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San Diego Union-Tribune August 7, 1997

Two views of Marines on patrol at the border

Re: "The wrong tool" (Editorial, July 29):

Incredible. Marines are on a post in Redford, Texas, when a goat herder was shooting a small rifle in their direction some 130 yards away.

No way the goat herder could have known that camouflaged killers sat in ambush. He was shot to death in what the Marines called self-defense. Warning shots from the Marines' M-16 would have been all the defense they needed. There's a big difference between friendly fire and murder.

San Diego

I'm proud that you feel Americans have a sense of comfort knowing that the Marine Corps is on duty. I also hope that America feels a sense of comfort knowing that the corps can perform missions that the president may direct. And both Presidents Bush and Clinton have declared war on drugs.

I am sorrowed that Esequiel Hernandez was a casualty of this war, but war does have its fair share of casualties. I look forward to hearing the final outcome of this tragic incident. If it comes out that we, the Marines, were wrong, then let the hammer fall.

We Marines are trained for the type of border work done in Texas. We possess the skills to move through certain areas and remain undetected. We are trained in the use of deadly force in accordance with the rules of engagement and in the right to protect ourselves when threatened with death or severe bodily harm. Being fired upon twice from Hernandez falls into that category.

Your editorial contends that since the military has pulled out from doing these missions that we have admitted guilt. Not so. But this is a good time to stop, regroup and reevaluate our procedures and, if necessary, make changes.

The American people have put up long enough with this military assault from Mexico. We need to do all that is necessary to protect our children from drugs. I wish the Border Patrol didn't require our help. But the fact is that they can't do it without our assistance.

Camp Pendleton

This article copyright 1997 San Diego Union-Tribune and is reproduced for non-profit educational purposes only.

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