Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

January 7, 2010

The underwear bomber and how I got profiled

Filed under: Politics,Terrorism — Tags: , — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:58 am

Note: A slightly different version of this appeared as the weekend op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record.

Well, 2009 sure went out with a bang.

On November 5, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, suffering from the hitherto-unknown “pre-traumatic stress syndrome,” shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and gunned down 13 fellow soldiers in Ft. Hood, Texas, including one pregnant woman.

President Obama urged Americans not to “jump to conclusions.”

On Christmas Day Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, driven mad by poverty, oppression, and having to live in a $4 million hovel in London, attempted to explode a bomb in his undershorts on a flight to Detroit.

Abdulmutallab was taken into custody, advised of his right to remain silent and provided with a lawyer, Miriam Siefer, who has some experience representing terrorists.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano crowed, “The system worked.”

President Obama, referring to “the incident,” called Abdulmutallab “the suspect” who “allegedly tried to detonate an explosive device,” and an “isolated extremist.”

Obama and Napolitano subsequently issued revised statements after polls allegedly showed an alarming number of Americans jumped to the conclusion they’re airheads.

Sorry. About the only pleasure I get in these terrible times is making fun of the sheer airheadedness that passes for public dialog on the subject of “man-caused disasters,” in Napolitano’s preferred phrase.

Listen, I understand a winning candidate has to pay off supporters with jobs. But does he have to put them in positions they are obviously incompetent for and expect them to actually work? In the Diplomatic Corps, ambassadors to cushy posts in Paris or London are figureheads, provided with an “assistant” who does the real work.

As much as Republicans would like to think otherwise, the nonsense didn’t start with this administration. After 9/11 George Bush created the absurd phrase “war on terror.”

Author Dan Simmons brilliantly asked, “What if after Dec. 7, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt had gone before congress and asked for a declaration of war – on Aviation?”

Terror is a tactic, not an enemy.

We are told by treating terrorists as criminal defendants we’re “upholding the rule of law.”

Since 1929 there has been a body of international law called “The Geneva Convention” which defines Abdulmutallab and his kind as “unprivileged combatants,” and says it’s just fine to try them by military commission and summarily execute them.

Some express alarm about a “backlash” against Muslims in America.

Since 2001 there have been (depending on definitions) as many as 60 foiled terrorist plots and successful terrorist incidents, resulting in more than 3,300 dead Americans. All perpetrated by individuals within a pretty specific demographic.

In the first five years following 9/11, Anya Cordell, founder of the Campaign for Collateral Compassion, counted eight “backlash” murders of Middle-Eastern men. To get that figure she had to count a convenience store owner working late at night, two unsolved murders, one involving a business dispute, and one who was dating his killer’s ex-girlfriend.

Hasan all by himself did worse than that in just one “incident” than 300 million Americans.
This doesn’t strike me as much of a backlash, but I sympathize. I was profiled once.

About six years ago as I got on a flight from Richmond, Virginia, to Lithuania, I was asked to step out of line, surrender my shoes (not standard practice then,) and was patted down.
The official very courteously apologized for the inconvenience.

I said, “Hey that’s OK. I’m the one getting on the plane.”

I wondered why I was singled out. Until it occurred to me a black-haired man, who tans pretty swarthy and has a nose some have been unkind enough to call large (and when Arabs tell you you have a big nose, you have to face it, you have a big nose,) whose name identifies an ethnic group which has produced its fair share of terrorists, and a bunch of Arabic stamps in his passport, might fairly arouse some suspicion.

Later a colleague asked, “Yeah, but how’d you like to get profiled all the time?”

“A heck of a lot better than I’d like being blown out of the sky,” I replied.

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