I have always resisted the urge to blog about September 11, 2001. Over the past 8 years, there have been so many beautifully crafted and well thought out essays and documentaries on the subject, that I have always been at a loss as to what I could contribute. History has clearly documented the chain of failures that allowed 19 radical jihadists to purchase first class one-way tickets in cash, with no luggage. All of the tripwires were triggered that day, but the hijackers boarded their planes without a hitch and…well…the rest is history. In just a few hours thousands of innocent Americans were dead or missing and our country had changed forever…or so we thought.
Just three days ago, all bets went out the window as news began to break about the failed (not foiled) attempt to bomb a Delta/Northwest Airlines aircraft on its way from Amsterdam to Detroit. A young Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, boarded the plane in Amsterdam with the intention of blowing it up using an explosive chemical mixing apparatus he had taped to his leg. Apparently the concoction did not explode as planned however, and passengers were able to subdue him saving the flight. According to the latest Wall Street Journal report on the incident, Mr. Abdulmutallab was able to smuggle the explosive device from Nigeria, where he boarded his KLM flight in Lagos, all the way through his connection in Amsterdam to the skies over Detroit. It was there that he attempted to explode 289 innocent travelers in the name of Allah.
At first, like many, I watched the events unfold with interest but was clearly distracted by the white noise of the holidays. There was family to entertain, friends to visit, presents to unwrap, fresh baked ham to eat. “What exactly was this latest skirmish in the air all about?” I thought to myself. “I will have to listen more closely later.” As the rumble of the holidays subsided however, and events began to unfold, my interest began to shift to anger. “That could have just as easily been my flight from Kuwait a couple of weeks ago,” I thought to myself. My anger seethed as new reports pointed out that, just like the 9/11 hijackers, this Nigerian man had purchased his tickets with cash and had checked no luggage. It was as if the world had learned nothing from the 9/11 attack. But then the news got even worse. Apparently young Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name had already been added to a UK immigration watchlist, as well as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) person of interest data file. If that was not bad enough, we then learned that his own father had actually warned Nigerian authorities that he was fearful his son could be engaged in some type of suicide plot. Once again all the tripwires had been triggered and the appropriate authorities had been alerted, yet Mr. Abdulmutallab was allowed to board his KLM flight in Nigeria with concealed explosives without so much as a secondary screening. “Certainly heads would roll,” I thought to myself.
Shortly after the news broke however, things began to get surreal. First Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN that the system worked well and actually praised our international security screening process. She also noted that though Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name was on a watch list, it contained nearly a half a million names and was only advisory in nature. Now let me get this straight… a major airline affiliated with Delta just let a known person of interest paying cash for a one-way ticket, with no checked luggage, board a flight for the United States of America and Janet Napolitano thinks that the system worked just fine. I would rather drink Rev. Jim Jones’ kool aid than this vile crap. We then find out that the explosive substance he smuggled on board was something called PETN , a well documented easily detectable high explosive. It is in fact, the very same substance that Richard Reid (alias – The Shoe Bomber) had attempted to use in 2001! Guess we just weren’t expecting that one….clever!
Soon the facts surrounding the Detroit incident became so damming that Secretary Napolitano was forced to retract her earlier praise of “the system.” But in the same breath, she had the nerve to look into the camera and tell Amercans that it was still safe to fly! Let’s see Janet, the system does not work by your own admission, but nothing to worry about – just remember not to try and stand up during the last hour of your flight!
<Insert Scream Here>
My head was now spinning with a mixture of anger and well…anger. “Where is the White House on all this?” I wondered. “Why is our Commander-in-Chief not flying back from Hawaii to make a statement from the oval office to reassure the public that our government is taking decisive action?” This should have happened immediately, but as of Monday…nothing but hula music.
If you have not been able to surmise by now, Head Muscle is angry. Something stinks here, and it smells like a stale cocktail of incompetence and bureaucracy with a chaser of political correctness. And make no mistake – it is lethal. When is our leadership going to get serious about airline security? When are we going to take off the gloves and decide that protecting American citizens is more important than being politically correct? When are “We The People” going to throw open our windows stick our heads out into the street and scream to all the bobble heads in DC that:
“WE ARE MAD A HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!”
The safety of Americans, whether traveling domestically or internationally, is a bi-partisan issue and needs to be dealt with decisively. Congress needs to quit worrying about the fate of Polar Bears in the Arctic and start worrying about the safety of their sons and daughters! They then need to be held accountable when things like this happen. If you are a commissioned officer in the Armed Forces, one DUI will relieve you of your career. We need to set the same standards for these idiots we have put in charge – regardless of party. We also need to hold our airlines accountable for clear lapses in their internal security processes. There is no excuse for KLM letting this lad onto their plane. If we have databases with half a million names in them, we need to spend our stimulus dollars wisely and develop the data mining tools necessary to search for the name of every passenger that checks onto a flight – whether it is Smith or Abdul. This is not rocket science and the fact that DHS and the FAA have not been able to implement such as system in the 8 years since 9/11 is inexcusable. Where is the outrage?
If you think my demands are unreasonable and impractical, I refer you to the venerable El Al Airlines of Israel. One would think that El Al flights would be a prime target for terrorists, and in fact they are, but when did the last El Al flight to fall from the sky in flames? When was the last bomb scare on an El Al flight? You will have trouble finding one because there are not any. The reason for this is that Israel and El Al Airlines have placed the life and safety of their passengers above all other things. I invite you to read a USA Today article from October, 2001 that elaborates on their process. They have been doing it right for years. I have flown with them once personally and can attest to the exhaustive searches and interrogations one must go through prior to buckling into your seat. One thing is certain however, once you are seated, you know that there are no bad guys on board. Why can’t Delta, United, US Airways, and Continental do the same? Why can’t the FAA demand it? Why do we not cease flights to countries who do not uphold security standards? Would it be inconvenient? Absolutely. Would people be offended? Without a doubt. The result however could be hundreds if not thousands of lives saved, and our leaders would be doing the job they were elected to do – provide for the common defense of our nation.
Head Muscle is tired to ranting, and is ready to take action. Over the next several weeks we will be calling our congressional leadership and demanding that they take this seriously and overhaul our travel security procedures once and for all. We also strongly urge our readers to do the same. Just follow this link to get the appropriate numbers. It is time to stand up and hold our leadership to account. Please help Head Muscle by making your voice heard. Remember, it could have been you on that plane. The bomb could have functioned correctly, and the picture of the World Trade Center at the beginning of this post could have just as easily been of bodies and aircraft fragments crashing into the Detroit GM building. Instead of asking, “Where were you on 9/11?” we could be asking , “Where were you on 12/25?” The time for action is now.