Apparently, there's a new law on the books that lets military personnel breeze through airport security checkpoints, the better to honor and respect their sacrifice and service to our country. Apparently, they are exempt from the requirement to remove their shoes or boots for inspection prior to boarding a plane. Apparently, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is ignoring the exemption and enforcing the same unlawful searches on the troops as they do on everyone else. (Accepting, of course, VIPs with their own nail ladies who lunch and fly frequently. They've been getting their separate lines for awhile now,because as we all should know, rich people are inherently more trustworthy. Just ask Mitt, who told an audience of NAACP members Wednesday to just trust him because he has their best interests at heart.)
A freshman Republican congressman is livid because only three airports are sort of complying with the law, which just went into effect last week, under some sort of wimpy "pilot program". Which is so ironically unfair, because even pilots have to be screened for weapons, drugs and alcohol. Fumed Rep. Chip Cravaack of Minnesota: "Just last week, I spoke to a service member who was asked to strip down to go through security — to remove boots and his service blouse — and another service member a few weeks before that!"
Okay.... I have got three words for Cravaack: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) It turns out that the brains of soldiers exposed to the shock of roadside bombs and other trauma become physically altered, leading to personality changes -- and sometimes violence, both against themselves and others. We are asking one percent of the population to go on tour after tour, deployment after deployment, sending them into battle when they are battle-fatigued -- and then we grandiosely offer to save them ten minutes at an airport because we love them so damned much.
Easy breezy military screenings seem pretty misguided to me. Wouldn't it be more logical for the TSA perform at least the same stringent pat-downs on soldiers as they do on elderly people suspected of harboring guns in their Depends? Soldiers have access to weapons the rest of us do not. They've had training in weapons use the rest of us did not. And a small percentage of them are mentally unstable.
Between 10 and 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered a TBI. It is believed that the soldier who allegedly murdered 16 people earlier this year had been diagnosed with a brain injury and returned to duty anyway. What if he had gone berserk on a crowded airplane 30,000 feet in the air, and nobody had bothered to check his boots for weapons?
Although an extremely miniscule number of TBI sufferers becomes homicidal, study after study shows a definite correlation between TBI and violent behavior. One longterm Swedish investigation tracking 20,000 people over three decades revealed that nine percent of the TBI subjects committed violent crimes, as opposed to only three percent of the "normal" participants.
I don't want to malign the troops. This is not meant to imply that all returning soldiers are ticking time bombs who should be strip-searched before boarding an airplane. The whole screening process is just so much political theater anyway, a means to enrich manufacturers of RapiScanner x-ray machines and Homeland Security subcontractors.
But the law exempting service members from the same screening civilians get is just a tacit official admission that the whole process is an onerous, illegal, humiliating and punishing one. It is not meant to keep us safe. It is meant to keep us in line.