Friday, April 16, 1999

Kosovo war could
go on for months

Bullet The issue: Milosevic has refused to back down under NATO air strikes.
Bullet Our view: Americans should be prepared for casualties.

AT last the Clinton administration is acknowledging the grim truth about Kosovo. This won't be quick and bloodless. Slobodan Milosevic didn't cave in as expected when NATO began its air strikes, and he may not do so for quite a while -- if ever.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered yes when asked if the campaign could continue for "many, many, many weeks or even months." Cohen commented, "This is not going to be quick or easy or neat."

The apparent killing of Kosovar civilians in a convoy by NATO aircraft was an appalling reminder of the fatal accidents that are part of warfare. It is an illusion to think that such disasters can be avoided, despite all efforts to do so.

It is another illusion that the war can be waged without American casualties. "I think the prospect for casualties remains very real and high," Shelton said.

Americans shouldn't expect that the experience of the Gulf War, when victory came quickly and with few American casualties, will be repeated. The Gulf War lasted only six weeks. The NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia is already in its fourth week, and there is no end in sight. NATO refuses to consider introducing ground forces -- as was done in the Gulf War and which brought the conflict to an end in days.

Clinton's vow that American ground forces would not be used was intended to soothe the American public, but it probably emboldened Milosevic. With a policy to strike only military targets, the air war could go on indefinitely.

This wasn't what the administration expected, certainly not what the country was prepared for. Milosevic has turned Kosovo into a humanitarian disaster in apparent response to the attacks. The allies' only answer is more of the same.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, said the flood of refugees and their brutal treatment have steeled NATO's determination against Milosevic.

There is no turning back. This has become a test of will for NATO. Milosevic must be punished for his brutal treatment of the Kosovars. But there will be a price to pay in lives as well as dollars, and Americans must understand that.


Police contract

Bullet The issue: The police union is seeking a 20 percent raise over four years.
Bullet Our view: If the union wins, the counties may have to raise taxes.

IN return for accepting a ban on strikes, Hawaii police officers obtained a commitment that disagreements in contract negotiations would be settled by arbitration. A week-long series of arbitration hearings on a new contract has just ended. The current contract expires June 30.

The recruitment of Hawaii police officers by mainland police departments that offer higher pay has put pressure on island departments to improve compensation. But the weak economy has strained county budgets and officials say they can't afford to grant substantial raises.

The police union, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, is seeking a 20 percent raise over four years. The counties want a two-year contract with no raises.

SHOPO said the raises would cost about $30 million. But Honolulu city officials said the figure is closer to $80 million.

An arbitration award in the union's favor might force the counties to raise taxes to balance their budgets, which nobody wants in these difficult times.


Bhutto convicted

Bullet The issue: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is convicted of corruption.
Bullet Our view: This is the latest round in her feud with the current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

TWICE in two days prominent Asian political figures have been convicted of corruption by courts in their countries.

First Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, was convicted in Kuala Lumpur and sentenced to six years in prison. Then Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first female prime minister, was convicted and sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

Both cases have strong political overtones. Anwar was arrested and charged after he broke with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on economic issues. The charges against him are widely believed to have been fabricated. The case has been a sensation in Malaysia and could spark a political upheaval.

Bhutto, probably the best- known Pakistani internationally, twice served as prime minister but was fired in 1990 and 1996 on disputed charges of corruption. Her conviction came at a special court she said was established to end her political career. Her party said it would appeal the verdict. Bhutto noted that the judge is close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as evidence that he could not be impartial.

Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, received the same sentence. He has been in prison since 1996 on other charges, including involvement in the murder of Bhutto's brother. The couple was also fined $8.6 million for allegedly receiving kickbacks from a Swiss firm.

Sharif and Bhutto have dominated Pakistan's politics for a decade. They routinely accuse each other of corruption, tax evasion, graft and theft. Neither may have clean hands. The court decision is the latest round in this long-running conflict, but it may not be the last.

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