Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Suck On This

By: The_Bell
filed under: |

After British authorities exposed a plot last week by terrorists to bomb trans-Atlantic flights using liquid explosives smuggled aboard by multiple individuals in the form of everyday household products, both U.S. and British officials have added liquids and gels to the list of prohibited airplane carry-on items. This includes such substances as shampoo, toothpaste, hair gel, makeup, perfume and suntan lotion. Baby formula and medicines are exempt but only in limited quantities and subject to additional screening.

Take it far enough and the liquid-less air cabin could force a change to the attendant's friendly question of "coffee, tea, juice, or soda?" to something along the lines of "coffee grounds, tea bag, fruit, or sugar with caffeine?" One would have to take these offerings, along with the obligatory pack of dry roasted peanuts, and suck on them during the flight. Then again, this raises new problems. Is saliva a banned or permitted liquid?

As far as that goes, the human body is about seventy percent water. We are huge walking bags of liquids and fatty gels surrounded by a thin layer of meat. First terrorists turned airplanes into bombs, then they tried to turn shoes into bombs, and now we have caught them trying to turn liquids and gels into bombs. They have already shown their willingness to die in these attacks. Is it really so far-fetched to believe they would turn their very bodies into bombs if such a feat were technically possible/practicable?

Nobody doubts the threat from extremist Islamic terrorism is still real nearly five years after the September 11 attacks or that airport/airplane security is still necessary. Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups can be counted upon to continue their jihad of violence against the West until the bitter end. Yet why do these groups continue finding ready converts who will die in order to kill Americans?

The promise of a hero's reward in the afterlife? Maybe that is some of it but we cannot avoid the fact that our foreign policy and propaganda have done little to convince the bulk of the Muslim world that our objective truly is fighting global terrorism. Instead, too many still see it as a global attack against Islam by the West. In Afghanistan the Taliban is enjoying an unprecedented (military) resurgence. Iraq has become a killing fields for Muslims of all stripes against both Westerners and each other. Gaza and the West Bank are increasingly walled off/fenced off blockade zones. And Lebanon has been plunged back into devastating war just when it was shaking off the yoke of its longtime occupation by Syria.

None of these situations are (entirely) the fault of the United States. Yet in our preference for unilateralism in our own foreign policy and our biased support of Israel, we have done little to create a perception of trustworthiness in the Arab/Islamic World.

Newsweek reports that last weekend, London's Heathrow Airport was also forbidding all books and newspapers as carryon items. While passports and other travel documents were exceptions, Bibles were not. The magazine describes one episode in which an elderly woman traveler, near tears, is forced to give up her "rather snazzy, leather-bound Bible with gold-leaf pages and the title Good News that she was clutching for dear life."

It struck me how ultra-conservatives, who often favor extraordinary measures by government in the war on terror while simultaneously disparaging government restrictions of Christian expression, would view this. If terrorists did somehow gain control of that airplane and destroy it, that elderly woman would die bereft of her greatest means of comfort. When security measures become so severe and restrictive that Bibles are verboten, it must seem to them as if the terrorists have already won a subtle yet demoralizing victory.

That is how an awful lot of us less-than-ultra-conservatives feel about the loss of liberties experienced in the name of fighting terrorism by the U.S. government. An awful lot of hardship is being endured by an awful lot of people without an awful lot of real progress to show for it. I am reminded of the story of Jesus and the woman by the well in the Gospel According to John.

Jesus answered and said unto her, "Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again. But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. The water that I shall give him shall be a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
Let us just hope Jesus never tries hawking his Water of Life on a plane traveling between Great Britain and the U.S. You can get sent to Gitmo for that. He, like the rest of us, will have to make due with his own spit and suck on it.