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.
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.
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