers pointed out that the NATO status of forces agreement would not permit that.

Germany is a democracy, a fact that requires great respect on our part for the outcome of its electoral process. It is nonetheless precisely for that reason — together, of course, with the loss of interest in the Fulda Gap on the part of the Great Bear of the East — that the issue of whether dependents should come to Germany might be moot. The issue now is whether there should be any U.S. military presence in Germany at all. Germany needs to think seriously about its commitment to NATO. So do we.

Ralph LohmannWiesbaden, Germany

Letdown on concurrent receipt

Here we go again. The United States government grants $200 million to Turkey and Congress extends another $28 million. President Bush cannot find the money so he can sign the “concurrent receipt” bill — which has been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives — but he finds money to give away to other countries.

I realize that these countries have bases and other military facilities of U.S. interest. But, once upon a time, I and many others were also of some interest to the U.S. government. But after retirement, the U.S. government no longer cares about us. Wake up and smell the coffee. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Does anyone really expect this money to be paid back? I think not. Beware of false statements, promises, contracts and other mostly political decisions and actions.

José E. Ramos RamosWiesbaden, Germany

October 2

COLA reductions' aftertaste

Here we go again — cost-of-living-allowance reductions for Okinawa. Why? Because the “Per Diem Committee” says the annual COLA survey shows a deflationary Japan — the world’s most expensive place to live.

Someone needs to explain this to my wallet, because I don’t see it — or believe it.

One thing is for certain: This pay cut will abolish the 2003 military pay raise. Look for future reductions from military personnel accounts because of deferral deficit spending; and, for some reason, the government equates quality-of-life initiatives with across-the-board pay cuts.

This needs to stop. COLA needs to be increased, not decreased.

Robert SeigelCamp Lester, Okinawa

Pray for president

I’m a proud American. And although there may be laws or standards with which I don’t agree, I’m proud — and even more so after Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days that have followed. We take our freedom for granted. But sometimes, in a tragic way, things have got to be put into perspective. I saw a president who didn’t waste time. In a horrible situation — a situation that should have stopped the quarrels, fighting and crime in the United States but didn’t — President Bush took immediate action with the help of many allies. I’m grateful.

We can sing the famous John Lennon song, “Give Peace a Chance,” which many seemed to do in England in anti-war protests. But let’s hear some ideas on how we can do that. As we sit back and give it a chance, Iraq becomes equipped with higher quantities of deadly weapons than it already has. What do people think Saddam Hussein plans to do with such weapons of mass destruction? And if we are so willing to judge our president for wanting to take action against Iraq now, how much more would he be judged later for not taking action when it’s too late?

Even an ally such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair sees the importance of action and the seriousness of the situation with Iraq. What’s sad is that even he has been criticized by his own people. How come we have to go to outsiders to receive support?

I may not be the smartest cookie in the jar as far as politics go, but it’s sort of like a marriage: through good times and bad, through sickness and in health. How do people think our country got so great? So powerful? So strong? It wasn’t by sitting back. We paid heavy prices with lives lost. We’ve received a lot of criticism and suffered tragedies, and still do. But the road to this great nation was not always paved and smooth.

Americans should pray for their president, believe in their president, support their president. He’s our leader — the leader of a great nation. How can I sit back and judge or criticize him when I should be praying for him to be led by God?

I’m proud of President Bush and proud to be an American.

Sharon BielbyRhein-Main Air Base, Germany

October 3

Our security at risk

Before everyone gets into the “I hate Bush, I hate Blair anti-war spirit,” we should all pause and look very carefully at the forces behind such foolish public displays.

As reported by Reuters, the Sept. 28 protest in London was organized by the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain. The “Stop the War Coalition” is composed mostly of Arab, Muslim, far-left socialist organizations and Green parties. The primary objective of the organization is not preventing war with Iraq. As stated on its Web site, www.stopwar.org.uk/, “The aim of the Coalition should be very simple: to stop the war currently declared by the United States and its allies against ‘terrorism.’”

It should also be noted that this organization is actively seeking money. Do readers really believe that the money they raise will go to making banners and organizing marches?

In Rome on the same day, a march was organized by “the hard-left Communist Refoundation Party.” This organization has been a supporter of violent protests against the G8, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in places such as Milan, Seattle and Washington. A primary goal of this organization is to halt capitalism and free-market reforms and restore communist principles in the international community. This organization is also seeking money and has offices in New York and other major metropolitan areas of the world.

We should all think long and hard about these opposition protesters before we lend any credence or respectability to them. We should know what they are and what their goals are. Our enemies are forever finding new ways to subvert and harm us. They rely on ignorance and increase their support through gullibility.

Flashy headlines such as “Mass Protest in U.K. Against ‘Bombers’ Blair and Bush” (Reuters, Sept. 29) sell newspapers, look great on the Web and make for “good” film on television. But a closer examination shows that they’re far from revealing the truth.

No one wants war, especially the young soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families who will have to conduct such an action. But the fact remains that we are at war! We’re at war with people and regimes who have no respect for human life, even their own. We’re at war with zealots who will never stop in their quest to kill us simply because we’re Americans. We’re at war with the ignorant who fear what they don’t understand. They don’t wish to gain the knowledge and strength that comes from being free and independent people. We’re at war with sadistic madmen such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, who lead by fear and hatred.

If we turn our back now or ever again, it’s our children and their children who will suffer. It’s time we got past thinking about the comfort of the moment. We should start thinking about the dangers of reclining and relaxing our vigilance. The future of our children’s and the world’s security are at risk. What pain would they have to endure before we decided it was time for action?

David A. TurngrenRodelheim, Germany

October 4

A raw deal for Kubasaki

What a crock of crap! Did that get your attention?

I hope so because it is the only method I, as a parent, have against the sensationalist journalism practiced by Stars and Stripes reporter (and I use that term very loosely) Carlos Bongioanni.

The articles about drugs in Okinawa schools in the Sept. 22 edition were the most slanted, inflammatory pieces I have ever read in our local paper in my years overseas. Mr. Bongioanni really should be writing for the Star or the National Enquirer.

His articles, which alluded to a serious drug problem at Kubasaki High School, were based on an Internet site and quote two Kubasaki sophomores. Why weren’t there any remarks from Kubasaki administrators or teachers? Why weren’t there any remarks from the camp commander or the school liaison officer? I would guess it’s because they could refute most of the article’s backbone.

I am the mother of four children enrolled in three schools on Okinawa. My eldest son graduated from Kubasaki this year and attended all four years of high school there. My second son will graduate from Kubasaki next year.

In addition, I have been a member of Kubasaki’s School Advisory Committee for the past two years. We dealt with many issues between the school, students and parents. One of the issues that came up was drug use.

The one and only time we had a parent attend our open meetings was when this parent wanted to address the SAC about her concerns with drugs in the school. Her daughter, who was a freshman at the time, had just returned from a monthlong rehab in the States. This was introduced in our Jan. 8, 2002, meeting, and we took immediate action.

We heard from the members of the administration present at our meeting, Drs. Clark-Arnold and Ward, about the school policy for students involved with drugs. The camp commander was called the next day to discuss the issue. Lt. Col. Ingrebretsen (assistant deputy camp commander at the time) attended our next SAC meeting, held Feb. 5. The provost marshal worked with the school to conduct unannounced campus visits with dog drug sweeps and locker checks. This is all a matter of public record in the minutes of the SAC meetings.

What did we discover from our actions? Kubasaki is not infested with drugs. Is there some drug use? Yes. Do school officials do everything they can to eliminate that drug use? Does base officials do everything they can do to eliminate that drug use? Based on my involvement and observation of the school: Yes.

As for the parent who showed up to voice her concern about drugs — did she return to hear the answers? No. Which leads me to the bottom line: They are your children; it is not the responsibility of the school or the base to keep them off drugs, Get involved!

It seems that when children enter high school, parental involvement plummets. As stated earlier, we had one parent attend one meeting over the whole year of SAC meetings. The parent-teacher association did not fair much better. Parents who are worried about their children at school should visit the school; sign in at the office and follow their children from class to class; watch the teachers in action; ask questions; and set up meetings for concerns they have with the administrators. The teachers and administration from Kubasaki are always willing to talk to parents about any issue. Kubasaki High School wants all children to succeed.

In the spring Stars and Stripes was contacted and asked to write an article about the three seniors from Kubasaki who received appointments to military academies. Stars and Stripes stated it wasn’t newsworthy enough to justify an article. The academies accept 10 percent of students applying for admission. Kubasaki had three students out of 126 graduates receive appointments. Other seniors from Kubasaki were accepted to the University of Notre Dame, Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Arizona and the University of Maryland — just to name a few. More than half the graduating class went on to college.

The class of 2003 is following that trend. Does this sound like a school with a drug problem?

The students of Kubasaki High School are upstanding citizens. Most of them have strong goals and work hard to achieve those goals. They are also involved in community service and church projects. The article did them a great injustice. Stars and Stripes owes them and Kubasaki High School an apology.

Betty EisenmannCamp Foster, Okinawa

Speculation benefits no one

This is concerning Army Secretary Thomas White’s announcement of the troop rotation study and the coverage in the Pacific Stars and Stripes. Overall, my advice to everyone is to take a breather, relax and don’t speculate as to what will or won’t happen. Troop rotation is only one option of the larger Army study of how we can man the force in the future. It’s too early to know the scope of the study, what the Army is specifically looking for in its study, and what the overall goals of the proposal include.

All of us outside Washington will have to wait a while for the information to filter down. We will be informed of the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How, but we have to be patient and allow the process to happen.

The Army, especially now with the ongoing transformation process, has done and is doing studies all the time in a variety of areas. As a matter of business, the Army conducts studies in order to improve the way it does business. This is everything from improving the way we buy equipment, the use of automation, personnel processes, training resources and how we get paid, to name just a few.

News of the study has resulted in an emotional response from the field. Nobody, including me, has enough information to make an informed and intelligent response as to what the eventual outcome will be and what if any effects it will have on the future of the Army.

Many times, studies begin in one direction and end up with a completely different outcome than what was initially intended or expected.

Remember, the endgame in everything the Army is doing is to improve the readiness of the force, improve the training and quality of the already-outstanding soldiers we have doing the mission every day as well as trying to improve the quality of life of our soldiers and their families.

Have faith in the system. It won’t happen overnight. Your chain of command will keep you informed as it progresses.

Lt. Col. Steven A. BoylanYongsan Garrison, South Korea

Troops are up to the task

An open letter to U.S. servicemembers:

With the first anniversary of the atrocity against our nation still fresh in our minds — and the next phase of our war against the terrorist murderers about to unfold — please know that your countrymen have you, the members of our military — and your families — uppermost in our hearts and prayers.

We didn’t start this war, but we must be the ones to finish it on our terms, not those dictated to us by any foreign country or organization. The whole world should be with us in this noble effort. But if, as usual, we must go it alone, so be it. Our nation is unified and motivated because we understand that we are fighting for our lives, for our way of life, and even for a future that none of us will live to see. We know that the consequence of inaction in the face of evil is to allow evil to triumph, and we will never let that happen.

We have been chosen to rid the world of this cancer. We owe it to the patriots of our past — as well as to future generations who will have their own challenges on which to concentrate — to do this. This is the challenge for our time. I believe we are up to the task. Please be assured that our support for you will be unshakable, as will our determination to bare any burden necessary to see this war through to victory. May God bless you and our beautiful America.

Marisa HarrisHenderson, Nev.

October 5

Not high on Kubasaki coverage

It was a beautiful day. The air was at a temperature somewhere between burning hot and freezing cold. The sun was shining and lending a glow to the leaves of the trees. There was a slight breeze that wafted over everyone. In the midst of all this, I was idly strolling through the campus of Kubasaki High School.

As I was walking through this Eden, I began to wonder if the people I was passing (innocent to my eyes) were drug traffickers. As I passed by the library I began to wonder how many kilograms of drugs had journeyed that way before.

In fact, just because I was strolling through Kubasaki “High” School, the air was dank, the sky was black, the trees were dead, and the school was situated on a barren, heat-scorched desert. The 700 or so social deviants who roamed wildly about the so-called “campus” were all so rude they were barbaric. They were all high. Every single one of them carried 600 Percocet pills and 900 pills of Ecstasy. The Bron they used in a day could have circled the Earth three times. These they downed at six-second intervals. Everyone was a drug trafficker.

Their ill-gotten profits were spent on their own dose of drugs. In short, they were all poor. They were all stupid. They were all high. In such an isolated and decrepit school one could expect no less.

Except that’s not how it was. That’s not how it is.

The “journalism” that was presented in the Sept. 22 Stars and Stripes was absolute trash. It reeked of bias. It was slanderous and grossly unfair. Kubasaki is not the only high school on Okinawa. It is not a drug haven. What facts was this article (“Over-the-counter high”) based on? Which scientific studies show that Kubasaki is so overrun by drugs?

KHS is not perfect, but it certainly is not the type of school represented in the article. Printing that article was socially irresponsible because it was so biased as to represent all KHS students as drug users and drug traffickers. Why was a profile of a person superimposed upon the entrance sign to KHS? Why was KHS targeted?

I have yet to read balanced journalism about KHS. I have yet to read the good at Kubasaki represented as often as the bad. Thank you for painting the entire student body with the same brush. I guess this is what the real world is like: all biased lies, all the time.

Tasj-Nicole YabutCamp Foster, Okinawa

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