You are not alone if you think it is odd that we are killing Muslims in Afghanistan, but are afraid to profile Muslims in airport security.
President Bush has won the war against the Taliban, but his transportation chief has taken the bloom off the victory by making air travelers feel like criminals in their own country. DOT Secretary Norm Mineta, a Clinton-era holdover, has made a trip to the airport more painful than a trip to the dentist.
All over the country American citizens, who fit no terrorist profile, are being patted down in long airport security lines, their luggage rifled. Young mothers with children, elderly couples, even flight attendants and pilots are searched.
It is mindless and pointless. If an airline pilot wants to hijack his airliner, he doesn't need a weapon. The detailed hand searches of carryon luggage are useless. Any bombs will be in the checked baggage, which is subject to no search whatsoever.
Recently, at LaGuardia in New York, an airport security person, who could not speak English, delighted in redundantly wand-searching everyone as they stepped through the metal detector, subjecting passengers to long waits to clear “security” and causing missed flights.
In Panama City, FL, you can no longer approach the airport or parking lot without having your car searched. A formerly friendly small town waiting room with three gates is now “under security.” The other night an elderly lady, about 80, wandered across the “ticketed only” line and was pounced on by guards shouting, “this is a security area!”
The numerous guards have nothing to do. They are bored, dying for action and becoming progressively more officious and rude by the day. President Bush has no idea how much damage Mr. Mineta is doing him and the airlines.
It is time for Mineta to go. Of Japanese descent, his judgment is colored by the precautionary internment of Japanese following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Instead of profiling young Muslim males, he is profiling everyone else.
Experts say that airport security as currently practiced is cosmetic only. The purpose is to reassure passengers that they are safe. But the message being received is not reassuring: “you are regarded by your government as a potential terrorist who will hijack an airliner and crash it into a building.”
The expansive definition of terrorist suspect–all passengers–is the kind of overreaction that causes nervousness. We see similar overreaction in the response to John Walker Lindh.
Conservatives on a roll are calling for “Taliban John” to be tried for treason and executed. John Lindh, a convert to Islam, was fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance. The Taliban were trying to use the authority of Islam to unify the Afghan tribes. They were not involved in the terrorist attack on the U.S.
Taliban John's problem is not treason. He is ashamed, or, more likely, afraid of being white. He learned from mainstream university culture that to be white is to be evil, hegemonic, racist, sexist, homophobic, exploitative, oppressive. Unsettled by the demonization of whites and the future that demonization implies, he opted out and became a Muslim.
Fear of being white is a new but growing malady. Rachel Toor, an admissions officer at Duke University, wrote in her recently published book that she is “ashamed of her whiteness.”
Extreme racist criticism of whites as the font of all evil has made many younger whites uneasy with their skin color. In a cafe recently, I overheard two young women giving a third fits for hanging out with minorities. Forced to explain herself, she said that she didn't want to have white children.
If we need the catharsis of shooting someone for treason, charges should be brought against Hanoi Jane Fonda or Weather Underground terrorists Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.
The American public responded to Ms. Fonda's treason by flocking to her movies and purchasing her exercise videos. Mr. Ayers was rewarded with a professorship at the University of Illinois. Ms. Dohrn runs the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University. It somehow doesn't seem just to shoot John Walker Lindh.
Paul Craig Roberts is the author (with Lawrence M. Stratton) of The New Color Line : How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy
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