HAWAII RESIDENTS are more apt to wave American flags than flash peace signs these days, but a growing number of activists are working to spread their message: War is not the answer.
Isles war protesters
present a small but determined
voice of opposition
By Treena Shapiro
They gather by the dozens, holding signs, speaking out at public forums, and slipping leaflets to passersby, urging them to think critically about U.S. foreign policy and to look for nonviolent ways to end terrorist activity.
But war protesters in Hawaii face the same struggle their counterparts elsewhere in the country are facing. After watching hijacked jetliners claim the lives of more than 5,000 civilians and topple the twin towers of the World Trade Center, an overwhelming majority of Americans support the military action in Afghanistan. Many national media outlets report that approval for the air strikes is above 90 percent.
Protesters, however, say the feedback from the public leads them to believe that the country's war on terrorism is not that widely supported, and people are more disposed to consider nonviolent solutions, such as charging Osama bin Laden with crimes against humanity before the International Court of Justice.
Jon Van Dyke, a UH law professor specializing in international and U.S. constitutional law, said there is currently no international court designed to deal with a criminal case against an individual such as bin Laden.
An international criminal court is in the works, but the United States will not be one of the initial organizers, he said.
Bin Laden could be tried in any county's national court, however. "He has crossed the line into the realm of what is called a crime against humanity for this massive slaughter," Van Dyke said.
He added that the United States has not committed such grievous offenses or violated international law, as found by an international criminal tribunal looking into whether excessive force was used during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
"The United States should be held to the same standard as any other country, but in fact we have worked very hard to both develop and adhere to international standards and our record of compliance is excellent," Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke said that he thought it was important for the United States to respond militarily to the Sept. 11 attacks, noting that it was part of a sequence of events that included the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole last year.
AT A VIGIL in front of the Prince Kuhio Federal Building on Monday, Liz Rees of Refuse and Resist said that while some passing motorists yell out obscenities or "love it or leave it," people were more likely to honk in support or do nothing at all.
"Most people do not support the bombing," she said.
Refuse and Resist also opposes the racial profiling and civil-rights infringements that have followed the Sept. 11 attacks, Rees said.
Big Island activist Jim Albertini, who opposes the bombings from a religious stance, said the impression he gets from the community during weekly vigils at the Hilo post office is that "there's not that high enthusiasm for military action."
"I think people are saying that violence does beget more violence."
Albertini said that while terror groups need to be brought to justice, so does the United States for creating the conditions that have bred so much hate. As Americans question why the terror groups hate them so much, Muslim countries are asking the same questions about Americans, he said.
Possible solutions would be giving Palestinians their own sovereign nation, lifting sanctions against Iraq and moving foreign bases out of Saudi Arabia, thereby alleviating tensions in the Middle East, Albertini said.
"We call for time out and reflection," Albertini said. "We call on our leaders to stand up for common decency and good sense and to break this cycle of violence."
At the University of Hawaii-Manoa on Tuesday, a weekly forum sponsored by the Spark Matsunaga Institute for Peace drew about 25 people as four professors stressed the importance of learning about past U.S. military campaigns and looking for information from newspapers in the Middle East and South Asia.
About 100 people attended a weekly forum on Wednesday by the University Peace Initiative and Professors Opposed to War held in front of the UH-Manoa Campus Center stairs.
Sean Madinger, 20, was one of the few who spoke against what he heard at the forum, particularly allegations that military actions the United States has taken in foreign countries could also be classified as terrorism.
While he agreed that the United States has killed many innocent people, he said the difference was intent.
"These people (terrorists) are dedicated to the destruction of our society, our culture and for many people, our religion," he said. "The United States did not go in (to foreign countries) with the intention of genocide."