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    Letters to the Editors

    It's everyone's responsibility to protect America

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 7, 2002

    A big cloud of dust has been stirred up of late by all the activity within the FBI and police departments regarding security checks. You and I hardly ever get to see or hear much of the information that they gather, and we are probably better off for it.

    I am a retired truck driver as of 1994 with 331/2 years' experience. I pulled hazardous chemicals for 20 years and was trained in the Smith Driving System, which trains you to watch all around you at all times so you will know if someone is working his way into your blind spot, or if someone is just hanging around your tank too long and making you suspicious.

    I want to encourage every American to be vigilant and watch your blind spots. We cannot leave it to the powers that be to protect us from everything. Protecting America is everyone's responsibility.

    What I'm saying is that each and every one of us needs to watch with whom we are rubbing shoulders, whether they sound right, look or smell right and if they don't, then it's our job to report them. If we don't all get off our butts and get involved with protecting America, we will wind up living like those poor folks in Israel where a suicide bomber can walk in your midst at any time.

    As an ex-Marine and a legal citizen of the United States, I don't intend to sit back and let some fanatical killer of men, women and children come in and destroy our country -- not as long as I'm alive.
    -- Robert L. Richards, St. Petersburg

    Repeal the Patriot Act

    U.S. citizens deserve the return of their constitutional rights which have been essentially erased by the USA Patriot Act. The Bush administration has not been forthright concerning the events leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Further, the Bush administration rammed through the USA Patriot Act, allegedly to protect the country from further attacks. However, the Bush administration failed to protect us given the information it had on hand prior to Sept. 11. Why allow them to eavesdrop, spy on and harass innocent citizens in the name of "security?"

    They don't need more information when they can't handle what they have. It's time to repeal the USA Patriot Act.
    -- Meredith Tupper, Tampa

    Acting like the Three Stooges

    The FBI and CIA have been tagged as not being able to get together and "connect the dots." What's next? Etch-A-Sketch? And who's going to show them how to come up with the big picture? Now, they're going to hire 900 more college graduates who know absolutely nothing about terrorism and the means of locating and stopping it.

    When Grandma has the means of putting a Global Positioning System on her scooter so she doesn't ever get lost, and the FBI is chasing rumors with computers that couldn't outperform a Nintendo game, something is terribly wrong.

    Al-Qaida members must be watching our leaders on one television, and the Three Stooges on the other, and scratching their heads while they're laughing, because they can't tell the difference between them.

    Agencies are blaming each other, Congress is pointing fingers, Mohammed Omar, Osama bin Laden and Pakistan are playing us for suckers, our troops are getting hurt playing games in the mountains, airport security is still a major problem, and no one is really stepping up to take charge of this whole mess. It's an utter shame that some 3,000 people died, and their families are still suffering, while the politicians, generals and agency heads running this so-called war on terrorism all do the two-step when the blame is placed.

    Their whining accusations and excuses sound more to me like a badly acted version of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?"

    Where's Rambo when we need him?
    -- Bryan Elbell, Clearwater

    A danger from within

    I can understand the current fuss over Middle Eastern fanatics. What puzzles me is the fact that if these people had the least bit of common sense, they would sit back and watch our current president and his lackeys destroy this great country.

    I am writing this e-mail with some trepidation as Attorney General John Ashcroft is more than likely snooping in my computer as I write.

    As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I would note that most of the people in the current administration are roughly my age. The majority of them were reluctant to do battle while I was serving my country. I would like to invite any of them to tell me to my face that I am unpatriotic.
    -- Thomas L. Chamberlain, Largo

    The greatest threats

    Each week we learn a little more of the failures of the FBI and CIA to act on information that was available to them prior to the tragedy of Sept. 11. Over this past year, we have also learned that the Bush administration will obstruct the publication of any information that seems to undermine the carefully constructed image of the president as a competent, efficient and decisive leader.

    This is the most secretive, hypocritical and deceptive of governments that we have had in my memory. It makes these people dangerous. They wouldn't give up documents about Enron and its role in determining energy policy without first being subpoenaed. They make a deal to help Jeb with offshore drilling while systematically undermining policy regarding clean water, clean air and oversight of the logging and mining industry. They believe in free trade but buy votes with farming subsidies and place tariffs on steel. They deride Cuba for its lack of democracy while undermining democracy in Venezuela, just as they accuse those who question the president of a lack of patriotism. They unilaterally withdraw from global treaties as they proclaim the need to develop global partnerships. At long last they admit that global warming is the result of human activity but say that we cannot do anything about it because it may hurt our economy. They won't ask us to conserve energy, wouldn't dream of asking us to stop driving SUVs.

    America, under threat, always seems to forget its strengths, at least for a while. We will come to see the attacks on our environment, on our right to know who is making policy critical to our lives, on the independence of our judiciary and press and on our critical need to cooperate with, not dominate the rest of the world, as the greatest threat to our future.
    -- Howard Tuch, Tampa

    Paying lip service to human rights

    Re: Cuba.

    President Bush's desire for Cuba to become democratic has to be a joke. Our government has a long history of supporting dictatorships when it is in our financial interest. Two good examples are China and Indonesia. Our government bestowed most favored trade status on China recently because of all the money we will make there, although its government is much like Cuba's. Our government supported the Suharto government in Indonesia for many years while it invaded and committed genocide in East Timor.

    Democracy, human rights -- our government only pays lip service to these things to keep the American people unquestioning.
    -- Richard Sommerville, Hudson

    Taking Sept. 11 personally

    Re: Present-day patriotism, letter, May 29.

    How dare the letter writer claim that New Yorkers are milking the devastation that occurred on Sept. 11 for financial gain. He says he was a Marine combat veteran. This means he was armed and prepared to fight. The people in the towers were armed with nothing more than pens and paper for their morning meetings.

    How many families does he personally know that were destroyed on Sept. 11? I just moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., and I know about 12 families whose mothers and fathers will not be coming home.

    How many New York police officers and firefighters does the letter writer know? The dozens I know don't talk about it. They don't speak about the unrecognizable body parts, innards and personal effects of their fellow brethren and innocent victims that they have found in a pile of twisted steel or on rooftops of nearby buildings. They keep their nightmares to themselves.

    Maybe if the letter writer had been standing across the street, as I was that fateful day, watching the towers burn and watching people knowingly plunge to their deaths to escape the intensity of the fire and thick smoke, he would feel differently. Or if he ran for his life, as I did, from the crumbling 110-story buildings as they crashed onto the ground. Maybe if it had hit a little closer to home, the letter writer would understand.
    J. Riccio, Palm Harbor

    There cannot be too much praise

    Re: Present-day patriotism, letter.

    A heartsick Marine combat veteran believes the Sept. 11 police and firefighter heroes should keep their mouths shut like millions of veterans did when they returned to civilian life. Well, there are 70 police officers and 343 firefighters who never said a word about the fact they went into a fire while everyone else was trying to leave. Most knew that this inferno was probably their last job, yet they faced death without condition.

    Many firefighters and police are veterans of foreign wars. The New York fire and police departments were made up almost entirely of vets following World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They were air aces, submariners, marines, paratroopers, sailors and prisoners of war. They made up the precincts and firehouses. And many vets did share their stories of war: Just visit the public library. There are thousands of books and movies that deal with brave accounts in the military. It is a good thing that we are reminded that war is not nice.

    I don't feel as though these public servants and those at the Pentagon, as well as the brave people aboard the airliner will ever be given all the accolades they deserve. There were many civilians and medical personnel who did an outstanding job assisting in the evacuation and caring for the injured. We should be kept aware of their selflessness, too.

    For the Marine combat veteran to say that the firefighters and police did nothing more than other veterans may be true in some cases. After all, one can only die once.
    -- Bob Baeza, USMC, FDNY retired, Brooksville

    Citizenship, voting and English

    How can people who cannot understand English make an intelligent decision about the issues involved and cast a worthwhile vote?

    How can they claim citizenship without being able to read and write English? I'm assuming the law requires voters to be citizens of this English-speaking country.

    When my wife's father arrived from Poland years ago, his first order of business was to learn to speak, read and write English in order to become a useful citizen.
    -- Lloyd Kessler, Spring Hill

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