Congress should bite the bullet on base closings "Back to Basics: Base Closings" (June 3) was right on the mark. The full Senate's refusal for even one more round of military base closures does a disservice to all those who have been doing more with less for too many years. The Senate's reasons for voting down the defense secretary's No. 1 priority make little or no sense.

In fact, any new base closure commission would be formed after President Clinton leaves office - neither he nor his administration would have a say in who sits on the commission or what bases would be closed. Excess infrastructure will not be of any use in our efforts in Kosovo or any future military operations. To the contrary, spending scarce dollars on unneeded facilities drains money from where we need it - our combat forces. And, finally, communities with closed bases are thriving, not shriveling. For bases closed more than two years, the vast majority of civilian jobs have been replaced. Not only that, but communities have something that didn't exist while a military installation existed - a tax base.

The billions of dollars saved from previous rounds of base closures are enabling our military to meet its mission, wherever that may be. No other reform comes close to offering the potential that even a single round of base closings affords.

Our military men and women prove their bravery every day in every part of the world. It's time for Congress to do the same and make the hard choices.

Thomas G. McInerney, Washington, D.C. President Business Executives for National Security

Appreciation for blessings As a teenage newspaper carrier some years ago, I routinely wished my customers "Merry Christmas" as I collected subscriptions for December. I remember how stupid I felt when I discovered that one of these households was Jewish. I was reminded of that experience while reading the opinion article "When a blessing isn't" (June 4). As the writer said, I needed to "Get a clue!"

I must take issue with the main point of the article, however. I do so with an experience related to one of the examples the author gave. In preparation for a trip to a predominantly Muslim country, I learned much about Islam. After arriving, I learned more and tried to show respect for what is sacred. Because of what I learned, I took no offense when I was "blessed" in some way in the name of Allah. Rather, I deemed it a compliment because I was aware that it was an expression of something very sacred to my hosts - even though it may not be considered sacred to me.

Granted, there are plenty of historical reasons for those of the Jewish faith to be sensitive about the actions of Christians. Christians have much to be ashamed of in that history. My hope, however, is that the writer might take some of his own advice: Learn enough about the religions of your neighbors to be able to recognize what is sacred to them.

We should stop taking offense at every action that is outside of our own tradition, and appreciate sincerity - while striving to eradicate all forms of truly oppressive discrimination.

Todd A. Knowles, Meridian, Idaho

I just returned from the Vatican, where I was blessed last Saturday at St. Peter's. Although my church of affiliation is Congregational, I felt just as blessed. Moreover, I have felt just as special receiving the rabbi's blessing at a Jewish service, as well as Buddhist or Shinto blessings when visiting Japan. We are all God's children no matter the culture, the language, or the organized church.

Peter H. Duston, Cherryfield, Maine

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