Greater Than the Sum of All Fears

(David Sisler's newspaper column, Not For Sunday Only, is in its 13th year of weekly publication. This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

The whole, they say, can be greater than the sum of its parts. In the case of the newly released movie, The Sum of All Fears, the whole may be less than the sum of its parts.

In 1991, Tom Clancy wrote a terrifying novel about an Israeli atomic bomb which was lost when a fighter plane crashed. The bomb found its way into the hands of Palestinian terrorists who detonated it at the Super Bowl in Denver. Their desire was to start a war between the United States and Russia.

Mr. Clancy is the acknowledged master of the techno-thriller. His research is peerless. His battle scenes are frighteningly realistic. Sometimes his writing is prophetic.

In Debt of Honor, a Japanese 747 crashed into the Capitol, killing the President of the United States and most of the rest of the government. Jack Ryan, Clancy’s greatest hero, had been elevated to the office of Vice President because of a sex scandal. He held the office for only a few minutes because of the terrorist attack. In the sequel, Executive Orders, President Ryan must overcome many foes, including Americans with a truck bomb and Iranians with Ebola virus. I was half-way through Executive Orders on September 11. Fiction was no longer fun, and I threw my copy into the trash can.

I have seen all of the previous Clancy novels in their more-or-less true-to-the-book movie versions (why the Prince of Wales and his family became some other British functionary in the movie, Patriot Games — one of my favorite Jack Ryan novels — is beyond me). I will not see The Sum of All Fears. The previews and reviews for Sum (and my own reading of the original story) have told me all I need to know. Watching cities being blown up is no longer entertainment. At least not entertainment in which I will participate.

The nuclear explosion was moved from Denver to Baltimore for some cinematic reason I am sure — perhaps the Maryland city’s proximity to our nation’s capital. What I don’t understand is why the Palestinian terrorists are now neo-Nazis.

Sum's producers said that before they had a final script, the Council on American-Islamic Relations descended on them, demanding that the story be changed. It would not be politically correct to show Arabs as the terrorists, they said. We cannot be guilty of racial profiling, the decision makers warned.

This is the same twisted thinking that has airport security people patting down 70-year-old grandmothers and 10-year-old boys (incidents witnessed three weeks ago by yours truly, during make-believe security checks highlighted by alleged security examiners mumbling “Did you pack this?” and “Did anyone give you anything?” and all the while never once looking at the passengers).

Ben Affleck, who portrays a new version of Jack Ryan, cavalierly said, “The Arab terrorist thing has been done a million times in the movies.” If The Sands of Iwo Jima were remade today, John Wayne’s stand-in would be fighting, tobacco-chewing, good-old-boys who drive gun-rack-equipped pick-up trucks. Now, that would be politically correct!

When the Khobar Towers were bombed, who were the attackers? When the USS Cole was struck, who were the attackers? And the embassy bombings? And the Pentagon? And the World Trade Center?

I used to work with a man who was, unquestionably, the most prejudiced person I have ever known. With total seriousness, with complete candor, and with rancor-of-forethought, he said, frequently, too frequently, “All Mexicans are lazy. All blacks are thieves. All Italians are criminals. All Russians are liars.”

Mercifully, he and his kind are in the minority.

Regardless of the stereotyping done by that man and his ilk, “all BLANKS are not BLANK.” However, all the terrorists who hijacked airplanes on September 11 were ethnic Arabs. Have we forgotten al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat?

El Al, Israel’s national airline, uses profiling, including racial profiling, to protect its passengers, and not one of their planes has ever been hijacked. And unlike America’s airport security force, they look all passengers in the eyes and ask them a battery of questions. Several examiners may question passengers before they are allowed to board their aircraft.

While changing from Air Moldova to Delta last December in Frankfurt, Germany (the world's second toughest airline security checkpoint), I was cross-examined to the point of being nervous, but when I boarded my flight for Atlanta, I was comfortable that the best possible job of screening all passengers had been done.

Writing in Slate, Reihan Salam says, “Americans have demonstrated that they can separate a small, violent minority from the vast majority of peace-loving Arabs and Muslims.” But America is morbidly politically correct. We are afraid of giving offense, even when lives are at stake.

Meanwhile, from out of the woodwork are crawling critics who want to blame the CIA and the FBI for the events of September 11. President Bush needs to immediately empower a blue ribbon panel to uncover our nation’s security failures instead of allowing the current climate of political muckraking to continue. But if we don’t do a better job of protecting our nation today — including profiling — who will we blame when the next attack comes? Only our politically correct selves. Those who survive, that is.

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