19 December 2008


Andy Weddington
Friday, 19 December 2008

It takes four ounces of water to brew a cup of coffee or tea, brush your teeth, quench thirst, and…

“Bag Search” called the TSA’er manning the scanner. Well, let’s see…I left my pistol, sawed-off shotgun, and skinning knife at home. I recall stowing my pocketknife in my checked bag. I know I didn’t pack a hand grenade or any bomb-making materials. What could have possibly caused the pause, contorted-face scrutiny of the screener, and reverse of the conveyer belt for a closer look and consultation with a small gaggle of other TSA’ers all hemming and hawing over the scanned image? Ah, it must be the CPAP machine—the compact black box with air hose and mask to remedy sleep apnea certainly looks suspicious to anyone who’s never seen one. Another TSA’er with rubber gloves donned asked to open and visually inspect my bag. “Sure, go right ahead, this should be interesting. I have no idea what you’re looking for.” After a few moments of rooting around inside my bag, up comes the questionable item, “Sir, is this yours?” “Well, yes it is. I guess I’m busted.” I forgot to empty the water in my four ounce (three ounces would have been okay and more acceptable if not water) water bottle before passing through airport security. Aside from my mini water bottle, what made me an even bigger threat to the airport and our national security was my carriage, short hair, sweater with “Marines” embroidered across the left breast and my passing comment (reply to query) that I had served nearly 27 years. As such, I thought a polite appeal to the two TSA’ers to allow me to drink the water in front of them would resolve the problem. Incredibly, my request fell on deaf ears. Their solution was to either confiscate the bottle or, if I wanted to keep the bottle, exit and pass through security again. “Wait a minute. It’s early (first flight of the day) and not that busy—how about I stand here and you witness me drink the water—it’ll take 15 seconds—20 max.” The one holding the bottle thought that sounded reasonable but wanted to check with the supervisor—“Nope, can’t do that.” “Why not? Do you think I’d eagerly volunteer to drink the water if there was something wrong with it?” “Sorry, sir. We keep the bottle or you exit and go through security again.” My appeal to common sense was a waste of breath, words, and time—the water bottle was confiscated. It was not worth the hassle of again navigating security—ID checks, removing metals, belt, shoes, etc. over a small water bottle.

That I lost the bottle is not a big deal—at all. Especially since a much larger one (filled with water) could be purchased once in the terminal. Shame on me for forgetting to empty the water but this was just plain stupid—there was no exercise of situational common sense. It was a Barney Fife moment that even old Barney would have reasoned could be resolved by witnessing the accused drink the water—without excitedly chambering his pocketed bullet. But not the TSA folks—no sir, they were not to fall victim to common sense. No one was going to accuse them of having a brain. Maybe I’m missing something here but this struck me as particularly dumb—in reality and principle. And it still does more than 48 hours later. Even more disturbing is these folks are on the front lines of our airport security. You would think a good part of their job would be to think—for surely they constantly face situations that require at least a moment of rational thought and creativity to settle. And situations that have potential for far more serious implications than a quarter pint bottle of water. But perhaps I am mistaken and that’s why four ounces of water continues to cause a minor commotion and ridiculous body searches of wheelchair-bound elderly and small children are all in a day's work combatting terror.

Small water bottles aside, security experts have periodically probed our “airport security” across the country and with troubling results. Able to discreetly pass through security with all sorts of dangerous items and materials, they have concluded our protective measures are a fa├žade that address what the terrorists were doing yesterday not today or tomorrow. Our measures are superficial—designed more to appease a nervous public than to nab bad guys. The bad guys have already figured out new ways to breach our lame measures and turn our airplanes against us. As this commentary is being written, bad guys are watching, note-taking, planning, and patiently waiting to attack. And while a TSA’er is distracted with a small bottle of water something far more deadly is going to sneak through and with dire consequences. Count on it—so say the experts. The next terror attack on our air travel system will not look like the first one but is likely to prove every bit, if not more, impressive. Conclusion: our air transportation system is not any safer than it was little more than seven years ago. But we have done one heck of a great job turning air travel into an ordeal that is on the verge of eclipsing the pain of a root canal performed without anesthesia. Regrettably, the days of commercial flying being a pleasant, relaxing adventure are long, long gone. At least for now.

Thanks to terrorism and thugs taking the offense to attack on our soil, we, the innocent, are now subject to all sorts of inconveniences that defy common sense. Flying commercial air is just one example. In short, our freedom is steadily giving way to intrusive and smothering government policies and laws with over-zealous enforcement imposed on the very ones playing by the rules. Ironically, policy and laws that attempt to put the squeeze on the bad guys are constantly under fire—challenged as illegal, unconstitutional, immoral, or inhumane. It’s not only incredibly stupid it’s insane.

The key to preserving our democracy and freedoms and restoring the life we once knew is to aggressively take the fight to the enemy—a preemptive or preventative maintenance approach. President Bush did just that—and has done it right. Like our current president and his war on terror policies or not, it’s hard to argue with a strategy that has kept us free from attack since 11 September 2001. A point that our president's looney critics opt to ignore. And the enemy has been trying. Oh, have they been trying. This is not some silly game of tit for tat or tag you’re it. This is serious business with innocent lives paying the price for a lackadaisical policy posture and careless missteps. We have the assets to identify, expose, track, and kill the rats—24/7. We--good guys around the globe--must keep the will and stomach to do the dirty work. Therefore, let’s continue to make life for the goons trying to do us harm a living hell—every single moment. Permitting no time for them to think about anything other than what hole they are going to move to in order to cheat death a while longer. Those not killed; subject them to up close and personal discourse. Though there has been much bitter debate over “intimate discourse” and its effectiveness gaining credible information, there is ample proof that sporting interrogation techniques work. Information garnered from spirited questioning—or the mere threat of it—has preempted many attacks world-wide (to include in the U.S.A.) and led to the killing and capture of many bad guys. This is not a complicated argument. Fanatic radicals on the offense that plan and carry out acts of violence to harm innocents in the name of an extremist cause are bad people. Who gives a damn about these folks? Forget moral high ground. If extreme discomfort and terrifying fear leads to information that prevents a single innocent from being harmed then so be it. Far be it from us to judge; that’s God’s job. He can sort out the good guys from the bad guys.

Many in this country are sick and tired of being inconvenienced and treated as if they’ve done something wrong—in essence being held hostage. They are full. It’s particularly insulting to those who have spent a military career defending that which they cherish—freedom to come and go and in relative safety. The good guys could care less—other than to kill them—about crazed lunatics trying to bring harm to the United States of America. Taking the initiative and attacking –“terrorizing”—the enemy by making their miserable, worthless lives, every single second, a nightmare—makes good sense. With relentless pressure and a bit of luck bad guys who escape extermination will see suicide as their only option to escape good guy vigilance and wrath. For the United States to roll over and cowardly accept that our way of life is forever changed and will continue to deteriorate at the hands of terrorism is for the pathetically weak—the wimpy. That is not leadership. And it’s an insult to our founding fathers, ancestors, and to those who risk life and limb to preserve all the Stars and Stripes stands for. It’s not just about a measly four ounces of water and airplanes. It’s the damn principle. Our free society has sundry other vulnerabilities (e.g. power grids, communications, mass ground transportation systems, ports, food supplies, water supplies, etc.). Where will it end? Enough. The high stakes card game of crushing and defeating terror requires a poker face, iron gut, and gumption: having “a pair” beats a full house (or carload of terrorists) every single time. Addressing terror, President Bush has proven to be an expert poker player. We’ll soon see what kind of “cards” our new president holds and if he knows anything at all about stud poker.

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