Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye, a decorated World War Two veteran who lost an arm in battle and represented Hawaii in Congress since its statehood more than a half century ago, died on Monday at age 88.
Inouye, who was chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and was known as a strong supporter of Israel, died of complications from a respiratory illness, his office said in a statement.
“Aloha” was the last word he spoke, the statement said.
The son of a Japanese immigrant father and a Hawaii-born mother whose parents came from Japan, Inouye and his family were declared “enemy aliens” by the U.S. government at the outbreak of World War Two. Inouye would later rise to become the highest-ranking elected Asian-American official in U.S. politics.
During a political career spanning seven decades, he gained national attention on the Senate Watergate Committee and as chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee during the 1970s.
He was also chairman of a special panel that investigated the Iran-Contra affair - involving secret U.S. support of anti-Communist Nicaraguan rebels with illegal sales of missiles to Iran - during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s.
At the time, he criticized what he called a “shadowy government with … the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself.”
“Senator Inouye deeply understood the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, worked tirelessly and effectively to ensure that America’s ally, Israel, had the necessary resources to defend her people,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement, JTA reported. “He will be missed by all who appreciated his many decades of leadership in strengthening the ties between America and Israel.”