Bombs and Baloney


The news is full of little else than the foiled terrorist plot to blow up a number of airliners in midair. Every official who can possibly justify it is popping up before the cameras with something to say, including, of course, the president.

Does Mr. Bush ever consider that, perhaps, he has become so accustomed to glib platitudes that he has actually come to believe them? I just saw him emerge from Air Force One and tell us, with appropriate solemnity, that Islamo-fascists (as distinct from Red-State-fascists?) are again trying to destroy us because we are free. Wake up, George! If they are trying to destroy us, it has nothing to do with our nominal freedom, but the fact that we are supplying Israel with the bombs, napalm, missiles, etc., with which they are destroying Lebanon, as we have destroyed Iraq, and occupied Afghanistan. If they are trying to destroy us, it just might be because we ARE destroying them! At some point, wouldn’t it be appropriate to consider that?

Of course, the terrorist destruction referred to is that of six, or ten, airliners, mostly, but not necessarily exclusively, American. Details are sketchy. But is that the plot? Quite possibly. But maybe the plot is simply to inconvenience as many people as possible for as long as possible. That can be done with virtually no effort or expense on the part of the terrorists, and the cost, to the U.S. and Britain, must be staggering. Reports are that 400,000 people have had their travel plans disrupted by this plot. More precisely, they have had their travel plans disrupted by the reaction to the plot!

In that regard, consider the statements of New York’s Mayor Bloomberg. In his TV appearance he assured us that the way to defeat terrorism is to be brave. He urged that we not let the terrorists disrupt our way of life, but continue going on about our business as always. But obviously, the 400,000 people whose travels have been disrupted cannot go about business as usual, and the people in the Mayor’s town of New York planning to travel to London — or even within the United States — will be subjected to delays and inconveniences. They cannot go about business as usual, despite their Mayor’s exhortation.

Are these increased security measures accomplishing anything? Absolutely! They are increasing the demand for ever-increased security, which means ever-decreased personal freedom. They may succeed in pushing financially strapped airlines into bankruptcy, to be taken over by the government. Combined with high gasoline prices, travel restrictions may have the effect of keeping Americans at home, or close to it. They will serve to justify the need for personal ID to be carried at all times. They encourage observation of anyone looking remotely foreign, or suspicious; and that could mean almost anyone.

Who benefits from all this? The terrorists? Yes, to the extent that their aim is to disrupt our lives as much as possible. Even more directly and immediately, however, that organization benefits which is dedicated to regulating, limiting, and controlling society: government. Indeed, to govern is defined as controlling, limiting, and regulating.

Isn’t it interesting that, only days before the frustrated terrorist attack, eleven Egyptian students arrived in this country and promptly disappeared? Here are foreigners — Muslims, yet — who got off an airplane and, at least for a while, vanished. For some reason, the disappearance of these young men didn’t result in TV appearances by local officials warning of an "Islamo-fascist" threat. So much for security!

When a single phone call to authorities revealing a nefarious plot, or a single leaked message, or suspicious email, can put an entire country on alert, and disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, at a cost of many millions of dollars, terrorism is winning the war. Is the challenge to our freedom any greater when it comes from well-groomed Americans spouting banalities?

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.