Bombs away ... at last

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2001

This editorial appeared in Friday's Los Angeles Times:

For at least two years the people of Puerto Rico have tried everything from begging to protesting to make the U.S. government stop the Navy's 60-year-long bombardment of Vieques, a small island nearby. The Navy's response has always been that there's no other place on Earth as good as Vieques for simulating land, sea and air battles with inert bombs.

Thursday, in Goteborg, Sweden, President Bush said the Navy will find somewhere else to conduct its exercises. The pullout will occur before May 2003, according to defense officials.

The Navy calls Vieques the "crown jewel" of its Atlantic training sites, mainly because it can conduct maneuvers there without interference from civilian ships or aircraft. However, the site's value is now undermined by the protesters' determination to continue demonstrations to obstruct the Navy's exercises.

Training exercises are critical to the defense of the entire United States -- including Puerto Rico. But the Navy needs to find a new site -- and if it can find one sooner than 2003, so much the better.

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