Dec. 24, 2002 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on military action overseas and peace at home

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2002

The Associated Press reported that the news rocked old friends and family in the Bronx, where Steven Checo attended high school.

The sergeant died after unidentified gunmen opened fire on his unit during a nighttime patrol in eastern Afghanistan. He was the first U.S. soldier killed by hostile fire in Afghanistan since May 19.

When she returned home Saturday evening, laden with shopping bags, a neighbor found her street clogged with police officers and reporters. ''Having it next to you, it's like, 'Oh, my God,''' she said.

It has been a year since the Taliban fell and Afghanistan saw the creation of its interim government. But warlords continue to hold pockets of the country, rockets continue to fly and international forces, including Americans, remain to keep the peace at their own peril.

The Associated Press reported that across Kuwait, the buildup for war is palpable this week. About one-quarter of Kuwait, or 750 square miles, has been cordoned off for exercises or military camps. President Bush has not yet ordered any offensive to oust President Saddam Hussein, but troops, tanks, trucks and supplies, and equipment continue to flow into the country.

Around 1,000 American troops are expected to arrive in Israel this week equipped with Patriot missiles, which were used in the 1991 Gulf War to try to down Iraqi Scuds. The two allies will stage a joint exercise to integrate the Patriots with another anti-missile system, the Arrow, as Israel readies itself for a possible Iraqi retaliatory attack should the United States launch a war on Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Associated Press reported that at an isolated Kuwaiti desert base just 39 miles south of the Iraqi border, a small armada of secretive aircraft and 2,000 American and British forces are girding for battle. Pilotless Predator aircraft are flying surveillance missions over the no-flight zone in southern Iraq. The Air Force has also quietly test-fired Stinger missiles from some of the Predators. Army RC-12 intelligence planes shadow the Iraqi border sucking up electronic transmissions from Iraqi radars that would probably be struck in the first wave of an American-led assault. Navy construction engineers are building up the bases for the expected arrival next month of a second brigade of 4,000 soldiers.

The price of ''Peace on Earth'' rides close to the realm of consciousness this holiday season. Bless the men and women of the United States military at home and abroad willing to sacrifice their safety for these peaceful and loving days at home.

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