Government’s Idle Hands: Underwear Bomber 2.0

Government has a serious problem. It’s got nothing worthwhile to do. All the cool things in life come from the private sector, and this is more obvious than ever. The market is creating whole worlds before our eyes, while the government seems ever more like a hopeless anachronism.

Government’s life depends on public frenzy about some grand task it is seeking to accomplish. But today, there is no epic struggle, no grand historic project, no leading us to the light, no vanquishing evil and all those other things government used to claim to do.

It has certainly flopped as the Savior of the Economy. It can’t educate the kids, it can’t give us riches and it can’t even deliver mail.

So its idle hands do the devil’s work. Government grabs our money and dishes it out, roughs people up in the name of safety or security or whatever and otherwise hectors and prods us in a billion dumb ways that make it harder and harder to achieve a better life.

Oh, but wait! Let’s not forget the War on Terror. Surely, there is a job worth doing.

Just last week, the headlines blared that government authorities had done it again. They had marvelously protected the homeland from a catastrophic bombing. The plot, fortunately foiled, involved an amazing bomb sewn into underwear, to be worn on another U.S. flight.

But the U.S. officials intervened and saved the day. They bombed the heck out of the nasty terror cell, slaughtered a few of these vermin. Ah, the world is safe for another day.

This is what we were told. I saw the headlines and smelled a rat, but I moved on. But then the headlines continued the next day and the next. You know how this happens. You finally relent and read the thing because the editors think it is important and, of course, it is irresponsible not to be “in the know.”

But by the time I actually started paying attention to the latest act in this security theater, the story had changed — not just a little, but a lot. It turns out that the U.S. had an agent inside this terrorist operation. He was a Saudi national in the pay of the CIA, and he was operating in Yemen. Pretty exotic stuff.

The details continued to pour out. This guy was not just an informant. He actually delivered the real bomb to the CIA! Now, that’s an effective agent. Right? It seems so. What’s more, he was the actual guy who was going to carry out this operation.

And the operation itself? A suicide bombing. He volunteered to die. He was given the bomb that he would use. He took the bomb to the CIA. To what extent he was the actual plotter, the guy who talked others into this whole thing and whether the bomb even worked — these things are all unknown. All that is known is that this unnamed informant turns out to be the terrorist in question and that he himself did all of this on behalf of the CIA.

Now, let’s just say you are an Islamic follower in Yemen and like nearly everyone else in this region, you are pretty fed up with U.S imperialism. This young punk from Saudi Arabia suggests a plot to blow up an American airliner. Maybe this sounds interesting and epic, but maybe somewhat reckless.

In fact, you are going to be pretty suspicious of this whole idea, but he is driving everyone crazy with demands that he be given a bomb. Then he even suggests that he be the suicide bomber. You might be thinking, “Hmm, whatever else, at least this plot could result in one fatality: this stupid punk from Saudi Arabia!

“Here’s your bomb. Knock yourself out. Break more than a leg.”

I, of course, have no idea if this is what happened. But the CIA’s involvement here compromises the narrative enormously.

As David Shipler wrote in The New York Times:

“The United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

“But all these dramas were facilitated by the FBI, whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naively played their parts until they were arrested.”

In the Middle Ages, there was a profession called the wine taster. His job was not to discern the vintage or tell if the bouquet had a hint of blackberry. His job was to make sure the wine was not poison.

But let’s say many years went by and none of the wine was poison. The wine taster started getting nervous for his job and profession. So he went around the city and tried to get people to poison wines. He made himself a presence among all the vandals and vagrants and volunteered to do the poisoning himself.

If the news of his mischief came out, do you think he would have been a hero or a villain? It seems that he would have been and should have been completely washed up. He was going around trying to get people to poison wines as a way of maintaining his job. This is a moral outrage. He would surely be out of work.

This is what the government is doing to us these days. It is trying to inspire terrorism and then claiming credit for having discovered it. Then it scares people into thinking that their job is extremely important, and therefore, without it, we would all be sunk.

In other words, this looks less like national security and ever more like a racket.

People say that terrorists are desperate cowards. Maybe. But then what phrase is left for a government that does this sort of thing as a way of maintaining its lease on life in times when ever more people are fed up with the whole game?

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