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New York Post

Vieques Revisited

February 25, 2001
Copyright © 2001 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico 's new governor, Sila M. Calderon, is in the middle of her first official visit to the mainland - a trip that coincides with some disturbing news from the Mideast.

Gov. Calderon is the first female chief executive of the American territory. She was elected on a reform agenda that strongly stressed an expansion of economic opportunity.

At the same time, Calderone ran on an explicit platform of forcing the U.S. Navy to abandon its target-practice ranges on the island of Vieques - the only such range available on the East Coast.

The governor reiterated that goal Thursday in an address to Hispanic journalists in New York. "The bombing must stop immediately," she said.

Which brings us to the bad news from the Mideast.

Also on Thursday, the Pentagon announced that last week's airstrikes on Iraq produced, at best, mixed results. Navy fliers missed 60 percent of their targets - an astonishingly high figure given the sophistication of the weapons involved.

Certainly the miss rate exceeds anything posted from the Gulf War onward.

Given that political pressure of the sort Gov. Calderon is now applying already has cut aerial bombing artillery practice at Vieques sharply, it's fair to wonder whether the reduction itself is a big factor.

Yes, there could be other reasons. For one thing, new technology was employed during the recent raids.

Still, it's only a matter of time before the training cuts will have a real impact. And if Gov. Calderon gets her way - that is, an immediate and total training ban - that day will arrive all the more quickly.

Practically speaking, the Vieques range is going to be closed. The principal question is whether it will be available to train naval aviators while the Bush administration searches for an alternative.

Last week's dismal performance over Baghdad may have been an aberration. More likely, it was a harbinger.

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