U.N. should get set
to OK Iraq action


Secretary of State Powell has accused Iraq of hiding weapons of mass destruction.

COLIN Powell has taken an important step toward gaining United Nations approval of forcing disarmament of Iraq or, without such approval, assembling a broad coalition of participating countries necessary to justify military action to achieve that result. Iraq's sweeping denial of evidence that the secretary of state provided to the U.N. Security Council served only to strengthen the case for U.N. action.

Powell's extensive, 90-minute presentation yesterday was based on raw intelligence and buttressed with intercepted telephone calls, satellite photographs and diagrams. It should have persuaded the most impervious skeptic that Iraq possesses large volumes of chemical and biological weapons and is hiding them from U.N. inspectors. Iraq's denial of facts already established by past U.N. inspectors should nudge other countries into the U.S. camp.

Powell told the Security Council that his every statement was "backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." His presentation was compelling and in some instances stunning, such as an unidentified source's information that Saddam Hussein's regime had tested chemical and biological weapons on 1,600 death row prisoners and conducted autopsies to determine the effects.

France, Russia and China, each of which has veto power in the Security Council, have urged continued work by U.N. inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Powell showed convincingly that inspections are virtually useless without Iraq's cooperation. One satellite photo showed bunkers at a chemical munitions facility and another showed the same site after it had been "cleaned up" on Dec. 22, as the U.N. inspection team's vehicles were pictured arriving.

Baghdad shows no signs of cooperating with inspectors, which would include documenting the destruction of weapons that the U.N. has confirmed it possessed in the past. Chief arms inspector Hans Blix, whose next report to the U.N. is scheduled Feb. 14, has said Iraq is known to have possessed 6,500 chemical bombs and 30,000 warheads but has not accounted for their whereabouts. Powell said Iraq is believed to have 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons agents.

Iraq denies it all, in defiance of the U.N. resolution adopted unanimously by the Security Council in November. Unless Saddam Hussein quickly comes into compliance, which is highly unlikely, international action will be warranted, preferably with the Security Council's endorsement.


A little help better
than none at all


Lingle sets up a plan to provide some needy patients with free prescription drugs.

ALTHOUGH limited and temporary, Governor Lingle's plan to distribute free prescription drugs will help at least some of the people in need. Until other federal relief can be worked out, which may be long in coming, the program is one way to assist low-income individuals in obtaining necessary medication sooner.

A $3 million grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation will be used to administer the two-year program to link low-income patients with drug companies that give out free medicine. Hospitals and outpatient clinics, the Hawaii Medical Association and the state Health Department will coordinate the assistance.

Manufacturers typically donate their patented drugs to low-income patients through programs with varying eligibility requirements. Lingle's plan, patterned after one set up at Maui Memorial Hospital, would help people complete the necessary paperwork, which can be daunting, and submit their requests to the companies. Drugs could be provided for up to a year with each application, depending on the manufacturer. While awaiting approval, patients may receive medication from a "medicine chest" of drugs that companies donate for the short term, as well as nutritional supplements.

The program is neither wide-ranging nor permanent. Only about 20,000 of the estimated 220,000 people in Hawaii who don't have some kind of prescription drug coverage would receive aid and not all types of drugs are available without cost. In addition, Lingle's plan is pegged to run for only two years because she expects Congress to come up with relief measures by then.

Lingle has criticized as flawed recent legislation to create a drug-buying pool for Hawaii residents, similar to one in Maine that has drawn drug industry lawsuits now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the court upholds Maine's program, the governor should allow the law, set to begin in 2005, to take effect since she acknowledges that her temporary plan isn't a substitute.

If Congress and the Bush administration can agree on a plan to lower drug costs, Hawaii's law can be amended or repealed. Until that happens, state residents should be able to look forward to relief from the high cost of prescription drugs and a better quality of life.


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

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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