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A woman prayed Wednesday morning in front of a monument at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, before a ceremony to mark the 58th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing.

U.S. should set
example on WMDs

KUALA LUMPUR >> On Aug. 6, peace activists from around the world flocked to Hiroshima, Japan to pray for peace and remember those who died when the first nuclear bomb was dropped on that city 58 years ago. More subdued ceremonies marked the anniversary of the second, and we all hope last, use of nuclear weapons in anger three days later in Nagasaki.

Sandwiched in between these two dates was a "secret" conference in Omaha, Neb., where senior U.S. Defense Department officials reportedly met with nuclear weapons specialists to discuss ways of upgrading America's aging nuclear arsenal. While one can argue that there is never a good time to discuss the use of nuclear weapons, the Pentagon's timing of this event underscores and reinforces the impression around the world of U.S. callousness toward the views and feelings of others.

These views have been very much in evidence at this year's annual Asia Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Speaker after speaker, including many who have traditionally been supportive of Washington and still favor a continued U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, condemned U.S. "unilateralism" and "arrogance." While some of the accusations are emotional and do not stand up to the facts, the bottom line remains: The Bush administration has an image problem, which it appears intent on exacerbating. Given its hyperpower status, many argued, Washington no longer is concerned about what others think. Multilateralism, American-style, means "get on our bandwagon or get out of the way."

Washington sees itself as a primary proponent of nuclear non-proliferation. Its current standoff with North Korea is aimed, first and foremost, at stemming the development and potential use or export of weapons of mass destruction. Washington, along with the international community in general, demands that Pyongyang rejoin and honor its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yet Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba says that the NPT is "on the verge of collapse," not because of North Korean actions but because the U.S. "appears to worship nuclear weapons as God."

Akiba described U.S. policy as "openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike." To my knowledge, the U.S. does not have and has never professed to support such a strategy. Nonetheless, this accusation has increasingly been accepted as fact. After all, the Bush administration's National Security Strategy endorses a strategy of pre-emption against the use of WMD and the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review (as leaked to the press) reportedly lays out contingencies under which nuclear weapons may be used. While neither talks about "first use," they don't rule it out, either.

The latest "proof," as cited by Akiba, is the Bush administration's "resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called 'useable nuclear weapons.'" He is referring to recent congressional legislation approving research on the potential development of smaller nuclear weapons (reversing a 10-year ban on research on weapons with less than 5 kilotons yield). Approval to actually produce such weapons was neither sought by the Pentagon nor granted by Congress. The legislation does permit the Pentagon to begin examining, in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's words, "a variety of different ways -- conceivably -- to develop the ability to reach a deeply buried target." This is the apparent objective of the Omaha meeting.

Critics are quick to point out that such actions run contrary to the Bush administration's professed counter-proliferation goals, since they emphasize rather than downplay the potential future importance of nuclear weapons and thus could encourage others also to seek this edge. It's no wonder, they argue, that North Korea feels compelled to pursue its own nuclear deterrent in the face of this increased U.S. threat.

While experts can easily dismiss such misconceptions, they have a cumulative impact on the minds of friends and potential foes alike about Washington's commitment to the NPT and to the probability or desirability of the future use of nuclear weapons. This hardly serves U.S. non-proliferation or broader national security interests.

Perhaps it's time for the Bush administration to consider a "no first use of WMDs" policy. This would emphasize the purely deterrent role that nuclear weapons continue to play in U.S. defense strategy, not just against the use of nuclear weapons by potential adversaries but by their use of chemical or biological weapons as well. It recognizes the political reality that the American people would never tolerate the use of nuclear weapons by their government other than in self-defense in response to a WMD strike; and the military reality that, in this age of advanced technology and U.S. weapons superiority, nuclear weapons are not needed either for preemption or to prevail in a conventional conflict.

It's time for Washington to return to the moral high road and put the WMD debate into proper perspective. A "no first use of weapons of mass destruction" policy declaration would be a significant step in this direction.

Ralph A. Cossa is president of the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based nonprofit research institute, and senior editor of Comparative Connections.



Bank can show aloha
while fulfilling its
debt to Hawaiians

Five years ago today Catherine Bessant and Douglas Woodruff arrived in Honolulu on TWA Flight 1 from St. Louis, along with hundreds of tourists.

But Cathy and Doug came to Hawaii not primarily to enjoy the beauty of our land and culture. Cathy and Doug came to meet with us -- hundreds of Hawaiian kupuna -- the following morning at Iolani Palace. They met with us, on the 100th anniversary of Hawaii's annexation by the United States, to make us a promise: that they would do a better job of complying with a 1994 order by the Federal Reserve Board that Bank of America provide $150 million in financing on the home lands of our native people by 1998. Before this federal order was issued, banks had refused to provide financing to Hawaiians on their lands.

At that time, Cathy headed community development at NationsBank, which wanted to annex Bank of America, just as America had annexed Hawaii a century earlier. But NationsBank needed permission from the Federal Reserve to merge with Bank of America, and to get that permission they had to make us a promise. For it was 1998, the deadline, and less than 2 percent of the required financing for Hawaiians had been completed by BofA.

So Cathy promised us that if the merger were approved she would immediately begin working to fulfill BofA's financial obligation to Hawaiians. Then Cathy and Doug went home. Four days later, the Federal Reserve Board approved the merger of Bank of America and NationsBank, specifically conditioning its approval on the new BofA meeting its $150 million commitment.

But five more years have passed, and while Cathy and Doug have been promoted at Bank of America -- Cathy now heads marketing and Doug runs community development -- the bank's financial obligation to the Hawaiian people remains more than 80 percent unfulfilled. As kupuna, elders of the Hawaiian people, we say enough already!

Bank of America seems to think that it is acceptable to be five years late on its $150 million commitment to Hawaiians. But when it comes to a $150 million loan to its neighbors at Pillowtex -- a company with a century of economic roots near BofA's Charlotte, N.C. headquarters -- the story is different.

Pillowtex makes many of the towels in our bathrooms and the sheets and pillows on our beds. So it was big news last month when the company announced it was closing its 16 plants and dismissing all of its workers after it missed a June payment to Bank of America's loan syndicate. But, unlike BofA, Pillowtex didn't get five years to make good -- it got about five weeks. The bank called in the loan, helping to push Pillowtex into bankruptcy and throwing 6,450 people out of work. The "higher standards" that BofA touts in its new ads seem to be, in reality, double standards.

Two decades ago, many Pillowtex workers saw their retirement benefits drastically cut when David Murdock raided their pension fund to help him acquire Castle & Cooke and our island of Lanai. Money taken from them was used to buy an island taken from us. Lanai is now marketed as the "private isle," which means that affluent tourists are coveted, but Hawaiians are less than welcome.

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau spends tens of millions of dollars each year to promote Hawaii as "the islands of aloha." Many have come to think of aloha as just smiling Hawaiians giving out leis and playing ukulele. But the meaning of aloha goes deeper. Aloha is about love, sharing and making things right, or pono. These are our higher standards, these are our Hawaiian standards.

We kupuna have watched our people lose much and have felt this loss in our gut. We can understand the gut-wrenching feeling the Pillowtex workers must be experiencing since they lost their jobs.

Our aloha goes out to the Pillowtex workers, and we say "stand fast -- onipaa!" In the spirit of true aloha, we wish to invest the balance of Bank of America's $150 million commitment to us in you, to help you take back your company and reclaim your jobs. We simply ask that the bank pay the "late fee" it owes us, based on a formula agreed upon in 1998. Then we, as kupuna, will use these funds to establish a Hawaiian trust bank and reclaim our people's economic independence.

We invite the workers of Pillowtex to join with us to imua -- move forward -- in helping Bank of America do the right thing, and in showing the world the true meaning of aloha.

Kahilihiwa Kipapa is a Hawaiian kupuna. She represents Na Kupuna o Maui, the nation of Hawaii, a group of more than 100 Hawaiian elders.


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