Seoul Searcher

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

At War?

Al-Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups have been terrorizing and killing innocent people in the United States and the rest of the non-Moslem world, calling their cowardly and heinous acts necessary steps in what they call jihad or holy war. Al Qaeda soldiers sent by their leaders to blow themselves up with bombs to kill "enemies" are considered warriors who are willing to sacrifice their life for victory.

But not all suicide bombers succeeded in their mission as we have seen in the failed bomb attack against a Northwest airliner over Detroit by the 23-year-old Nigerian on Christmas day.

As soon as the plane landed in Detroit, the Nigerian terrorist was taken into custody by American civilian authorities that provided him with a lawyer and advised him that he has Miranda rights.

In short, the jihad fighter was going to be investigated and tried as a common criminal in an American civilian court, not in a military court as a prisoner of war, even though President Obama has finally acknowledged that America is at war with al-Qaeda.

The reasoning of the Obama administration goes like this: the bombing that could have killed nearly 300 passengers was attepted aboard an American airplane over an American city. Therefore, the would-be murderer should be tried in a civilian court in the United States.

But not many people in this country seem to realize that this way of thinking, based on the spirit of fairness and justice, will, nevertheless, infuriate the al-Qaeda leadership. Just try to imagine the intensity of anger and frustration that al-Qaeda leaders felt when they heard that their "warriors" who had failed to carry out their mission were caught by the enemy and were being held for a jury trial as a criminal by an American court.

They would think, "How dare the Americans treat our valiant and invincible warriors" as common criminals? If the situation were reversed, al-Qaeda leaders would put their American captives on television for all the world to see and forced them to confess their crime before executing them.

"But we are not like them," one liberral American politician declared in a televised debate here the other day. "We are not like the ruthless barbarians who ignore the basic rights of other people and who refuse to abide by international rules."

He said that unlike many of our aqdversaries, Americans believe even a terrorist who tries to kill hundreds of people deserves a day in court and that he should be treated fairly with a firm sense of justice, at least until he is proven guilty. He added that that is why Americans believe all those terrorists should be tried in civilian courts.

That is also why, they insist, all the Islamic prisoners held at Guantanamo prison should be moved to civilian prisons elsewhere and some of them should even be released.

These, of course, are admirable--even noble--thoughts and beliefs. But would our enemies understand, much less appreciate, the American sense of fairness and justice? I doubt it. In fact, I would be surprised if the members of al-Qaeda and other enemies of America, didn't laugh at what they believe was the "hypocritical attitude of the Americans" as well as "the naivety" of U.S. foreign policymakers.

The truth of the matter is that all those callous al-Qaeda leaders could not care less about the fate of their failed fighters while it is the Americans, especially the breast-beating liberals, who are concerned about the rights and well-being of the enemy soldiers in their captivity.

"We don't care how our adversaries behave," the afore-mentioned politician said. "We should simply do what we believe is right." But the problem is that this kind of thinking is taken by al-Qaeda as a sign of weakness; it also encourages them to keep attacking Americans.

This means that we cannot always be idealistic in politics in general and in our relations with other nations in particular, especially when the people of some of these countries are out to kill us for one reason or anolther. Nor can we ignore the mentality as well as cultures of those people and try to judge them with our own standard alone. We should try and understand their way of thinking, if we are to counter their future attacks and eventually defeat them.

It is often impossible to talk sensibly to an irrational people. There is a saying in Asia that the only medicine that works on mad dogs is a club with which we can beat sense into them. This saying, I realize, has an unfortunate choice of words, but the fact is, the only that will compel fanatical people to come to their senses is brute and merciless force with which we can deal a decisive and crippling blow to them.

If we are at war with al-Qaeda, as the president declared, then we must fight with full force and unwavering determination in order to win. We shouldn't, in other words, make half-hearted and ludicrous efforts like, for instance, attempting to try the captured enemy combatants in civilian courts like common domestic criminals.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

At the Airport

Our life gets tougher every time a terrorist or a group of terrorists blew up or tried to blow up civilian airliners, killing hundreds of innocent people.

Luckily, I didn't have the need for traveling by air over this past holiday season. But even without paying any attention to press reports these days, I knew security checks at all airports throughout America and elsewhere have become extremely tight in the wake of the failed attempt by a young Nigerian terrorist to bomb a Northwest/Delta airline plane on Christmas day.

I know what it is like to go through the security check at an airport because I have had an unpleasant experience of being singled out for more thorough check than others at the San Francisco International Airport in 2003.

Having lived nearly three quarters of a century, I thought I have learned the truth: what you think of yourself can be quite different from what others think of you. Nevertheless, I got a little upset when I was picked out of literally hundreds of individuals by airport officers as one of the passengers who, they apparently thought, needed a thorough bodily search before being allowed to board the airplane.

Why me? What made them think that this old, harmless man who can't kill a fly without feeling queasy could be a possible terrorist? I may not look like a refined gentleman. But neither do I look like a man of action, I am sure, with a pair of burning eyes, who would pursue a political or religious cause single-mindedly and at the expense of his own life.

"Would you step this way, please?" one of the security officers led me to a small cordoned off area where several men were waiting their turns to be checked and questioned.

I had just come through a metal detector successfully, that is, without triggering an alarm. Heaving a little sigh of relief, I went to a table where I picked up my carry-on bag, which had been x-rayed and was about to leave the area when the officer told me that they wantede to check me further.

First, the officer asked me if it was all right to look in my bag. It contained photographic film that I was carrying in a special lead container that was supposed to protect them from the x-ray.

"What's in it?" the officer asked me, pointing at the bag.

"Some 35-millimeter film," I told him.

"Are you a photographer?"

"A sort of...," I replied under my breath. I did not want to tell him that I was a retired journalist who happened to have developed a life-long habit of carrying a camera during all waking hours. You never knew what kind of newsworthy incident you might run into and become a valuable witness. Why you may even get a Pulitzer Prize, if you're lucky.

The officer took all 30 rolls of films out of the bag and checked them before putting them back. He then knocked the heels of my shoes with a small metal rod to see if I had something hidden in them.

Satisfied apparently that I was clean, the officer finally told me to go.

Although I knew I had to hurry up as I was running out of time to board the plane, I asked him what standard the security officers used to pick certain passengers to give a thorough check. "There is no such rule," he said, explaining that officers mostly rely on their "hunch."

"But in your case, it was different," he added.

"Oh? What was wrong with me?"

He said he had to check me becasue the airline clerk at the check-in counter "flagged" certain passengers for them to give a more than routine check to. Only then, I remembered a small incident earlier at the check-in countger. The airline clerk, seeing that my baggage was overweigh by half a pound, told me to take something out right there. I had to unpack the back while so many people behind me waited impatiently in line. I took half a pound of things from the luggage and stuffed them into my carry-on bag.

I knew I should have kept my mouth shut then, but since I was more embarrassed than annoyed, I made a snide remark to the clerk, point out that "the poor airplane is gonna carry that half a pound anyway, isn't it?"

With that remark, I must have succeeded in upsetting the clerk. I may be wrong, but he could have tried to settle the score with me by singling me out to the security officers as a passenger who should be scrutinized before being allowing on board.

In any event, I had forgotten all about that incident until I ran into an old friend at a party in Korea. He told me about a similar experience he had when he visited America. It was quite an unpleasant and demeaning experience, he said. I did not tell my story. I just said he shouldn't take such security procedures personally.

After all, the security officers at airports in America as well as in other countries are doing their job as they are required to do in order to prevent hijacking or other terrorist acts. Actually, we should rather be thankful that they carry out their work dutifully and thoroughly so that all of us can travel by air safely.

If there is anyone we should get mad at, it should be the terrorists who do not hesitate to blow up airplanes with bombs or take you and a whole lot of other innocent people in an airplane and crash it into tall buildings or other targets in a futile and senseless attempt to terrorize the world.


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