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Backward, Into Fear

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

I know with certainty that Uman Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with attempting to take down Flight 253, is not responsible for the confiscation of a can of black-eyed peas I was trying to slide past airline security. That rule—the one about liquids—was already in place. Incentive to slip the beans through was derived from information I learned from a prior flight, one taken with my best friend who decided she didn’t want to remove her computer from her carryon. Nor did she put her must-haves in clear plastic for public scrutiny. No one said a word as her bag was scanned. In fact, she easily retrieved her luggage, while I grappled with my laptop, trying to balance it and put it back in its case as I struggled to step into my shoes and, finally, reach for my cell phone, jacket, and plastic bag filled with lots of little bottles.

The young Nigerian is, however, the reason my plane (the same trip the peas were seized) was delayed this week. Because when passengers lined up to board, anyone with a bottle of water, cola, or juice, was pulled aside to have their beverages tested for explosives. One woman asked if her water would still be safe to drink after the strange strip of white whatever was magically waved over the open bottle by an agent whose hands were imprisoned in surgical gloves. How styoopid, I thought. But, then, she had a point—those gloves must have been transferring an accumulation of microbes from container to container.

Okay, I’ve digressed. I really meant to write about the event—you know, the one to scare Americans and highlight the gaping holes in our security. Because there were some missed opportunities. For example, the father of the “terrorist” had alerted authorities that he was concerned about the behavior of his extremist son. That’s seriously reliable, like delivering him to a detention center and saying, “Our bad seed wants to blow up a passenger plane over the United States.”

But certain links weren’t made by people trained to make sure certain links are always made.

Officials who consistently speak on condition of anonymity now agree with 20/20 hindsight that given all the information they had about Abdulmutallab, he should never have been allowed on that aircraft.

I bet he could have gotten a can of black-eyed peas into Detroit. But I’ve digressed again.

Where I’m going with all this is to an analysis of Obama’s brilliant revelation: “A system failure occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable.”

You see, our Deciders and those we label “the bad guys” have a symbiotic relationship, the basis of which is both real and imagined: real because they are trying to knock each other off and imagined because they rely on propaganda.

Even though “the bad guys” have legitimate reasons—that we destroy their lives and their countries in order to claim their resources—their tactics are wrong. But we cannot say we are “the good guys” when our own actions are horrendous and result in unconscionable anguish.

If we are to engage in PermWar against a “network of terrorists,” we will have many Umar Farouk Abdulmutallabs, because each bomb that incinerates civilians inspires increased hatred of America. And more attempts to act on this hatred motivate a demand for revenge via the USA. The byproduct of this is fear, the necessary ingredient our imperialist leaders must manipulate.

Of course, a war against a “network” is as insane as a war against an ideology. But then war, itself, is insane. It’s just that what we’re seeing now is never ending.

Definitely, there was a breakdown in intelligence prior to Christmas 2009. And I’m not talking just spy stuff here. It’s much more than the flop of sloppy synapsing at the National Security Agency. I’m thinking about the American brain and the dumbing of citizens in this country who’ve allowed their minds to be controlled.

The powerful have orchestrated this with precision. They have expanded violence, committing crimes against humanity, and most of us are silent. They have collapsed our economy and most of us are silent. They have removed the cornerstones of our judicial system and most of us are silent.

The terrorists have won—the terrorists who despise our foreign policy with good reason and the terrorists who profit from endless war for their own power and greed. It’s the latter we need to fear more. Because they sit at the top of our country’s heap.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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