So the Department of Homeland Security has issued an alert to U.S. air carriers flying into Russia during the Winter Olympics (that would be Delta and American and, starting next week, United) to be on the lookout for toothpaste tubes packed with terrorist explosives.
Are you kidding me?
I don’t mean about a toothpaste-tube terror bomb — that would, of course, be why the flying public has been subjected to vastly intrusive and mostly useless airport security screening for more than a decade.
That would be why we aren’t allowed to carry any container holding more than 100 ml of liquid or gel — including toothpaste — on board a commercial flight.
That would also be one of the reasons why toothpaste and shampoo and mouthwash manufacturers generally charge more for their tiny product sizes than for their larger, more economical and more practical sizes.
And that would be why I haven’t bothered going through the hassle of putting my shaving kit in my carry-on bag for years. (And why I wear only slip-on shoes if I’m flying and why I don’t wear a belt if I can help it.)
Because, you see, it is possible to fill a mouthwash bottle with some highly flammable liquid or pack a toothpaste tube with C-4 or Semtex or some other malleable plastic explosive. It was, after all, plastic explosive hidden in his hiking boots that shoe bomber Richard Reid was trying to detonate on that Paris-Miami flight back in December 2001.
So the security theory is that the smaller the allowable portions of liquids or gels that make it on board commercial aircraft, the smaller the resultant explosion will be if a terrorist does happen to get through ground security.
But we know all that. That’s been the case since 9/11 changed the world.
So why now?
Why now are carry-on toothpaste tubes such a big deal to the Department of Homeland Security (and don’t they know the chilling resonance Homeland has with Vaterland and all that entails?)
And if Delta and American and United should be upgrading their toothpaste vigilance at this time, should Air Canada and Air France and Air Titicaca be on extreme toothpaste alert now too? Logic would say yes.
But logic would also say that if the Department of Homeland Security has to issue a heightened vigilance alert when a toothpaste bomber is suspected to actually be out there, then … then the whole vastly intrusive and extremely expensive charade of airport security we endure every time we fly somewhere is, in normal practice, inadequate and ineffective — useless, in other words.
That’s the way I see it.
The only other reason that I can think of for issuing this toothpaste-bomb bulletin is to publicly notify any prospective toothpaste bombers that we’re on to their dirty tricks and will be waiting for them when they try to board an airliner with their tubes of Semtex or C-4 (more likely Semtex or another European brand than good-old-made-in-the-U.S.A. C-4). With luck, it might scare ‘em off.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Department of Homeland Security is just reminding us that terror lurks around every corner and that we civilized, sissified Westerners need — absolutely need — Homeland Security looking over our shoulders and breathing down our necks to protect us all from, you know, toothpaste bombers and the like.
That is, after all, why DHS was making such a big deal last week about the tremendous lengths to which the boys and girls of Homeland Securitate were going to ensure that there be no unseemly terrorist disruptions to the Super Bowl.
Personally I think it is far more likely that a car packed full of Semtex will blow up in Moscow or St. Petersburg or Volgograd than that a toothpaste tube of plastic explosive will blow up on a Delta airliner. But we’ll see.