Presidential Action Urgently Needed

Scripps-Howard News Service 8.06.02
Balint Vazsonyi

As everyone who flies is aware, an assault is being waged on Americans every minute of every hour of every day at the nation's airports. On the same day, we have heard of yet another outrage from Grand Rapids (Mich.): the bestialization of a double-mastectomy patient, and former senator George McGovern - "I'll-beg-the-Vietnamese-on-my-knees-for-peace" George McGovern - declaring that even he's had it with airport "security." The situation is no longer tolerable.

For all intents and purposes, we are displaying the following notice at every one of our airports:

"If you choose to enter this building, you will be suspected of attempting to smuggle weapons capable of inflicting serious bodily harm or death, and of plotting to cause material damage to these United States as well as potentially fatal injury to its citizens. Federal authorities have determined to place you under suspicion because 19 Arab Muslims, having so plotted for years, and having executed their plans with no interference whatsoever by U.S. authorities, succeeded in what you now stand accused of planning to do. You have to be cleared of the above charges prior to proceeding to a gate area."

Spine chilling?

In the aftermath of 9/11, with bloody tales of box cutters and plastic knives, it was understandable that we focused on the "what." But the decisive component isn't "what" - it's "who." In other words, were I to take along an entire kitchen drawer, in and of itself that would pose no threat to the flight.

"If only all criminals would look like criminals, the police would have an easy job."


Actor James Woods told America on "Larry King Live" that he had no problem identifying potential highjackers a year ago when, about a month before 9/11, they were on his flight as a sort-of dress rehearsal. While no one suggests that every atrocity in history has been committed by young Arab/Muslim males, persons with normal brains realize that, for several decades now, a pattern of terror in the skies, and terror on land and sea, has been visited upon the world by them.

And they make no secret of it. S. Mohammad Karim, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is a member of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote to me: "We must expose the Islamophobic bigotry that apparently surrounds us, and thereafter punish it collectively."

CAIR received a copy from Mohammad Karim, but has yet to indicate a desire to distance itself from this threat.

Not "what" - "who."

We are not trying to avoid being set upon by the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, or the storm troops of Hitler's Third Reich. We are trying to avoid being murdered by young Arab/Muslim men. No one else is currently threatening the safety of our skies. If and when they do, we can respond.

And if Arabs/Muslims don't like being singled out, they can stop doing it, stop inciting others to do it, and stop financing it. Only they can decide to stop. The lady with double mastectomy can't. Meanwhile, Arab/Muslim Americans could earn special respect by volunteering to take the brunt of the security-related delays and indignities.

But the situation is intolerable. Something has to be done now.

One's gut reaction is to call Governor John Engler of Michigan for a start, and ask him to replace the entire Grand Rapids security staff forthwith. However vile, though, that would be just one problem solved.

Then I thought of contacting Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. But his entire career was built on extracting compensation for Japanese Americans. I cannot rid myself of the - strictly personal - suspicion that deep down he resents America and Americans altogether.

Last week, Joseph Perkins made some recommendations on these pages, expressing hope that Admiral James Loy, recently appointed to assume responsibility for the also recently established Transportation Security Administration, will do a better job than his fired predecessor.

Perhaps. But I believe this one is for our president to fix.

We all trust that President Bush is slowly but surely, albeit secretly, punishing those who have inflicted upon us the worst day this nation ever endured. We all trust that some day, a modicum of satisfaction will be ours as we find out how the appropriate people have been divested of their fortunes, their training camps, their revenues, their lives.

Where we do observe punishment, though - every minute of every hour of every day - is in our own lives, that is, if we need to avail ourselves of what used to be the fastest means of transportation. And it's kind of tough to be standing with your arms and legs spread, shoes off, pockets emptied, hand luggage ransacked - all for the third time in a space of twenty minutes - and glance up to the television monitor showing the President of the United States surrounded (yet again) by some two dozen imams and Saudi princes, all basking in the warm hospitality of the White House.

As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it is not unreasonable to ask our leader for a present to the nation. An appropriate gesture would be to say, "you have suffered enough for the sins you and your ancestors have committed according to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, and the Reverend Jerry Falwell. As of September 12, 2002, we will change the terms."

I believe George W. Bush is a thoroughly decent man. But he needs to pay more attention to the monster created on his watch. The haphazard hodgepodge instituted over the past year is threatening to become permanent through benign neglect. An army of certified morons has been unleashed on women recovering from double mastectomy and everyone who wears shoes. Most importantly, no sane person believes for one second that any of this is relevant to security in our skies.

Americans have been, and remain, willing to undergo delays and indignities, so long as the process makes sense. Currently, it amounts to nonsense. Insulting nonsense. And there is a good reason why the president, and the president alone, can fix a mess of such astronomic proportions.

As one of his distinguished predecessors taught us all, the buck stops there.

Even during the August vacation.