Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Marines Are Gung-Ho, but Wives Concerned about Somalia Mission MISSION TO SOMALIA

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Marines Are Gung-Ho, but Wives Concerned about Somalia Mission MISSION TO SOMALIA

Article excerpt

IF there is any ambivalence about the United States role in Operation Restore Hope, it is hard to detect among the 16,000 marines being deployed from this base to Somalia over the next several days.

Rushing in and out of the base "PX" (Post Exchange) in desert fatigues or plopping into the barber chair for a last, buzz haircut, marines here are upbeat and willing to go, almost to a man - despite having to sacrifice a holiday season at home.

Less sanguine are several of the wives attending special briefings to learn about insurance matters, wills, and the loss of a food allowance they received while their husbands were stationed at Camp Pendleton. Unlike the Persian Gulf war, conditions in Somalia will preclude contact by telephone or mail.

"This is a great opportunity for the US to do something with its military besides using its force for aggression," says Maj. Robert Barrow, a 13-year Marine veteran who missed Christmas at home two years ago during Operation Desert Storm. "There is probably no better interpretation of the spirit of Christmas than to help a starving nation."

But Bonnie Harman, wife of Sgt. William Harman, who is being deployed in the First Marine Expeditionary Force, is considerably less gung-ho. "I feel like these people have been starving for a long time so why do we wait until Christmas to take husbands from their families?" she asks.

Echoing the concerns of several spouses here, Mrs. Harman says she is less concerned about the dangers her husband will face from organized resistance than from undisciplined youths with guns or from disease.

"I also feel that the money we are spending to help others might better be used to eradicate our own {hunger problem} or cure the American homeless problem," she says.

While the mission to Somalia has been justified on humanitarian grounds, critics have argued that the US has no legitimate security interests in East Africa. Critics also argue that the Somali famine is not a threat to world peace. But such observations pass here as arcane subtleties of politics.

"I tell you what, none of that stuff occurs to me," says Maj. …

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