Stay the course
but lower the goals


Rep. Ed Case said after visiting Iraq that he supports a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq as it forms a government.

INCREASING numbers of Americans believe it was a mistake for U.S. troops to invade Iraq more than two years ago, but they also understand that a rapid exit would be catastrophic. After returning from his fourth visit to Iraq, Rep. Ed Case reflected the opinion that America must, as President Bush puts it, stay the course. The question is how long Americans are willing to remain on course, and for what purpose.

By now, it is broadly conceded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Nor did he share with Osama bin Laden plans to attack America. He was a cruel dictator who killed thousands of his people, but he posed no imminent threat to the United States.

Iraq was not a training ground for terrorism, as was Afghanistan, but the U.S. invasion made it a magnet for terrorists. In a conference call with reporters upon his return to Washington, D.C., Case said the insurgency is comprised "not only of Saddam loyalists and religious extremists within Iraq, but by foreign suicide bombers and freedom fighters coordinated in many instances by al-Qaida members."

Case and most members of Congress are committed to supporting further U.S. military presence in Iraq as it goes through the stages of approving a constitution, holding elections and building Iraqi security forces to bring peace to the country. The goal is a pro-American, secular democracy.

"I came away with the belief we must push through this time in Iraq," Case said. "There is too much of a power void still in Iraq. To contemplate the consequences of a simple withdrawal by our forces and others, leaving Iraq where it is today, would be chaotic."

American troops in Iraq number about 140,000, and Case says it is unrealistic that the strength be reduced to 20,000 or less next year. The time to bring the troops home should be determined not by whether unrealistically lofty U.S. goals have been achieved but by when they can leave without creating chaos.


Clash over artifacts
should be settled


A federal judge has ordered the return of Hawaiian artifacts from a Big Island cave to the Bishop Museum.

FAILURE to arrive at a compromise in an unseemly tug of war over sacred Hawaiian artifacts reburied in a Big Island cave has resulted in a judge's decision that they be returned, at least temporarily, to the Bishop Museum. A settlement is possible while the ruling is on appeal and should be sought to avoid the possibility of federal marshals forcing compliance.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra, who has unblemished affinity for Hawaiian welfare, has ordered that 83 items, including several valuable stick figures of deified ancestors, a female figure adorned with human hair and refuse bowls studded with human teeth, be returned to the museum while their ultimate destination is resolved. That will be decided by the court, under terms of the 1991 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

A group of Hawaiians called Hui Malama I Na Kupuna 'I Neu obtained the items from the museum in February 2000. A document releasing the items called it a "loan" and stated that they would be returned to the museum a year later, but Hui Malama has refused to give them up.

La'akea Sugenuma, president of the Royal Hawaiian Academy of Traditional Arts, and a group founded by Abigail Kawananakoa, a Campbell Estate heiress who traces her ancestry to King Kalakaua, filed the lawsuit against Hui Malama and the museum, which supports the suit. The museum's directors recently recognized Kawananakoa's group as the 14th with rights to claim Hawaiian artifacts for repatriation.

Hui Malama cofounder Edward Halealoha Ayau, a lawyer who was on Senator Inouye's staff when he sponsored the 1991 legislation, left open the question of whether he will defy Ezra's order. "We do not have the stomach to take from our kupuna (ancestors)," he said.

Ezra vowed to "take such action as is necessary to ensure that my orders are complied with." That collision should be avoided if possible.

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