A couple of days ago I was flying back to the U.S. from a (probably once in a lifetime) trip to France. My ticket was stamped SSS which is not, as I’d have expected, Super Secret Squirrel, but Securite Special something or other. My long-vanished French doesn’t allow me to decipher the original French leading to the acronym.
This meant a talk with a jolly, happy-sounding security guy who you’d think was just an airport flunky until you actually saw his badge which was discreet and out of the way. He reminded me of the scene in Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters when the main character is given a security once-over without noticing: he joked about speaking French, said my accent didn’t sound Portuguese (true. The mid-range hearing loss and years of English-speaking come in), and asked about places in Portugal without seeming to.
So far so good, and I was mildly impressed. I’ve long maintained that what we actually need is this sort of understated, low-grade examination of travelers.
I’ll gloss over the fact that as we went through the metal detector, we were pulled out for what seemed to be an unrelated random search – my husband and I and half a dozen assorted people – creating a clusterflop of insanity and displaced bags that were actually unattended for several minutes. That is not relevant.
It is relevant, though, that I thought I was done with the enhanced part of security, though the gentleman from security said I might be required to turn on my computer going through the line. Fine.
But then, after the metal detector and all, I was pulled into another line, which was apparently the “real and for truth” enhanced security examination.
This is when I realized I had fallen into a bad science fiction story of an alternate reality where Islam was attacked by everyone else, by acts of terrorism involving airplanes, and was doing its best to defend itself.
The line was long and seemed predominantly people over 60, though the Swedish-looking lady ahead of me might have been my age or thereabouts. And the Buddhist monk in full regalia standing between us was probably in his thirties. Also, he was rather obviously of Asian extraction.
And the line moved incredibly slowly, mostly because the people running the enhanced security spoke broken, accented French, seemed to have no clue what they were actually doing, and also seemed to be marking time more than anything else.
They were also all obviously, clearly, of Middle Eastern origin. The name tags confirmed Muslim names, but the accents and look had already announced it.
Note that going through security with us were several Middle Eastern families, with women attired in everything from chador to full burka. There were also young men clutching Middle Eastern passports.
Right now, I know some of you are writhing in discomfort and thoughts of “racist” are going through your heads. I know it because they went through mine too while writing it. And nonetheless, I wrote it, because it needed to be done.
I don’t remember the number of attempted terror attacks since 9/11, or even the number of successful ones (mostly involving cars or knives and unarmed bystanders), but I do know for an absolute and undeniable fact that of those attacks 99.9% were performed by men of Middle Eastern extraction, subscribing to a fanatical form of Islam. Yes, there are one or two that were just “crazy guy with a knife.”
I guarantee, however, that all of the attempts on airplanes and airline safety – requiring more organization than a mere pulling out of a knife and going insane – are attempted by people of Middle Eastern extraction, following what they deem to be the dictates of Islam.
The “attempt to blow up the plane with baby bottle” that’s responsible for us having to put all our liquids in magic Ziplocs was by a Muslim couple. (Seriously, I know why the Ziploc, but security interprets this as a separate need, so the one time I had only one tube of the cream I use for eczema, they made me put it in a Ziploc before I could fly.) The one that now makes us all remove our shoes through security was a Muslim man. And I’m just grateful no extra security resulted from the guy who tried to blow up his underwear but failed because he hadn’t washed in weeks (and because the plane’s passengers counterattacked). Imagine sniffing cleanliness dogs.
What there hasn’t been, in the history of post-9/11 terror, which has made flying such a trial, is an airline terror attack by a Swedish grandmother, a Buddhist monk, or an excitable Latin novelist who also pens the occasional political column. And yet here we were being treated like suspects – look, this is France. It might be random, but they definitely treated us as suspicious scum – these Muslim immigrants who didn’t actually seem to mind if they made us miss our planes, and who seemed rather uncertain on aspects of modern life. For instance, while I wasn’t required to turn on my computer (they just rubbed the explosive detection thing all over it), the woman demanded in broken French that I turn on the little plastic lap desk I use for the laptop while traveling, and it took me quite a while to make her understand it was just a sliver of plastic, supposed to protect my knees from the heat of the laptop.
Pretend you are a time traveler, arriving at that security line from say the week before 9/11. What would you surmise from that display? Surely, in any rational world, it would mean we had selected the people most likely to pose a risk (even if with some randomization thrown in, since you couldn’t possibly examine everyone) and that the people examining us were the ones who were not in any way likely to commit terrorism, right? Because in a sane world that would be the only thing that could justify what you saw.
We don’t live in a sane world.
I understand the attempts not to profile, to an extent. It would make no sense, at any rate, to limit inspection of potential threats to only people of Middle Eastern origin or only Muslims. The Lockerbie flight was brought down by a bomb put in the luggage of a pregnant European woman, and Islam has converts of all colors and extractions. So, all right, some of the inspections would fall randomly on other people. But surely they should concentrate, of necessity, on the pool of likely suspects. At least one or two men of Middle Eastern extraction, between 18 and 45, would be examined. But despite their abundance in the boarding time/place I was in, there wasn’t a single one of them in enhanced security before or after me.
And surely, in a sane world, no country would entrust their security to recent immigrants from the pool of likely suspects, right? Surely no one had German immigrants hunting for Nazi spies in WWII, right?
This is not race. It is not profiling. It is sanity.
And yet, sixteen years after 9/11, here we were, in a European country where signaling virtue was more important than security, and where you could be excused for thinking Muslims were the only ones who had never attempted terror.
I’d like to say it’s not the same here, but I’ve been required to remove my shoes by TSA employees wearing face veils.
In the end, it comes down to this: as with the attempts to destroy the memory of 9/11, and erase our justified anger at it, our self-proclaimed elites would rather risk being blown to pieces than admit that there are threats to the West that come from people who originate from a different (and in their minds quaint and innocent) culture.
The “elites” across the West persist in this, though the self-abasement of the west is sure to be interpreted as surrender by the Muslim world; even though in the confines of their culture, the only thing they’ll understand, the only thing that will prevent them from attacking, the only thing that will in fact NOT generate more terrorists is forceful counterattack and treating them as responsible for policing their own community.
It’s as though their vision of the world and their oikophobia are more important to them than saving the civilization that has enabled them to exist.
Until we wake from this fretful dream, until we come back through the looking glass, there is no stopping either terrorism or the elites’ self-reflexive virtue-signaling.
They are, like the aristocrats before the French revolution, living in a shell of affluence and unearned superiority, not heeding the lessons of history.
This won’t end well. And everyone knows it but the policy makers.