Letters to the Editor, Stars and Stripes

From Bwtm

Stars and Stripes is a daily newspaper published for the U.S. military, DoD civilians, contractors, and their families. Unique among the many military publications, Stars and Stripes operates as a First Amendment newspaper, free of control and censorship. We have published continuously in Europe since 1942, where readers currently number around 80,000. We serve about 60,000 readers in the Pacific, where we have published a daily paper since 1945.*

Stars and Stripes maintains news bureaus in Europe, Pacific and the Middle East to provide first-hand reporting on events in those theaters. In addition to news and sports, our daily paper contains all the elements of the hometown paper our service members left behind, from "Dear Abby" to coupons, comics and crossword puzzles. In all, we publish five editions: Mideast, Europe, Japan, Korea and Okinawa.



GOP’s attacks omit facts

October 18, 2006

In the past week some members of the Republican Party have tried to blame Democrats for two recent events. First came the Mark Foley e-mail-to-pages scandal, in which they claimed that since it had been done before by a Democrat [23 years ago], it was all really their fault. Republicans conveniently omit the part where the Democratically controlled House of Representatives censured the offending representative instead of covering it up.

Second came the nuclear test by North Korea. In this case the Republicans are blaming the Clinton administration’s failed foreign policy to rein in Kim Jong Il [even though] it has been more than six years since foreign policy was first run by the Bush administration, whose sole effort at reining in North Korea has been to call them part of the “Axis of Evil.”

Both of these attacks on Democrats are part of a seemingly desperate attempt to hold onto power in the coming midterm elections. The GOP is afraid that moderate Republicans are going to stay home. The reality may be worse: Moderates are (finally) beginning to realize that their Republican Party, the party that used to stand for strong defense and fiscal responsibility, has been hijacked by the extreme right wing led by Ann Coulter, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida.

Coulter, who has a weekly column in this newspaper, believes that if you do not agree with everything she says then you are 1) a liberal, 2) an idiot and 3) a traitor. In her latest column (“Dems’ ’94 ‘deal’ didn’t deal with North Korea,” Oct. 16), she writes that Democrats are resorting to bald-faced lies. Would that be akin to calling the kettle black?

She goes on to to attack a number of people who dare to think and discuss serious issues without consulting her (the nerve), getting her to state that “anyone who is either that stupid or disingenuous should not be allowed on TV.” Does that mean Coulter won’t be on Fox News anymore, or is that exactly the reason they hired her?

David Weight Yokosuka, Japan


Tough to maintain standards

September 29, 2006 I just wanted to touch on “Army hits recruiting goal with 8 days to spare” (article, The Associated Press, Sept. 23, Mideast edition).

OK, this may be the Army’s best enlistment year since 1997, but think about the number of standards that have been lowered or tricks pulled out of a hat in order to make this happen. For instance, the Army has changed its tattoo policy because it realized that a number of potential recruits were denied enlistment because the excessive tattooing violated the guidelines stated in Army Regulation 670-1.

And $20,000 enlistment bonuses/re-enlistment bonuses? You didn’t see this in 1997. Nor did you see enlistment/re-enlistment bonuses that high unless you were Special Forces or in a critical military occupational specialty.

[Also, w]eight control standards have dropped, thus increasing the amount of potential recruits available for enlistment. I have seen the GI Bill go up and down, and the Army has recently even hired civilian recruiters, for what reason I am still trying to figure out.

When the standards fluctuate, so do the soldiers we noncommissioned officers have to train. How can we as NCOs enforce the standard when the Army cannot maintain the standard?

The standards are set for a reason: to keep individuals out of the service who do not meet the requirements to participate in active-duty/Reserve or National Guard service, and to force individuals out of the service who cannot maintain the standards required for military service set in our rules and regulations. I believe the old saying “It’s in black and white” has disappeared.

Sgt. Robert Mider Ramadi, Iraq


Victim of ‘good-ol’-boy system’

September 28, 2006 I just read “Accused deserter claims harassment,” (article, The Washington Post, Sept. 21 European edition; “‘I didn’t want it to happen to me again,’” Mideast edition), a story about Spc. Suzanne Swift, who said she suffered sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of her noncommissioned officers while deployed to Iraq.

To me, this story hammers home a major problem in the Army. Many leaders are complaining that new soldiers have no discipline; if that is true, neither do the leaders.

Here we have instances of an NCO constantly asking the young specialist for sex, which she constantly refused until he showed up drunk and accosted her in the shower in the middle of the night.

Then she was browbeaten into a sexual relationship with another NCO. When she tried to report it, she was either called a liar or the offending NCO was sent to another unit — on to fresh hunting ground, I guess.

These NCOs seem to be able to get away with murder. That they are all in a military police unit is not lost on me either. She ran away because she was facing a second deployment with these men; with supervisors like them, who needs an enemy.

I know desertion is a crime, and running away from your problems is not the answer. But she was getting no relief from her chain of command or NCO support channel. The NCO “good-ol’-boy system” is even stronger than the officers’ “gray wall of silence.” There is a breakdown in the moral fiber in those leaders.

I have been in enough units to know that, if you have enough rank, there is no retribution.

Sgt. Jackson Eggers Kandahar, Afghanistan


Tired of being bombed

September 25, 2006 I don’t know about the rest of my fellow servicemembers, but I am very tired of being hit by bombs almost every time I leave the gate.

Most of the time we get hit roughly in the same areas, known as “danger areas.” I don’t understand why there are not helicopters patrolling that area all the time, looking for people setting these bombs. I don’t see why it would be so difficult to have a bird (or a Bradley or two) watching with infrared at night and taking out the bad guys, or at least letting us know there is a possible bomb in the area. I mean, I paid my taxes and believe they would go to better use keeping me safe than paying for ice cream in the chow hall (but I love the ice cream, let’s not confuse that). That’s just my two cents.

Sgt. Ben Rexroad Q-West, Iraq