Political correctness: the sequel

Posted: Jun 07, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush must be wondering what he has to do to satisfy his critics on Capitol Hill. For more than a month, the administration has been working on a tightly held plan to reorganize the U.S. government's existing counterterrorism functions and consolidate them in a new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. The president hadn't yet addressed the nation on June 6, the 58th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy, when liberal Democrats were strafing the plan. Sen. Ted "The Swimmer" Kennedy summed up their "not-invented-here" disposition: "The question is whether shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is the way to go." What has to go, Kennedy is an attitude like yours. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely. While the final touches were being put on the president's address to the nation, a special House-Senate Intelligence Committee was in the process of grilling over 200 intelligence and law-enforcement officers. Down the street, the Senate Judiciary Committee had FBI Director Robert Mueller on the hot seat. The ostensible purpose of the probes: find out how four airliners could be hijacked and turned into flaming kamikazes by 19 young, male, Middle Eastern-Islamic extremists. Two days before all this excitement in Washington, five young men supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee filed lawsuits in three federal courts against America's four largest airlines. Their complaint: They were unfairly discriminated against by the airlines when "amateur profilers" misidentified the young males as "suspicious" Middle Easterners who might be Islamic extremists. On June 5, Attorney General John Ashcroft unveiled plans to fingerprint, photograph and register foreigners entering the United States and "expand substantially America's scrutiny of those foreign visitors who may pose a national security concern and enter our country." In other words, the first people obliged to comply with this new requirement will be young males from Middle Eastern countries -- the origin of past Islamic extremists. The announcement drew instant condemnation. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the House Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, denounced the measure as "racial and ethnic profiling" that will "further alienate the American Muslim community and our Muslim allies abroad." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle rushed to the microphones to announce that he is "concerned about the long arm of the federal government when it comes to taking actions like this that may or may not be helpful and certainly may be invasive." Given the evidence about what happened on 9-11 and the events leading up to it, those comments simply defy reality. Before bombing the president's reorganization plan, critics should be required to take the following, one-question, multiple-choice, pass-fail test: Who is responsible for killing nearly 4,000 Americans in: the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut; the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro; the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847; the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103; the 1993 truck-bombing of the World Trade Center; the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; the 1998 attack on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole; and the Sept. 11, 2001 hijack-kamikaze seizure of four commercial airliners? A) Youthful, female, Haitian-Catholic nationalists; B) Middle-aged, Korean-Buddhist separatists; C) Geriatric, bisexual, Norwegian-Lutheran anarchists; or D) Young, male, Middle Eastern-Islamic extremists. Kennedy, Conyers, Daschle, their ACLU allies and others still stumped by the question should look at the 22 "Most Wanted Terrorists" on the FBI website (www.fbi.gov). Hint: Not one is named Smith, O'Leary, Goldberg or Garcia. All 22 are young, male, Middle Eastern-Islamic extremists. Now call it what you want, but that's a profile. It's not politically correct to say so, but that's what it is. And profiling is what the new Secretary of Homeland Security must do if he is to succeed. The politically correct guidance issued by the Clinton-Gore administration after the TWA flight 800 disaster in July 1996 has to go: "Efforts should be made to avoid using characteristics that impose a disproportionate burden of inconvenience, embarrassment or invasion of privacy on members of minority racial, religious or ethnic groups." U.S. air carriers complied with this direction and produced the desired sensitivity. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, profiling complaints dropped from 27 in 1997, to two in 1999, to zero in 2000. Unfortunately, hijacking fatalities increased to over 3,050 in 2001. Congressional investigators wonder why FBI Headquarters buried field reports from Phoenix and Minneapolis about young males of Middle Eastern-Islamic origin taking flight lessons. That's easy. It wasn't "PC" -- politically correct -- to profile. And on 9-11, when profiling might have led airport security officials to stop young Middle Eastern-Islamic males from paying cash for their tickets and carrying box-cutters to their first-class seats, they didn't -- because it wasn't "PC." The president's reorganization plan will only work if Congress gets real. Roving bands of blue-haired grandmothers aren't brandishing firearms and taking down jumbo jets. Geriatric grandfathers from Switzerland or Swaziland aren't slipping explosives into the country in their wheelchairs and walkers. Those who want to stop terrorists from killing more Americans need to make sure that "PC" is a good thing -- and change its meaning from "politically correct" to "protecting citizens."