Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Losing Allies

The following letter was forwarded from an old college friend of mine: Jed was Republican long before I ever was. Indeed, every day on our dorm floor sophomore year began with Wall St. reports blaring out of Jed's room. He was also the biggest hawk (particularly when it came to Israel) as I had ever met at the time.

Considering he sent copies to the White House, New York Times and The Economist (the latter for good reason, as the letter will indicate), I don't think Jed will mind my sharing this.

From: Jed Arkin []

Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 11:24 AM
To: ''; ''; ''Cc: ''; ''
Subject: Trickle Down Security

Dear President Bush:

I am an American citizen based in Tel Aviv. I had an appointment yesterday at the US Consulate in Tel Aviv to replace a lost passport for my 12 year old son. When we appeared at the appointed time, the guard outside the embassy wouldn’t let us enter because of several articles we carried with us: an Economist magazine, a man’s wallet, containing nothing but currency and the usual driver’s license and credit cards, and several blank pieces of paper for my child to draw on while we waited. The guard sent us back to our car (4 separate times – we’re slow learners) to dispose of these questionable articles.

Once inside, we sat for over two hours after the scheduled time of our appointment, waiting to be called. I stared at the blank walls for a while, then over the course of an hour, found myself, against my nature, transformed into a political activist.

Now I should say that for the last 25 years, I’ve been a steadfast Republican. I’ve bristled at the mounting American discontent at your Administration, been skeptical of the reported abuses in Guantanamo, turned a blind eye to supposed incompetence in Iraq, and endured cheerfully the increasingly intrusive, and far-fetched security measures at airports. But when my government tells me that I have to sit for two hours without a magazine on security grounds, I can no longer buy into the comforting story that our leaders know what they are doing.

The guard outside the embassy told us that the no-magazine policy wasn’t up to him – the procedures were determined by the managers within. Inside, I asked about the policy, and the woman behind the bullet-proof glass shrugged and said that they inside had nothing to do with security.

At some point during my two hour wait, the frustration bubbled over, and I did the only thing within my limited power as a citizen – I started talking, talking politically, with the 50 other Americans who had been called for an appointment at the same time that I had, and who had been sent back to their cars (or sent home, in some cases) to leave behind an increasingly preposterous basket of “suspicious” everyday objects.

Your Administration seems to have lost sight of the simple truth that treating people badly – treating their time or basic freedoms as unimportant -- can actually lead to more terrorism in the world. Among the ad-hoc group of newly-politicized Americans gathered in the drab waiting room at the consulate, the question was brought front and center: if your Administration could permit this kind of treatment of ordinary American citizens in broad daylight, what must you permit against “suspect” foreigners, isolated, helpless and denied Habeas Corpus, caught up in our expanding dragnet abroad? To a man, Democrats and Republicans, we understood yesterday that you and your Administration do not know what you are doing. And with this, we all came to the same sad (to me) conclusion: the time has come to vote the Republicans out of office.

Jed Arkin

(Jed makes a very good side point. Assuming that this is a close election, the votes of Americans living abroad may be a factor. Having frustrated U.S. voters overseas is not a good thing for t he GOP).

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