- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2001

A dark day for black berets

It is a national disgrace that a significant article of our military's uniform will be made in communist China ("Army gives China the order for those berets," March 9). That the black beret, traditionally the mark of the Army Rangers, will now be worn by all soldiers is itself a terrible mistake. A poor decision has now deteriorated into an outrage, a direct reflection of the inept leadership that lingers from our previous administration.

The new administration must throw out the whole black beret ball of wax and rethink the Army uniform change. The black beret is not so crucial to our national security, and there is no need to waive the "Berry Amendment," the law requiring that the Pentagon buy clothing made in U.S. factories of 100 percent American components, and use foreign sources to meet unrealistic and unnecessary plans to implement the uniform change immediately.

President Bush, as commander in chief of our armed forces, must put a stop to this black beret nonsense.

DONALD CATHCART

Altamonte Springs, Fla.

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In response to your recent report on the black beret, I believe that the Army should use the classic olive drab color, circa World War II, or the new camouflage pattern for the beret, in order to preserve the Army Rangers' exclusive use of the black beret. An olive drab or camouflage beret would increase the morale of the general troops without antagonizing the Rangers.

Of course, it may be too late to correct this mistake, since we have already awarded contracts to firms in communist China to manufacture the berets.

JOHN MCGOVERN

Greenbelt

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President Bush is correct in wanting to assess the military before increasing spending. Overview is certainly in order if Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's desire to have his men wearing the black beret by June 14 is an example of the way business is currently being conducted.

You report that 1.3 million berets are being ordered for 474,000 soldiers at a cost of $23 million. Does each soldier require 3 berets? And why is the Army planning to buy 1.7 million additional berets? $23 million divided by 1.3 million equals $17.69 per beret. Michele Goodman, president of U.S. company Atlas Headwear, states her company can produce the beret for a cost of $4.75, as opposed to $7 for every beret made in China. Since when are products made in China 47 percent more expensive than those produced in the United States?

Also, if the berets cost $7 to manufacture and will sell for $17.69, the markup is 152.71 percent. Let's break that down:

Manufacturing cost: 1.3 million x $7 = $9.1 million

Profit: 1.3 million x $10.69 = $13.897 million

Traditionally, the markup is approximately 10 percent in a situation such as this. In other words, the beret should cost the Pentagon around $7.70 plus freight, not $17.69.

Aside from being embarrassment to our nation, this is just bad business.

JACK THOMPSON

Gaithersburg, Md.

Between Iraq and a hard line

In the March 9 Commentary article "Going soft on Iraq?", columnist Martin Schram contends that the Bush administration's Iraq policy is not sufficiently aggressive. His argument, however, is misinformed and fails to recognize the Bush team's modus operandi. Mr. Schram paraphrased Vice President Cheney's thoughts on renewal of weapons inspections in Iraq in a manner that made it seem as though Mr. Cheney was departing from Secretary of State Colin Powell's hard-line stance. However, The Washington Times reported that, in an interview, Vice President Cheney reaffirmed that "the United States eventually wants to resume inspections for weapons of mass destruction," and that, "revitalizing the moribund sanctions regime against Iraq is a … pressing priority" ("Cheney softens demand for Iraqi inspections," March 5).

Though Mr. Schram believes this policy to be unclear, and thus Clintonesque, the Bush administration is acting in the most responsible manner possible, assessing current policy, keeping what works and eliminating what does not.

Mr. Bush, Mr. Powell, CIA Director George J. Tenet and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld have all emphasized that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration has not deviated from this position. Rather, they recognize that economic sanctions are predicated upon a rational leader responding to the cries of its constituents. Saddam Hussein remains indifferent to his people's suffering and retains the ability to forcibly reject unarmed inspectors.

Therefore, the Bush administration must rejuvenate the fledgling allied coalition by pursuing sanctions that target military and dual-use technology and by continuing no-fly-zone policies that will keep Hussein from pursuing his hegemonic and repressive aims toward the Kurds to the north, and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to the south.

ERIC HELLER

Defense Analyst

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

Columnist is stone-headed on national sovereignty

In "Divinely due destruction?" Cal Thomas highlights the hypocritical inconsistency in America's concern with the destruction of sacred stone statues, but he apparently misses the hypocrisy in his continuing idol worship of "national sovereignty" (Commentary, March 9).

Is Mr. Thomas so blinded by his political faith that he can't see that national sovereignty protects those who have abolished women's rights in Afghanistan and that it shields mass murderers in the Sudan? Can't he see that national sovereignty prevents the United Nations from effectively deterring the "34 armed or simmering conflicts" in the world and restraining the national forces that crush their own people, as China crushed innocent students and pregnant women at Tiananmen Square.

Only when Mr. Thomas and other like-minded worshippers of false idols reject national sovereignty and enable a higher political power to protect the God-given sovereignty and human rights of the world's peoples will we see the end to such suffering.

All the hysteria over the destruction of stone symbols is odd given how many human beings suffer every day as a result of national government commissions or omissions. But it is no more foolish than being stone-headed about a flawed faith in the absolute power of national sovereignty.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

Teaching about violence begins in the womb

In her column, "Preventing violence pits parents against popular culture," Adrienne T. Washington listed a litany of possible causes of recent school shootings such as movies, television, video games, a "foul-mouthed rapper" and even the immoral behavior of former President Clinton (Metro, March 9).

She hit upon the essence of the problem and a solution when she said, "I can think of a laundry list of pithy arguments to our present-day pathos, but one of the most difficult tasks facing American adults is how to teach our children to value life in a culture of violence that devalues life."

We can try to teach such a lesson, but children will never learn the value of human life while at the same time we teach them by our example that it is acceptable to kill to solve personal problems. We have violently killed more than 35 million unborn babies to solve personal problems. As long as the killing of the unborn continues, we can expect more school shootings and even more horrendous acts of violence.

STEPHEN DRAGOS

Rockville




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