Sunday, July 10, 2005

The 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street

Where the streets are pave with blood,
With cataclysmic overtones,
Fear and hate linger in the air,
A strictly no-go deadly zone,
I don't know what I'm doing here,
Cause it's not my scene at all,
There's an 'A' bomb in Wardour Street,
They've called in the Army, they've called in the police.
Paul Weller, 1978

I think there are two thoughts we ought to seriously consider in respect of the terrorist bombings in London last week.

Firstly, much media commentary has, in my opinion, vaulted to the naive conclusion that the bombings are Islamic fundamentalist (Al Qaeda) retribution for the UK's involvement in the war in Iraq. A seemingly obvious corollary to this position being that because New Zealand was not involved in the invasion of Iraq we would not be considered a target by Al Qaeda, JI or other terrorist cells operating in our vicinity.

Two issues aside immediately, firstly that New Zealand actually has troops based in both Iraq and Afghanistan, in this sense we are involved whether we like to think we are or not, and secondly multinational Islamic terrorist groups had been executing terrorist attacks for at least a decade prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Nevertheless it is a tempting position to hold, a kind of simplistic justification that somehow makes sense of the carnage and at the same time immunises ourselves from having to face the possibility that it could ever be possible in this country. Yet those holding this belief, I argue, are missing the point. Furthermore, the complacent belief that we could be immune to such threat ought to immediately raise questions about the nature of such a belief and what it might be based upon.

Rohan Gurnaratna, author of Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, points out that since 9/11 Al Qaeda's network within the Asia-Pacific has remained virtually intact. Cells had been particularly active in the Philippines and Malaysia and it is now common knowledge (since Bali) that Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI) was inflitrated in the early 90s and is the face of Al Qaeda in our part of the world. The current spiritual leader of JI, Abu Bakar Bashiyar lives in Indonesia. JI was formed by Abdullah Sungkar and after his death in 1999, Bashiyar his closest friend took over. It was a meeting between Sungkar and Osama in Afghanistan that spawned JI (Gurnaratna, 2002, p189).

Australia and New Zealand's isolation offer some natural level of protection however the very nature of our liberal democracies offer up vulnerabilities not currently exploitable in nations with now much tightened level's of security. Just as the terrorist threat moved beyond the Middle East in the 1970s and 1980s, and with rapidly developing technological global communications terrorist cells could operate with relative ease in both New Zealand and Australia. Our inherent ideological weakness (a free liberal society) combined with a growing terrorist threat in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore make our part of the world according to Gurnaratna, Al Qaeda's new theatre.

And the point is this, it is not the invasion of Iraq that is the direct cause of any, least not recent terrorist activities, it is our way of life, it is the excesses, degradation, arrogance and freedom of western styled democracy that is the target of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. The absense of Islamic shari'ah law and the substitution of man-made civil law looms large in the mind of an islamic extremist. Those burying their heads in the sand about possible terrorist attacks in New Zealand ought to rethink their position. Terrorists are opportunists. And New Zealand is rapidly rising up the list of liberal democracies that present clear and tangible opportunities.

One blunt response I heard last week as news broke of the terrorist attack in London was this - "who cares?". Thus the second consideration I ask readers to think about begins with these headlines today;

Suicide Bombers Kill 34 or 21 Killed, Scores Wounded in Baghdad Bombing

You might find a small article buried away in the recesses of your local newspaper, a search on Google News turned up plenty of links, most weren't running this as a cover story. You could run the argument that Iraqi deaths aren't as important as British deaths, or perhaps more acutely, that the information isn't as interesting or relevant.

But then, who really cares right?


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