Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So: He Set His Shoe on Fire? Excitement on Flight 663

Updated (11:27 p.m. Central Time, April 7, 2010)
"No Explosives Found in Denver Flight Scare"
FOXNews (April 7, 2010)

"A Qatari diplomat trying to sneak a smoke in an airplane bathroom sparked a bomb scare Wednesday night on a flight from Washington to Denver, with fighter jets scrambled and law enforcement put on high alert, officials said.

"A source confirmed to Fox News that the suspect is Mohammed Al-Madadi, a diplomat in the Qatar embassy in Washington.

"No explosives were found on Al-Madadi and officials do not believe he was trying to harm anyone, according to senior law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The sources asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation...."
Okay - this makes a little more sense. Except for folks who are convinced that almost everything is some sort of conspiracy.

My confidence in the BBC is a little shaken by this - although they did put 'shoe bomb' in single quotes for their headline.

The flurry of reports around the world is a pretty good reminder to study the news - and remember that reporters and editors get excited sometimes, too.
You can't make up this sort of thing, folks:
" 'Shoe bomb' attempt on US plane"
BBC (April 8, 2010) (I know: It's almost 10:00 p.m., Central - it's tomorrow on the other side of the Atlantic)

"A man has been detained after he tried to set fire to his shoes on a US flight, reports say.

"The man was subdued on United flight 663 from Washington Reagan airport to Denver, ABC news reported...."

"...AN ABC report identified the suspect as a Qatari diplomat stationed at the country's Washington embassy."
An Australian publication was a little less restrained:
"Qatari diplomat tried to light shoe bomb on US jet: report"
The Sydney Morning Herald (April 8, 2010)

"US federal air marshals have subdued a Qatari diplomat who tried to detonate a shoe bomb aboard a flight from Washington to Denver, US media reported.

"Authorities have identified the passenger as Mohammed al-Modadi, who has full diplomatic immunity as the third secretary and vice-consul of the Qatari embassy in Washington, ABC News reported...."
I'm waiting for the formal complaint at the United Nations, about the gross insensitivity of those Americans.

And an explanation that setting fire to your shoes is part of the rich cultural heritage of Qatar.

Or, not.

Seriously? My guess is that Qatar will want some sort of apology for the way their diplomat was mistreated - and may get it.

I've written about diplomatic immunity before. Including this excerpt from December 25, 2009:
"We're between news cycles right now, in terms of "diplomatic immunity." They don't come often - but I expect, in a few years, or maybe a decade or so, to start reading about shenanigans in New York City, or another major city, of diplomats who realize that they
  • "Don't have to have their chauffeurs obey the traffic and parking regulations that commoners do
  • "Can hit people if they want to:
    • "Reporters
    • "Waiters
    • "Ugly, common, unimportant people
"You get the picture.

"Not all diplomats are like that, of course. Most, I trust, understand what 'diplomatic immunity' is for: and don't use it as a sort of 'get out of jail free' card.

"But diplomats are human beings. And, some human beings are jerks.

"And a jerk with diplomatic immunity - or any sense of entitlement - gets to be a big jerk mighty fast...."
I see I didn't do much of a job, discussing what diplomatic immunity is for. Briefly, over-simplifying it: Without diplomatic immunity, diplomats would be at the mercy of whoever is running the country they're in. They could be arrested for having their ties on crooked, or wearing the wrong color shirt, or whatever. I rather hope that an American government wouldn't pull a stunt like that - but it's not inconceivable. And some other countries are not quite as picky as America is, about how they use their law enforcement. And not all police forces are just like America's. (February 19, 2010)

Diplomatic immunity isn't anything new. And, although it won't stop a petty king or goofy dictator from acting badly - it does encourage decent behavior.

Then, now and again, you get a diplomat who is a jerk. Or, possibly, this time, a wannabe martyr/terrorist.

As to why Mohammed al-Modadi set his shoe on fire? I have no idea. Maybe it really was a bomb. Maybe he thought Mickey Mouse was inside - and that it was his duty to destroy the infidel. (See "Mickey Mouse Must Die! Agent of Satan Targeted by Saudi Cleric" (September 19, 2008)) Maybe it really is a cherished Qatari custom - but I doubt it.Related posts:
A tip of the hat to ZephyrK9, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this latest bit of lunacy.

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