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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Missile alert, accident or ploy?

16 January 2018

Last Sunday, more than a million people on the Island of Honolulu received a txt message advising them that a ballistic missile attack was imminent and that they should take cover

The message carried the clear footnote that "THIS IS NOT A DRILL".

Now you can imagine how people would feel on receipt of such a frightening message and news stories have flooded the wires with personal accounts of disbelief, terror, confusion and anger.

Ultimately, there were no missiles and the cause of this false-alarm was attributed to human error.

To paraphrase: "So sorry to have scared the snot out of you but someone pressed the wrong button. Don't worry, you're not about to die." -- except perhaps from the heart attack that such a fright might induce.

So was it an accidental false alarm?

To be honest, I have my doubts.

Why am I skeptical?

Well it's simple...

Americans (and indeed the whole world) has been living with the prospect of global thermonuclear war for over 70 years -- ever since the first nuke was dropped on Japan. Okay, maybe not that long, perhaps only since the USSR detonated its first nuclear bomb back in 1949.

Once the Soviets demonstrated that they also had a nuclear capability, the world knew that the annihilation (or at least a severe pruning) of mankind was but a button-press or accidental launch away. We've lived with that threat for a long time now and it's a threat that even caused some scientists to create the Doomsday Clock.

As a child, I recall the darkest years of the cold war back in the 1960s and just how close we came to a massive nuclear exchange in the form of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Quite frankly, the world was just waiting for the inevitable.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 however, the political climate changed dramatically and the prospect of a nuclear conflict between superpowers seemed to fade away very rapidly.

Since then, we've lived in a wonderful period of relatively low nuclear tension. Aside from a bit of sabre-rattling between India and Pakistan then the Iranian's attempts to build nukes, the world has not really been concerned about anyone dropping nukes.

But now we have North Korea to contend with.

According to supposedly reliable sources (hopefully not the same "reliable" sources that told us of Iraq's massive stockpile of WOMD), N.Korea may only be months away from being in a position to actually deploy its nukes via ICBM and have them arrive in one piece.

US President Donald Trump is not best-pleased with this looming prospect so he's been using twitter as an offensive weapon to threaten N.Korea into abandoning its plans. Yeah, like that's going to work!

But back to Honolulu...

Why would anyone deliberately frighten over a million Americans by making them think that a missile attack (possibly a nuclear one) was about to happen?

I'm picking that this was a deliberate act. An act designed to shake the US people out of the complacency that has grown since 1991. An act designed to remind them how vulnerable they might be in the event of a nuclear attack.

Perhaps a cunning ploy to raise the fear level within the USA?

Surely, now that the residents of Honolulu have experienced first-hand the terror that comes from thinking you may be just minutes away from being blown to smithereens, it's going to be a hell of a lot easier for Trump to rally public opinion to support any move he might make to prevent such an attack.

There are few accidents in politics and I'd wager a good sum that the alert issued on Sunday was more likely a deliberate ploy designed and engineered by a bunch of spin-doctors working under Trump's direction.

What do readers think?

Could this be the very first sign that the USA really is gearing up to launch a pre-emptive attack on North Korea?

Or was it just an honest mistake. After all, it's so easy to bump the big red button marked "for real" rather than press the little yellow one marked "test message" -- isn't it?

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