Rave On: Got Security?

Did I miss something? Every time I hear about the "security lapses" connected with the events of 9/11, I find myself scratching my head.

Those who took over the planes did not use guns, hunting knives, explosives, or any of the forbidden contraband that security ought to have picked up. They used box cutters, pocket-sized razor knives. They did so precisely because they were concerned about the efficiency of Airport Security.

The reality is that if the passengers and crew of those planes had had any idea of what was about to happen, those weapons would have been useless, as they were on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, presumably because the passengers were in the process of overpowering the highjackers.

There were no "security lapses." Security procedures did what they were designed to do: keep dangerous weapons and explosives off of airplanes. The Hijacker's effective weapons were surprise, the trusting nature of the passengers and a plausible deception. Their success resulted from our being taken unawares. That will not happen again.

Certainly such an attack justifies a heightened level of scrutiny of all passengers and a more careful application of security procedures, but the level of paranoia - to the point of replacing the small, dull metal knives provided with dinner with flimsy plastic knives and the confiscation of fingernail clippers- is simply ridiculous.

The idea that more attacks on air traffic will be launched is implausible. With the heightened level of awareness - not to mention the higher level of enforcement - it seems almost impossible that a successful hijacking of the kind committed on September 11 could be repeated.

The capture of the "shoe-bomber" by passengers and flight crew demonstrates that the kind of co-operation and trust the September hijackers got from their hostages is not going to be forthcoming again. Even though security is far from perfect, as recent tests by the authorities have proved, there have been no follow-up hijackings.

The truth is that the kinds of "security measures" that have been added since September will have little or no effect on the actual "security" of air travelers. Careful attention to the measures that were already in place before September, coupled with heightened vigilance by passengers, crew and security are our best defense, and those are already in place. There will always be a possibility that someone can slip some sort of weapon on board an airplane, but never again will anyone be able to use a hijacked plane as the September 11 group did.

The second point is that the purpose of those who planned and carried out the hijackings was not to start a war. As far as they were concerned, they were already at war. They wanted to bring the war back home to the US, from which they saw it in large part emanating.

Is there any truth in that? By the testimony of the Federal Government, there is.

The CIA has admittedly been "behind" several changes of government in Moslem countries, dating back decades. American money has armed and trained "opposition groups" (including Al Qidah, in one of its earlier incarnations, and Saddam Hussein in one of his). These weapons and this training has been used to kill and intimidate people in countries all over the world. It has - as in the case of both the Taliban and Hussein - ultimately led to the take-over of governments by brutal totalitarian regimes.

It is highly instructive, and not sufficiently emphasized, that both Hussein and bin Laden were once at least indirectly paid operatives of the US Government.

Which leads us to the third point. These "evil-doers" obviously do not have "world domination" as their goal, in the way that Hitler for instance, or Julius Caesar (or even James Monroe) did. They don't have the political organization, the manpower, the money, the armed forces or any of the infrastructure needed for such an imperialist effort.

What they threaten - at the very worst - is occasional (possibly occasionally horrendously destructive) outbursts at the US. That these could be terrible tragedies - on the level of a Hiroshima in the worst case scenario - is undeniable. But the idea that they could "destroy the United States" is laughable.

Our own government, in suggesting such a thing, is using the terrible tragedy of September 11 to frighten us out of our wits - and has done so very effectively. So much so, that our representative are witlessly voting for a repeal of constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, for creation of an ever larger and more powerful central government and secret police apparatus that is inaccessible and unaccountable to those very representatives and answers only to the oligarchs at the top of government itself.

They are creating the infrastructure and laying the organizational groundwork for a totalitarian empire that will (very soon) have the power to crush all dissent and opposition with the merest "designation" of "terror suspect."

Such arbitrary designation by the Justice Department - without any due process to establish even probable cause, let alone prove the case - which can even be done in secret - will expose anyone so designated to a level of invasion of privacy that is unprecedented in a supposedly "free" country, not to mention the risk of indefinite incommunicado detention, secret "trial" by military tribunal, and even secret execution.

Right at this moment, I have to consider the likelihood that what I am writing right now will make me "suspect" - because I am obviously not "with" Mr. Ashcroft's program, and as he has declared, "If you are not with us, you are against us." Does that make me a "terror suspect?" It might. Only the Mr. Ashcroft's Justice Department, working in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight and restraint can say.

I am, in fact, against Mr. Ashcroft 's program. I believe that none of it except a very few of the very simplest and most obvious elements will actually make my life of the lives of my fellow citizens any more "secure." I believe that the vast majority of it is part of a concerted plot by a group of anti-democratic oligarchs to seize power and essentially overthrow democratic government in the United States.

I don't believe that this administration actually cares about the welfare of the American people. If they did, they would be concentrating on education, meaningful job training and drug treatment programs, the reduction of poverty, universal health care, a policy for energy independence, full employment at a living wage, real security for the elderly, effective rehablititaion of criminals, reduction of prison populations and the effective prevention of crime, and many other issues that bedevil our society.

But they are not. They are focused on the "War," the "War on Terror," the "War Against Iraq," in which they have found a pretext for seizing extraordinary and extra-constitutional powers. What they truly care about is clearly demonstrated by what they do.

And what they have done is repeal many civil rights and threaten others, invade the privacy of American Citizens, threaten some (so far) unspecified retribution against all who are "against us," provide huge tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, give huge dollops of corporate welfare to large corporations. They have increased their own wealth and power at the expense of the wealth and power of the ordinary citizens and their representatives.

Herman Goering, in a statement about the ease with which a people can be led into war that has been widely circulated on the web, outlined exactly the kind of behavior this administration has undertaken. It is a reflection of the pitiful state of American education that ours citizens have learned so little from history that they do seem to be bound to repeat it.

Even a cursory study of the rise of the Nazi party to power will show frightening (unless you happen to support totalitarian, oligarchic government) parallels to the propaganda campaign now being waged in the US. Hilter used first the "Bolsheviks" and later the Jews, Gypsies, and others who "undermined the strength and purity of the race" as the "evil-doers" from whom the German people had to be protected.

Hilter and his minions made exactly the same arguments for the secrecy, the enhanced power of his police apparatus, the choice between absolute loyalty and "enemy" status, that this administration is offering.

In the United States we have most often supported Ben Franklin's dictum that those who value security over freedom will end up with neither - but now we have an administration that wants us to exchange our freedom for the illusion of security, and the people are lining up to make the exchange. And Ben will be proved right.

Long ago, The Who, singing about their generation (which is also mine), and the political structures that have led societies into chaos, war and self-destruction time and again, declared "We won't get fooled again." But I'm not so sure.

Maybe with the technological advances of the 21st Century, this administration will prove again what Hilter and Stalin both demonstrated: that Abraham Lincoln miscalculated - that it is not necessary to fool all of the people all of the time - all that is necessary is to fool enough of the people some of the time, and scare or kill off the rest.

Now, do you feel more secure?

In the immortal words of Denis Miller,

"But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."

Am I? Why? What's yours?