2006-09-08 Iwona Lejman
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Living With a Threat

Polish soldiers in IraqPolish soldiers in Iraq
Most people thought the world had changed forever after the suicide attacks on New York and Washington on 9/11. Shock waves were sent around the world. The terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, and the latest airline scare, have made ordinary Polish citizens think whether they, too, could pay the price for their country’s involvement in Iraq. Now, in Warsaw as in many other places in the world every unattended bag makes people think and every bomb scare raises questions who’s behind it. Poland has been listed by Islamic extremists as one of their targets, mainly due to its cooperation with the USA in Iraq. Polish passengers have to obey more and more severe restrictions while flying. No Pole will admit they feel fully comfortable:

"I know that Polish troops are in Iraq but I feel safe living in Warsaw, in a high building but of course I had some thought about attacks, but it I think it doesn’t matter what country you live in. It can happen anywhere…in the US, Indonesia, Holland or Germany or Poland. So my aim is not to panic!"

When I hear from my friends who travel more often than I do that traveling by air is not such an easy thing now I don’t feel quite comfortable.

Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski on official visit in the USAPolish president Alexander Kwasniewski on official visit in the USA
Several Poles lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in New York, London and Madrid, and even though Poland itself has not been directly affected by terrorists yet, it has always taken into account the possibility of a terrorist attack. General Stanislaw Koziej, expert on security from the Military Training Academy says, the country is better prepared for possible threats with all security services working far more efficiently.

So far we can feel safe but the nature of terrorism is that we should always be prepared for the worst. I think that Poland is one of the main places in the world which could be attacked by terrorists. One of the reasons is that the country is one of the important partners of the US who are serious opponents for terrorists.

US President George W. Bush (R) meets with Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DCUS President George W. Bush (R) meets with Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC
Experts say that the main consequence of raised antiterrorist levels for ordinary Polish citizens are restrictions being placed on basic civic liberties. Adam Bulandra is a human rights lawyer:

I could tell you a story about an asylum seeker here in Poland who went into an internet café and was browsing some sites in Arabic. The owner of the café called the police so the antiterrorist units came and arrested this asylum seeker. So this is a simple example how it works after 9/11. Our e-mails are invigilated, administrative organs collect so much information about our private lives. We now have biometric passports, which also restrict our privacy.

In a package of legislation now before the Polish Parliament, even more drastic measures are planned, if they are deemed necessary to safeguard national security.

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