Council resolution on Iraq war drawing criticism, praise

Councilmembers explain their stand. County Council members yesterday declared their solidarity behind a resolution the council approved last week that is related to a U.S. military attack of Iraq.

The resolution opposes a preemptive U.S. military strike against Iraq unless it can be shown that country has nuclear and biological weapons that pose an imminent threat to America.

The resolution also asks the Bush Administration and Hawai’i’s congressional team to work with the United Nations to encourage Iraq to comply with a UN resolution calling for peaceful disarmament.

Councilmembers Daryl Kaneshiro and Joe Munechika said the council resolution doesn’t say “no attack,” but that one could occur if Iraq is shown to have destructive weapons that could wreak havoc on the United States.

Councilman Mel Rapozo said while military action may be necessary, the United Nations should decide that.

The council resolution came under attack after it was approved by the full council last Thursday. Council vice chair James Tokioka was applauded by some council members and some residents for having introduced the measure.

Opponents said the resolution doesn’t reflect their viewpoints and that the council should work on issues tied only to Kaua’i. Others say the resolution undermines efforts by the Bush administration to “remove a direct threat” to the nation.

A steady stream of letters to the editor on the issue are coming against the council’s stand, as well as for it.

Betty Chandler, a former president of the local Republican Women’s Club and a member of the Kaua’i Republican Party, suggested the council rescind the resolution and hold meetings to discuss the matter further.

Bill Harper of Kalaheo said, “the Kaua’i County Council unanimously approved an anti-Iraq war resolution. As a keen voter, I absolutely abhor this action which in my opinion is quite beyond the scope of our elected officials. On Kaua’i it is well known that there is a severe backlog of urgent projects that need the attention of the council. No other body can do their work. Best our honorable and well meaning Councilors stay focused on those matters.”

Kaneshiro said he is for peace, but if war is inevitable because of Iraq’s decision not to comply with the UN resolution, so be it.

“If we had to go in and remove this guy who has these weapons of mass destruction, this tyrant, I have no problem with that,” Kaneshiro said.

Kaneshiro said he would not have voted for the resolution if it had called for “no war.”

Kaneshiro said he was not satisfied with the first draft of the resolution and offered an amendment in the approved resolution that focused on the negative economic impact a potential war might have on Kaua’i.

“We are rebounding from 911. We went through Hurricane Iniki (in 1992) and the Gulf War, (in 1991)” he said. “The economic impact (from a new war with Iraq) is important to us.”

Related to the resolution, Kaneshiro disputed public criticism that the measure “came out of nowhere.”

“It went through the regular process,” Kaneshiro said. “It appeared in the committee meeting and it went to the full council for vote.”

Before he voted on the resolution, Kaneshiro said he studied online similar resolutions passed by 35 to 40 municipalities across the nation.

Many of those resolutions contained “stronger language,” Kaneshiro said, adding in some cases, they called for an outright prohibition of warfare.

Rapozo said voting for the resolution was a “tough call” for him.

Rapozo, a 21-year-veteran of the Hawai’i Air National Guard, said he is a soldier and that Bush is “commander in chief.”

“I agree with President Bush that Saddam Hussein and Iraq must be dealt with, (perhaps unilaterally),” he said. “Personally, I hope we could get the support of the UN.”

At the same time, Rapozo said he supports continuation of the “UN process.” “Let the United Nations decide whether war is necessarythat before we do a preemptive strike, the United States should get support,” Rapozo said.

Councilman Joe Munechika, a Viet Nam veteran, said he could have gone either way on the resolution, ” being that the resolution was made and circulated, and we had input and made changes (through the public input process).”

Munechika said residents should get a copy of the resolution so they can understand the intent of the council.

“When people see the presentation on Ho’ike (public television), they will see what actually took place,” Munechika said.

He said that if the president decides to go to war, the council at least voiced its opinion on the matter through the resolution.

“You make your concerns known, and if he says ‘go,’ we have to support him,” Munechika said.

Munechika, who said he worked on projects involving chemical warfare during his military career in the Army, said there “is no doubt in my mind something has to be done” because Hussein has chemical weapons.

“If he releases it to the al-Qaida or terrorist groups, we are in bad shape,” Munechika said.

Munechika said the United States should wait for concurrence with other key UN nations on the issue of war, and if there an is agreement that war against Iraq is inevitable, “it makes it so much easier to accommodate what we (the United States) want to do.”

If the United States goes to war and wants to win decisively, its citizenry should not be divided as it was during the Viet Nam War, Munechika said.

“We lost the war because we weren’t together,” he said. “We can’t have that happen (in any war with Iraq).”

Council chair Kaipo Asing was not immediately available for comment, but he said at a council meeting last Thursday that the United States is a world leader. In that capacity, it is important that America not opt for war first, he said.

Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura supported efforts for peace and councilmember Jay Furfaro said the resolution kept dialogue open among the nations that could lead to a peaceful resolution.

Tokioka is on a trip to Washington D.C. and was not available for comment.

Through adoption of its resolution, the council joins the state House of Representatives and 117 cities and towns across the nation that have taken a stand against a U.S.-led war with Iraq and support continued UN inspections.

Copies of the council resolution were to be sent to President Bush and Hawai’i’s congressional team.

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