Flawed constitution
better than Iraq war


Iraqi factions have failed to reach a consensus on a new constitution.

UNABLE to reach a consensus on a new constitution, Iraqi negotiators will punt the draft document to voters. The proposal falls short of what President Bush had wanted, but he has lowered his goals in response to increased pressure to bring American troops home. Ratification of the draft, flawed as it is, would be preferable to prolonged U.S. military involvement.

The president had envisioned a secular democracy in a secure and economically stable Iraq protecting the rights of minorities and women -- a beacon for other countries in the Middle East. The draft constitution falls far short of those objectives.

Under the draft, Islam would be the "official religion" of Iraq and "a main source" -- many Shiite conservatives had wanted it to be "the" source -- of law. It would prohibit any law that "contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam."

Those rules, contained in the Koran, ban alcohol, require women to cover their faces and call for amputation of a hand for anyone convicted of theft. Some interpretations countenance stoning as a form of punishment. Federalism prescribed in the draft would establish powerful regions that could result in varying policies and Iraq's eventual breakup.

Shiites and Kurds agreed on the draft but the Sunnis, a minority, walked away from the bargaining table, despite Bush's last-minute plea for compromise. Some Shiites said the National Assembly had met its obligation when it completed the draft on Monday and it could go to the voters in a referendum scheduled Oct. 15. A simple majority could ratify the document, but two-thirds opposition in any three of the 18 provinces could defeat it.

Despite the document's shortcomings, it may find acceptance by both Iraqi voters and most Americans, not as a lasting constitution but as a way to end the bloodshed.


Lyon Arboretum’s
potential untapped


State legislators toured the Manoa facility and questioned why it was allowed to fall into disrepair.

DIRTY slippers on the back porch" is how a state senator describes the shameful condition of Lyon Arboretum, a facility that has great potential for research and education if properly managed.

Until the University of Hawaii, which oversees the arboretum, shows a genuine interest in making good use of the valuable land, greenhouses and plant collections, legislators should not send more taxpayer dollars there.

In addition, when the university submits its report on how it plans to better manage the facility it has treated with indifference for decades, lawmakers should assess whether UH is the best agency to operate the arboretum.

The arboretum, established in 1918 and conveyed to the university in 1953, was closed last year for health and safety reasons. Though it reopened to the public in January, parts still remain shuttered and tours for children are limited.

The state Legislature authorized $3 million in construction bonds to fix deteriorated buildings, some of them wooden cottages badly damaged by termites and age, but lawmakers want to know what the money will buy. On a tour earlier this week, Sen. Norman Sakamoto noted that the arboretum had been treated "like dirty slippers" when "it should be like new shoes on the front porch."

The 197-acre arboretum in the back of Manoa Valley holds about 15,000 plants and is used to research and propagate native and endangered species and to provide educational services. However, according to a state audit last year, the university's apathetic management had allowed arboretum staff and an affiliated organization free rein to control operations.

UH officials should be candid about whether they consider the facility suitable or desirable for remaining under their authority. If not, lawmakers should find another agency to steer the arboretum appropriately.

Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes
the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek
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David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
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Dennis Francis, Publisher Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor
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(808) 529-4791
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(808) 529-4768

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(808) 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

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