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Sincerely Vieques

For decades, the U.S. Navy has used part of the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico as a live-fire range for naval maneuvers. It was, in 2001, the only facility available for practicing coordinated air and sea bombardment exercises and, as such, it was a valuable asset for naval training. At that time, however, the people living on Vieques demanded that the navy stop using their island in this way and that demand gained much public sympathy and political support on the American mainland, particularly among ‘liberals’. At the end of June, 2001, president Bush sided with the Vieques natives and announced a phase-out of naval operations on the island over the next two years. Shortly thereafter, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article by Mr. James Garcia, condemning the president’s action not because it was the wrong thing to do — Mr. Garcia and the Chronicle editorial staff wanted the bombing stopped — but because it was, he claimed, done for political reasons rather than out of a heartfelt concern for the people of Vieques. Really. I didn’t make this up.

This letter was submitted to the Chronicle but was not published.

27 June 2001

I understand that James Garcia doesn’t like George W. Bush because he is a (shudder!) Republican and (worse!) conservative, but please: George Bush is evil because he did what Mr. Garcia wanted him to do, but without sufficient sincerity?

Is Mr. Garcia a mind-reader? Does he occupy a position of trust in our president’s inner circle, that he knows the president’s mind so well? How does he know with such confidence how much of Mr. Bush’s decision was based on political calculation and how much on empathy for the people of Vieques? And how does ‘doing the right thing’ elicit nothing but derision? Would Mr. Garcia rather the president had acted out the assigned stereotype and left the people of Vieques with nothing but frustration?

I am no fan of George W. Bush — in fact, I think he was wrong in the Vieques decision, among other things — but the single-minded refusal of Mr. Garcia, and much of the Chronicle editorial staff, to give him credit even for the few things he does that they like has become tiresome. Give it a rest. And give him credit when he earns it.

© Copyright 2001, 2005, Augustus P. Lowell

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