The International Writers Magazine: Politics

James Skinner

ound like a football match? It’s not! Ever since George decided to get rid of Sadam and mayhem burst out in Baghdad and all across Iraq, most of the West, not to mention the rest of the world, has been blaming the guy, apart from the mess, for all the extra security that has been imposed around us. We can’t cross the pavement without looking over our shoulders in case some goon triggers off a car bomb or blows himself up whilst buying a fruitcake. Police check one day, ‘BOOM’ the next. But let’s backtrack a bit. Although the 7th Cavalry didn’t go charging into Afghanistan until 2001, indiscriminate bombing by suicide loonies had been going on long before George ever came to power.

How many still remember Christmas Eve (not quite!) 1988 when Pan Am flight 103 was blown out of the air over Lockerbie in Scotland by a supposed Islamic terrorist attack with the loss of 200 human beings? Did anybody in our western civilisation suspect that this could be a ‘preview of forthcoming attractions’, that would turn the world into a complete security risk? No way! Travelling, especially by air was ‘business as usual’ within weeks. You could still hop on an off an aircraft without batting an eyelid in practically every part of the western world. I recall travelling backwards and forwards between the US and Europe using TWA, Pan-Am, British Airways, it didn’t matter. Once you had your boarding pass and your luggage was happily tucked away in that obscure area between terminal and aircraft awaiting departure, a last minute drink and smoke allowed you to pass the remaining time away before you nonchalantly walked along the isle and corridor to board the plane. At the other end, your main time consumption was waiting for that suitcase to miraculously arrive on the conveyor belt before a ‘pain in the butt’ immigration officer asked you for your passport. Twenty minutes later you would be hopping into a taxi and careering towards your hotel for a quick shower and shave before a hectic business meeting at your destination.

But then it happened! Similar, but from a different Islamic club, the terrorists struck at air travel again, this time using the actual aircraft as bombs. No need to go over the details of the September 11th attack on the WTC in New York. Suffice to say that suddenly, the ‘top brass’ in our democratic world realised that blowing up airplanes was just not on. Actually, you’ve got to hand it to them but the Israelis had already set in motion their own security system, long before the Twin Towers came tumbling down. I recall a direct flight on El Al that I caught between New York and Tel Aviv back in 1986 and how surprised I was at the ‘routine’ security check I had to go through before boarding the plane. I was the only non Jew amongst the passengers and remember sweat blobs appearing on my brow as the Israeli immigration officer asked me why I had a Bahrain visa in my passport. Nevertheless, it was one of the most secure and pleasant journeys I had made in my life.

Not anymore!

At first, airports began to install metal detector arcs and airline staff would ask you a few questions about your luggage at their counter. ‘Did you pack your own bag, Sir?’ ‘Yes,’ would be the obvious answer. Next question, ‘was your hand luggage always with you?’ Once again you’d give an affirmative answer. Next check point was the boarding search. As long as you didn’t carry a Colt 45 or a souvenir WWII hand grenade you could continue towards the aircraft. As time went by the terrorists began to widen their attacks and targets, such as the Madrid and London transport bombings. Their evil sophistication in the form of miniature liquid bombs coupled with threats and plots as discovered in the UK and Germany continued to sound alarm bells throughout the world. Western security experts did not waste time. The introduction of new technology and further extreme measures began to turn the airports upside down. If you dare cross the boundary from land to air with a bottle of pop hidden in your briefcase you’re liable to be slung into a dark room protected by Alsatians and cross examined by the most ferocious sector of the police force. If the metal detector blasts out, this time round you’ll be stripped naked and then allowed to board once you have proved that the titanium rod in your left hip isn’t a camouflage for a radioactive time bomb. As for mobile phones and laptop computers, make sure the batteries are packed away in the hold luggage and that you don’t even look at them until you arrive at the other end.

But airports are not the only ones to take this whole terrorist thing to the extremes of painstaking security. Take passports for instance. The USA is making absolutely certain that anyone entering their country can be securely identified to the nth degree and this has had a knock on effect for the rest of the world in issuing identity papers. Biometric passports that can even tell how many breast implants or face lifts you’ve had let alone your vitals are the order of the day. You no longer can turn up at the counter with a document whereby the photograph looks like your daughter or has been put through the washing machine by mistake. No, Sir! Exact replicas of your ugly mug are a must otherwise you’ll never make it to Disneyworld. Then there’s the question of money.

Islamic terrorists, like all other businesses require a good bank account to feed into with their Afghan drug money. Otherwise, how could they operate all those Internet websites, clandestine worship houses and a plethora of other expenses needed to blow up infidels? The knock-on effect is that whenever we honest mortals wish to carry out our own financial affairs using either credit cards or cheques, the finance houses’ scrutiny system triggers into action. In the good old days, you could walk into a hotel, shop, or restaurant and your credit card would be automatically assumed to be yours and taken for granted. Asking your bank to transfer money to pay a bill or into another account could be done with a simple fax or even a phone call. Not any more! If you sold some shares and transferred the money to your account, or wished to pay into that of your grandmother’s in order to pay for granddad’s funeral bill you more or less have to go back to university to learn about the bank’s security procedures. What with customer codes, pin numbers and passwords, you might as well keep the lolly under the mattress.

So what is all the beef about anyway? Is not in all our own interest to be heavily protected in every one of the mundane areas of life just in case some suicide terrorist decides we’re his next target? Shouldn’t we feel grateful for all this effort put into practice by our police, armed forces and secret service aimed at making sure we can still go to work, have a pint of beer or visit out mistress without the fear of being blown to bits? I’m sure we all agree to these new XXI measures of safeguarding our existence. But what about the infidel fighters? Do you think that they’re going to give up? Not on your life! Not only are they going to continue but they will grow in numbers. Answer? I have no idea. Sort out the Israeli-Palestine conflict and pull the 7th Cavalry out of Iraq is on everyone’s lips. Stop using their oil is another thought. However, whatever the outcome is in the future, one thing is for sure. There is no going back to the good old days when you could walk on and off an aircraft and the only problem you had was whether the wine on board was French, Spanish or Italian.

© James Skinner. December 2006.

Mex Rex Holiday
James Skinner
- airport terror 22.10.06

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