United States

US, visis Land of the Free?

Speaking humbly, Randy Black rejects a New York Times editorial commended by Ross Rogers, Jr.: "Ross Rogers Jr.'s assertion that it is unpatriotic to charge foreigners $100 to apply for a visitors visa to the US is an unsupportable position to take. Unpatriotic to whom?

It is VERY patriotic, in my humble opinion, to charge citizens from another nation for the paperwork that must be accomplished in order for those folks to visit the USA. He calls those visitors non-immigrant visa users. If they can afford the vacation to the USA, they can afford a simple fee of $100 to process their paperwork.

Mr. Rogers ignores the fact that the foreign citizen very obviously can afford the $100 in the first place, since the plane ticket to the US from India or other developing nations coupled with the room and board and tickets to Disney World while here cost many, many times more than the $100".

RH: Randy omits a key passage from the editorial "Land of the Free? (New York Times, 3/31/04) by Steven Clemons.. "Even if their applications are rejected, citizens of developing nations must pay $100 for a non-immigrant visa to the United States. The unfairness is obvious: people should not be charged for something - in this case, a visa to the United States -that they do not receive". I am sure that if Randy were forced to pay for something he did not receive", he would not simply say =Too bad".

On the subject of visa charges, General Robert Gard reports: "I am going to the APEC Education Ministerial in Santiago, Chile, the end of this month. Having a tourist not an official passport, I will pay a fee of $100 to the Chilean government as a cover charge". RH: Things have certainly changed since my travel days. I hope Bob will send us a report on the APEC meeting.

The US charges $100 for a visa application, even if the visa is refused. Randy Black rejects the protests this inspired: "Are US taxpayers to be required to pay for processing of paperwork on the behalf of literally millions of "non-immigrant" visitors to the US annually? The practice was implemented under the Clinton administration, by the way.

I strongly believe that US taxpayers are in favor of those foreign vacationers paying their own way. We are a "user-based" society, whether we like it or not. We pay for the privilege of using our own National Parks, we pay for using a toll bridge or toll road, we pay, in some cases, just to apply for a job. For instance, American Airlines charges a $25 applications fee to apply for a job, whether you get to an interview or not, much less to get the actual job. I am certain that it is not the only firm to charge an application fee. I suspect that many universities charge just to apply for admission.

The argument that the charge is somehow unfair to a prospective visitor from France or Russia or India for the application to apply for a visa just does not hold water. The unstated inference is that somehow the US makes a profit off such application fees, and that other countries don't do the same thing. Au contraire: Russia charges an application fee, whether or not the applicant is successful, and charges the the same fee scale for the actual visa that the US does, despite the fact that Russian visa employee salaries are about 1/20th of their counterparts in the USA. The US, at least in the case of Russia, grants more than 75% of the applicants their visa despite the fact that nearly one third of visitors from Russia overstay their limits. Further, while a significant number or Russians become illegals in the US, I cannot recall an instance where an US citizen became an illegal in Russia. Yet, we must jump through incredible hoops to get into Russia.

I have not surveyed other countries but suspect we are not the only country to charge for using our Embassy".

The government and the press

In "Shut Up, War Critics" (Independent; 4/ 11/,04) Robert Fisk wrote: " Just shut up. That's the new foreign policy line of our masters. When Senator Edward Kennedy dubbed Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam", US Secretary of State Colin Powell told him to be "a little more restrained and careful" in his comments. I recall that when the US commenced its bombing of Afghanistan, the White House spokesman claimed that some journalists were "asking questions that the American people wouldn't want asked". Back in the early 1980s, when I reported on the Iranian
soldiers on a troop train to Tehran who were coughing Saddam's mustard gas out of their lungs in blood and mucus, a Foreign Office official told my then editor on The Times that my dispatch was "not helpful". In other words, stop criticizing our ally, Saddam".

RH:Fisk's point is well taken, but, while in general I am a strong defender of print journalists, their cocky attitude is sometimes alienating. Good journalists have a professional attitude. In general, the US government is very open with them.

Tim Brown criticizes the articles forwarded by Phyllis Gardner: "Just because something is published does not prove it is true. Just because a lawyer defends his client does not mean his client is innocent. Just because a politician from one party criticizes a political opponent does not make the politician's charges right. In the case of these particular articles, I am struck by the internal contradictions involved. The Washington Post has long argued that we have been acted unilaterally with the coalition of the willing, which is a farce: Now it is arguing that because the troops of countries it has until now decried as totally insignificant are being withdrawing, the US military position is being severely undermined. The Post has also charged that the US bought the few allies it has had. If the Post has been right, then they haven't stayed "bought". Which is it?"

RH "Just because something is published does not prove it is true". That should be borne in mind with regard to charges that the UN is guilty of embezzling Iraqi oil for food funds. With regard to the allies who quit, I suspect they got the money and ran, frightened by popular opposition to the war. As for Spain, I wonder. The Zapatero government of Spain has sent to Washington a new ambassador who has been issuing platitudes about the good relations between Spain and the US. As Spanish protesting against the US said "No somos idiotas"--we are not idiots. Nor are we.

U.S. Marine Officer Training

Among the many military acronyms used by Marine General Michael Sullivan is OCS. I asked what it meant. He replies: "OCS stands for Officers Candidate School. In the Marine Corps it's a 10 week, challenging training program mainly consisting of physical conditioning and stress generating problems to see if the candidate can successfully meet the the basic physical, mental and leadership qualifications to become a Marine Corps officer. Marine OCS has about a 30% washout rate for men and a 60% for women. All Marine Corps OCS and basic officer training is conducted at Quantico, Va. Upon successful completion of OCS, the candidate will be commissioned a 2Lt and ordered to The Basic School (TBS) to begin a seven months, intensive program learning to be a Marine Corps officer. This newly commissioned officer is exposed to everything required to be proficient as a 2Lt. The training is heavilly weighted toward the infantry as all Marines are considered to be riflemen first. Subjects range from leadership principles, military history and traditions, small unit tactics, exposure to the various combat arms of the Corps like aviation, tanks, amphibs, arty, recon, intel, communications and logistics. The 2Lts receive familiarzation and firing in most infantry weapons the Marine Corps uses and qualification on the range with the M-16.

Instruction is given in handling personnel record books, pay records, reenlistments, discharges, legal procedures and exposure to many Marine Corps Manuals and Orders governing everything you may encounter administratively. Normally, half a day is spent in the classroom and the other half in the field. There are written tests for all blocks of instruction, while passing the swimming test and qualifying with the M-16 are required to graduate. After graduation the 2Lts are sent for further training in the military occupational specialties (MOS) they have been assigned like the advanced infantry course, flight school or aviation related schools, comm school, intel school, supply school, maintenance officer school etc. After completion of the MOS granting school, the 2Lt then joins his or her first Marine Corps unit and and is expected to hit the ground running. It's not uncommon for a newly commissioned 2Lt to take at least a year and a half to reach his or her first operational unit. Aviators take at least two and up to four years, depending on the pools in flight school for the type of aircraft they will fly, to reach their first operational Marine squadron. Many of those flying jets arrive already promoted to Captain. It's important that you see how the system works, as there are so many rumors about "90 day wonders" that are simply not true today in the Corps".

US arms for Taiwan

Taiwan is planning to purchase anti-missile defense systems from the US as early as June, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified source in the daily China Times, The anti-missile defense system is intended to counter the threat from China's hundreds of warheads, which are presently pointed at the island. US Vice-President Dick Cheney arrived in China hours after the report's release. Cheney was expected to discuss US arms sales to Taiwan with Chinese leaders. Beijing has accused Washington of encouraging Taiwan's bid for independence by selling the island arms. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to attack if it declares independence. According to Reuters, the China Times said that Taiwan planned to buy, among other weapons, six Patriot PAC-3 missiles, worth US$3 billion. Last month, the Pentagon said that it planned to approve the sale of long-range early-warning radar equipment worth some US$1.78 billion to Taiwan. The US has remained Taiwan's main arms supplier, though it acknowledges China's claim to the island. Ahead of Cheney's arrival in Beijing, China urged Washington
to stop adhering to a law that encourages the US to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan. By remaining committed to the
Taiwan Relations Act, the US was sending the "wrong message to Taiwan independence forces",a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told the official Xinhua News Agency. He said the act meddled in China's affairs and infringed on its sovereignty. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the US is pledged to defend the island off southeastern China if it is attacked from the mainland. (ISN 4/14/04): RH. Since France is supplying arms to China, there is here a confrontation between France and the US.

Umbiguously Divided

David Westbrook writes: "One of the problems with life among the very educated (and hence WAIS) is that pretty much everything tends to be expressed as argument, often policy argument. Sometimes, of course, the language of argument expresses a real disagreement, an argument. Other times, however, the language of argument serves to express something else. The trick is knowing what this "something else" is.

I have a strong sense that many arguments surrounding President Bush, especially the administration's policies regarding the economy and Iraq, are awkward and indirect ways of expressing something else. Lifelong liberals are attacking the president for deficit spending. In the 9/11 commission, civil libertarians berate the administration for failing to be tough at borders and gather lots of intelligence on individuals, as if they would have supported the Patriot Act or worse, and before 9/11. It is not as if the Administration cannot be criticized -- obviously, there is much to be criticized -- but policy disagreement seems to be merely the language, not what's at stake. People who never really worried about the law of war vis-a-vis Clinton's military adventures are simply horrified that Bush would do something illegal. And so forth.

I am NOT making a partisan point. While the Republicans are less shrill at the moment, no doubt due to their current prominence, during the Clinton administration many clearly loathed the president to the point of unreason. Not that the Republicans are models of consistency. The Republicans, who generally claim to be conservatives, have run up an enormous deficit. And they have increased the size of government, and have gotten involved in nation building . . . . Some of this is wartime, some of it is learning, but lots of it is just strange. I understand that politics is often partisan, but there seems to be a thoughtlessness, even a crazed disregard for ideology, in contemporary politics that I have not seen before. There is also the unsettling map, from the last election, in which the Democrats took the coasts (save Texas and Florida) and the upper midwest, and the rest was Republican. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is just a time of more heated politics. But for some time I have thought that the United States is engaged in a struggle with itself that it has difficulty even articulating, though the loose references to the culture wars suggest the conflict. Closer still is the vaguely paranoid style of much right wing media (Rush Limbaugh springs to mind) talking about "Liberals." For their part, "Liberals" rarely deign to acknowledge the existence of the other side. But while there does seem to be a split between two sides, Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative, coastal/heartland don't seem quite apt".

RH: The "something else" is mugwumpism. The very word "mugwump" is suggestive.

THE US and Germany

John Heelan said: Perhaps Tim Browb could remind me where the US has "successfully led any nation out of this sort of mess into prosperous democracy"?" I commented "Germany is a prosperous democracy". Christopher Jones counters: "I wouldn't class Germany in the same category as the mess in Iraq. And I wish we could stop glorifying the US's role in postwar Germany which was NOT motivated by any altruistic considerations for Germany's population. The US was at times a brutal occupier who only conceded to restore German sovereignty when it needed "its" Germany to help confront the Soviets. The prosperity that followed the introduction of the DM was also motivated by a strong desire to create a prosperous consumer market for US finance and manufacture. (Proof: the long standing US presence in Germany of IBM, General Motors and Ford.) Adenauer was no fool and he never trusted the Americans for a second. (I have heard a remark of Adenauer's -- on film -- where he said that the Jews who ran America were very powerful.) His main concern was to keep the Soviets out and lead his country to democracy. The German people led their country to democracy and prosperity. Not the US".

RH: Of course Iraq is not comparable to Germany, but both were a mess albeit of a different kind. The US role in Germany can best be described as enlightened self-interest.

Ronald Hilton -