The Guardian 10 August, 2005

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Letters to the Editor


The internet is a constant source of anxiety for the powers that be — or so they would have us believe. It seems all the information required for some evil genius to destroy civilisation, as we know it, is out there on the net and just one mouse click away. Recipes for bombs, coded instructions from jihadist organisations and all sorts or unwelcome news and views are out there. Spy organisations now have whole new departments trawling the internet for bytes of threatening data.

The latest "threat" is presumably Google's free-to-download Google Earth program that allows computer users to zoom in on satellite images of the earth's surface with startling clarity. To the military mind the terrorist potential is huge — or at least the opportunity to beat up terror hysteria is.

While US authorities prevailed on Google to block out the detail of the roofs of White House and similar buildings, Australian "targets" like the Lucas Heights reactor are there in all their glory. However, while the 6-to-18-month-old image is great fun to zoom in and out on, it is of doubtful use to a terrorist. It doesn't feature the new reactor or the $36 million worth of new security arrangements. And, in any case, scores of commercial aircraft overfly the site everyday.

However, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation executive director Ian Smith has contacted Google and requested that sites like Lucas Heights (which was stupidly located in Australia's largest metropolis in those innocent pre-internet days) be given the block-out treatment demanded by administration paranoids in the US.

Mr Smith acknowledges that the site can be observed from aircraft and is plain for all to see from the road but, as he puts it: "if you put it on the internet, does it go to Pakistan or Afghanistan and make it easier for them?" Good question. But for the record, Mr Smith handed out some handy advice for Central Asian terrorists in the same interview with The Australian: "There's a small area near the middle of the site which is quite secure, but the bulk of our site isn't all that secure… We don't have the guarding or the hardware to stop someone from getting in to the site if they really wanted to."

Goddam, didn't Mr Smith realise those comments would be put on The Australian website to be accessed by who knows what terror outfit? And didn't the US administration realise that when they told Google that they couldn't sell the program to countries like Cuba or Iran that evil-doers in those places could get on the net and download a freebie like everybody else?

Ruddock is sounding cool and striking the right tone in line with bellicose spirit of our times: "Australian government security agencies are aware of such sites and the information available on them and factor them into their assessments of threat." Sure they are! More likely, titbits like this are given to press secretaries to puff up out of all recognition.

Wayne Harrow
Calwell ACT

Convenient memories

Our politicians have selectively convenient memories — or they think Australians are fools.

Both Attorney General Philip Ruddock and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley assert, despite evidence to the contrary and ordinary common sense, that the terrorist attack on the Australian embassy in Indonesia is not related to our involvement in Iraq, claiming that terrorist attacks began before the invasion of Iraq in 2002. They conveniently forget that Australia has had naval forces enforcing the United Nations sanctions against Iraq since the first Gulf war in 1991.

As for Kim Beazley clamouring for the return of Australian troops to Afghanistan to "finish the job" as he says, the only visible results of our first involvement in a regime change was to replace the Taliban with warlords, who are just as vicious and undemocratic as the Taliban, and to rejuvenate the opium trade which the Taliban had suppressed.

In both cases these countries were invaded without any thought of the future following a successful invasion. Will this be the scenario with Iran, North Korea and Burma?

Whether they believe it or not, the only way our politicians can take us out the danger of terrorist attacks is to back off from overseas engagements.

Col Friel
Alawa, NT

"Shock and Awe 60 years on"

While we remember the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima let us also remember how it inspired the "Shock and Awe" bombing of Bagdhad. Military strategist Harlan Ullman was impressed by "the nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction" unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how it produced an "overwhelming level of shock and awe against an adversary on an immediate or sufficiently timely basis to paralyse its will to carry on."

This hellish vision inspired Pentagon Dr Strangeloves to mount a non-nuclear replication bombing against Bagdhad using more than 3000 satellite-guided bombs and cruise missiles; they thought blitzing Bagdhad would deliver Bush a speedy victory with little loss of American lives. Wrong!

The warmongers, who so blatantly flouted international law and the opposition of 30 million global protestors, were warned by Amr Moussa, Arab League Secretary-General, that: " When I was saying this war was going to open the gates of hell I meant it.... The destruction and negative consequences are not going to be just about Iraq. No. It will affect the whole region and beyond. It will probably affect the international system as well."

When we declare: "Hiroshima Never Again" let us remember Hiroshima's hellish spawn unleashed by Bush, Blair and Howard upon innocents who are once again being bombed, burned and battered!

Gareth Smith
Byron Bay, NSW

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