Jewish World Review Nov. 13, 2001 /27 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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Consumer Reports

Let military run security for air travel -- IT IS no surprise to me that the boom was recently lowered on some United Airlines security personnel. I have recently traveled across country, first to California, with a stopover in Dallas, second from Los Angeles to Chicago and then from Chicago back to New York.

Like everyone else, I paid close attention to what was done in the security realm. In fact, the security at United Airlines leaving Chicago was so lax that I was shocked. The person who was supposed to check my identification told me she didn't need to see a picture ID. She simply looked at my ticket and let me pass.

We do not need to continue to argue about whether airport security should be left in the hands of private industry; private industry has proven itself lacking.

We know that the airlines have not chosen to put out the kinds of wages that would draw higher-quality workers - but they certainly have put out their mitts for government handouts since Sept. 11.

We know that the argument for private security firms is sliding along on lobby grease, and we know that the argument against putting airline security under federal control centers on issues such as strikes and holidays.

But we can get past all those troubles by junking every previous proposal and making airline security part of the military, a new division. That immediately would reduce expenses - salary, insurance, benefits - quite dramatically. It would address the need for sky marshals for the 50,000 flights a day and give us much higher-quality and far better-trained workers than we would get otherwise.

Would that make us look like a police state, as those who seem to always believe we are on the verge of becoming a Nazi update are ever ready to claim?

I think not. In fact, in my travels, people were happy to see National Guard troops in the airports. But to create public ease of the sort that military clothing fails to create, we should follow the French lead, which is observable all over Paris. There should be uniforms specially designed for such military jobs.

Those jobs would involve rotational assignments, including checking picture identification and tickets, X-raying carry-on luggage, working at the metal detectors, providing armed security backup for trouble, inspecting bags before they are loaded on outgoing flights and serving as sky marshals.

What might these people be called? Members of the United States armed forces, airline security. They would be trained like all others, going through boot camp and getting specialized instruction for their duties.

Given what we saw Sept. 11, I have no doubt that Americans would willingly pay whatever taxes such a new military division would demand.

If we went in the direction of facing the fact that a military attack was made on Americans through our airlines, we would not be submitting to things that are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes. We would still be the United States, but we would have grown up a bit and would be free of the kinds of belief in omnidirectional goodwill that allowed those terrorists to come into this country in the first place.

It's time to straighten up and fly right.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2001, NY Daily News