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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

Remember Patsy Mink: Slow the rush to war

As Patsy Mink is honored today in our state Capitol's atrium, her colleagues in the nation's Capitol begin in earnest a debate on the language of a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.

How we wish she were there to participate in that debate.

Thirty years ago, Mrs. Mink, seemingly tilting at windmills, ran for president of the United States in the Oregon primary election in a campaign that made withdrawal from Vietnam its only issue. Ignoring such epithets as "Patsy Pink," she won a scant 2 percent of the vote — and the moral high ground.

Today a handful of voices have been raised in warning as this nation teeters on the brink of war. They warn of "unintended consequences." By 1972, of course, most of the dreadful consequences that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon had failed to foresee in Southeast Asia had become painfully clear. What had begun as a war against a backward peasant nation became in many ways, both home and in Vietnam, a wasted decade.

Mrs. Mink, of course, would not fail to recognize the evil intent of Saddam Hussein. Yet in today's debate, she would not stand for one minute for her party's strategy that says the quicker they can settle the war question, the quicker they can turn the page to the domestic issues on which they think they can get the traction needed to make gains in the upcoming midterm elections.

In this unseemly haste, the debate ignores momentous issues: whether the United States must fight and pay for this war alone, and what it would do to our global standing; whether the Bush administration has any plan at all for a post-Saddam Iraq; whether it has considered the destructive forces that might be released from this nation hastily carved from the Ottoman Empire after World War I, with its disparate population of Shiite, Sunni, Kurd and Turkmen peoples; whether it has accurately assessed the cost of treasure and young blood in what could become another decade of armed neo-colonialism.

The Democrats have allowed this debate to become so narrowly framed as to be nearly meaningless. The debate, in essence, is over how soon we invade Iraq. That is, if the Democrats get their way, they will need to be assured by President Bush that he has exhausted diplomatic means; that U.N. sanctions and inspections haven't worked; and that the new war won't set back the "old" one — the war against terrorism.

These conditions may slow the coming war by weeks or months, but they won't stop it.

Omitted entirely from the debate is Bush's new National Security Strategy, which advances a doctrine of "pre-emptive" war-making that suggests that Iraq is only the first step in a violent reordering of the world.

Congress has already effectively ceded to Bush the authority to wage a unilateral, pre-emptive war against Iraq, whether or not the United Nations approves.

We urge the rest of Hawai'i's congressional delegation to reflect well on Mink's honorable legacy of peacemaking — and to carry it back with them to the debate in Washington.