Tuesday, July 2, 1996

Why wasn't housing area
better protected?

A new security barrier is being erected at the U.S. military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where a terrorist bomb last week killed and wounded hundreds of armed services personnel. The new barrier is 400 feet from the complex; the one it replaces was only 100 feet away - not far enough to protect people from the huge blast.

Last November another explosion killed five Americans and two Indians in the Saudi capital at Riyadh. After that attack, Dhahran base officials identified measures needed to strengthen security, including moving the perimeter. The U.S. Air Force commander in Dhahran said Saudi officials twice refused to allow the barrier to be moved to 400 feet, which might have prevented the latest disaster.

Defense Secretary William Perry has appointed a commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the explosion. The defense secretary said he only learned on Saturday - four days after the attack - that the Saudis had turned down U.S. requests to widen the security perimeter. Perry said he expected the investigation to find answers to the question of exactly what U.S. officials had asked the Saudis to do.

In view of the first explosion and warnings that terrorists might retaliate for the execution of the perpetrators of the earlier attack, it is impossible to shrug off the failure of U.S. authorities to take effective action to protect the housing compound. If it develops that the Saudi officials were responsible, the Saudi government must be told that their actions were unacceptable, even at the risk of offending an important ally.

If American authorities were negligent in failing to insist on adequate precautions, those at fault should be punished. There should be no more absolving all concerned of fault, as occurred after the 1983 Marine barracks disaster in Lebanon. And steps must be taken to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Other editorials in brief:

Waikiki Natatorium

INTEREST is growing in restoring the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium. After decades of apathy and buck-passing between the city and state governments, it's encouraging to learn that something might happen to eliminate the crumbling eyesore and bring it back to its former glory.

The Star-Bulletin has encouraged the Friends of the Natatorium over the years but isn't committed to any specific plan. Whether it be a pool, an underwater observatory, a volleyball court or a park, each idea has some appeal. Any one of them would be a vast improvement over the present condition of the memorial, which is simply shameful and must end.

Savings and loans

HIGH interest rates and reckless investments in the early 1980s caused a crisis among the nation's savings and loan associations, which had been surviving on long-term, low-interest loans. Congress only made things worse by changing the rules. In doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that Congress breached its contract with the S&Ls, or thrifts, in which the government insures deposits. The ruling is a reminder for legislative bodies at all levels that changing a law to adversely affect companies that have agreements with government can be a breach of contract.

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Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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