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OPINION - VIEQUES
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
May 14, 2001
I note that Vieques is back in the news and that the environmentalists and even Rev. Al Sharpton are protesting the Navy's use of the island bombing range for military exercises. I have visited Vieques several times. It is a beautiful place, but I will let you in on a little secret: The military presence on the island is why Vieques remains special because the military keeps the developers at bay.
The protesters, whether wittingly or otherwise, are acting on behalf of developers who would love to turn the spectacular beachscapes of Vieques into another El Condado. The real threat to Vieques is the El Conquistador Hotel complex that looms above the cliffs of Puerto Rico itself across the Pasaje de Vieques , it is not the occasional use of inert ordnance on military property.
For decades, developers have longed to get their hands on Vieques . Now I am not arguing against development. Maybe it is a good thing to construct a couple of dozen hotels along the island's coast. Maybe the military should be sent packing. But before we can make such decisions, we need to know that the one presages the other. That is what the argument over Vieques is really about.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
May 15, 2001
Your editorial "Hold Up Those Naval Exercises" (May 3) suggests that the Navy should suspend "war games" until the results of an evaluation of the Puerto Rican government's claims (that there are health risks from our training) are known. I take strong exception to your choice of the words "war games" to describe the training the Navy and Marine Corps conducts at Vieques . Use of such words trivializes the serious work and dedication of our air crews who train to go into harm's way.
As they train for deployments to areas like the Persian Gulf, they are training for combat. In this year alone, there have been more than 200 separate incidents of Iraqi surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft artillery fire directed against Navy and coalition aircraft enforcing United Nations resolutions in the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. There is nothing trivial about that.
Denying our military force the opportunity to conduct the realistic training at Vieques degrades its readiness to operate forward and its ability to take decisive and effective action against a threat. Last year, the USS Harry S. Truman Battle Group was forced to take a hiatus from training at Vieques . Still they deployed to the Persian Gulf into combat conditions without an adequate level of live-fire training. We must train as we fight. It's not a game. It is serious business.
John B. Nathman
May 17, 2001
I can't believe anyone could compare Oceana with the treatment of Vieques . The United States owns part of the island. Should we give that up too? No! We pump millions in revenue into Puerto Rico and protect that island, yet now we are the bad guys? If the noise from the jets and the shelling of a little piece of land protect our freedom, then so be it.
May 18, 2001
Imagine living on an island renowned for its climate and scenic beauty, a locale much favored by vacationers. On top of that, imagine you have the many advantages that come with direct ties to the United States. Assume that there is one part of your little jewel you are not allowed to enter because dangerous naval operations - sadly, lethal in one case - occur there. Small payment for all those U.S. perks, correct?
This is not the view of some who feel the Navy has done them a grievous injustice by targeting a remote corner of their paradise for ordnance drills. Perhaps these people would prefer the alternative, scrambling for survival without the assistance that flows to one of the family. Let's give all those folks who are dissatisfied with the status quo in Puerto Rico a chance to go it alone. It would be interesting to see how they fare competing with all the other also-rans.