Hand Over The Toothpaste And Nobody Gets Hurt...
— © Frank Clarke, August 2006.
Editorialists and opinion-makers are bruiting that we must not let the terrorists shut down our economy; we must all do our part and keep flying, regardless how inconvenient, dangerous, or degrading. This is just more of the "sacrifice some liberty for security" nonsense that we have heard so much of in the years since 9-11-2001, and it makes no more sense now than it ever did. Here's the St Petersburg Times in an August 12th editorial: "The terrorists want to take lives but also to damage the US economy. Inconvenience at the airport is a small price to pay to help stop them." What utter nonsense!
Firstly, if large numbers of people gave up flying, the economy-as-a-whole would not even notice. For the Times to suggest that it would "damage the economy" assumes that the dollars which were not spent buying airline tickets would simply evaporate. In reality, those dollars would quickly find another home: a new car or a health club membership, perhaps. The Times is actually saying that the airlines' economy would be damaged, and is probably gearing up to lobby Congress for another bail-out, thus transferring the risk from the airlines' stockholders to — why, to you taxpayers, of course! I'll bet you didn't realize you had a stake in the health of the US air transport industry, did you?
Secondly, terrorists are opportunists; they strike where we are not prepared. The only way to ensure there is not a terrorist attack is to provide no opportunity for an attack. That can only happen in a police state where everything that is not forbidden is mandatory. At that point, the terrorists have won because this will no longer be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave (if it still is). We would only move in that direction in response to 'wins' by the terrorists — something at which they seem to be having remarkable success. Amid all the hoopla, there is an uncomfortable sense that we're not doing something right, or perhaps we're doing something wrong.
It's said that if you're asking the wrong questions all the answers will be irrelevant. Welcome to the War on Terrorism, the western hemisphere's source for wrong questions.
Every political/social problem we have ever encountered has had both a short-term aspect and a long-term aspect. Like any medical problem, treating the symptom without treating the cause guarantees only that the problem will recur. Taking away our toothpaste at the airport is "treating the symptom". We will see new "problems" arising in a few months or years, and these will be followed by additional draconian restrictions on the flying public. This is an easy prediction. If history doesn't repeat itself, it at least rhymes, and we can look to the recent past to see that this has been exactly the reaction of TSA, called by CNN "the burger-flippers of airport security".
OK, I hear you ask, what is the solution? We have to ask, first, why terrorists are targeting us. How can we do that? Well, we can ask our own government: they'll tell us that the terrorists hate us because we're so good and we're so free. We can ask Osama bin Laden: he's on record as saying we are being targeted because we have American soldiers in Saudi Arabia and (as a matter of fact) throughout the Middle East. Who shall we believe? Shall we believe our own government which gathers more power to its bosom with every terrorist act, or shall we believe ObL?
If we believe our own government, we will continue treating the symptom (as we always do) and losing to those opportunistic terrorists and losing more and more freedom until some day in the future we shall all be slaves to the bureaucracy. There are some, possibly even some on the St Pete Times' editorial board, who would consider that a good thing. Certainly, the bureaucrats think it's a swell idea.
If we believe Osama bin Laden, we might consider removing our troops from places where they're not welcome. Would that be enough to halt the terrorists' attacks on us? Maybe ObL was lying, and alQaeda will continue its terrorism even if we do pull our troops out of the Middle East. Maybe they really hate us because we exhibit male-pattern baldness and "troops in Muslim holy places" is just a scam to keep us off balance.
If they really hate us because so many of us have blue eyes or our men get thin on top, they must realize there's not much we're going to be able to do about that, so why would they even bother telling us what it is about us they don't like? No, they told us what they don't like about us because they want us to stop doing those things — in this case, stationing troops on their land.
Oh, yes, they also said they're upset with us giving Israel $6.8-million/day. Our government gives Israel that money because it's against the law for you and me to do it. How cool is that? A government which derives its just powers "from the consent of the governed" now tells us, the governed, what we can and can't do with our own money! Funny, I can't recall OK'ing that, can you? Actually, I can't recall OK'ing giving Israel $6.8-million/day, either.
But we can't "give in to the terrorists' demands", can we? That would be inviting them to make more demands, wouldn't it? It depends on how serious alQaeda is about getting US troops out of the Middle East, because we can roll troops back in lots faster than we can roll them out. Osama has to know that. No, if he's really serious about having Saudi Arabia free of "corrupting western influences", he's going to have to make sure we see a positive benefit to not having troops there. But don't worry; it's not going to happen; the Pentagon doesn't want Mr. and Mrs. America to get used to the idea of having their sons and daughters stationed where they can get home every third- or fourth-weekend. It might give them the wrong impression — that their sons and daughters are actually 'theirs'.
Instead, we'll send our soldiers overseas, leaving "homeland security" (isn't that the Army's job?) to minimum-wage workers with GEDs. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Not.
And all of this is happening just a few days before the planned release of a new book by former Governor Tom Kean and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, titled "Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission". Kean and Hamilton will relate that the 9/11 Commission knew the 9/11 attacks were primarily motivated by (surprise!) the US military presence in the Middle East and the US support of Israel — and that the commission whitewashed US foreign policy rather than upset the powers-that-be.
So, our government lies to us, our children get killed in places they shouldn't be, and we'll soon be flying naked and anesthetized in a cargo container "for our own safety", yet some reading this will mutter "Traitor!" under their breath and redouble their committment to a failed policy because it's important to "stay the course".
Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?
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