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How many of you have heard about the November 17, 2009 AirTran Flight 297 from Atlanta to Houston? While there is some confusion about what really happened, there is no doubt some passengers were alarmed enough to leave the plane when it returned to the gate. They believed a terrorist “dry run” was in progress. AirTran has downplayed the “alleged incident.” Were these men just messing with the passengers? I don’t know, but I’m not taking any chances. Were they scouting the reaction of the passengers for another group that has plans to carry out a future terror mission? It doesn’t matter. I refuse to stand by while a bunch of Islamic terrorists use me and my fellow passengers to make some perverted religio-political statement. I’m not going down in an airplane without a fight. I hate flying, but I hate crashing even more.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the Nigerian Muslim who botched his attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner from Amsterdam. Some of the passengers took action and immobilized him. The guy was on a government list. His father had contacted government officials warning them that his son was dangerous and a possible terrorist candidate. It may be bravado, but “Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253, told FBI agents there were more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.” (see here and here). Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano initially claimed that “the system worked.” No it didn’t. The people on flight 253 worked.
“We’re the government, and we’re here to save you”
Famous last words. There’s only so much that governments can do to stop terrorists who are committed to blowing up planes, buildings, people, and themselves. If a group of crazed men want to overpower a flight crew, they’ll find a way to do it or die trying and take the plane and its passengers with them. All it takes is a few razor blades, the panic of passengers, and the unwillingness of men to take matters into their own hands because they have been assured that the government is in control and everyone has been properly screened. I’m not buying it, and neither should you.
While I applaud the security precautions taken by the airports, they are not foolproof. Razor blades can easily be concealed. But who even needs razor blades? There are some very hard plastics and composite materials that can be sharpened enough to slit a throat. (Think how easily paper can cut skin.) These types of weapons cannot be picked up by scanners and “magic wands.”
It’s the presence of the security devices that makes us feel safe enough to let down our guard. Terrorists know this, and they will exploit it. While we’re relaxed, they’re plotting and planning. How many times have you heard “experts” tell us that the terrorists will not use planes again? Don’t believe it. They will continue to test the fence looking for blind spots and soft spots. A second wave of planes-as-missiles would bring commerce to a screeching halt and turn America into a virtual police state. That’s the goal. Hit us where it will hurt the most.
It’s Up to You, Me, and the Guys Next to Us
So what do we do? While the government has decided not to scrutinize Mid-Eastern men out of fear of verbal and legal assaults from the ACLU and Muslim advocacy groups like CAIR, there’s nothing stopping us from doing it. This isn’t to say that there may not be home-grown terrorists trying to bring down planes, but odds are that, to use Ann Coulter’s phrase, it’s going to be a group of “swarthy men.” And it will take a group of them to do it. So if you see five or ten Mid-Eastern types, probably traveling without wives and children, be suspicious. If you spot such a group, size them up physically. Could you take most of them—man to man—in a fight?
Introduce yourself to the other men on the flight. Ask them about their destination, work, and family. Do they fly a lot? Talk about sports is always a good ice breaker. Did they play football in high school or college? For how long? Get an idea of their physical abilities. Do they look in shape? If they’re wearing short sleeves, take a look at their forearms. Meaty forearms are a good sign.
The goal is to make the men feel comfortable knowing that there are other men who will do something if there’s trouble. Nothing needs to be said directly, but they’ll know when the time comes for action. If the terrorists get wind of what’s happening, all the better. It will force them to look for softer targets. Keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t let your guard down.
How to Strangle a Terrorist
Let’s say five “swarthy men” get up from their seats and begin to terrorize the passengers and shout threats while five more head for the cockpit. What are you going to do? How far are you willing to go to stop them? What if they threaten to kill a passenger? Have you ever been in a knife fight? Razors cut clean and deep. Could you overpower someone who doesn’t care if he dies and surely doesn’t care if you die? In simple terms, are you willing to fight to the death, either yours or (preferably) theirs? You have to be willing to die but put all your effort in staying alive. Without this, you can’t match the terrorists who have already made the commitment.
These decisions must be made before you ever get on another plane. This means you and I have to prepare for the possibility that the next flight we take might be taken over by radical Muslims. We can’t sit back and watch it happen. We know what’s going to happen if they succeed in taking control of the airplane. Someone must verbally take charge; otherwise people will not respond. That means the person who responds to the terrorists first must tell every man what to do to defend the women on the plane. Appeal to every man’s sense of obligation toward the women and their families.
If you never really had the incentive to get into better physical condition, now’s the time to do it. Begin by walking, first on flat surfaces then up hills until you’re winded. Work until you can exert yourself strenuously for at least one minute without getting out of breath. Jumping rope is good exercise and a neat skill to master. This will give you the stamina you’ll need to keep an attacker from getting the best of you until someone else comes along to help. Remember, an airplane is close quarters. That’s to your advantage. The terrorists will be spread throughout the plane and will not be able to get to points of resistance quickly.
Pick an aisle seat, especially if you are traveling with your wife and children. Your positioning will allow you to move fast at the first sign of danger and to serve as a barrier to protect anyone traveling with you. You will also have a better line of sight. If you can, pick a seat in the front of the plane.
The best way to immobilize an attacker is by approaching him from behind. But this isn’t always possible. A frontal assault may be your only opportunity, but you’ll want to avoid being cut. This will mean protecting yourself long enough for someone else to get behind the terrorist. Wrap your jacket or shirt around your arm for protection. It wouldn’t hurt to carry a pair of stiff work gloves in your carry-on bag to protect your hands. A rolled-up in-flight magazine makes a good club. Put it to good use; it’s free. You’ll still need an effective counter weapon. Keys are good. Place your key ring in the palm of your hand. Make a fist over the keys with two keys protruding between your fingers. Thrust the magazine at your assailant’s weapon while you jab the keys repeatedly—using short driving strokes—in his eyes as you force him backward.
Here’s what you should do if you’re the guy who can get behind the terrorist. Use your belt as a garrote. With the ends of the belt gripped tightly in each hand, loop it around the attacker’s throat and pull back and down hard. Pull as if your life depended on it. You want to hurt him. If you are directly behind him, put your knee into the back of his knees or the small of his back and force him forward to his knees and then face-down in the aisle or in a seat. He’ll either drop his makeshift knife to grab at his throat or flail about to cut anyone in his perimeter. If he flails around, put all your pulling weight on the belt to collapse his wind pipe until he passes out. A computer power cord also works well, although in the hands of a strong man it could break.
There are other self-defense measures, but these are the simplest to perform for the untrained. What else can you use for a weapon? In the right hands, a stout ballpoint pen can do plenty of damage if driven into the soft tissue just under the jaw. Always think “McGyver.” In the right hands, a stout ballpoint pen can do plenty of damage. There’s a scene in The Bourne Identity (2002) that will show you the best technique to use.
Pump Some Iron
It was learned that the 9/11 hijackers trained at local gyms in preparation for the physical demands of dealing with possible resistance. In addition to cardio-vascular work, some weight training would be helpful. Even if you never have to confront a terrorist, training with weights is good for you. A muscled body will burn more calories every time you move than a body that weighs the same but has a higher percentage of fat. Even at rest you will burn more calories if you increase your muscle mass.
Don’t believe the old canard that muscle eventually turns to fat if you stop weight training. Fat is fat, and muscle is muscle. One does not turn into the other. If you don’t exercise your muscles, they get smaller. If you eat what you ate when you were more active, you’ll put on fat. It’s that simple. If you ever stop working out, you must reduce your caloric intake. If you’re prone to osteoporosis, weight training will help increase your bone density.
What you’re looking for is upper-body strength, especially in the shoulders. This can be done with dumbbell work. Curls, both regular (palms up) and reverse (knuckles up), overhead presses, upright rows, lateral and front raises, and bent over rows are a good start. Do 3 or 4 sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise (3 x 12). When 12 reps get easy, increase the weight by 2.5 lbs per dumbbell. If you want to get ambitious, add bench presses and dumbbell flys. Leg work is helpful for a balanced body. As we get older, the legs go first. That’s why Muhammad Ali developed the “rope-a-dope.” Illustrated descriptions on how these and many other exercises are to be performed properly can be found on the internet (see here).
Work out three or four days a week for about 20 to 30 minutes each day. Alternate between back and chest exercises one day and arms and shoulder exercises the next day. Or you can do an upper body/lower body routine. Legs and chest one day shoulders, arms, and back the next day. You’re not going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to look with this basic routine, but you will get stronger and be more fit than you probably are now. If you want a basic routine using only dumbbells, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you what I’ve developed for beginners.
Taking Back the Skies
It’s time American men take charge. Your wife will love you for it, and you might even save some lives. There is a new battlefield. Normandy was of a different time and place. The terrorists have brought the fight to our homes. If we’re ever going to feel safe again without turning America into a police state, we’ve got to push political correctness aside and take real action.