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THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Selling Out Vieques
by Christopher M. Lehman
December 17, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE WASHINGTON TIMES. All Rights Reserved.
The Clinton administration appears once again on the verge
of selling out an important American security interest for campaign
contributions and votes. The list is getting longer with each
passing month, and one can only hope that we can make it to the
2000 election without more irreparable harm to America.
Nuclear secrets to China, illegal campaign contributions, pardoning
Puerto Rican terrorists who killed Americans - what could be next?
The answer is thousands of acres of prime real estate in the Caribbean.
President Clinton has already declared that he thinks it is
"wrong" for the United States military to use a military
training range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and he instructed
his national security adviser to fix the problem. When this perfidious
act was made public, the Clinton administration initiated a game
of deception and distraction to confuse and deflate the issue.
The administration ordered a study, but everyone knew what conclusion
the president wanted.
The facts are pretty simple, however. The United States owns
22,000 acres of land on the sparsely inhabited island of Vieques
near the island of Puerto Rico. Fifty-eight years ago the United
States Navy bought the land at fair market value and since that
time has used the land as a training range to develop the military
readiness of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units. The Navy
owned another range on the nearby island of Culebra but returned
that to Puerto Rico in 1976.
The remaining range at Vieques is "invaluable" and
"irreplaceable," according to U.S. military leaders
both active duty and retired. Without access to the training area,
East Coast-based forces would be unable to practice the military
skills necessary for modern combat. Nowhere else in the eastern
half of the United States is there a place where full combined-arms
training can take place. This is the only location where ships,
submarines, fighters, bombers and amphibious and ground forces
can train together using live ammunition and realistic terrain.
There is another important fact that should not be overlooked.
Vieques island has beautiful beaches, excellent scuba diving and
snorkeling and thousands of acres of prime land for resort development.
It is a real estate developer's dream. Another more insidious
fact that needs to be understood is that Puerto Rico 's Gov. Rossello
is a co-chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign and has been
a top fund-raiser for the Democratic Party. He is a FOB (Friend
of Bill) and a friend of Al.
It all begins to add up. A president who said he "loathed"
the military when he was a younger man now thinks that it is "wrong"
for the U.S. military to train on land owned by the Navy where
it has trained for the last 58 years. A governor of Puerto Rico
who is a major fund-raiser for Bill Clinton and Al Gore wants
the Navy out of Vieques. Hillary Clinton and Al Gore want the
votes of the 1.4 million Puerto Ricans now living in the New York
area. Janet Reno, Mr. Clinton's attorney general, said she was
not in favor of sending FBI agents to remove the illegal protestors
from the range because it would be a "difficult and unmanageable
An administration without one single Cabinet-level security
adviser who served in the military has now made a judgment that
our nation doesn't need a military training facility that our
military leaders unanimously declare to be "irreplaceable."
It all adds up.
What doesn't add up is that the chief of naval operations and
the commandant of the Marine Corps haven't resigned in protest
over this charade.
On Dec. 3, these two distinguished and decorated military officers
were dragged out to the Pentagon press briefing room to endorse
Mr. Clinton's giveaway. They said that the Vieques training facility
was an "irreplaceable asset, the crown jewel of live-fire,
combined-arms training," and then they supported Mr. Clinton's
offer to vacate Vieques in three to five years.
There is more. In addition to abandoning the training range,
the president proposes to give Puerto Rico a $40 million aid package
and then spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing a cleanup
of the island.
Mr. Clinton has already proven that he is shameless and will
never resign. However, the chief of naval operations and the commandant
of the Marine Corps are both good and honorable men who have dedicated
their lives to the defense of our country. For the good of their
troops and the good of our nation, they should tell the president
"no" on Vieques. They should resign rather than support
such a giveaway.
Christopher M. Lehman served as national
security advisor to President Reagan from 1983-1985.