The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is no longer angering just us peons with its absurd airport checkpoints. It’s also infuriating foreign rulers. Which raises an intriguing question: given the American government’s habit of liberating oppressed people around the world, will one of these piqued potentates return the favor and liberate us from the TSA?
First there was President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. Last November, he changed planes at Miami International on his way to Saudi Arabia. The TSA abused him as it does all passengers, prompting Rafe to complain of “discourteous treatment” to the U.S. Embassy. Rafe apparently knows as little about the Constitution as any American politician and doesn’t realize the Fourth Amendment protects everyone, citizen or stranger passing through, from the TSA’s warrantless searches. Ergo, his protest had nothing to do with principle. He believes instead that “the minute they knew that I was a head of state, they should have had a protocol, but the Americans don’t understand that.”
Rafe has other heinous ideas. A socialist who describes himself as a "Christian leftist," he apparently fantasizes that the Bible sanctions theft so long as the robber wears a government uniform. He also brags that he chums around with Venezuelan thug Hugo Chavez. There’s an upside: when Chavez compared George Bush to the devil, Rafe quipped that this insulted Satan. "The devil is evil, but intelligent," Rafe observed. "I believe Bush is a tremendously dimwitted president who has done great damage to his country and to the world."
Rafe is equally astute about the neocon nightmare devastating the US. A “psychosis” has gripped America since 9/11, he says, encouraging the TSA to “treat the people very poorly." So, Rafe, how’s about it? The US has interfered in South America’s business for decades; isn’t it time you meddled in ours and freed us from the TSA?
Perhaps to head off just such an effort, the American ambassador apologized to Rafe — a heck of a lot more than the TSA does even when it deliberately injures a serf. Still, Rafe refuses "to change planes in the United States until they learn what civilization is." Oh, that all passengers could enjoy the same luxury!
Next up was Tommy Remengesau, Jr., president of Palau. Tom’s 52 years old and has ruled these South Seas islands since 2001 — actually, since 1984 counting his other sinecures. Palau’s 177 square miles are home to only 21,000 people. But those low numbers don’t discourage Leviathan: Palau’s federal government boasts no less than 71 departments — 75 if we include the president’s office and a couple of "councils." That’s one agency per 280 citizens without even mentioning state and local bureaucracies. Not surprisingly, government is Palau’s biggest employer. And, again not surprisingly, the US heavily subsidizes the bloated beast.
Tom allows neither his few subjects nor his status as a welfare king to inhibit his hauteur. Earlier this month, he travelled to the Philippines on a two-day "state visit." Afterwards, when he arrived at Manila’s airport for the flight home on Continental Airlines, he learned that the carrier would frisk him like any commoner. This didn’t set well; as Palau’s ambassador to the Philippines Ramon Rechebei explained, "We expected better treatment accorded to a head of state." Tom and his wife Debbie saw no more reason to submit to this indignity than you or I do. The difference is that when Continental insisted, "US aviation law requires that all customers comply with security procedures in order to board a flight," Tom and Debbie regally withdrew to a "presidential lounge" while underlings fought it out.
As the evening waned and the other suspected-and-searched terrorists aboard the jet patiently waited for take-off, Tom and Debbie returned to their hotel. The next day, the Philippino government flew them home in a private jet while pleading with the TSA that it relax its idiocy for pooh-bahs hereafter. And you can see why: politicians only lie, steal and wage wars — small potatoes compared to the threat the average taxpayer poses to security. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog of the Philippines’ Air Force summarized the contretemps: "It was a very commonsensical situation that became explosive, affecting relations among countries." Perhaps the TSA will affect relations among enough countries that one of them will free us from it.
Doesn’t look to be Palau, though. "I am well aware of security concerns that airlines face," Tom announced, "and I support their efforts to keep flying safe" — so long as he’s not the one they’re patting down — "but there must be some room for the exercise of common sense in all decisions, and there must be respect for the dignity of the highest level of government." Rich, isn’t it? He’ll also "bring this up with the regional airlines serving Palau as well as the US Transportation Security Administration so that we can ensure that respect and culturally appropriate treatment is accorded heads of state that will visit Palau." Though I guess we poor slobs who visit Palau are on our own.
Finally, there’s Attorney General Francisco Dall’Anese of Costa Rica. He’s miffed that a "security officer" at Miami International "allowed him into the United States on April 23, but accompanied him to an airline counter to make sure he arranged a return flight for the next day." No doubt, the "officer" admitted this cleverly disguised terrorist only because Frank was helping US Attorney General Michael "Hey,-Who-Can-Say-Whether-Pouring-Water-up-a-Guy’s-Nose-And-Trying-to-Drown-Him-Is-Torture?" Mukasey with a corruption case. Frank’s sufficiently outraged at the "disrespect" that he’s refusing further cooperation with the US until we taxpayers cough up for his flight and "those responsible are punished."
Yo, Frank: that may be a long time coming. Those responsible for killing a Costa Rican at Miami International in December 2005 have yet to be punished. It’s too bad you didn’t file as “energetic” a diplomatic note over Rigoberto Alpizar’s death as you have over mere disrespect. Instead, when air marshals gunned down this innocent man, Foreign Minister Marco Vinicio Vargas tepidly told his family that Costa Rica might send someone to the US "at least to request information." He added, "I don’t know if North American laws permit it. We should be prudent." Yes, indeedy. Prudent.
I reckon we’ll have to liberate ourselves.
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.