Taking a page from the unpublished O.J. Simpson book, if I were a terrorist, what would be my domestic strategy for bringing America to its knees?
The recent incident aboard a US Airways plane in Minneapolis exposed one component of my strategy. I would have suggested that six imams shout "Allah" as they approached the plane for boarding and then not take their assigned seats once onboard. I would have told them to sit in seats where they could block every exit, including the one in first class, which is closest to the cockpit.
When a passenger raises concerns in a note to a flight attendant and authorities remove them from the plane in handcuffs, I would call a news conference and hold other media events, including an interfaith "pray-in" at Washington's Reagan National Airport. I would hurl charges of religious bigotry and racial profiling at cowering officials.
Next, I would persuade sympathetic members of Congress, like the vociferous Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) to say that the Sept. 11 attacks, "cannot be permitted to be used to justify racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Muslim and Arab Americans."
When I am delayed because my name is on a "watch list," despite fruitless efforts to have it removed, I don't claim persecution or profiling. When my computer bag is emptied of its contents and every item in it, including power cords, is examined for signs of explosive powder, I don't claim discrimination. I can't even verbally vent my frustration, nor can I make jokes about bombs. Signs warn me I could be denied access to the plane. But I might be a diversion, were I a terrorist.
The Washington Times carried a front-page story recently that exposed my nefarious plan to further weaken American resolve against terrorists. After much of the media initially took the "racial profiling" and "flying while Muslim" line, the Times discovered my real objective. The newspaper interviewed witnesses who said the imams were not speaking only in English, as they claimed, but also Arabic. Nothing wrong with that, but the witnesses also said they were criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush and talking about al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
The Times quoted a flight attendant who maintained that one of the men made two trips to the rear of the plane to talk with an imam during boarding and again when the flight was delayed because of their behavior. Aviation officials, including air marshals and pilots, told the newspaper these actions alone would not warrant a second look, but the combination was suspicious.
Robert MacLean, a former air marshal, is quoted in the story: "That's like shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater. You just can't do that anymore."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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