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Reasons To Halt Shelling Valid

Saving Lives On Vieques

Not Deserving

Editorial: Reasons To Halt Shelling Valid

April 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Navy exercises began on the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques this week and protests have begun.

The demonstrations have gotten smaller since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Many Puerto Ricans don't want to appear anti-military as the nation fights a war against terrorism. Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, are fighting in this war, and helping to guard Afghan prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.

But the reasons for halting the bombing and shelling of Vieques are still valid.

The majority of people in Vieques and in Puerto Rico want the bombing and shelling to end. Nearly 70 percent of Vieques residents voted to stop the bombings last August. Protests over the Navy range intensified when a security guard was killed in 1999 by two errant bombs.

The training that American troops receive in Vieques does not prepare them to fight the Osama bin Ladens of the world. Before the terrorist attacks, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said that the training that goes on in Vieques will be obsolete in five to 10 years. Some military experts say it's already obsolete. Short-range enemy missiles have made amphibious assaults, with the landing of troops on the beach, too high a price to pay in terms of human lives.

Vieques, as a training site, is not irreplaceable. Its value is that it allows a combination of simultaneous exercises: bombing from the air, ship-to-shore shelling and Marines taking over the beach. This training was essential in World War II. But it is not what troops are doing today in Afghanistan.

The Navy has cut the number of training days from 180 to 90 a year, and now uses inert bombs. This has improved the situation, but it hasn't solved the problem. Navy maneuvers have damaged the island's fishing industry, stunted economic growth and harmed the environment. There are concerns about high incidences of cancer and heart problems, although no one has proven these are linked to the bombing exercises.

The Puerto Rican government, which wants the range closed, is counting on a deal endorsed by President Bush that would have the Navy leave by May 2003. But that agreement is under review following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Bush administration should honor this agreement. National defense is important.

But it should not be used as an excuse to violate the democratic rights of U.S. territories.

Editorial: Saving Lives On Vieques

New York Post

April 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002
N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For the first time in more than six months, the U.S. Navy last week conducted aerial bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques .

Good news for the young sailors, Marines and naval aviators who now more than ever need exposure to realistic training before they're dispatched around the world to prosecute America's war on terror.

Of course, the anti- Vieques crowd refuses to back down. No sooner had the training resumed than five protesters tried to infiltrate the area and were arrested. According to reports, protesters showed their devotion to "free speech" by beating up a counter-protestor - a man flying a lone American flag in support of the Navy.

But these incidents are pretty small, considering the rout of the anti-Navy movement in recent weeks.

Monday's reopening is just the latest in a string of well-deserved victories for the U.S. armed forces on the island.

Unfortunately, it took something as horrific as the Sept. 11 terror attacks and America's subsequent response for many folks to recognize the obvious - that the Vieques training range is vital to national security.

Simply put, there is nowhere better suited for East Coast Naval personnel to train for their combat missions.

Or, as Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) put it before Sept. 11: "How can we replicate the same kind of training site? It would be difficult, if not impossible."

Reyes' comments ring even more true as our military encounters a dangerous enemy in its fight for America's freedom.

Moreover, the hassle endured by the citizens of Vieques has been overstated at the very least.

The bombing exercises - all of which involve dummy bombs - affect just 3 percent of the island. Further, the operation provides scores of jobs for the island's residents.

Still, if Sept. 11 hadn't occurred, the Navy would have had to abandon Vieques by May of next year even though a 1999 Pentagon survey of 18 alternatives concluded that "there are no potential sites that can meet the current stated requirement for combined live-fire training."

And that report was issued during peacetime.

While the war on terror is far from over, the low casualty rate for American troops has been impressive.

The reopening of Vieques will help ensure that trend continues.

Editorial: Not Deserving

April 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Richmond Times-Dispatch. All Rights Reserved.

The Constitution, we are taught, protects the freedoms of peaceable assembly and speech. If they please, people of all stripes may hold rallies protesting government decisions. At least that's what Americans are led to believe.

Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth of the United States. Its citizens are afforded basic civil rights.

Many have used the freedoms of assembly and speech to express their opposition to the naval bombing range on Vieques . Thousands have trespassed on military property, and thus have been detained. Thousands of others have taken to the streets, which is legal so long as they maintain order without breaking other rules.

The other day the Associated Press reported that "a man who proclaimed his support of the [bombing] exercises was beaten up," because, as one Roman Catholic cleric proclaimed (question: What's a clergy-type doing there, anyway?), the flag-waving Navy supporter had "committed a grave error by having the gall to come here" - here, in a free country where demonstrators were marching against what they perceived as bad policy.

Leftists enjoy braying (marching, making papier-mche puppets) at military might, nuclear testing, bombing ranges, etc. - and they certainly have that right.

The case of the beaten man in Puerto Rico demonstrates that certain leftists don't believe their opponents - i.e., civilians who dare believe otherwise - deserve those rights as well.

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