* عرب تايمز
... نصيحة من عرب تايمز للمطربين العرب الذين يأتون الى امريكا
لاحياء حفلات غنائية ... شخوا في منازلكم وغرفكم في الفنادق قبل ان تصعدوا الى
الطائرات حتى لا يقع لكم ما وقع للمطرب السوري نور مهنا
هل تعلمون ان قرار منع ركاب الطائرات من التجمهر حول الحمامات في الطائرات خلال
الطيران سببه المطرب السوري نور مهنا وفرقته الموسيقية .
الحكاية بدأت في الاول من تموز يوليو الماضي في مطار ديترويت ... حيث استقل نور
مهنا وفرقته الموسيقية المكونة من 14 عازفا الطائرة رقم 327 التابعة لنورث ويست
اسرلاينز والمتوجهة الى لوس انجلوس لاحياء حفل غنائي في كازينو للقمار في سان
ديياغو ... وخلال تجمهر الشباب في قاعة المغادرة تنبهت صحافية امريكية تكتب
لجريدة وول ستريت جورنال كانت تسافر على الرحلة نفسها مع ابنها وزوجها تنبهت
الى الفرقة العربية ولم تفهم الكثير من التصرفات التي كان الشباب يقومون بها
قبل الصعود الى الطائرة
وبعد انطلاق الطائرة واعلان الكابتن عن امكانية فك الاحزمة فز الشباب كلهم
ليشخوا ... تجمهروا حول الحمامات في الطائرة ليشخوا بالدور وكأنهم حملوا معهم
شخاخهم من دمشق ... وبعد ان شخوا بالجملة بدأوا يتبادلون الزيارات داخل الطائرة
مقزدرين بين المقاعد الخلفية والفيرست كلاس حيث يجلس نور مهنا الذي شخ معهم هو
الاخر وكعادتنا نحن العرب نقوم خلال وجودنا في الطائرات بحركات لافتة للنظر
منها التحدث مع القاعدين في الطرف الاخر من الطائرة بصوت مرتفع وتبادل الزيارات
معه وفتح الحقائب ونقلها والقزدرة بين المقاعد وهي حركات لم تتمكن الصحافية
الامريكية من فهمها وتفسيرها الا بتفسير واحد وهو ان هؤلاء قد يكونوا من
الارهابيين الذين يخططون لخطف الطائرة
على الفور تحدثت الصحافية مع احدى المضيفات فاخبرتها المضيفة ان كابتن الطائرة
قد احيط علما وان رجال الامن على الطائرة مستنفرين ويراقبون المشتبهين ... وبعد
وصول الطائرة الى المطار تم اعتقال الفرقة كاملة مع نور مهنا من قبل المباحث
الفدرالية والتحقيق معها والتأكد من انها كانت فعلا في طريقها لاحياء حفل في
كازينو للقمار زبائنه طبعا من العرب النشامى ... وتختتم الصحافية مقالها مبررة
قلقها الشديد خلال الرحلة بالقول انه اذا كان العرب قد تمكنوا من تعلم قيادة
الطائرات لخطفها فلماذا لا يكون بامكانهم تعلم العزف على الالات الموسيقية ايضا
من هنا ... نتوجه الى الاخوة المطربين العرب الذين يحضرون لاحياء حفلات عربية
في خمارات وكازيونهات القمار في امريكا بنصيحة مخلصة وهي ان يشخوا في بيوتهم او
في المطارات قبل الصعود الى الطائرات خاصة وان المطارات الامريكية مزودة
بحمامات كبيرة ومتسعة وليس مثل مطار دمشق الدولي ... وحبذا ايضا لو يخففوا من
تبادل الزيارات وهم على متن الطائرات لاننا لسنا في احدى حارات الشام ومقاهيها
للراغبين بمعرفة المزيد عن هذه الحكاية اليكم بعض ما نشرته الصحف الامريكية
والانجليزية عن نور مهنا وفرقته
Was an al-Qaeda plot unfolding on Northwest Airlines flight 327?
By James Langton
As Annie Jacobsen boarded Northwest Airlines flight 327 from Detroit to Los
Angeles, she was starting to feel sick with nerves. Her fear had been
mounting since the realisation that she and the other passengers who had
already passed through security were being served meals in the airport diner
with metal knives and forks.
Her alarm grew further still when she noticed that there was minimal
checking of the hundreds of travellers who had arrived on other connecting
flights. In particular, she was worrying about six Middle Eastern men
waiting to board their flight, two of whom were carrying musical instrument
cases, while the third was wearing an orthopaedic shoe. None was checked as
he boarded the aeroplane.
Mrs Jacobsen, her husband Kevin and their young son were already in their
seats when a second large group of Arab men arrived, one of whom, clearly
the leader, disappeared into the first-class cabin.
"I noticed some of the passengers paying attention to the the situation as
well," she recalled later. "As boarding continued, we watched as, one by
one, most of the Middle Eastern men made eye contact. They continued to look
at each other and nod, as if they were all in agreement about something. I
could tell that my husband was beginning to feel anxious."
What happened next on that June afternoon last month was to bring the
Jacobsens face to face with a fear that has gripped America since the
morning of September 11, 2001. Or, as Annie Jacobsen was to put it: "It was
four and a half hours of terror. My legs turned to rubber."
It would also place Mrs Jacobsen, a freelance financial writer, at the
centre of a controversy that has raged this week in America about how a
country increasingly bound by political correctness can protect itself in a
war where the enemy might be sitting in the next seat.
By the time the aircraft reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt lights
had been switched off, one of the men, wearing a yellow T-shirt and carrying
a bulging McDonald's bag, had already disappeared into the lavatory next to
first class. When he reappeared, the bag was empty. As he walked down the
length of the plane, he gave a thumbs-up sign to two other members of his
party. Then he went back to his seat - but without the bag.
Another man stood up. From an overhead locker, he removed a foot-long object
wrapped in cloth, then walked to the back of the plane. Five others from the
Middle Eastern party then began using the forward lavatory consecutively.
Several others made for the rear bathroom.
Trying to reassure herself and her husband Kevin, Mrs Jacobsen walked past
one of the men, with whom she had exchanged a few friendly words in the
terminal. Making eye contact, she smiled. "The man did not smile back. His
face did not move," she said. "In fact, the cold defiant look he gave me
sent shivers down my spine."
That was enough for her husband. Marching into first class, he approached a
flight attendant and told her: "I might be overreacting, but I've been
watching some really suspicious things."
Before he could finish, the flight attendant pulled him aside. "In a quiet
voice, she explained that they were all concerned about what was going on,"
Mrs Jacobsen says. "The captain was aware. The flight attendants were
passing notes to each other. She said there were people on board 'higher up
than you and me watching the men' [in a reference to the presence of
undercover air marshals]."
Four hours later, the mental torture of imagining one worst-case scenario
after another was beginning to take its toll. Just when the Jacobsens felt
that they could endure no more, the aircraft began its final approach. But
any sense of relief at an imminent landing was short-lived. With the "fasten
seatbelts" lights on and the cabin crew strapped in their seats for landing,
seven of the men stood up and made for the front and back lavatories. As
they waited, speaking in Arabic, one pulled out his mobile telephone. None
of the flight crew, Mrs Jacobsen was alarmed to note, intervened to stop the
telephone call or to make the men sit down.
Two rows behind her, Mrs Jacobsen heard the sound of crying and turned to
find a woman being comforted by her husband. "You've got to calm down," he
was trying to tell her in strained tones. Mrs Jacobsen grabbed her husband
and son by the hand.
Mr Jacobsen began writing down what he increasingly feared might be his last
thoughts. "I am just afraid that I am not going to see home again and that I
am not going to see my son grow up," he wrote. "And I am also terrified of
dying a painful death. I am terrified that I am not going to be able to
protect my son and family."
Moments later, the last man came out of the bathroom. As he passed the man
in the yellow T-shirt, Mrs Jacobsen saw him draw his finger across his
throat and mouth the word "no".
Nothing more happened. There was no mass attack on the cockpit, no need for
a heroic fightback like the passengers on American Airlines flight 93 before
it crashed into a Pennsylvanian field as the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded.
The tyres of the Boeing 757 bounced once on the runway at Los Angeles
International Airport, the engines roared into reverse and the tension that
had choked the cabin began to lift.
As the passengers walked into the terminal, Mrs Jacobsen saw men in dark
suits gathering. Los Angeles Police Department agents rushed past them.
Several other men from the aircraft, believed to be air marshals, pulled the
group of 14 Arab men to one side.
The Jacobsens decided to go straight to the authorities. The FBI took a
series of sworn statements from the couple, showing special interest in the
McDonald's bag. As she talked to them, Mrs Jacobsen noticed another FBI
agent holding a pile of Syrian passports.
So what did happen on Northwest Airlines flight 327 on that June afternoon?
The above events came to light after Mrs Jacobsen shared her story with a
few colleagues, and finally wrote it down. She sent a copy to the Washington
Post but did not receive a response.
However, she did get a swift telephone call from the Federal Air Marshal
Services. Under questioning, a spokesman revealed, the 14 men had said they
were musicians travelling to a concert at a Californian desert casino. None
showed up on the FBI's most wanted list and since their story checked out
they were allowed to go. The band, the spokesman said, "gave their little
performance in the casino and two days later flew out on a JetBlue flight
from Long Beach to New York".
Mrs Jacobsen's article was eventually published by a financial website,
WomensWallStreet. Largely ignored by the mainstream American media for a
week, copies of the piece Terror in the Skies, Again? were soon racing
across the internet. Her experience was exhaustively discussed in hundreds
of personal internet websites and on news forums.
By the time the official September 11 Commission report was published on
Thursday, her onboard "ordeal" had become the underground story of the week,
sparking wide-ranging debate between those who thought the Jacobsens and
their fellow passengers were paranoid and those who believe the flight had
been used as a "dry run" for a real hijacking.
Those in the first camp accused Mrs Jacobsen of at best exaggerating the
story and at worst of being a fantasist and a racist. Some contended that it
was a cultural misunderstanding - the Syrians were perhaps frequently using
the toilet as they carried out their ablutions in preparation for Muslim
prayer, with the foot-long object a mat for one of the men to kneel on.
Imad Habib, of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said that a
high anxiety had been implanted in the hearts and minds of Americans since
the attacks of 9/11. "Even those who are good people with good intentions
cannot help but look at things in a very suspicious way," he said. "We've
got to be vigilant as citizens, but we also have to be calm."
A mass circular email of the article was sent to some of America's leading
columnists, including Michelle Malkin of the New York Post. Initially
sceptical, she became increasingly convinced that the Jacobsens had
witnessed a rehearsal for a sequel to 9/11. Writing on her website, Malkin
praised Mrs Jacobsen's bravery and patriotism in telling her story. She
urged sceptics to wake up and stop behaving as they did before 9/11. "Better
a false alarm than a flaming plane," she said.
Security specialists in America have been warning for some time that
terrorists have been boarding US internal flights with bombs split into
seemingly innocent parts that allow members of their gangs to pass through
checkpoints undetected. The device, they say, is then put together during
the flight, probably in the aircraft lavatory, and hence involves multiple
visits to the bathroom by all those involved.
Gary Boettcher, a member of the board of directors of the Allied Pilots
Association, wrote to Mrs Jacobsen, saying that he and many fellow captains
had witnessed similar practice runs. "I am a captain with a major airline,"
he said. "I was very involved with the Arming Pilots effort. Your reprint of
this airborne event is not a singular nor isolated experience. The
terrorists are probing us all the time."
Another pilot, Mark Bogosian, with American Airlines, said: "The incident
you wrote about, and incidents like it, occur more than you like to think.
It is a 'dirty little secret' that all of us, as crew members, have known
about for quite some time."
Whatever happened during the flight from Detroit to Los Angeles last month,
Clinton W. Taylor, a local reporter in Stanford, has at least confirmed that
a Syrian band did perform at the Sycuan Casino and Resort, near San Diego,
on July 1 to support an Arab singer called Nour Mehana.
Mehana is no Osama bin Laden, but a Syrian balladeer with an uncanny
resemblance to the Vegas crooner Wayne Newton. Concert promoters confirmed
that some of his band had flown in on Northwest 327 but that the members did
not remember anything unusual about the flight. Beyond that, the promoter
said, he had been told by Homeland Security not to talk to the press.
According to Mr Taylor, the fact that he had proven the existence of the
band is not to suggest that Mrs Jacobsen, or any of the other passengers
(though no one else on board has yet come forward), was wrong to worry. It
does, however, he wrote, confirm some of the details of Mrs Jacobsen's
story, and some of the worst fears Americans have about airline security.
"The mindset of the passengers, of the crew, and even of the law-enforcement
personnel and decision-makers higher up the ladder was reactive, not
proactive," he said.
In particular, many of Mrs Jacobsen's supporters have poured scorn on the
"racially sensitive" anti-discrimination rules that say that no more than
two passengers of Arab origin can be searched at random before any flight.
The inflight undercover air marshals, too, are not allowed to "deploy"
against a passenger unless there is what they call an "event".
Rand K. Peck, a captain for a large US airline, said: "I've observed
matronly-looking grandmothers being practically disrobed at security
checkpoints and five-year-old blond boys turned inside out, while Middle
Eastern males sail through undetained.
"Middle Eastern males are protected, not by our Constitution, but from our
current popular policy of political correctness and a desire to offend no
one at any cost, regardless of how many airplanes and bodies litter the
The issue of political correctness, according to Mrs Jacobsen, is at the
heart of the matter. It is, she says, eroding airline safety. "From what
I've now learned from the many emails and phone calls I have had with
airline industry personnel, it is political correctness that will eventually
cause us to stand there wondering, 'How did we let 9/11 happen again?' "
But what no one knew - not the frightened passengers or the apparently
untroubled Syrian band - was that June 29 was far from an ordinary day. Only
hours earlier, the Department of Homeland Security had issued an urgent
alert at half a dozen airports for a group of six Pakistani men believed to
be training for a terrorist attack in the US. Two of those airports were
Detroit and Los Angeles.
So it is clear that the authorities were already worried about flight 327.
Despite the impression often given, armed air marshals are not on every US
flight. To have several on one aircraft is highly unusual and suggests that
there was a real fear of a terrorist attack.
Two days after Mrs Jacobsen's trip, the US Transport and Security
Administration ordered pilots to stop passengers from congregating around
aircraft toilets and told flight crew to check bathrooms every two hours for
suspicious packages. Six days after that, customs officers at Minneapolis
arrested a Syrian who was carrying a suicide note and DVDs containing what
has been described as "anti-American material".
Since her safe arrival in Los Angeles and the subsequent publishing of her
article, Mrs Jacobsen has reconsidered many times the question of whether
the Syrians on board flight 327 were in fact musicians. "I'll let you
decide," she has said. "But I wonder, if 19 terrorists can learn to fly
airplanes into buildings, couldn't 14 terrorists learn to play instruments?"