Hebshi Shoshana is an American citizen and the mother of 7-year-old twins. She’s also one of the latest casualties of the hysteria built into our national war on terror.
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, she flew on Frontier Airlines flight to Detroit. When the plane pulled up to the gate, all the passengers onboard were ordered to stay in their seats, put their heads down, and their arms up in front of them. Federal agents carrying large, military style weapons then boarded the plan, and marched down the aisles.
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“I wondered if there was a fugitive on board,” Shoshana said.
What she didn’t realize at the time was the she was the “fugitive.”
The agents stopped at Shoshana’s row, ordered her to stand up along with two other men she had been randomly seated next to, and then she was handcuffed and removed from the plane at gunpoint. From there, they put her in a small jail cell, stripped the American mother of two children naked, and told to squat and cough while officers watched.
“I was scared and alone,” she said. “I can’t begin to describe the humiliation I felt. No one would tell me what was going on despite my repeated requests for information. No one told me of my rights, or when I would be able to call my family, who had no idea where I was.”
After some time, Shoshana was interrogated by an FBI agent. And she eventually learned that she was removed from the plane because of her ethnic name and her seat assignment.
She’d been seated between two men who were described by flight attendants as “possibly of Arab descent.” Those men had gone to the restroom a few times during the flight.
They, too, were American citizens. Of Indian descent. But, in our post-9/11 fear-frenzy whipped up by George W. Bush, the simple act of using the bathroom while “Arab looking” is enough to get you dragged off a plane at gunpoint. And, under the PATRIOT Act, it’s completely justifiable for federal agents armed to the teeth to spring into action and drag you, because of whoever is sitting next to you, off the plane, strip you naked, and put you in a jail cell indefinitely without a phone call, without a right to a lawyer, and without any information whatsoever about why you’re being detained. And they can legally keep you there for the rest of your life.
To repeat, all of this is now legal in post-George W. Bush America. All of this can happen to any of us just as it happened to Hebshi Shoshana, the American citizen and mother of twin boys.
“In my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined being in this situation,” she said.
None of us can, but all of us should.
Our national war on terror has now run for more than a decade. With it, we’ve seen two full-fledged wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands and destroying the lives of millions – at a cost of trillions. We’ve seen multiple covert drone wars launched in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. We’ve seen an enormous security-state apparatus constructed at home that collects our personal emails, text messages, phone conversations, and who-knows-what-else. We’ve seen the legalization of indefinite detention of American citizens – without charges or trial or the ability to even confront their accusers – who are suspected of affiliating with terrorist organizations.
And in the case of Hebshi Shoshana, we’ve seen the ruthless counter-terror operations that we believed were only done in far off places in the Middle East or secret CIA detention facilities, brought home and used against us – against American citizens on American airliners at American airports.
And for the most part, “we the people” have allowed all of this to happen. And now, as this war on terror turns inward and begins devouring us from within, we have to ask ourselves, “What have we created?”
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Shoshana is filing suit against the FBI, Frontier Airlines, the TSA, ICE, and Customs and Border Protection. She hopes her lawsuit will bring, “accountability and changes so this type of thing doesn’t happen again.”
We can only hope.
The fact is that “We the people” allowed this war on terror to begin and to grow. And if “we the people” don’t put an end to it fast, then it’ll eventually turn its guns on us, too.