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Vieques Editorials

No More Bombs
December 11, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

President Clinton's proposed compromise to phase out the Navy bombing on Vieques island is, typically, too little, too late. Last week he offered to stop live-fire exercises on the Puerto Rican island and close the firing range in five years, although target practice with dummy bombs would resume this spring.

Under different circumstances -- say, 10 years ago prior to the United States reneging on other promises -- the offer might be acceptable.

But Puerto Ricans have had enough of Washington's promises, and rightly demand no less than a cessation of the exercises altogether -- and immediately.

If President Clinton accedes to the demands, as he should, at least there is precedent for doing so. Under similar circumstances, former President George Bush abandoned live-fire exercises nine years ago on the Hawaiian Island of Kahoolawe.

Puerto Ricans Won A Considerable Victory
December 7, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

To a predictable uproar, President Bill Clinton has instructed the Navy to resume limited training in the spring, while restraining it from using real bombs and cutting back on other activities.

He also plans to phase out the base during the next five years.

Puerto Ricans should find that approach appealing, for it addresses many of their concerns about safety at the test range. Yet many have chosen to reject the president's decision and continue their protest.

At present, nothing short of an immediate, complete U.S. military withdrawal would satisfy the most vociferous critics.

Closing down the base wouldn't represent a compromise, though. Moreover, such an extreme move would impair U.S. military capabilities.

Mr. Clinton's plan points to a sensible middle ground.

Puerto Ricans have underscored the political influence they can muster. The Puerto Rican people's voice on the Vieques issue -- which many people thought the U.S. government was ignoring -- has been heard.

After a reasonable period of time to make other arrangements, the Navy will vacate Vieques, leaving the island to Puerto Ricans.

Rather than continuing the protest, Puerto Ricans should recognize that they have won a considerable victory.

Progress on Vieques
December 8, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE HARTFORD COURANT. All Rights Reserved.

President Clinton's order last week to end live-ammunition target practice by the Navy on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques fell short of the immediate halt to all bombing that residents want. But it laid the groundwork for the Navy's full withdrawal within five years, which is a step in the right direction.

Mr. Clinton's plan leaves it up to Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro J. Rossello and the Navy to work out the details

The talks are not likely to go smoothlyBut the president's five-year time line provides an opportunity for both sides to soften their positions.

The Navy, meanwhile, is scheduled to stage another round of training with so-called nonexplosive bombs in March. Under Mr. Clinton's order, the Navy must negotiate the terms of that bombing with the governor. The Navy is offering $40 million in economic aid to demonstrate that it wants to repair relations with the island.

That's an improvement from the past.

There is hope that a populated island will find some peace after 58 years of testing bombs.

Navy Decision Was A Dud
December 8, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. All Rights Reserved.

The Navy's options for training are shrinking, after the president's decision to give it half a loaf.

President Clinton said the Navy could continue training at the island of Vieques for five years, as recommended by a presidential commission.

However, he said the Navy and Marines can't use real bullets. They must use inert weapons.

Military officials have said often that they need to use live fire for realistic combat training.

Clinton's decision bows to the politicians in Puerto Rico who are opposed to the continued use of Vieques. But those same politicians certainly would howl loudly if the Navy proposed shutting down NAS Roosevelt Roads, on the main island.

For now the Navy now can proceed with pretend-training. In the meantime, it can either look for another training area or try to placate the locals.

The Clinton solution also involves a $40 million payoff to Puerto Rico.

For that price, the Navy at least should get title to the remaining land on Vieques and relocate the residents, thereby removing the conflict.

That may cost less than moving this unique training to another site.

The commander in chief's decision may help garner a few votes for his spouse, but it may come at the expense of people he sends into hostile areas.

In Harm's Way
December 7, 1999
Copyright © 1999 BOSTON HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

In harm's way, unready fifty-eight years ago today at Pearl Harbor, 2,300 soldiers, sailors and civilians lost their lives because the U.S. Pacific Fleet was unprepared for war. Shamefully, President Clinton decided last week to send young Americans into harm's way, unprepared.

The aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower, its escorts and a Marine amphibious group will be unable to conduct live- ammunition exercises together before deploying to the Mediterranean in February. Why? Because the president caved in to protesters in Puerto Rico who want live-fire training on the nearby island of Vieques ended. Vieques is the only place on the East Coast where warplanes, ships and Marines can practice together using live ammunition.

"No," he said. The Navy probably can find another site, but Vieques should be used in the meantime. The release of Puerto Rican terrorists from prison shows that the president will do anything to help his wife capture the Puerto Rican vote in her Senate campaign in New York. To cut short necessary military training to further such an end is an outrage.

Politics First, Servicemen Second
December 4, 1999
Copyright © 1999 N.Y.P. HOLDINGS, INC. All Rights Reserved.

We fully understand why the residents of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques -- and Americans of Puerto Rican heritage in general -- want an end to the military-training exercises that have been carried out in their neighborhood for five decades: That's a long time to be living with swooping airplanes, exploding ordinance and related live-fire war games.

At the same time, it's hard to imagine willfully sending young Americans into militarily hazardous situations without proper training.

But that's precisely the order that President Clinton gave the Pentagon yesterday. That is, he commanded that a U.S. Navy carrier battle group and an accompanying seaborne Marine Corps expeditionary unit be dispatched -- improperly trained -- to the Mediterranean Sea early next year.

It is true that the president has given the Pentagon five years to completely phase out the use of Vieques -- but the activists who first raised the issue said immediately that any delay in closing the training site is unacceptable to them.

Among them, of course, are leaders of New York's Puerto Rican community -- and they've made it clear that their support of Hillary Rodham Clinton's U.S. Senate candidacy is contingent on an end to Vieques training. Now.

Anyone want to bet on which way our president will go?

Clinton's Offer Merits Study
December 4, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

At first glance, President Clinton's offer to the people of Vieques looks tempting. In exchange for accepting a limited version of Navy war games, the tiny island would get a $40 million economic development package. The Navy also has agreed to abandon Vieques in five years unless local residents want it to stay.

Clinton's Friday afternoon Vieques offer was promptly rejected by Puerto Rico 's Gov. Pedro Rossello, a strong statehood advocate. Rossello called the president's offer "unacceptable for the people of Puerto Rico and the people of Vieques."

But it is ultimately the 9,300 people who live in Vieques who must decide what is acceptable. Vieques residents have lived in the shadow of war games for 60 years, and it is they who have suffered the consequences.

President Bill Clinton has shown restraint by not ordering the reopening of the Navy bombing range.

The Pentagon was opposed to this solution, and it's difficult to argue with the assertion that U.S. troops must be combat ready when they are sent to potential conflict areas.

Yet the Pentagon has not proven its case that Vieques is the only place where the Atlantic fleet can train with live fire. Nor has the Pentagon shown much sensitivity to the concerns of Vieques' residents.

Clinton's decision gives the Navy and Puerto Rico more time to negotiate and reach a possible compromise on a controversial issue. To have live-fire training on Vieques now, when the majority of Puerto Ricans reject it, would have been to invite widespread civil disobedience and possible violent resistance in the U.S. Commonwealth.

Vieques, which is part of Puerto Rico, has an offer from President Clinton that needs to be studied in a climate of peace.

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