Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Stop frisking crippled nuns
Posted on 05/30/2002 8:23:31 AM PDT by Pokey78
When political correctness got going in the Eighties, the laconic wing of the conservative movement was inclined to be relaxed about it. To be sure, the tendency of previously pithy identity labels to become ever more polysyllabically ornate (person of colour, Native American) was time-consuming, but otherwise PC was surely harmless. Some distinguished persons of non-colour, among them Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, even argued that conservatives should support political correctness as merely the contemporary version of old-fashioned courtliness and good manners.
Alas, after 11 September, this position seems no longer tenable. Instead, we have to ask a more basic question: does political correctness kill?
Consider the extraordinary memo sent three weeks ago by FBI agent Coleen Rowley to the agencys director Robert Mueller, and now, despite his best efforts, all over Time magazine. Ms Rowley works out of the Minneapolis field office, whose agents, last 16 August, took action to jail a French citizen of Middle Eastern origin. Zacarias Moussaoui had shown up at a Minnesota flight school and shelled out 8,000 bucks in cash in order to learn how to fly 747s, except for the landing and take-off bit, which he said hed rather skip. On investigation, he proved to have overstayed his visa and so was held on an immigration violation. Otherwise, he would have been the 20th hijacker, and, so far as one can tell, on board United Flight 93, the fourth plane, the one which crashed in a Pennsylvania field en route, as we now know, to the White House. In Mr Moussaouis more skilled hands Flight 93 wound up with the runt of Osamas litter it might well have reached its target.
Ms Rowley and her colleagues established that Moussaoui was on a French intelligence watch list, had ties to radical Islamist groups, was known to have recruited young Muslims to fight in Chechnya, and had been in Afghanistan and Pakistan immediately before arriving in the US. They wanted to search his computer, but to do that they needed the OK from HQ. Washington was not only unco-operative, but set about, in the words of Ms Rowleys memo, thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents efforts, responding to field-office requests with ever lamer brush-offs. How could she be sure it was the same guy? There could be any number of Frenchmen called Zacarias Moussaoui. She checked the Paris phone book, which listed only one. After 11 September, when the Minneapolis agents belatedly got access to Moussaouis computer, they found among other things the phone number of Mohammed Attas room-mate.
What was the problem at HQ? According to the New York Timess William Safire, Intimidated by the brouhaha about supposed ethnic profiling of Wen Ho Lee, lawyers at John Ashcrofts Justice Department wanted no part of going after this Arab. Wen Ho Lee was a Taiwan-born scientist at Los Alamos accused of leaking nuclear secrets to the Chinese and arrested in 1999. His lawyers mobilised the Asian-American lobby, his daughter embarked on a coast-to-coast speaking tour, and pretty soon the case had effectively collapsed, leaving the Feds with headlines like Investigator Denies Lee Was Victim of Racial Bias (the San Francisco Chronicle).
This was during an election campaign in which Al Gore was promising that his first act as president would be to sign an executive order forbidding police from pulling over African-Americans for driving while black. Dr Lee had been arrested, wrote the columnist Lars-Erik Nelson, for working in a nuclear weapons laboratory while Chinese. In August 2001, invited to connect the dots on the Moussaoui file, Washington bureaucrats foresaw only scolding editorials about flying while Arab.
Example number two: another memo from last summer, this time the so-called Phoenix memo sent by Kenneth Williams. This is Kenneth Williams the crack FBI Arizona agent, not Kenneth Williams of Carry On Up the Khyber fame, though in the end it might just as well have been. Agent Williams filed a report on an alarming trend hed spotted and, just to make sure you didnt have to plough through a lot of stuff to get to the meat, the Executive Summary at the top of the memo read, Usama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.
Three weeks ago, FBI director Mueller was asked why the Bureau had declined to act on the memo. He said, There are more than 2,000 aviation academies in the United States. The latest figure I think I heard is something like 20,000 students attending them. And it was perceived that this would be a monumental undertaking without any specificity as to particular persons.
A monumental undertaking? OK, there are 20,000 students. Eliminate all the women, discount Irv Goldbloom of Queens and Gord MacDonald of Winnipeg and Stiffy Farquahar-ffarquahar of Little Blandford-on-the-Smack and just concentrate on fellows with names like ...oh, I dunno, Mohammed, and Waleed, and Ahmed. How many would that be? 150? 200? Say its 500. Is Mueller really saying that the FBI with all its resources cannot divert ten people to go through 2,000 names apiece and pull out the ones worth running through the computer?
Well, yes, officially, he is. But what he really means is not that the Bureau lacked any specificity as to particular persons, but that the specificity itself was the problem. In August 2001, no FBI honcho was prepared to fire off a memo saying Check out the Arabs.
On 15 September Robert Mueller said, The fact that there were a number of individuals that happened to have received training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously. If we had understood that to be the case, we would have perhaps one could have averted this. Indeed. There werent a lot of dots to connect. Last summer, within a few weeks of each other, the Phoenix flight-school memo and Moussaoui warrant request landed on the desk of Dave Frasca, head of the FBIs radical-fundamentalist unit. He buried the first, and refused the second.
Example three: On 1 August, James Woods, the motion-picture actor, was flying from Boston to Los Angeles. With him in the first-class cabin were half-a-dozen guys, four of whom were young Middle Eastern men. Woods, like all really good actors, is a keen observer of people, and what he observed as they flew west persuaded him that they were hijackers. The FBI has asked him not to reveal all the details, but he says he asked the flight attendant if he could speak to the pilot. After landing at LAX, the crew reported Woodss observations to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA did ...nothing. Two of the four were on board the 11 September planes. There are conflicting rumours about the other two. Woods turned out to be sitting in on a rehearsal for the big day.
After 9/11, the standard line was that Osama bin Laden had pulled off an ingenious plan. But he didnt have to be ingenious, just lucky. And he was luckiest of all in that the obviousness of what was happening paradoxically made investigating it all the more problematic. His men arent that smart not in the sense of IRA smart, or Carlos the Jackal smart. The details Woods is permitted to discuss are in themselves very revealing: the four men boarded with no hand luggage. Not a thing. Thats what he noticed first. Everyone going on a long flight across a continent takes something: a briefcase, a laptop, a shopping bag with a couple of airport novels, a Wall Street Journal or a Boston Globe.
But these boys had zip. They didnt use their personal headsets, they declined all food and drink, they did nothing but stare ahead to the cockpit and engage in low murmurs in Arabic. They behaved like conspirators. And Woods was struck by the way they treated the stewardess: They literally ignored her like she didnt exist, which is sort of a kind of Taleban, you know, idea of womanhood, as you know, not even a human being.
So they werent masters of disguise, adept at blending into any situation. They werent like the Nazi spies in war movies, urbane and charming in their unaccented English. It apparently never occurred to them to act natural, read Newsweek, watch the movie, eat a salad, listen to Lite Rock Favourites of the Seventies, treat the infidel-whore stewardess the way a Westerner would. Everything they did stuck out. But it didnt matter. Because the more they stuck out, the more everyone who mattered was trained not to notice them. The sort of fellows willing to fly aeroplanes into buildings turn out, not surprisingly, to be fairly stupid. But they benefited from an even more profound institutional stupidity. In August 2001, no one at the FBI or FAA or anywhere else wanted to be seen to be noticing funny behaviour by Arabs. In mid-September, I wrote that what happened was a total systemic failure. But, as the memos leak out, one reason for that failure looms ever larger. Thousands of Americans died because of ethnic squeamishness by federal agencies.
But that was before 11 September. Now we know better ...dont we? The federal government surely wouldnt want to add to that grim body-count ...would they?
Well, heres an easy experiment that any Spectator reader can perform while waiting to board at Newark or LaGuardia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were young Saudi males, Osama himself is (was) a youngish Saudi male, and some 80 per cent of all those folks captured in Afghanistan and carted off to Guantanamo turn out to be young Saudi males (though, out of the usual deference to our Saudi friends, the administration is keeping studiously quiet on the last point). So youre at Newark standing in line behind a young Saudi male and an 87-year-old arthritic nun from Des Moines. Wholl be asked to remove his or her shoes? Six out of ten times, itll be the nun. Three out of ten times, you. One out of ten, Abdumb al-Dumber. Even if this is just for show, what its showing is profound official faintheartedness.
Norm Mineta, the transportation secretary, is insistent that fairness demands the burden of inconvenience be spread among all ethnic and age-groups. Any specificity as to particular persons is strictly forbidden. Meanwhile, his colleagues have spent the last three weeks assuring us that another catastrophe is now inevitable. There will be another terrorist attack, Robert Mueller told the National Association of District Attorneys the other day: We will not be able to stop it.
We must, I suppose, take him and Cheney and Rummy and all the rest at their word. They wouldnt scare us if they hadnt done all they believe they can do. So, naturally, the mind turns to all the things they havent done: as I write, young Saudi males are still arriving at US airports on routinely issued student visas. If it lessened the inevitability of that second attack just ever so slightly, wouldnt it be worth declaring a temporary moratorium on Saudi visitors, or at least making their sojourns here extremely rare and highly discretionary? Oh, no. Cant be done.
Ask why the Saudis are allowed to kill thousands of Americans and still get the kid-gloves treatment, and youre told the magic word: oil. Heres my answer: blow it out your Medicine Hat. The largest source of imported energy for the United States is the Province of Alberta. Indeed, whenever Im asked how America can lessen its dependence on foreign oil, I say its simple: annex Alberta. The Albertans would be up for it, and, to be honest, theyre the only assimilable Canadian province, at least from a Republican standpoint. In 1972, the worlds total proven oil reserves added up to 550 billion barrels; today, a single deposit of Albertas tar shales contains more than that. Yet no Albertan government minister or trade representative gets the access in Washington that the Saudis do. No premier of Alberta gets invited to Bushs Crawford ranch. No Albertan bigshot, if youll forgive the oxymoron, gets Colin Powell kissing up to him like Crown Prince Abdullah and Prince Bandar do. In Washington, an Albertan cant get ...well, I was going to say an Albertan cant get arrested, but funnily enough thats the one thing he can get. While Bush was governor of Texas, he even managed to execute an Albertan, which seems to be more than the administration is likely to do to any Saudis.
So its not oil, but rather that even targeting so obvious an enemy as the Saudis is simply not politically possible. Cries of Islamophobia and racism would rend the air. The Saudis discriminate against Americans all the time: American Jews are not allowed to enter the Kingdom, nor are American Episcopalians who happen to have an Israeli stamp in their passports. But America cannot be seen to take any similar measures, though it has far more compelling reasons to.
James Woods puts it very well: Nineteen of 19 killers on 11 September were Arab Muslims not a Swede among them. But au contraire, in a world where the EU officially chides the BBC for describing Osama as an Islamic fundamentalist, we must pretend that al-Qaeda contains potentially vast numbers of Swedish agents, many female and elderly. Even after 11 September, we cant revoke the central fiction of multiculturalism that all cultures are equally nice and so we must be equally nice to them, even if they slaughter large numbers of us and announce repeatedly their intention to slaughter more. National Reviews John Derbyshire calls this the reductio ad absurdum of racial sensitivity: better dead than rude.
Last October, urging Congress to get tough on the obvious suspects, the leggy blonde commentatrix Ann Coulter declared, Americans arent going to die for political correctness.
They already have.
...as I write, young Saudi males are still arriving at US airports on routinely issued student visas.
There's an old Polish saying that goes something like this:
When a nation turns its back on God, he allows them to lose their minds.
BRILLIANT, even for Stein, who is always at-least half brilliant.
Please add my name.
Please add me to the ping list, too.
BTW, I saw somewhere that Woods has signed to play Mayor Guiliani in a TV movie.
The politicians will have to hear the angry voices of the people, and they aren't inclined to listen, just yet.
I guess 3,000 dead civilians isn't loud enough.