Tuesday, November 10, 2009


David Frum thinks that the signals Major Nidal Hasan was sending could have taken a bit more seriously by the authorities. Fair enough. I'll give him some credit for keeping this on the level of the individual --

...the alternative to ethnic profiling is not declining to react to suspicious behavior by a Muslim person lest we somehow corroborate a stereotype. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Indeed, hardly any Muslims are terrorists. But when authorities begin to receive credible information that one particular Muslim might be dangerous -- especially if that person wears the uniform of the United States -- it beggars belief that they would hesitate to act.

-- unlike, say, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who wants all Muslims purged from the military, and Dave Gaubatz, author of the World Net Daily book Muslim Mafia, who calls for a "legal backlash" against American Muslims. (Almost forgot Pat Robertson, who says of Islam that we should "treat its adherences [sic] ... as we would members of the Communist Party or members of some fascist group.")

But I bring up Frum's comments for another reason: because he couches them in the language of personal victimization.

Can we stop taking our shoes off now? The Hasan revelations raise the unhappy thought that what we've been doing these past 8 years isn't security. It's security theater.

We thought there was a deal. The public would tolerate some admittedly dopey-looking procedures (walking through the metal detectors in stockinged feet) in the confidence that the authorities were doing the real work of identifying and surveilling the most dangerous threats to public safety.

Apparently not.

...Too bad Hasan didn't try to smuggle a bottle of water aboard an aircraft. Then of course they'd have thrown the book at him.

What is it about right-wing pundits -- or perhaps it's just right-wing pundits who used to be presidential speechwriters -- that gets them so exercised about airport security? Recall that Peggy Noonan once referred to security procedures at airports as "ritual abuse" and declared that pulling her -- Peggy Noonan -- out of line for extra scrutiny was "embarrassing the angels."

I'm not sure these folks resent being treated like potential terrorists so much as they resent being treated like us -- ordinary schmucks. Don't you know who I am? they seem to be saying. I put those pearls of wisdom in the mouth of the Leader of the Free World! How dare you treat me like a common peasant!

I don't fly much myself, but I don't see much resentment when I'm in an airport security line -- people hunker down and try to go through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible because coping with inconveniences is what we do all the time. We have jobs where we have no personal stake and have to do whatever people we don't respect tell us to do. We cope with long waiting lines and impenetrable phone trees. We're not masters of our own universe. We're not even honored guests. Nobody ever sends a car to pick us up and drive us to the TV studio or the Barnes & Noble, where issuing windy declarations of our opinions actually advances our careers. We just push papers or swing hammers or change bedpans for other people. No wonder Frum and Noonan don't want to feel they're anything like us.

You know who really does have a right to grumble if it turns out that the authorities were excessively cautious in responding to Major Hasan's provocative statements? Not Frum. Not Noonan. The wrongly imprisoned Gitmo detainees -- you know, the ones who were held for years because some bounty hunter or tribal enemy in Afghanistan turned them in on false charges. Or Maher Arar, the Canadian who was seized, rendered to Syria, imprisoned and tortured, all based on the mistaken belief that he was an associate of terrorists, a belief that may have been "confirmed" in part by a statement extracted by torture. America acted swiftly in response to false third-party statements in these cases. If authorities underreacted when Major Hasan himself essentially acknowledged Islamicist leanings, Maher Arar and other wrongly imprisoned detainees have a right to be PO'd -- in a way that Frum and Noonan will never understand while waiting in line at the airport.


UPDATE: Oops, my bad -- everyone hates this post.

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