Tuesday, April 24, 2001
The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Thomas Fargo, drummed Cmdr. Scott Waddle out of the Navy yesterday but ruled out a court martial in which the submarine captain might have been charged with criminal neglect.
The issue: The captain of the
U.S.S. Greeneville has been
punished for his sub's accident
that caused the loss of nine lives.
Precluding a court martial was appropriate, but Fargo erred in not imposing on Waddle the most severe punishment the Uniform Code of Military Justice would have allowed.
Nothing would have been gained in a court martial in assigning responsibility for the tragedy as Waddle has already accepted that fully and in public. Nor would additional information about the cause of the accident have come to light beyond the extensive record developed during a Court of Inquiry last month.
Fargo, however, could have fined Waddle a half-month's pay for two months, confined him to quarters for 30 days and restricted him to the base for 60 days. The admiral did impose the fine but then suspended it. The symbolism of throwing the book at Waddle within the limits of the UCMJ would have sent a more somber message.
In reaching his decision, Fargo had three audiences to keep in mind. First was his own command, the largest in the U.S. Navy, and the rest of the Navy. As he said: "No matter how routine the mission, there is nothing about going to sea that is forgiving." That message could have been reinforced with sterner measures.
Second were the American people and their representatives in Congress. The admiral was correct in saying that taking civilian visitors down to the sea in Navy ships should be continued because "the public has a right and a need to know and understand how the Navy operates."
Third were the Japanese, most especially the families of the men lost at sea. Press reports have indicated that many Japanese have demanded a court-martial. It is clear, however, that the nature of a U.S. court martial is not well understood in Japan, where it is seen as automatically imposing a severe punishment. Japanese evidently do not understand that it would be a trial in which Waddle would have been considered innocent until proven guilty and that the burden of proof would have been on the Navy.
The United States, the Navy, Admiral Fargo, and Commander Waddle have taken responsibility and apologized for the tragic loss of life in this unhappy episode, even if the Navy was slow off the mark at the beginning. Waddle plans to apologize again when he goes to Japan to bow his head before the stricken families. His display of remorse should be taken in the spirit in which it is intended.
CONGRESSIONAL zeal in denying aliens the right to full access to the courts has resulted in the imprisonment and possible deportation of one of Hawaii's most popular chefs. The treatment of Chai Chaowasaree and numerous other immigrants violates the constitutional protection of judicial review. The deportation orders were made under a law enacted in 1996 at the height of the national anti-immigrant frenzy and is a law that should be struck down.
sweeps out the good
with the bad
The issue: The U.S. Supreme Court
is considering challenges to a law
denying aliens the right to judicial
review of deportation orders.
Chaowasaree arrived in Hawaii from Thailand in 1985 and the following year married Victoria Dubray, a U.S. citizen living on the Big Island. They separated several years later -- "In any marriage you don't know what's going to happen," he says, but remain married, regarding each other as good friends. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ruled in 1991 that the marriage had been a sham, denied Chaowasaree's application for permanent residence and ordered him deported.
Chaowasaree, who had become a successful chef as owner of Singha Thai Cuisine and Chai's Island Bistro, appealed the decision. However, when he left in January of last year to visit his ailing father in Thailand and tried to return two weeks later, he was stopped at Honolulu Airport by the INS. The agency maintains that his leaving the country voided his appeal. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked Chaowasaree's deportation while it considers the case.
The Supreme Court is focusing on the legality of deporting aliens because they have been convicted of crimes, even if those crimes occurred before the 1996 law took effect. A main issue in several cases before the court is whether Congress has the right to strip federal courts of their authority to review deportation orders.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, a leading architect of the law, says it was aimed at "individuals who committed serious drug-trafficking crimes" and he claims it is working. However, denial of judicial review strips legal immigrants of the right to explain in court how they became unintended victims of its sweeping provisions.
Regardless of whether Chaowasaree's explanation of his marriage is true or that, as the INS claims, the marriage was fraudulent, he and other immigrants should be entitled to their day in court. The 1996 law denied them that right and the Supreme Court should remove it from the books.
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