when I checked into the newly renamed George Best Belfast City Airport,
I was asked if I was carrying any liquids. I found myself gagging
as I suppressed a giggle. Attempts at humour in airports these days
are enough to leave you sun-tanning in an orange jumpsuit in Guantanamo
Bay. Further, my snigger was in bad taste. Not everyone would see
the funny side of the question, least of all the footballing legend
George Best, who had a serious drink problem. Security these days
is, of course, no laughing matter. There are genuine threats. To
this end, I do not mind security procedures. But I want them to
be logical, make me feel safer and minimise disruption. But, frankly,
security officials at some airports seem to be making procedures
up as they go along.
travelling to the US recently with my wife and child, we had to
taste six jars of baby food and four baby bottles at Belfast International
Airport prior to departure. Our childs teething gel was confiscated,
his nappy rash lotion, and my wifes hand cream, presumably
a precaution against passengers making a bomb as a desperate measure
to cope with a cranky child on a long-haul flight. On the way back,
the US authorities let the teething gel, baby food, nappy rash lotion
and hand cream through without a word, but refused to allow us to
take the sterilised water through in the babys bottles. However,
they were appeased when we mixed the powered formula into the bottles,
although no tasting was required. When my wife explained that we
had been able to carry the water through on the way there, the security
guard replied: This is the US, as if we did not know
that. I know that different jurisdictions probably have different
rules. But, surely, if someone knew what was going on, there would
be uniformity. Could the same security officials who thought there
were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq be those deciding what
is hazardous on aeroplanes? Alternatively, the plan is to make the
procedures so confusing that they leave would-be bombers so perplexed
that they choose another mode of transport.
I should not make light of this important issue, and people have
suffered as a result of security failures and misdirected acts of
aggression, but questions have to be asked. According to airport
authorities, the new security procedures have put an enormous weight
on their shoulders, thus creating the mayhem.
UK government, in turn, asks commuters for patience because it is
the nasty terrorists who are the problem, not security officials.
They revel in pointing out that the 9/11 attacks preceded the Iraq
war. But other airports, such as those in Germany or Spain, countries
which do not have troops in Iraq, are not in turmoil.
there is a dual problem. Firstly, there is the denial in the UK
that the Iraq invasion is related to the security situation at airports.
Secondly, from my travels through a number of airports, there is
ample evidence that suggests that no-one knows what he or she is
doing. Cumulatively, this makes me feel a lot more insecure than
this is a difficult time. But, as with this entire debacle of this
so-called and amorphous war on terror, something is
amiss and this involves ordinary people. Indiscriminate acts of
terror against civilians, failure to listen to ordinary people opposed
to the Iraq war, bombing civilians in Iraq who bear no relation
to the original war on terror, and now forcing people
through chaotic security systems, all add up to the same thing
we mere mortals are cannon fodder. We are caught in the cross-fire
between a bunch of men who think they are all-powerful. It really
winds me up and now I really need a drink.
Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis
of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its
relevance to South Africa on Polity, see http://www.polity.co.za/pol/opinion/brandon/.
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