[ OUR OPINION ]
VICE President Dick Cheney made a strong appeal in two speeches in the past week for military action aimed at deposing President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. However, the White House has yet to provide evidence that Saddam represents an imminent threat to the United States. Unless that evidence is made clear, the United States will lack the support of allies and Mideast countries needed to sustain such a military strike and the nation-building that would have to follow.
Military strike needs
support from allies
THE ISSUEVice President Dick Cheney has tried to attract support for a military strike against Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein.
The Bush administration, on the bad legal advice of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, has taken the stance that congressional approval of such military action is not needed. The position rests on the theory that it could be interpreted as an extension of the Gulf War, approved by Congress in 1991. That is legally flawed and politically dangerous.
"There should be a full debate and a vote," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "That is what the Constitution prescribes, and that is what the American people expect." Indeed, a poll this week showed that 85 percent of the people believe it is important that President Bush obtain approval from Congress before launching a strike against Baghdad.
Cheney contends that pressuring Iraq to accept United Nations inspectors looking for signs of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be useless because of Saddam's resistance to such inspectors in the past. He may be right in his expectation that Saddam will resist unfettered inspections, but that resistance could be useful in drawing support for a military strike by a coalition of allies. Instead, Saddam is saying that further inspections would be meaningless since the U.S. already has decided to attack him.
Cheney has failed to persuade the American people of the need for such a strike because he has provided no evidence that Saddam presents an imminent danger to the United States or other countries. Neighbors of Iraq that oppose Saddam are generally against a U.S. strike against Iraq, and their cooperation is needed for air bases and flight space for American planes.
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WHEN the city imported an elephant for Honolulu Zoo 10 years ago, it agreed to provide facilities to allow the animal to be bred. After years of squabbling between the administration and the City Council, money was finally appropriated. Now comes another delay, which could have been avoided if city officials had been properly attentive.
At the zoo, its not
happening at all
THE ISSUEConstruction of a required breeding facility for elephants at Honolulu Zoo has been delayed again.
Under terms of the import permit for endangered species, the Department of Interior required that Vaigai, a female Asian elephant, be bred on site. However, the zoo's elephant enclosure is unsuitable to bring in a bull for breeding. For years, as budget problems plagued the city, funding for a new facility had been delayed either by the Council or the administration. When the federal government warned that Vaigai and the zoo's other female elephant, Mari, could be removed from the zoo, city officials agreed on an appropriation of $7.1 million.
The project was put out for bid, but the lowest offer for construction came in at $11.3 million. That was last Dec. 7. City Managing Director Ben Lee, eight months later, claims he doesn't know why there is such a "large disparity" between the estimates from the project's designer and the actual cost of the project. He complains that the designer should have informed the city about "every step of the project."
"Why did they design a facility that cost $11 million?" Lee asks.
Why, indeed? However, the question should be directed at the administration because it is ultimately responsible. City officials should have been monitoring the project initially to assure that the design stayed in line with costs. When the lowest bid came in at $4 million more than budgeted, it should have reviewed the design immediately or looked into scaling it back.
In 1999, the administration said it expected construction to begin in March 2000. That didn't happen. In January 2001, officials said construction would begin in April. That didn't happen. Now the administration says it will have to put off the project for another six months while it negotiates the price with the contractor.
The disorder at the zoo appears to be another indication of the city's inability to keep track of the project costs. Overruns at Hanauma Bay and Central Oahu District Park have raised questions about who's minding the city's till.
At the pace the city is working to build them a new home, it is fortunate that elephants have a lifespan of 60 years.
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