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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 20, 2001

War waged on 'shadows' a bad idea, they suggest

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

At a Portland, Ore., rally last week, participants worried that a poorly thought out U.S. response would kill more innocent people or bring more terrorism.

Associate Press

After a week of angry and belligerent responses to terrorism, other voices are starting to be heard in Hawai'i and around the nation, voices that say: No retaliation. No war. No more violence.

"Violence only begets violence," said longtime Big Island peace advocate Jim Albertini. "If we retaliate with violence, we only become what we abhor."

The viewpoint might still be a minority one: Nationwide polls show most Americans believe the United States should retaliate against the terrorists, even if innocent people die in the process.

But nearly two dozen interviews with Hawai'i activists and just plain folks from Kailua to Kaka'ako this week and in discussions sprouting on the Internet revealed that many believe America should temper its response to the terror in New York and at the Pentagon.

A lot of people, it seems, believe all-out war is not the way to set things right.

"I think it's irresponsible for our leaders and the media to use the word 'war' while so many people are still grieving," said Keala Kelly, a writer from Kane'ohe. "You don't know who to 'get.' You can't declare war on the shadows."

Na'u Kamali'i, a Hawaiian health care policy developer from Kailua, shared the sentiment: "Right now, I'm concentrating on imagining the type of world that I'd like to see emerge from this. It doesn't include war."

Similar calls for restraint and other, nonviolent responses are coming from around the world, including from Pope John Paul II, former South African President Nelson Mandela and filmmaker Michael Moore, who in a widely circulated e-mail last week wrote, "I'm convinced there is a majority of Americans who, though they want justice and want to be protected from further attacks, do not want George W. Bush to start sounding like Dr. Strangelove."

"It's a human response to feel a sense of violation and frustration, and want to react," said Kyle Kajahiro, program director for the American Friends Service Committee in Hawai'i. "We're asking for folks to rise above that, to practice restraint, forgiveness and reflection to break the cycle of violence."

He said the group is trying to organize a public event in the near future to support a nonviolent response to the terrorists.

While most people agree that the attacks can't go unpunished, there's widespread discussion of what the appropriate response should be.

"Whatever we do, we've got to try and stop and think of the result first. If we build this into a Western versus Islamic action, then we're going down the wrong road," said Lance Bateman, a manager for a Honolulu software company. "You can't just shrug it off, but we don't need a knee-jerk reaction."

Focusing on grief

Many people who experienced anger in the first days following the attack have had time to rethink their emotions, said the Rev. Neal MacPherson, pastor of the Church of the Crossroads on University Avenue.

In his sermon Sunday, MacPherson reminded parishioners to stay focused on their grieving, not on vengeance.

"Every religious tradition in the world — Christian, Jewish, Islamic — has the same basic notion that retaliation is not the way," he said. "Vengeance belongs to God; you don't return evil for evil."

He quoted Romans 12:9-21 in his sermon: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep; Live in harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly, do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all."

Still, many people say they continue to deal with the anger they felt after seeing images of previously unimaginable death and destruction on television.

"It made me weak in the knees at first," said Jen Cordell, a Honolulu police dispatcher and a single mother of two children, ages 11 and 14.

"We're going to have to respond to this, but I don't think we can do it indiscriminately. I want our country to behave in a way that will make us proud."

Jim Varner, a Navy veteran who served during the Korean War, said America should try to punish those responsible without hurting others.

"Just do him," he said, referring to Osama Bin Laden, who has been identified as the prime suspect behind the attacks. "Don't fool around with anything else. A lot of innocent people are going to get hurt if we start a war."

John Witeck, another longtime activist in Hawai'i, tried to balance to conflicting emotions he sees throughout the world's peace network. "My friends in the peace and justice movement were horrified by the atrocity and concerned with what had bred or produced such violence," he said. "We were also very fearful of the U.S. government's response. We're wary that it might be a precipitous or hasty resort to massive violence."

More alienation feared

Such a response might further alienate many enemies and put off even some of America's friends and supporters around the world.

Several people said the attack might help Americans re-evaluate the country's role in the world's unrest. The proper question to ask isn't who did it but why, they said.

"Instead of responding militarily, we need to be looking at long-range policy changes to reduce violence," Albertini said. "We need to see why there is so much hatred toward the United States around the world and to examine our culpability in creating that hatred." Years of U.S. economic and military domination and U.S. foreign policy decisions have left many people feeling helpless to respond except by terrorism, some analysts have said.