No Second Chances

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, 10-5-03
This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is dead. The United States is closing its embassy in Ryadh for three days and other countries are performing similar gestures of tribute.

Fahd rolled the dice with the U.S. in the early nineties when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He found himself with a madman at his backdoor and by allowing a half million U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia, he insured that Saddam's adventurism would be shut down. I was in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. I spoke with flyer after flyer who went on missions to blow up the Iraqi strongholds and cut off their supply lines. Brave guys. Noble stuff.

At night I would head back to my comfortable hotel in Daharan and watch the rich you Saudis cruise up and down the gulf-side boulevard in their very expensive cars.

I couldn't help but think, "Our guys are fighting for these guys?"

Except for the royal family and the Saudi Oil Company, I never got over the nagging feeling that we really weren't welcome here.

The war was won. The free world got its oil back and not so many years later, a bunch of Saudis flew air planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Fahd and his family made some really bad choices along the way. All that money, all that decadence and all that guilt led them to try to placate the religious right -- with support from jihadists like Ossama Bin Laden.

After the fact, Fahd had bunches of radical clerics fired, but Saudi Arabia has its own terrorists now. And while the gas keeps flowing, I wonder how many choices he'd like to have over again. Us too.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.
By Harry Smith