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Damian Clarke: Freedom


By Damian Clarke

“I hereby waive my rights to review or appeal of an immigration officers determination as to my admissability, or to contest, other than on the basis of an application for assylum, any action in deportation.”

This is the wording of the waiver of rights which has been added to the I-94W form of the Immigration and Naturalization Service- a division of the U.S Department of Justice. I was expected to sign this when I entered the United States. How odd. Laws are passed in the United States that are there to protect my rights as a visitor to the country. I am then asked to waive my rights to this protection. How very odd.

This recent ammendment to the I-94W form only serves to make an already farcical form even more laughable. One of the questions on this form is “Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage or in terrorist activities; or in genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved in any way in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or it’s allies?”. Wow. How many terrorists, sabotuers, nazis and folk who simply have a penchant for genocide have had their plans foiled by having to fill in the I-94W. Maybe this is why they aren’t looking for Osama Bin Laden in the United States. If he shows up on the US border he'll have to tick the "yes" box and then he'll be stuffed..

So- after my photograph and fingerprints had been taken and electronically whisked off for scrutiny by Dubyas puppet-masters I was in the land of the free. After a short train journey and a walk past the free people of America freely selling drugs and enjoying their freedom from a decent public health service I was in downtown San Francisco. I bought a slice of pizza and watched the news on TV. Coincidentally, I had arrived in San Francisco on the same day that history was being made. The first commercial flight to Vietnam from the United States of America departed that day from San Francisco. December 9th 2004. The pilot of this flight was an ex US Airforce Pilot who had flown during the Vietnam war. I can only wonder if anyone in the cheering crowds of Vietnamese welcoming this flight had loved ones who were killed by this same pilot. One of the people making a speech to mark the occasion said that Vietnam and the United States had a “shared history”. That’s so nice! They’re so sharing! They shared those WMDs with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and they’re now sharing their history and their depleted uranium tipped rounds with Iraq and Afghanistan!

I do have to say that I had a great time in San Francisco. I was comforted by the knowledge that most of the people I was seeing there had not voted for monkey boy. There is a lot about San Francisco that reminded me of Wellington which can only be a good thing. From the cable car to the steep streets, Victorian era wooden houses, groovy cafes in the Castro district, locals who thank the bus drivers and warm sea breezes. OK, I’ll admit the sea breeze in Wellington can sometimes be a touch more gale forced and icy.

Something you can’t but notice is that Americans seem to need huge gas guzzling all terrain utility vehicles to transport them over that tricky urban terrain from their homes to the local donut shop. If they simply drove smaller cars they would use less oil and pollute less. The US could ratify the Kyoto protocol and abort “War on Terror” being fought in oil rich Iraq. Easy. I used to think that cowboys were the good guys. Those well armed resource hungry colonial invaders fighting the poorly armed indigenous population. Some things don’t change.


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