Leis and Lies: Why Hawaii & Iraq are Birds of a Feather

A group of wealthy industrialists conspiring to topple a nation’s government for their own selfish interests is hardly surprising. Given the “corporate sponsorship” of the current presidential administration as well as Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton, it’s clear that companies such as Enron work best when they call the shots in the White House.

The current situation in Iraq is one example. Hawaii, our supposed 50th state, is another.

The story of how Hawaii was overthrown and passed to the American government like a two-dollar whore is one of the saddest ongoing acts in modern U.S. history. Hawaiian independence is something few Americans know little about because the truth is disturbing, and most would prefer to keep Hawaii’s image one of tourism, of hula dances and coconut milk.

The fact is, however, that Hawaii is not legally a state and never has been. It was conquered clandestinely by a group of sugar peddlers looking to eliminate their export tariff, and passed into America’s hands illegally. That problem has never been rectified.

It’s time to change that.

In the 19th century, Hawaii’s importance was twofold — a warm humid climate allowed vast sugar plantations to corner the market, and its location in the Pacific allowed friendly nations to maintain a naval advantage in the region. However, as Hawaii was a recognized sovereign nation under its own right (a sentiment echoed by the United States in 1826), American businessmen found themselves paying to import their goods to North America. A shadow organization called the Hawaiian League was set up by lawyer Lorrin Thurston with the goal of eliminating the tariffs¬¶ which meant controlling the tiny kingdom.

Hawaiian king Kalakaua — an elected monarch, not a hereditary ruler — was forced by this minority into signing what is known as the Bayonet Constitution (literally signed at gunpoint), which installed League members to the Cabinet, affording them all power and forcing the king into a figurehead position. This group of 400 men then restricted the ability to vote to all but the wealthiest people on the islands, a limitation that coincidentally robbed most natives of the right of self-government.

When Kalakaua died and his sister Lili’uokalani’ assumed the throne, Thurston formed an Annexation Club with the express purpose of overthrowing the queen and installing Americans in power. As if the idea of a group of rich white guys taking over a country wasn’t disturbing enough, Thurston’s communiqués with Washington, D.C. found support from no less than President Benjamin Harrison. “You will find an exceedingly sympathetic administration here,” Harrison wrote to Thurston.

Lili’uokalani’ attemped to revoke the restrictive constitution put in play by the Hawaiian League Cabinet members, which in a bitterly ironic move they condemned as fostering “a revolutionary act.” Thurston then called upon American minister (and avowed annexationist) John Stevens to unload American troops illegally from the warship USS Boston, then in port, to quell any dissent and prop up a new provisional government. In doing so, Stevens approved the American invasion of a foreign nation, an act of war by any other name. To further the point of the illegal nature of the operation, Stevens had no authority to order troops anywhere!

With the queen under the control of the provision authority, Sanford Dole (of the Dole Pineapple dynasty) took over the duties of ushering annexation legislation to the U.S. government. Grover Cleveland’s personal attempts to restore Lili’uokalani’ to her throne met with failure, and his eloquent speeches to Congress declaring “military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu was of itself an act of war” only halted proceedings successor William McKinley took office. Two attempts by the people of Hawaii to restore their rightful government met only with death and fines for the insurgents.

29,000 native Hawaiians signed petitions denouncing annexation. They were never seen by the Senate, the issue never put to a popular vote. Even though Congress had no legal authority to do so (having no legal standing in a foreign country, which is what Hawaii was, even under the provisional government), it took possession of the tiny kingdom in 1898. The will of the people had been overturned by the interests of profit and strategic military operations.

Sixty-one years later, Hawaiian was a non self-governing territory under Article 73 of the United Nations charter. Under the charter, such territories were to be given three options for governance — remain a territory, become part of its trustee nation (a state in the U.S.) or become independent. Hawaii’s vote was missing the third option in 1959, again denying the people the chance to self-govern.

The UN stated that Hawaii’s statehood is in violation of its charter. The United States Justice Department has confirmed that Hawaii’s 1898 annexation wasn’t under the authority of Congress and is therefore illegal. The United States government even signed into law Public Law 103-150 acknowledging not only its illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian government but that Hawaiians never surrendered their sovereignty.

Hawaii is, by the United States’ own admission, an independent nation. So why hasn’t the federal government given Hawaiians the chance to choose for once and for all the fate of the islands? Granted, in the more than one hundred years since the annexation the ethnic heritage of Hawaii has been diluted, and those who live there may overwhelmingly support the option to legally become a state. So why not allow a vote? Is status quo so important? Justice delayed is justice denied.

Looking at the “provisional authority” in Iraq, it’s fairly obvious that the United States doesn’t want to take any chances. It certainly won’t with a state that brings in major tourism revenues. After all, how big of a black eye would it be on the international scene to have a state leave the union?

Organizations like the Nation of Hawaii have been promoting the idea of Hawaiian independence for years. As one of the most culturally rich and diverse regions in the world, it’s important to let our own citizens chart their own path.

Will the United States grant more rights in the end to war-torn Iraq than to a nation that has literally spent two centuries bending over backwards for American interests?

Let Hawaii decide its own fate, lest we show what hypocrites we really are.