It seems that our betters don’t know when to give up. Reports of the Illegal Immigration Compromise's death have been exaggerated. In league with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), President Bush will put forth “a $4.4 billion infusion of border security cash today apparently helped to ease concerns of many conservatives” called a "confidence builder."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid approved the new deal on immigration after meeting with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. [SNIP]
"We're going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept," [President] Bush said in a speech to the Associated Builders and Contractors.WTF-ever—and I submit that scornful response to Republicans and Democrats alike, since the majority of both parties in the executive and legislative branches seem hell-bent on doing what the people don’t want and determined to implement everything that is the opposite of fair, true and legal. The following saga symbolizes their total disconnect from reason.
After noting coverage of the latest (publicized) domestic terror plot--thwarted in its infancy--I found myself ruminating on other plots uncovered since The Big (Successful) One. The name of Richard Reid--the would-have-been “Shoebomber,” who unsuccessfully attempted to complement the September 11, 2001 attacks a mere three months later—popped into my mind, and I began to review what I remembered of that plan. That train of thought gave rise to another name: ‘Kwame.’ Kwame had been one of Richard Reid’s intended victims, but, happily, had helped to subdue Reid. I wondered what had become of ‘Kwame,’ so I did some research. (The name ‘Kwame’ was prominent in my mind for another reason: 99% of those with that given name are black, named in honor of first post-colonial Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah by knowledgeable/learned parents.)
As it turns out, Kwame’s last name is ‘James’ and his story is one filled will irony considering his background and what has occurred in his life since he helped to ensure that American Airlines Flight 63, along with its 197 passengers and crew, landed in one piece.
Interestingly enough, James has roots in Trinidad though he was born in Canada; the Trinidad connection is something that James has in common with the JFK airport (alleged) terror conspirators. Before James boarded Flight 63 in Paris late in 2001, he was a relatively anonymous guy--a 23-year-old 6’8” center for the AS Bondy pro basketball team in France's B League. However, his experiences since becoming one of the blessed ones to tangle with a terrorist and live--featured last year in Sports Illustrated--can only be described as an odyssey.
[…] Kwame James shrugged and didn't say a word when he -- handsome, well spoken, well dressed -- was yanked from the security line at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris and given the full pat-down-and-wand treatment while an unkempt fellow passenger carrying only a backpack and muttering to himself in Arabic passed through the checkpoint without a problem.
James, a dual citizen of Canada and Trinidad & Tobago and a recent graduate of a college in the U.S., has what he calls "an extreme dislike" of racial profiling. However, it was Dec. 22, 2001, barely 100 days into the "new reality" of life after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and if you were subjected to one of those exhaustive airport security searches, you smiled through clenched teeth and took one for the team. "I just figured, Oh well, my bad luck," James recalls. [SNIP]
Three hours [after takeoff,] he was roused by a frantic flight attendant. "We need your help in the back!" she said. "Now!"
The terror etched on the woman's face extinguished any notion that James might be dreaming. Without hesitating he rushed back to row 29, where he found other passengers struggling with that scraggly haired man who had breezed through the security line. A flight attendant was tightly holding her own hand, stanching the blood from a bite wound. The stench of sulfur filled the air. A thickset Italian passenger had the unkempt man, who was screaming incomprehensibly in Arabic, in a headlock.
For years James' coaches had chided him for being insufficiently physical, for shying from contact. Now here he was, helping to wrestle a flailing man into submission. James' adrenaline, surging far more than it ever had on a basketball court, spiked when a flight attendant warned, "Careful, he's got a bomb in his shoe!"
James looked down, saw a small Koran under the captive's seat and fixed his gaze on the wires poking out from the tongue of his black boot. Six times, the man later identified as Richard Reid -- and universally called the "Shoe Bomber" -- had tried to ignite the wires with a match. With no air marshals on board to help, James and a scrum of valiant passengers and flight attendants finally subdued Reid, who is 6-4, weighs more than 200 pounds and, as James puts it, "was possessed, clearly willing to die." Using belts and headphone cords, they tied Reid up, and two doctors on board injected Reid with a sedative. [SNIP]
James, the largest man on the plane, was asked by the captain to stand sentry over Reid for the rest of the flight. For nearly four hours, James sat on an armrest and pressed against Reid, gripping him by his greasy ponytail. [SNIP]The path which lead Kwame James to being on AA Flight 63 with Richard Reid is an interesting one.
In 1994, when he was 16, Kwame spent the summer before his junior year of high school with Aunt Pat in Indiana. She thought it might be fun for Kwame, now 6-7, to spend a few weeks at [former Indiana University and present Texas Tech basketball coach] Bob Knight's basketball camp. Playing full-court -- indoors! -- for the first time, Kwame dominated the other campers. Late in the session Knight summoned Kwame to his office and explained that he wanted Kwame to play at Indiana. The hitch was that Kwame would have to finish high school in the States, get some coaching and add some muscle to his lean physique.
Augustus and Carole James, both Ph.D.'s, had never heard of Bob Knight and wondered what cult their excited son had joined. Get your butt on a plane, Kwame, they effectively said. After much agonizing, however, Kwame decided to stay in Indiana with his aunt. It meant not getting to say goodbye in person to his parents, siblings and friends. It meant adapting to a different culture. But it also meant a chance to go to college in the U.S. for free. [SNIP]
As a senior he was a star on the [Lawrence North High, IN] varsity and made a recruiting visit to Bloomington to watch the Hoosiers practice. What he observed was how thoroughly Knight had drained the fun out of basketball. "Getting yelled at playing sports?" James says. "That was totally foreign to me. In Trinidad, sports are just fun. I'm thinking, I'm not signing up for four years of that."
Instead, James chose Evansville, whose basketball program, oddly enough, might be best known for the plane crash that killed the entire team in 1977. James turned out to be a good, not great college player, an undersized center who shot judiciously and was all too happy to sublimate his offense for the good of the team. [SNIP]
Ask James about his experience at Evansville, however, and he barely mentions basketball. He says the highlight of his four years there was befriending classmates from small-town America. "They'd say, 'Kwame, we've never met anyone from Trinidad before!'" he says. "I'm like, 'I've never met anyone from a town with no stoplights!'" His senior year he fell in love with [Jill] Clements, a nursing student from such a town, Loogootee, Ind., pop. 2,700.
James graduated in 2000 with a degree in international business. While he knew that the NBA wasn't in his future, he wasn't through playing basketball. He spent the next year pinballing among club teams in Switzerland, France and Argentina. The pay was awful. The living conditions were too. The travel -- 14-hour bus trips sometimes -- was worse. James was thrilled. In Argentina he learned to speak Spanish. In France he spent hours as a tourist, walking the streets and alleys by himself. "I never lost the skinny-Caribbean-kid mentality," he says. "I was getting paid to play basketball, man. It was a privilege."
In the fall of 2001 James was playing for AS Bondy, averaging double figures in points and rebounds. Yet for reasons he couldn't fully grasp, basketball was losing its appeal to him. Late one night he was out with some Bondy teammates, including Marcus Wilson, who played with James at Evansville, and he unburdened himself. "I told him not to get down because we were losing, but he said it was bigger than that," Wilson recalls. "It's ironic that he was thinking of doing something bigger than basketball."
The next morning James boarded Flight 63.
James' instinct had been right. The Shoe Bomber hadn't been acting alone. Within hours of the plane's landing, details emerged. Reid, a petty criminal in Britain, had been born in South London, the son of an English mother and a Jamaican father. After discovering radical Islamism, he had attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and was, according to e-mails he'd sent, upset that he hadn't been asked to participate in the Sept. 11 attacks.
When he had shown up at De Gaulle airport on Dec. 21, he had triggered security alerts: He'd paid for a one-way ticket to Miami in cash; he'd checked in no bag; and despite having traveled to seven countries in recent months, he had no fixed address or apparent employment. Authorities questioned Reid, causing him to miss his scheduled flight. But, apparently satisfied with his answers, officials put him up at a $280-a-night hotel and allowed him to board Flight 63 the next day. Enough plastic explosive had been packed into his hollowed-out bootheels to blow up the plane. The explosive bore the palm prints of a well-known al-Qaeda bomb-maker.
Fortunately, Reid had a lousy set of matches. "The fact is, if he had brought a lighter onto the plane instead, I wouldn't be here telling you this story," James says, an assertion that FBI officials confirm. "That will give me the chills for the rest of my life."CONTINUATION: In Part Two, The Hero of Flight 63 tries to become a US citizen--with no help from our betters.