Failed Air Security is But One of Several Fiascos

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the Toronto Star

Failed Air Security is But One of Several Fiascos

There's a lot that remains unsaid despite all that has been said about the foiled terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound plane Christmas Day.

More than the experts, it's the public that quickly caught on to the essential truth, namely, that airline security has been a farce.

The tens of billions of dollars spent only allowed politicians to put on the theatrics of action, bureaucrats to build empires, and newly minted security companies to make huge profits - without perceptibly improving safety.

The shoes on your feet and the tiny tube of cream in your bag may be allowed at one gate but not the other of the same terminal at the same hour. Terrorists' bomb powder may get through but granny's skin lotion must be confiscated.

The watch list of 560,000 names does not stop potential terrorists but flags and strands law-abiding citizens whose names vaguely resemble someone else's. Or because different states, or agencies within a state, don't talk to each other, nor do their databases, even when the concerned father of a radicalized young man alerts the Americans.

When disasters have been averted, they've been by sheer luck and the heroism of passengers/crews.

Whenever the system has been shown to have failed, it has been ramped up with more of the same, and passengers harassed ever more. This is the inevitable outcome of how, post-9/11, we let ourselves be pushed into fear and panic, manipulated by vested political and business interests, and rendered essentially helpless and incapable of seeing the big picture.

The airline security failure is but one fiasco among many.

Nine years, $1.3 trillion and two wars and many miniwars later, we have more terrorism than before.

There are several sub-scandals.

Just as millions of passengers have been the chief victims of travel security, it's the civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere who've been made to pay the biggest price.

Here, we are harassed. There, they are killed, maimed and displaced, by the tens of thousands.

What is it about our modern states that makes them so incompetent, destructive and self-defeating? To cover up their colossal failures, we have been fed a series of clichés and false theories.

Suicide bombers were spurred on by Islam's promise of virgins in Paradise, we were told. That line lasted only until the ascent of women bombers, especially in Chechnya, who had no such sexual favours to anticipate in heaven.

Terrorists were said to be inspired by Saudi Wahhabism. That theory was buried when Saudi Arabia proved more ruthless in crushing Al Qaeda than anyone else. (The explosive smuggled aboard the Detroit-bound plane was the same used in a recent failed assassination attempt on a Saudi deputy minister targeting Al Qaeda.)

It was the madrassahs - especially in poor and failed/failing states of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria - that were breeding terrorists. Except that, of late, terrorists have been coming out of the public schools of Canada, the U.S. and Europe. And the U.S. Army, as in Fort Hood, Tex.

Many are worldly, wealthy and educated. Black, brown and white. Asian, African or Western. Immigrant or local born/bred.

Like the friendly murderer from the neighbourhood who leaves everyone baffled, these men shocked acquaintances and also their parents, some of whom tipped off the authorities (as in the case of five American wannabe jihadists who recently turned up in Pakistan).

Ah, but they are all Muslims, born in the faith or converts. Bingo! Islam has failed to come to grips with modernity. Except that the militants are maintaining websites and recruiting on You Tube.

It's "radical Islam" that we must snuff out. Ergo, every Muslim must be like Irshad Manji. That would do it.

As stupid as all this is, it is clever.

It keeps us away from linking the spreading Muslim militancy to the wars being waged on Muslims; Muslim/Arab lands and peoples being occupied and oppressed, directly or through puppet regimes; and Muslims being subjected to blatant double standards as well as cultural warfare, every day. But few in power want to hear that because that would entail challenging the edifice of the American empire and its many beneficiaries.

Haroon Siddiqui

Haroon Siddiqui is the Toronto Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears on Thursday and Sunday (hsiddiq@thestar.ca).

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