SCMP, October 14, 2002 Asia's false bubble of security has been shattered and reality starkly revealed - no one is safe from terrorism. That it took a tragedy involving innocent tourists is shocking. However, look back at what has happened. Terrorists strike at the weak and vulnerable to maximise the effect of their crimes. Complacency made Asia a prime target. US President George W. Bush's declared war on terrorism focused attention on terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network. Asia became the focus as groups in Pakistan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were shown to have al-Qaeda connections. A new era of co-operation was created among Asian governments. They have put aside rules of non-interference in internal affairs and established and strengthened security, policing and intelligence. Singapore and Malaysia have rounded up dozens of alleged members of the al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiah, which has been trying to found an Islamic state in Southeast Asia. American troops have been deployed in the southern Philippines to flush out Muslim extremists. But Indonesia, among Asean's poorest nations and beset by corruption and political infighting, has been less co-operative. Its leaders and officials have failed to act against key members of Jemaah Islamiah based on its soil. Animosities between Jakarta and Washington and Canberra have given terrorists the opportunity to thrive. Then, in recent months, Mr Bush's seemingly one-eyed interest in regime change in Iraq has shifted the spotlight from the threat of global terrorism. While Saddam Hussein has plainly been continuing to pursue procuring weapons, his links to international terrorism are unproven. The Bush administration would seem to have turned to Iraq for economic and historic reasons rather than to neutralise a threat to global peace. So is the case with North Korea and Iran - the other two points of the 'axis of evil'. They have dubious links to global instability, yet there is no proof of a connection with al-Qaeda. The allies' concentration on the 'axis of evil' nations has resulted in terrorists being given room to extend their activities. They have been able to construct bombs and instil fear through threats to further their war against the free world. Terrorists look for weaknesses in the global system. They find flaws in security and strike at the heart of society. This time, unfortunately, the target was Bali. Coming on the heels of a wave of al-Qaeda-linked attacks in the past week - on US soldiers in Kuwait and a French oil tanker in Yemen - the popular resort was the least likely choice - as far as tourists were concerned. The victims of the Kuta nightclub bombing represented nations allied to the war on terrorism - Australia, Britain, Germany and the US among them. Hong Kong, not directly involved militarily but an ally nonetheless, also suffered. It was a tragedy waiting to happen. The message is clear - Hong Kong people are as much at the mercy of terrorists as Americans, Britons and Australians. We cannot let down our guard and live in a cocooned world where we believe we are safe. Terrorism is as real a threat today as it was on September 11, 2001. It is a scourge that must be eliminated and this can only be done through vigilance and having in place the mechanisms to act. But there should also be no single focus in the fight against terrorism. No one issue can be allowed to detract from the constant danger it poses. Glossary complacency (n) a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements put aside (phrasal v) not to think or deal with certain things until a later time flush out (phrasal v) to force someone to come out of a place where they are hiding Example: The Indian security forces blew up a house to flush out the alleged militants. (SCMP, September 25, 2002) animosity (n) a hostile relation at the mercy of (phrase) used to describe a situation in which one cannot prevent themselves from being harmed by another let down (phrasal v) to achieve less than expected by lowering standards etc Discussion point - How can global terrorism be eliminated?