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Op/Ed: Bali Bombing Retropsective

| posted on July 22, 2010

OK, TIME OUT … I wanted to give this beast the microscope, so I waited until the latest CNN report went online. The “suicide bombers” twist drives the nail in the coffin, for sure. And to compound “their” strategy (if there was one), the choice of targets pisses me off, even more. NO, the waves aren’t going to stop peeling across Bali’s reefs and NO, we’re not going to stop flying down there to surf them. That’s who we are, as surfers, war zone or NO war zone.

As of this writing we don’t know where the bombers were from and if they even came into the country from a legal port of entry, and it doesn’t really matter. One thing is for sure, they weren’t Balinese — for all cultural and religious reasons. And if anyone thinks that the Indonesian government (or ANY government) can stop future attacks there, sorry, but that jury HAS returned and the answer is NO, they can’t, now or in the future. Bali’s tourism market runs ALL of Indonesia’s travel industry and that beautiful island is “their” bull’s-eye; it’s where their vision will be heard the loudest. There’s NO stopping the explosives from either being there already, or getting there from Java or any other surrounding island. Too many local-style fishing canoes move back and forth through those waters 24/7 and you’re not going to convince me that no kind of contraband/explosives has ever made its way to some remote Balinese shore, buried under a ragged rice sack or blue tarp, with a pile of sun-shriveled fish on top.

What else is for sure is the simple fact that those two fish-on-a-stick beach grills were as low-key and nondescript as you could choose to spend a few meal-time rupees at. The Sari Club bombing in May 2002 looked like a deliberate choice of locations, i.e. your typical, decadent, Western-style watering hole, but now the Jimbaran explosions ON the beach and the Kuta street caf bombing may have been a comment — from whatever terrorist organization you want to give a name to — that it doesn’t matter WHERE you eat or relax at, it’s all the same to “them,” it’s their Ground Zero. And where the Sari Club “event” might have hinted at where you DON’T want to hang out in, after surfing all day, these latest attacks clearly tell you that now, NO where is safe, other than maybe your losman or hotel restaurant. A close friend of mine lives with his family on the hillside slopes directly above Jimbaran, overlooking all of Kuta and Legian.

“We were sitting out in the back yard when the explosions went off and we NEVER heard a thing from up here.” Hmm, maybe more ball bearings and nails than gunpowder this time around. I surfed El Salvador during their years of internal upheaval and it wasn’t fun being in the water when a homemade bomb would get thrown out from a pickup truck cruising down the Pan American Highway, just a couple hundred yards away from where we were surfing. It only took out a telephone pole and the local electrical and phone lines with it, but it made me think twice about driving down the road later.

This latest Bali devastation is an entirely different program. These attacks WILL suffocate the tourism industry there, local people’s lives, businesses and their present and future economies. For all of us just getting in for a surf and a cheap feed, we’ll probably remain the safest travelers there. Just stay in the water and eat your meals where your surf. And keep that jar of peanut butter or Vegemite and a loaf in your room. Then, at least the odds will be in your favor …

Bernie Baker/SURFER