Friday, February 19, 1999

Pressure on Yugoslav
president for peace

THE Clinton administration is engaged in some high intensity arm-twisting with its decision to add 51 planes to the NATO force in Europe poised to attack Yugoslavia. The pressure is intended to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to approve a peace plan for the war-ravaged province of Kosovo, including acceptance of a NATO contingent of peacekeeping troops.

A last-minute deal remains possible under a deadline set for noon Saturday in negotiations in Rambouillet, France. Milosevic is known to be capable of diplomatic acrobatics, and the stepped-up pressure could provide him with the political cover he needs to back down.

But there is always a chance that Milosevic will call NATO's bluff. Whether the attack will actually be launched and whether it will be more than a rap on the knuckles aren't clear.

Defense Secretary William Cohen said the additional planes -- fighter-bombers, electronic warfare aircraft and refueling planes, would begin arriving in Europe this weekend and would be ready for action by the middle of next week.

Acceptance by Belgrade of the NATO peacekeeping contingent, which would include about 4,000 U.S. troops, appears to be the main obstacle to an agreement between Yugoslavia and the rebellious ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Milosevic seems to be willing to grant Kosovo considerable autonomy although not the independence the rebels seek. The West does not support Kosovo's aspirations for independence, fearing that it would further destabilize the Balkans.

The prospect of American troops being sent into another difficult situation in Yugoslavia following the deployment in Bosnia is not one to be embraced with enthusiasm. It seems reasonable that the United States' European allies in NATO shoulder that duty. But the frustrating experience in Bosnia seems to show that effective action in these turbulent situations will not occur without U.S. leadership.

Thus there seems to be no good alternative to further American involvement in the quagmire of Balkan peacekeeping. But Washington must keep looking for ways to achieve an early exit.


Film industry violence

HAWAII's film industry was shaken in the early part of this decade by a series of violent incidents in a struggle over control of production equipment. A federal grand jury has indicted two central figures in the industry tension in connection with the 1991 burning of production equipment, but related offenses remain unresolved.

The competition apparently began after Teamsters President Art Rutledge, who exercised tight control of film industry drivers, was replaced by Harold DeCosta, who allowed the drivers to be affiliated with the union's Los Angeles local, headed by a DeCosta relative. Among DeCosta's detractors were Joseph Tavares, a Teamsters movie production unit member, and movie equipment supplier George Cambra.

When two fires destroyed $241,500 in movie production vehicles belonging to two competitors of Cambra's Movie Production Trucks Inc., Tavares remarked that he felt the twin blaze "was an attempt to control who works movie jobs in Hawaii." Now the grand jury has blamed both Cambra and Tavares for the fires, charging them with arson.

Cambra is accused of agreeing to pay Tavares 10 percent of his future gross earnings to torch the trucks. Tavares is accused with an accomplice of igniting gasoline and diesel fuel provided by Cambra to destroy the vehicles.

The fires destroyed Cambra's competition. His business improved so much in the aftermath that he leased additional equipment from a Kansas City company. However, animosity obviously remained. In 1994, an agent of the Kansas City company was shot to death at Pier 24 while preparing to take possession of a movie production trailer. Weeks later, Cambra was severely beaten in the Kewalo area, suffering a broken jaw and a hand stabbed with a fishing spear. No arrests have been made in either case.

The violence may have contributed to a downturn in Hawaii's film industry by scaring off producers. The latest efforts of law-enforcement agencies provide hope that permanent peace can be attained in the state's movie business.


Belated recognition

AN unsung hero of World War II has belatedly received recognition from the government he served. In a ceremony at Fort Shafter, the Distinguished Service Medal was presented to Cherry Sakakida on behalf of her husband, Lt. Col. Richard M. Sakakida, who died in 1996.

The Hawaii-born Sakakida was a member of the Military Intelligence Service in World War II. Working in the Japanese-occupied Philippines, he was credited with saving the lives of American and Filipino prisoners of war while serving as an interpreter for Japanese military tribunals.

Despite being subjected to torture, he obtained vital information on Japanese plans to invade Australia and forwarded it to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters. Posing as a Japanese officer, he helped to release 500 Filipino guerrillas from prison.

Sen. Daniel Akaka worked for recognition of Sakakida after learning of his achievements. Akaka, who attended the medal-award ceremony, said publicity about Sakakida led to awards for more than a dozen other nisei soldiers in military intelligence.

Although he never talked about his spy mission for decades after the war, Sakakida should have been recognized for his exploits much sooner. His comrades and succeeding generations of Americans owe a great deal to him and his fellow nisei in World War II military intelligence.

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