Saturday, March 20, 2010

They Convicted Peter Watts

Those of you who know who and what I'm talking about may be interested in reading further:

Let me add that transcripts and court records are public domain. Anyone who wants to can follow up to confirm. Essentially, Dr Watts has been found guilty of felony assault, in a court which found that at no point did he raise a hand, or offer any kind of threat in any fashion, or even attempt to impede the warrantless, unheralded search of his vehicle by the US border guards. The 'guilty' outcome is a result of the precise definition of the statute in question: very much a technicality. Given the range of things of which he was accused, and of which he was completely exonerated, this is a fucking travesty.

But it's a travesty that makes one point very, very clear. The USA is NOT the land of the free, nor the home of the brave. Not any more. And perhaps not for quite some time now.

If you live in the USA, I wish you the very best of luck, and I encourage you to do all that you reasonably can to help your country rediscover the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and in that remarkable and wholly admirable document, the US constitution. There was a damned good reason the USA was a beacon of hope for so long -- and that hope is sadly missed in these dark days.

For anyone else: if you choose to travel to the USA, you need to be sharply aware of the sweeping extent of the powers of even the meanest and least significant of (particularly Federal) authorities -- and their extreme willingness to use those powers at your expense. Dr Watts treatment at the hands of the US border authorities most closely resembles, in my memory, the autocratic and authoritarian treatment meted out by Soviet border guards in the bad old days before The Wall came down. At least the USA still has show trials before visitors are found guilty of meaningless charges; I suppose Dr Watts could easily have been 'shot trying to escape'.

I left the USA a long time ago. I've been back a couple times to visit. The way things are now, though... well, I've spoken up publically against the US position on various recent wars, and I've questioned the legitimacy of the so-called 'PATRIOT Act', and I've queried the validity of the 'Free Speech Zones' created under President Bush II. All these things are public record, and I know that various US agencies routinely aggregate data from the Internet.

What does that mean? Well, I would have no qualms about making a visit to Cuba, if I'd gone on record in opposition to the policies of their government. Nor would I fear to visit modern Russia under similar circumstances. China, now... yes, I'd think twice about China.

And regrettably, I think I have to put the USA into the same category. When 'failure to comply' becomes 'felony assault'; when a peaceable foreign national of good public character, from a friendly nation can be beaten and maced for nothing more than asking 'why' -- that's not a country where I feel safe.

Adios, America. You were a nice dream when I was a kid, but I don't think I'll be going back.