Protecting the President
I must first apologise for my sporadic updates of late. I recently got a second job, so I'm trying to balance working, uni, and blogging. So bear with me for a while.
The annual APEC (Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Conference is being held in Sydney in September. APEC is a coalition of countries along the Pacific Ocean that meet each year to discuss trade agreements and economic growth and cooperation. A few of the member nations are Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, China, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Russia and twelve other countries.
The conference is most notably remembered for the rather bizarre custom of the host nation dressing up fellow dignitaries in that culture's traditional clothing. It has yet to be determined what will be the traditional clothing of Australia that the foreign dignitaries will be wearing.
What has been announced, however, and much to the chagrin of Sydneysiders, is that in honour of the conference, Australia will make the day(s) surrounding the conference a federal holiday. And not just any old holiday, but one in which the entire city will shut down. No trains. No buses. No business. And most annoyingly, the closure of all mobile phone towers for those few days. All of this pomp and circumstance is not being undertaken to impress the visiting ambassadors, but rather, to deter any possible acts of terrorism.
I'm sure most of remember President Bush's post-9/11 speech. The one in which he encouraged all Americans to grieve for the loss of life, but to go about our daily business -- otherwise the terrorists win. Yet, I'm sure he is very appreciative of Australian Prime Minister John Howard's efforts to combat terrorism while Bush visits Sydney. God knows Australia brought out the cavalry to protect Vice President Dick Cheney when he visited several months ago.
With all the precautions taken to protect the President abroad, was Bush perhaps wrong in saying that the terrorists haven't won? If they hadn't instilled a constant sense of terror into us, would he feel that such precautions -- like shutting down a world city -- were necessary to his survival?
Perhaps the President isn't so much afraid of the Islamic fundamentalists he is always going on about, but rather, those in the "Western World" who see no distinction between ideological suicide bombers and him. When VP Cheney did visit Australia, the locals mobilised and thousands turned out for a public demonstration against the vice president's presence. Already flyers have begun appearing around Newtown calling for all available people to gather and take a stance against Bush and his allies when they arrive in September. PM Howard is almost as despised as Bush; and like British PM Tony Blair, seen as Bush's lapdog who will follow him wherever Bush may go.
When the APEC heads of state do gather here in September, it will be interesting to see if any acts of "terrorism" do manage to slip by the safeguards. I do wish for everyone's safety, especially in light of all of the precautions being taken. I fear that if a terrorist -- or even ambitious protester -- does manage to commit a violent act against any of these nations' dignitaries, the next step taken to "protect us" against terrorism by eliminating some of our basic civil liberties.