Another disgrace by the State Department

In the “where’s the change we were promised?” category, the Obama State Department (or more precisely the Bush-Obama State Department) denied a visa to prominent independent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris Rincón who had been scheduled to travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts to participate in the pretigous Neiman fellowship program at Harvard. His offense? According to Frank Bajak’s AP report, it’s the same-ole-same-ole. He’s proscribed under the grossly autocratic “Terrorism Acitivites” section of the so-called Patriot Act. Here’s the bill of particulars:

“Hollman Morris, who produces an independent TV news program called ‘Contravia,’ has been highly critical of ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in Latin America.”

Ah, so there we have it! It seems this administration for all its clamor of American values is no more sympathetic to having its policies questioned than any of the past imperial presidencies. Everyone in the Land of the Free knows that the press has to accommodate themselves to our Executive like the supine group of good-ole-boys that is the White House press corp or … well just ask Helen Thomas. (And before anyone starts clucking about her anti-Semitism, perhaps he could explain how Pat Buchanan is considered a serious commentator if that were a disqualification from employment by the “serious” news organizations.)

And if you’re not an American citizen you have to be even more obliging to the views of our semi-hereditary monarchy or else you are a terrorist. Ask Gabriel García Márquez. He discovered that Washington, D.C. is a modern Macondo, where its lack of connection with the outside world promotes its bizarre group-think, the ideology of which is supplied by the gigantic corporate banana plantation that employs all the “representatives” there. He was repeatedly denied visas because he was a “security threat” even before we passed the highly patriotic Patriot Act which gives our Executive the power to shield us from all bad-think from foreigners.

So Morris accused Uribe of connection with right wing militias? That surely shows his terroristic activities. After all, Macondo, D.C. has supported the right wingers that make life miserable for our “Southern brothers” for over a century now. And recently, Reagan, the Bushes and now apparently Obama have enjoyed dipping their handkerchiefs in the blood of death squad victims, evidently for the cure it provides to American imperial capitalism.

And what of this Mr Uribe who has fought the good fight for the American way? Well let’s see. The evidently terrorist inclined National Security Archive issues a release on August 2, 2004, which was headlined: “U.S. INTELLIGENCE LISTED COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT URIBE AMONG ‘IMPORTANT COLOMBIAN NARCO-TRAFFICKERS’ IN 1991: Then-Senator ‘Dedicated to Collaboration with the Medellín Cartel at High Government Levels.'” The first sentence of the release says: “Then-Senator and now President Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia was a ‘close personal friend of Pablo Escobar’ who was ‘dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels,’ according to a 1991 intelligence report from U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials in Colombia.” That report, which is written by OUR intelligence experts is found here. I guess it will be found there until the Colonels that run this banana repubic decide to shut down George Washington University’s web site under the so-called Patriot Act.

But that was then. Things like that can be forgiven over time. Our president for example used to be mad at the former one for tapping phones, torturing people, kidnapping, hiding evidence of war crimes, and so on. But that was then. He doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with any of that now. In fact, there’s more of a problems with the people who keep harping on such things. And God forbid you show pictures of a war crime. Under the first half of this Bush-Obama administration leaked pictures of what the New York Times now calls “enhanced questioning” at Abu Ghraib resulted in swift court martials: the underlings were swiftly tried and punished and the superiors cleared. In the more enlightened second part of this administration, evidence of the cold-blooded killing of civilians results in more civilized action: the leaker is swiftly tried and soon to be punished (up to 52 years) and the low-level perpetrators (as well as the superiors) are cleared. The pictures of a non-crime are a military secret.

But there’s some nasty stuff that seems to be coming out recently about our Colombian friend. And it’s even in the Washington Post, that most inside of insiders to our majestic sovereign. The Post reports that Uribe is suspected of using his secret police for spying on, among other people, Supreme Court justices. This is perhaps not considered even a venal sin in our post-9/11, Patriot Act world. They were about to decide the constitutional question of whether Mr Uribe was permitted to run for a third term, so I guess they brought it on themselves. But the Post goes on:

“The latest revelations have come on top of an influence-peddling scandal involving the president’s two sons, Tomás and Geronimo, and a widening probe of the links between Uribe’s allies in Congress and right-wing paramilitary death squads. Though Uribe remains popular for having brought security and economic prosperity to a once-chaotic country, the scandals are hitting hard just as he weighs a run for a third term.”

So what do we care, right? They can sort it out, after all. But the Post suggests we might have some (maybe 6 billion) reasons to care:

“Latin America policymakers in Washington are also watching the controversy closely. The United States has funneled nearly $6 billion in mostly military and anti-drug aid to the Uribe administration for its fight against Marxist rebels and drug cartels. Myles Frechette, a former U.S. ambassador in Bogota who closely tracks Colombia policy, said one possible ramification of the scandal is that the Obama administration could curtail aid.”

Curtail aid! That’s a good one, Myles! Curtail reporting on the scandal, that’s more like it. This administration has friends abroad that it just doesn’t forsake. That’s an American Value! All these intangible “rights” that some radicals in the Age of Reason came up with cannot possibly be as American as loyalty. To foreign friends.

The Neiman fellowship program site (linked above) describes the officiousness of the notification. This you can expect from a department of government that used the money for “security” after 9/11 (and they were awash in “security money” then) to install bullet-proof glass at its passport offices all over the country — everywhere — and generally employ as many armed guards as bureaucrats at those facilities. Because radical terrorists are just dying to blow up a handful of people in a suburban passport office, who are waiting to be frisked by the Praetorian Guards of the State Department (employees of Blackwater?).

This is another glorious day for the values we hold dear.  It’s a lesson to all the world. When we speak of “freedom of the press” what we are talking about stories like these:  “100 Best Companies to Work For” (Fortune) or who Paul the Octopus is picking to win the World Cup (Chicago Tribune) or the controversy about whether it was a rat or a mole that ran across the White House steps (USA Today) or the weighty decisions that face Dwayne and LeBron (Washington Post). You know, real journalism. The kind that we can only hope the Neiman fellowship program is teaching. Freedom of the press was not designed to involve criticism of our friends abroad — even criticisms that we ourselves spend intelligence money to corroborate. Especially when those criticisms come from people in the same country as our foreign friends. It’s one thing for our leaders to know things, it’s quite another for people who have no use for the information to know.

Anything that those guys who wore wigs and breeches said to the contrary in such things as pamphlets, campaign slogans or bills of rights was mere talk, as the Alien and Sedition Acts clearly show. We are much better off not knowing what our rulers think is inappropriate for us. God knows how many lives were saved during those safer years when García Márquez wasn’t allowed in to set foot in our hallowed land. And of course we should be thankful when we just consider how much blood would have run down the streets of Cambridge, maybe down Massachusetts Avenue itself, or, God forbid, Beacon Street, if Hollman Morris were allowed to study there.


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