Monday, January 25, 1999

Unintended results
of anti-gay policy

THE armed forces' policy of discharging homosexuals seems to be having the unintended consequence of providing a quick and penalty-free exit from the services, for both gays and heterosexuals. The Air Force and Army reported big increases in such discharges last year, and the total for the military as a whole was the largest in a decade.

Air Force officials said they believe many of their discharges were cases of young recruits declaring themselves homosexual as a way of getting out of the service.

More than half the Air Force's 414 discharges were at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where new recruits do their six weeks of basic training. In the vast majority of cases throughout the Air Force -- 391 out of 414 -- the person voluntarily stated that he or she was gay, Air Force officials said. Twenty-two cases were initiated by witness reports of homosexual acts. In one case two female Air Force members were discharged for declaring marriage plans.

An Air Force spokesman added, "In virtually every self-initiated disclosure, the second statement made is, 'I'd also like to be discharged.' "

The Army reported a 50 percent increase in discharges last year, to 310; the Navy said its number fell by nearly a quarter to 345, and the Marine Corps had a slight drop to 76. Most were reported as voluntary statements of homosexuality.

In 1994, the Pentagon adopted a policy -- known as "don't ask, don't tell" -- that is supposed to allow gays to serve if they keep their sexual orientation private. It punishes those who engage in homosexual acts or take actions that call attention to their orientation. If a service member voluntarily states his or her homosexuality, discharge is automatic.

Last June the Navy reached a retirement settlement with Timothy R. McVeigh, a Pearl Harbor-based sailor it had tried unsuccessfully to discharge after learning that he had anonymously declared himself a homosexual on the Internet. A federal judge ruled earlier that the Navy's attempts to discharge McVeigh violated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

In addition to denying themselves the services of valued people such as McVeigh who want to serve, the armed forces are giving heterosexuals who don't want to serve an easy way out. That doesn't seem sensible or productive.


The biggest banks

WHILE First Hawaiian and Bank of Hawaii are collectively referred to as "the big banks," the state's twin financial giants are quite different and extremely competitive. Now, after four decades in the number two position, FHB has narrowly bypassed its major rival to become the largest financial services company in the islands. "It's very gratifying. We're very proud of it," said a restrained Walter A. Dods Jr., chairman and CEO of BancWest, parent company of FHB. Behind closed doors, though, the marketing whiz was probably jumping up and down with glee.

The rivalry between FHB and Bankoh, whose parent is Pacific Century Financial Corp., is legion. Their corporate headquarters are located directly across from each other on Bishop Street. Dods and Bankoh leader Larry Johnson are both active in business and community affairs.

But FHB's vault to the top occurred after its November 1998 merger with California-based Bank of the West. Before that, it had always been a distant second in the market.

While only ahead of Pacific Century in assets by a "mere" $33 million -- minuscule since both claim $15 billion in assets -- BancWest also reported more deposits and a higher volume of loans than its competitor last year. Hard to believe that the last time First Hawaiian was bigger than Bank of Hawaii it was 1958 -- the year before statehood. Dods' late mentor and predecessor, Johnny Bellinger, is no doubt gleefully celebrating, too.


The U.N. in Angola

IN 1994 the United Nations brokered a peace accord that ended the civil war in Angola for nearly four years, spending $1.5 billion in the process. But the war has broken out again, and a frustrated Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the U.N. end peacekeeping operations in the long-troubled Southwest African country.

Annan proposed that the 1,000-member peacekeeping mission withdraw by March 20. He said there was no longer any peace to keep, citing the shooting down of two U.N. cargo planes carrying 23 passengers and crew during the past month.

Despite Annan's recommendation, the Security Council has unanimously called for a continued U.N. presence in Angola. Council members want to maintain a political and possibly a military presence there following a decade of U.N. efforts to end the civil war. U.S. envoy Nancy Soderberg said Washington felt strongly the United Nations needed to stay in Angola in some way after making a sizable investment in peace there.

The council backed Annan's assessment that a lack of cooperation and renewed fighting between government and rebel forces have made it impossible for the peacekeepers to function. But it advocated a "continued multidisciplinary presence" of the United Nations in Angola. It appealed to the government, which has demanded an end to the U.N. operation, to allow the mission to continue.

As in other conflicts, the United Nations' ability to achieve peace in Angola is severely limited. The U.N. can assist in peacemaking, but peace cannot survive without the support of the warring parties. The alternative is for the world community to provide an armed force strong enough and impartial enough to enforce peace, as it has in Bosnia. But in many cases, as in Angola, the will is lacking.

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Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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