Thursday, July 5, 2001

ACLU should invite
Thomas to debate

The issue: The ACLU of Hawaii
willreconsider whether to invite
Clarence Thomas to debate the
organization's national president.

AS a private organization, the American Civil Liberties Union has the right to invite whomever it wants for its functions, a right that the ACLU would defend for any other organization. However, the ACLU is not just any organization, and the decision by its Hawaii chapter not to invite U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to debate the ACLU's national president was a clumsy mistake. The ACLU owes Thomas an apology and an invitation but should not expect a reply.

For more than 80 years, the ACLU has defended Americans' First Amendment right to freedom of expression, regardless of ideological content. It has intervened in just about any case of significance regarding civil liberty, including the Sacco and Vanzetti, Scopes and Scotsboro trials. In 1978 it boldly and successfully defended the right of American Nazis to march through the suburban Chicago neighborhood of many holocaust victims.

The Hawaii ACLU recently defended a Manoa man's right to erect a symbol of Satanism in his yard and a Makakilo man's plans for a homosexuality symbol outside his townhouse. This is not an organization of political correctness and, we hope, never will be.

When Justice Antonin Scalia was in Honolulu in January to debate ACLU President Nadine Strossen, Thomas was mentioned as a possible candidate for the next debate in 2003, according to columnist and ACLU volunteer Robert Rees, who finances the debates. When it came time to extend an invitation, however, the three black members of the ACLU's board of directors complained in a letter that it would send a message that the organization "promotes and honors black Uncle Toms who turn their back on civil rights." By a 12-3 vote, the board decided not to invite Thomas.

Thomas has drawn criticism from blacks for his opposition to affirmative action, a policy that is supported by the ACLU.

Lawyer Daphne Barbee-Wooten, who penned the letter to her fellow ACLU directors, asked for an "affirmative-action investigation" into the "racial insensitivity" of the six-member subcommittee that recommended that Thomas be invited, according to Rees.

Rees complained about the snub of Thomas, exposing the Hawaii ACLU to public embarrassment as an organization of intolerance -- not a reputation that it relishes. The perception supports the view of critics that the ACLU is more liberal in its politics than a nonideological defender of the First Amendment.

Directors of the Hawaii ACLU will meet again later this month to reconsider whether to invite Thomas to debate Strossen. The directors would help to restore the organization's public perception by extending the invitation. We hope Thomas will accept, but we will defend to the death his right to refuse.

Tough policy on N. Korea
deserves Hawaii’s support

The issue: The Bush administration has
completed its review of policy on North Korea.

With the United States having endured North Korean hostility for more than 50 years, the Bush administration has correctly decided that a firm stance is the best way to negotiate with Pyongyang. It is a posture intended to reduce the North Korean threat to the United States, including the danger to Hawaii, a target for North Korea's nuclear-tipped missiles. The administration should be supported by the public and the Congress, most notably by the delegation from Hawaii led by Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Beginning with the Korean War launched in 1950, Pyongyang's belligerence has been almost unrelenting. North Koreans have shot down U.S. aircraft over international waters, captured warships on the high seas, and murdered American soldiers clearing brush in the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula. The official North Korean press has warned that the United States could perish in a "sea of fire."

Given this record, Americans should recognize that North Korean leaders could be foolish enough to launch missiles at Hawaii in desperation. At a lower level, a failure in negotiations might lead to a new war in Korea that could involve the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, the Marines at Kaneohe, and naval ships at Pearl Harbor, not to say National Guard and Reserve units from all three services plus the Air Force.

The Bush administration, according to press reports from Washington, has fashioned a negotiating stance based on three issues:

>> Demanding that North Korea reduce its threat to South Korea by pulling back some of its massive forces posted along the demilitarized zone;

>> Having North Korea cease developing missiles that could be used to attack South Korea and Japan and stop exporting missiles to the Middle East and other troubled areas;

>> Requiring that North Korea permit inspections of its nuclear sites to verify that it has lived up to its obligations under a 1994 agreement. Pyongyang is thought to have one or two bombs.

In return, the Bush administration would offer North Korea diplomatic relations, access to the U.S. market and assistance intended to revive its economy and agriculture that has been devastated by a decade of bad management and bad weather.

For its part, Pyongyang has insisted that the United States withdraw its 37,000 troops from South Korea. The outlines of a tempting deal are already visible: A U.S. reduction or withdrawal of forces in return for North Korean concessions on the administration's demands. Depending on the details, that could profoundly revise the security landscape of East Asia and should be approached with great caution.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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