Editorial Comment
October 25, 2001


There was a time when most intercity mail was transported by rail. As a train moved from city to city, clerks in a special car sorted the mail for drops at the next destination. The clerks were armed with pistols, the theory being that anyone wanting to rob the mail car was going to eat lead in the process.

Also at the time, bank guards were expected to draw their weapons and fire at anyone trying to rob a bank. In addition, police fired at anyone fleeing an arrest. Today, we wouldn't dream of arming mail clerks, bank guards lose their jobs if they try to thwart a robbery, and police are put on trial if they fire at a fleeing criminal.

After Muslim fanatics hijacked airliners in September, there was talk of arming airline pilots and putting armed marshals on every flight. But the mere suggestion gave heart palpitations to large segments of the public, which are acquiring an ever-more pronounced Milquetoast attitude. This mental set abhors guns so much that even the good guys aren't allowed to use them. But our kinder, gentler ethic has made us the doormat for the lunatics of the world. Consider how nothing was done to slap down Osama bin Laden after the USS Cole was bombed.

Our wimpishness had a lot to do with the success of the people who brought down the World Trade Center. Air crews have long been trained to acquiesce to skyjackers, the idea being to get the plane on the ground without anybody getting hurt. If there is a bright side to what happened last September, it is that skyjackers have used up their credit insofar as passengers and crews cooperating with them. We now know the drill. You die now, or you die later, unless you overpower the people with the box cutters.

I haven't canceled any travel plans recently because I am confident that future attempts to highjack airplanes will be unsuccessful. In any skyjack attempt, passengers surely will fight ferociously, take a few nicks from the box cutters, and send the skyjackers to the paradise they so ardently desire. Passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought with the highjackers and, in the process, probably saved the White House or Capitol Building from destruction. Muslim fanatics live in a world fueled by testosterone, and they know ours is drenched in estrogen. They will wage a Holy War until they learn otherwise. If I personally find myself in a highjack situation, I won't go down without a fight.

This was running through my mind as I waited 30 minutes at a security checkpoint for a recent flight. I eyeballed the people standing in line with me, and merely by looking at them, I was sure none of them was a threat.

Let's take a look at the names of people identified as the highjackers in newspaper accounts. They were Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi, Hani Hanjour, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Mohald Alshehri, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Almami, and Ziad Jarrahi.

Among these names there are no Bubba DeWitts, Mary Jane Ledbetters, or Melvin Fergusons. This tells me there is a low-tech security approach that will work as well as high-tech metal detectors and X-ray machines. It will also save us from the aggravation of going through overly intense security checkpoints. This approach is called profiling. Yes, it is discriminatory, but tough times call for tough measures.

-_-- Ronald Khol, Editor