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A Telling Complaint On Vieques

Don't Sacrifice Combat Readiness

Bush Should Have Checked First


A Telling Complaint On Vieques

August 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001 New York Post. All Rights Reserved.

While House Republicans were throwing a political monkey wrench at plans to close the Navy's training site on the island of Vieques, one Democrat inadvertently hit upon a chief reason for keeping the facility open.

President Bush, fishing for political support from Hispanics, recently announced that the Navy's site on the Puerto Rican island would be closed in 2003.

On Wednesday, the Armed Services Committee passed an amendment that forbids the Navy from abandoning Vieques unless it can find a single "equivalent or superior" replacement site.

Complained Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas): "How can we replicate the same kind of training site? It would be difficult, if not impossible."

That's precisely the point.

Whatever the Navy eventually comes up with, it will never - as Reyes points out - be as well-suited as Vieques. And that, warns Daniel Murphy, former commander of the Sixth Fleet, could "cost American lives."

Indeed, a 1999 Pentagon study of 18 alternate sites concluded that not one "can meet the current stated requirements for combined arms live-site training."

As Rep. Reyes makes perfectly clear, the Democrats understand this all too well.


Vieques Debacle | Don't Sacrifice Combat Readiness

August 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The San Diego Union-Tribune. All Rights Reserved.

The U.S. Navy's hold on its vital training range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques has become plainly untenable. What began years ago as local protests by Vieques residents unhappy about noise and alleged affronts to nationalist sensitivities has escalated steadily. The political and practical momentum of these protests has now gone well beyond the point of no return.

Regrettably, forcing the Navy off its only combined arms range anywhere in the entire Atlantic theater has become a priority "Hispanic" and "civil rights" issue. In recent months, these escalating protests have come complete with celebrity civil disobedience and boutique jail terms for such opportunists as demagogue Al Sharpton and Robert Kennedy Jr. Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe recently flew to Puerto Rico to demand that the Navy leave Vieques immediately.

The Bush administration, like the Clinton administration before it, has backpedaled steadily in the face of strident and increasingly irresponsible opposition. Clinton, eager to curry favor with Puerto Rican voters as his wife ran for New York's Senate seat, agreed to a Vieques referendum the Navy was bound to lose in the current hothouse atmosphere. The Bush administration, eager to bolster its own standing among potentially decisive Hispanic voters, caved further. Bush and Navy Secretary Gordon England announced that the Navy would abandon Vieques in 2003 and meanwhile limit its bombing to inert ordnance.

What got lost in all this hyperventilating protest and political calculation was national security, most especially the urgent matter of combat readiness for America's naval and Marine forces. The facts are stark and unmistakable:

Vieques is the only place in the Atlantic operating area where the Navy and Marine Corps can conduct live-fire exercises that combine aerial bombing, naval gunfire shore bombardment and Marine amphibious landings. Without all of these, practiced in concert, Navy and Marine units headed out to confront Saddam Hussein over Iraq and in the Persian Gulf, and to patrol the Adriatic Sea off the volatile Balkans cannot be considered combat ready. Period. Navy and Marine Corps leaders have said exactly this for many years, without qualification.

Navy Secretary England, stuck with the Bush edict, says the sea service is aggressively looking for replacement ranges. If any were apparent, they would have been identified years, even decades, ago as the use of Vieques grew more controversial. An alarmed House Armed Services Committee voted last week to prohibit the Navy from abandoning Vieques until a replacement range as good or better is available. Given the political realities, that well-intentioned position may be unsustainable.

But the Bush administration and the Navy must at the very least insist on full use of Vieques through 2003 while the most intensive search is made for a replacement range or ranges. If nothing suitable can be found, Washington may have to negotiate anew with the commonwealth officials in Puerto Rico .

Americans in uniform must not be sent less than fully prepared into harm's way for reasons of anyone's political fashion or convenience.


Bush Should Have Checked Before Firing Off At Mouth

August 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Pantagraph Bloomington, IL. All Rights Reserved.

President Bush apparently thought he would gain political points by saying the Navy should stop using Vieques, a Puerto Rican island, for live-ammunition training exercises from the sea and air.

He said use of the island would end by 2003. That did nothing more than encourage island residents, who subsequently voted more than two-to-one to end the exercises - immediately.

The military says there is no other place that will allow similar maneuvers.

Bush will probably have to eat crow and take back his pledge to get out by 2003, overrule the secretary of the Navy on availability of other sites, put up with continued demonstrations at the training site or be prepared to shell out gobs of money to quiet residents who want the live firing to stop.

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