My Water Bottle or My Life?

Posted: Aug 17, 2006 12:01 AM
My Water Bottle or My Life?

Let's begin with an observation. There have been hundreds of "major" airline crashes in the past 80-plus years.

We haven't stopped flying.

A crash is a risk the vast majority of us choose to run.

Not everyone, of course. John Madden takes the bus when he can, and a lot of people drive, take the train, or stay home. It's a free country. We make choices and we live with them.

Returning home via Vancouver from Alaska and I notice immediately the biggest change since leaving early last week: There are no water bottles for sale. The airport eateries are displaying signs about the drinks we cannot have. The planes themselves have become gel free zones.

The bottled water barons have no doubt been rocked to their (plastic) cores. A week ago they were racking up, what, $3 a bottle on the water for sale next to the magazines and candy? Now if you open the water door, you're likely to get tackled.

No successful attack had occurred. Good intelligence collection and superb police work had rolled up another cell of would-be murderers.

And success was met with a ban on water bottles.

This is insane, and obviously so. And the public knows it. The "wisdom of the many" is at work, and on two levels.

First, every water bottle in every airport is now a suspect? Because some terrorists thought they might get one on board if they smuggled it through security while holding a baby?

The absurdity of this response gnaws at our collective confidence. If there is a real reason to ban water bottle sales from inside the security perimeter, explain the threat. But don't expect a free people to see absurdity and conclude that the folks in charge of airport security know best. We know they don't know best as a thousand columnists have remarked after seeing grandma frisked.

But on a much more profound level, we know --we all know-- that thousands of people illegally crossed the border yesterday, or simply ignored their exit date on their visa and decided to stay on for as long as they like, free of any concern of apprehension.

We know that weapons are available on most street corners in the United States and that their sellers don't ask for passports. We know that matches and dry forests are the biggest soft target in the country.

We all know the risks. And most of us understand the concept of best practices and best efforts and priorities.

But if the government refuses to deal with the real risks --thousands of illegal entries/overstays every day-- the hyper-reactions around airports are almost designed to invoke scorn.

I did not hear a single complaint in a process that obliged me and thousands of others to go through not one or two but five checks of documents from curb to counter. The public understands. And more, we appreciate.

But there was much in the way of disgusted head shakes at the absurd prohibition of sealed water bottle sales from within the security perimeter.

Who made that decision? Really. Who decreed that bit of genius? There's an interview I'd love to conduct. Would the MSM give us a name? And a rationale?

Put money and men into intelligence and smashing the cells. Wage the war with vigor and seriousness. Be prepared for bad things to happen.

But don't treat free people as idiots. Airplanes crash and we still fly. Millions have used the Tube since 7/7. We want to win, and we aren't stupid, but we don't want to let the fanatics have the satisfactions that someone gave them this week.

And if we don't need a fence --with an urgent construction schedule-- then we really, really don't need a ban on water bottles.