The Oct. 1 front-page article “Trump’s newest target? A mayor ” reported that President Trump tweeted that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.” He must be unaware that during the Vietnam War, when he was in college and playing golf while draft-deferred, 48,000 Puerto Ricans served in the U.S. military, 340 of whom were killed and 17 of whom are missing in action. Many thousands more have served and died since World War I through America’s recent wars. Many thousands of veterans and their families still live in Puerto Rico. Mr. Trump and our military should be carrying out relief for Puerto Rico as a national priority out of gratitude and solidarity.
Les Sonnenmark, Alexandria
Regarding the Oct. 2 front-page article “Desperation grows in Puerto Rican mountains”:
I recently returned from Puerto Rico after leading disaster mental-health outreach teams to these areas. To balance the story, I would like to share that the Red Cross has been sending teams to Cayey, Utuado, Morovis and 20 other municipalities to alleviate the fear and feelings of alienation of the survivors. The Red Cross provided physical first aid and met with small groups to help them realize that they are survivors (“I am”), that they have immediate resources around for support (“I have”) and that as time goes by, the community has the capacity to reestablish itself and become more resilient (“I can”). In a week’s time these teams had more than 800 contacts with the survivors.
Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, Alexandria
The writer was head of disaster mental health
for the American Red Cross for Hurricane Maria
in Puerto Rico from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1.
The comments from President Trump and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials on the rapid progress being made following the hurricane in Puerto Rico are not consistent with the facts as verified in many reports from residents on island. What is the problem? Symptomatic of the slow response is a report from retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led the recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The general has said the red tape — rules and policies — needs to be broken. He noted that one worker was refused a permit to clear roads because he did not have the appropriate federal identification number. As a federal contractor, I was required to get such a number before I could be employed.
Such absurd decisions in Puerto Rico must be stopped to address the emergency needs of 3.4 million U.S. citizens.
Roger Lawson, Columbia
The Sept. 29 front-page article “Response to Puerto Rico pales next to Haiti actions” was right that after the earthquake in Haiti and other foreign disasters, the reaction of the U.S. military was prompt and decisive, but in domestic disasters it has often been slow and lethargic. There is a reason for this difference: the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and the general statutory revisions that have followed.
The law requires a formal request from a state legislature or a governor if the legislature is not sitting (and the form has to follow a very precise legal format) before the president can order in federal troops.
Congress needs to revisit this legislation and, at the very least, make an exception for natural disasters. After all, at the time at which the Posse Comitatus Act was passed, given the intent of its authors, the law might have been more fairly titled “An act to protect the Ku Klux Klan and all its activities.” It is high time for Congress to review the law and adapt it to modern conditions.
Edgar Frank Raines Jr., Alexandria