Sunday, December 28, 2014

AAA-14 - Answer 5 – Threat Level

Up until now, the questions for this year’s “Ask Arthur” series have been light, even light-hearted, and my answers have been, too. Today I have a more serious question from Roger Green.

Today’s question is: Given the hostage situation in Australia: what is your sense of the safety from terrorism in New Zealand?

What Roger is referring to is when a deranged religious fanatic took a bunch of people hostage, ultimately killing two. The killer was either an islamist fanatic or, more likely, a sociopath who was using religion as an excuse for his sociopathic behaviour.

It really doesn’t matter if he was insane or a sane man doing insane things, though, because either way, two people died, many people were terrorised, and a particular religion was demonised. And it shocked everyone.

The Australian government claims to have intercepted and prevented a few supposed “terror plots”, though all the federal and state agencies completely missed this guy. I have no way to evaluate the truthfulness of the Australian government, or whether they’re saying things merely for political purposes, but it’s pretty indisputable that Australia is in the sights of global islamist terrorism.

Australia under rightwing Prime Minister John Howard joined the Bush/Cheney “coalition of the willing” to invade Iraq, and has been part of the US-led military action against ISIS/ISIL under current rightwing Prime Minister Tony Abbott. That group has urged Muslims to kill as many people in such countries as possible, and some violent fanatics will do exactly that. Regardless of whether the lack of real terrorist attacks in Australia so far is because of luck or the government, it’s certain there will be a real successful attack eventually (and the Sydney Siege was NOT such an attack).

To specifically answer Roger’s question, I’ve never felt unsafe in New Zealand, except in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, when the US Embassy warned Americans in New Zealand to keep a low profile. However, about a year later a friend sent me some t-shirts that said “USA” on them, and I didn’t feel comfortable wearing them. In fact, I’ve never worn them.

The thing is, I’ve only ever felt unsafe as an American living in New Zealand. I often felt prudence was wise, not because of NZ-born New Zealanders, but because of persons from immigrant populations who may not particularly like Americans. I’ve found that Kiwis who are real leftists—the only Kiwis likely to be anti-American—are more verbally than physically threatening, but, even so, I don't go around announcing my American-ness.

All of that was pretty mild, actually, and I often forgot all about. I never felt unsafe as a New Zealander—until recently.

Our current conservative Prime Minister, John Key, is planning on sending NZ troops to fight in the US military action against ISIS/ISIL, and that will, for the first time, put New Zealand in the sights of islamist extremists. That does worry me.

Even so, and despite all that, I’ve never—ever—felt unsafe in New Zealand, and even the awareness that terrorist attacks could happen in this country in the future because of the current government’s policies is something that’s merely in the back of my mind, never a preoccupation.

New Zealand is an isolated island nation, safe from foreign threats, and most domestic ones. The extent to which we must sacrifice essential liberty to obtain some temporary safety is at the heart of our current political debate, and that’s why I’m more worried about what John Key is doing to New Zealand freedom and liberty than I am about terrorism.

Despite everything, including our Prime Minister, New Zealand is a safe place.

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