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The underwear bomber and airline 'safety'

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The news this Christmas day was alarming: another apparently al Qaida-connected terrorist tried to blow up a plane headed for Detroit. After further review, there are three deeper lessons we must learn from this incident.

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• Lesson 1: We are lucky. Thankfully, the plane landed safely and the passengers, other than the alleged bomber who concealed the explosive PETN in his underwear, were OK. We're lucky everyone was OK because of Lesson 2.

• Lesson 2: We are dumb. Well, at least our airport security is. The alleged bomber's father warned authorities of his son's extreme views and asked for help in locating him, because he was afraid of what he would do. That was enough to get the young man on a terrorist watch list, but apparently not enough to stop him from flying. Or from suspecting him when he bought a ticket to the U.S. with cash, a big terrorist warning sign. Or from stopping him from boarding, despite the fact he was wearing explosive undies.

We won't let a little old lady with a "World's #1 Grandma" T-shirt board planes to Tempe, Ariz., to visit grandkids with Pert shampoo in her carry-on, but Terrorist-Watch-List-Guy-With-Explosive-Undies qualifies for early boarding? We're fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan when we know the top terrorist countries are Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Those governments haven't done much to remedy that problem, so people who have connections to them should be singled out for greater scrutiny at airports. When they don't like it, they may put pressure on their governments to do something. See how that works? Creating consequences for countries that harbor bad actors might be a better plan than shaking down Grandma Pearl at LAX, especially when she's gone a whole 89 years without landing on any terrorist watch lists. Is this profiling? Yes. Is it politically correct? No. Is it fair? Maybe. Will it be far more effective in stopping terrorism? Absolutely yes.

Amazingly, since Sept. 11, the fact that we are dumb hasn't hurt us much, because of Lesson 3.

• Lesson 3: They are much, much dumber. We've had a shoe bomber and an underwear bomber, and neither have caused much harm. The level of sophistication has, in the 8 years since Sept. 11, actually gotten worse. Remember, on that fateful day, the terrorists accomplished their objectives -- or quite possibly far exceeded them -- by using box cutters. Box cutters! Since then, they haven't had much success within America's borders. To put it in perspective, more people have been killed by alligators during that time. To put it in more perspective, more people have been killed by falling coconuts. Maybe we should stop giving these guys so much credit. Is that the goal of terrorism? To make people afraid?

I'm not advocating giving up the fight against terrorism. But let's remember their jihad is less effective than coconuts. And let's just stop being dumb.

Let's find and kill Osama bin Laden, fix up Afghanistan and Iraq and hand them back to the locals, and then put the money we're putting into those wars into intelligence -- both the CIA kind and the kind that resides between our ears that we're supposed to occasionally exercise.

Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, the Pioneer Journal's editor and publisher.

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