A Democracy Restricting the Right of Americans to Travel is Wrong

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NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams ran an excellent clip last night on the “unfairness” of some Americans being allowed to travel to Cuba while others are blocked. “Relatives” of foreign nationals living in Cuba get a green light to fly from Miami to Cuba — while most others do not.
161 Members of Congress and 33 US Senators have co-sponsored a Freedom to Travel to Cuba bill that says this is wrong — and more Members are jumping on board each week.
The show last night reported that 159 House Members and 29 Senators had cosponsored the bill — but numbers have increased to the 161 in the House and 33 Senators I have reported. Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA-10) and Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) have shown great leadership on the travel issue in collaboration with many key Republican leaders and Democratic Party colleagues.
At a recent meeting of the National Foreign Trade Council/USA Engage — an organization populated mostly by moderate Republicans who believe in global engagement, global trade and who can see through the fallacy of unilateral sanctions which the US maintains against Cuba — Democrat House Member Jim Moran (D-VA-8) said regarding removing the Obama administration’s restrictions on American travel, “we are going to get this done. . .” He meant he and his colleagues were going to get the Cuba travel bill through Congress.
Americans can go to North Korea today.
Think about that. If the Communist, nuclear-weapons toting government headed by Kim Jong Il, to quote David Rothkopf, says you can go to North Korea, you can go.
But not Cuba.
This is ridiculous. Democracies are not generally in the business of telling their citizens where they can and can’t go, but Miami’s Castro-obsessed political machine has warped the way political gravity operates. In its zeal to try to destabilize Castro these past many decades, the Cuban-American community leadership has endorsed and engaged in behaviors completely inconsistent with democratic practice and human rights.
The Cold War was used to justify various kinds of national and personal sacrifices by Americans — but restricting human rights, restricting human travel — was something done more by our enemies in the Cold War and rarely done by democracies.
The Cold War is over. Obama needs to move more boldly and past the diminishing portion of the Cuban American exile community opposed to progress — and look to the interests and rights of ALL Americans.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

22 comments on “A Democracy Restricting the Right of Americans to Travel is Wrong

  1. ... says:

    re my 12:28pm post… what a waste of time that was… spin cycle dc…

    Reply

  2. ... says:

    steve, i am wondering if you are going to cover the goldstone commission anytime soon? immediately when it came out, israel communicated to the usa at which point the usa had complied with israels predictable demands… what is it with the usa when it comes to standing up for any type of justice? i suppose the usa doesn’t want to have a similar dynamic unfold with its abu graib actions in iraq…
    the msm is silent on this very relevant topic… surprised anyone? how about steve saying something? looks very unlikely…

    Reply

  3. Carroll says:

    Unrestricted travel to Cuba for all Americans is not a small issue.
    Getting this thru would be another nail in one special interest coffin..in this case, the Cuban exile’s political machine and their minons in congress.

    Reply

  4. samuelburke says:

    a democracy being led to war by foreign agents is wronger.
    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/09/17/the-worms-in-the-apple/
    Yes, it’s a “policy center” that’s “bipartisan” – just a group of disinterested centrist policy wonks, responsible and “mainstream” to a fault, who have no real ideological agenda or axe to grind. Right?
    Wrong!
    its top foreign policy “expert” is one Michael Makovsky, a former staffer at the notorious Office of Special Plans – yes, the same Bush era outfit that manipulated phony “intelligence” and packaged it as talking points to sell the Iraq war to a gullible Congress, a prostrate media, and a half-asleep American public.
    But as Jim Lobe, of IPS News Service, points out (here and here), the real authors were Makovsky and Michael Rubin, whose ideological orientation may indeed be “bipartisan” – after all, the neocons infest both parties – but who very definitely have an ideological axe to grind.
    Makovsky is supposed to be some sort of expert on the oil industry, which is the capacity he served in for the Office of Special Plans – an odd job for someone whose doctorate is in history, and has no experience working in the energy industry. His older brother, David, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy – the “thinktank” wing of AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby in the US. He once worked for Sen. John Danforth, after which he moved to Israel, where he intended to pursue a career as an Israeli diplomat (without, however, giving up his US citizenship), after serving in the Israeli military.
    Other details about his background are … interesting. A USA Today article published in 1995 quotes a Michael Makovsky who lived at a settlement in the West Bank, and was a friend of Yigal Amir – the right-wing extremist who murdered Yitzhak Shamir. According to this report, Makovsky’s extremist allegiances aren’t limited to paling around with assassins. He was reportedly a member, in his student days at least, of the neo-fascist “Betar” organization, which has a military structure (members wear uniforms, and engage in “drills”) and calls for a “Greater Israel.”
    Michael Rubin’s extreme views are at least a match for Makovsky’s. Rubin is also an Office of Special Plans alumnus, a former official of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute — where he began attacking the Bush administration from the right because, in his view, it deviated from the straight-and-narrow neocon line. In 2004, in response to widespread opposition to the Iraq war that focused on the Israeli connections of the war’s most fervent advocates, Rubin attacked “creeping anti-Semitism in the current discourse,” approvingly quoting Max Boot’s contention that “if neocons were agents of Likud, they would have advocated an invasion not of Iraq or Afghanistan but of Iran, which Israel considers to be the biggest threat to its security.”
    Now that Rubin is advocating draconian sanctions, to be followed by a military attack, on Tehran, one wonders if he will finally come clean and admit to being an agent of a Certain Foreign Power. Somehow, I doubt it.
    So let’s see if I have this straight: the very same people who funneled false “intelligence” about Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” – those friendly folks at the Office of Special Plans – are now telling us that the Iranians have WMD, and are about to join the nuclear club. Pardon me if I’m just a bit skeptical – but haven’t we been through this before?

    Reply

  5. questions says:

    Back to Cuba…
    I think, WigWag, it wouldn’t just be a three day story in south Florida. Easing ties with the commies fits in so beautifully with the commie/Nazi narrative that is being developed by the VRWC that I doubt Beck et al could resist.
    There’s a real irrationalist zeitgeist that feeds off of these ever so slight narrative pushes. Many already have a FEELING that there’s something wrong with Obama. He’s fake, he’s an outsider, he’s not one of us…. People FEEL this feeling deeply and then look for “evidence.”
    Irrationalism works this way. Start with a feeling that has only a tenuous relationship with the universe, then look for “facts” to fit the feeling. Ignore anything that doesn’t fit. OR, turn the anomalies into proof that the feeling is justified. Either way, you get the “justification” of your not-necessarily-true belief.
    So, Obama is “different” in some ineffable way. Difference is “like” communism and foreignness and threat. So Obama is a commie, and he’s from another country and so can’t have real loyalty to the REAL AMERICA, and he’s taking America away from us.
    With this structure as the dominant narrative feeling out there in lala land, and even around here in not-so-lala land, ya really wanna say it’s a three day story in 3 Florida counties?
    Anyone really wanna push on this? I mean, Van Jones, ACORN, missile shields, death panels…. Cuba travel could be that final fatal straw.
    I wouldn’t go there quite yet.

    Reply

  6. ... says:

    One of the surprises of the Goldstone report for the UN Human Rights Council is that it too talks of “persecution” as a recognized crime against humanity and says that Israel is likely guilty of this charge.
    “Finally, the Mission considered whether the series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing, and water, that deny their freedom of movement and right to enter and leave their country, that limit their access [to] a court of law and an effective remedy, could be considered persecution, a crime against humanity.”
    http://mondoweiss.net/2009/09/goldstone-commission-sees-evidence-of-persecution.html#more-9213
    Israel on Wednesday asked a number of senior members of the Obama administration to assist in curbing the international fallout from the Goldstone Commission report released this week, which accuses Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. . .
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue Wednesday with U.S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, while Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon discussed it with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other senior officials.
    And the US response as reported by Reuters:
    The United States has “serious concerns” about a U.N. investigator’s report accusing Israel and Palestinians of war crimes during their Gaza war, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Thursday.
    “The United States is reviewing very carefully what is a very lengthy document,” Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters. South African jurist Richard Goldstone unveiled the report in New York this week.
    “We have very serious concerns about many of the recommendations in the report,” Rice said.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2009/09/ask-and-you-shall-receive-the-us-appears-willing-to-help-israel-stonewall-the-goldstone-report.html#comments
    oscar comment at mondoweiss
    >>No one is yet looking down the road . . . but here’s an interesting twist. Israel may need the Obama administration to veto any U.N. council recommendation to send the Goldstone findings to the ICC. And yet, Netanyahu sticks a thumb in Obama’s eye on the settlements every time he meets with Mitchell. Is this finally the stick Obama needs to get the Likudniks off the dime to end the blockade and move to the two-state solution? Obama is a “sucker” if he lets this opportunity slip through his fingers. >I fear that, unfortunately, Obama is a sucker and a weakling, and will continue the reprehensible practice of enabling Israel’s crimes in the UN.
    Obama’s feeble attempts to shift Israel policy have in fact made it more clear than ever that Washington is Zionist Controlled Territory.<<

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Sibel Edmonds Speaks Out
    September 17th, 2009 by Daniel McCarthy
    There’s a new issue of The American Conservative going to press today, and it includes a story that will make more than a few congressmen and foreign lobbyists intensely uncomfortable: an in-depth interview between Phil Giraldi and FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. She tells us exactly how Turkish intelligence have penetrated national secrets, suborned government officials, and blackmailed Congress. It’s going to be explosive.
    http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2009/09/17/sibel-edmonds-speaks-out/
    This ain’t going to go away, Steve. Its becoming more mainstream. People are going to want answers.
    On a similiar note, Pepe Escobar, over at ATOL, has offered another commentary on 9/11, with more questions about the official narrative.
    The natives are getting restless.

    Reply

  8. arthurdecco says:

    POA said: “These pieces of shit, quoted above, are unfit to represent the American people. The are rendering our nation complicit in Israel’s crimes, and those quoted above are no better than the nazi corporal turning the gas valve at Auschwitz.”
    And like those who turned the valves at Auschwitz, these four demonstrated traitors to America, Gary Ackerman (D-NY) Chairman, House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) Members, House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia should be arrested, convicted and summarily shot. And if not shot, then, at the very least, deported to the country they actually work for, with ALL their assets confiscated by the state.
    Are there NO patriotic Americans left in positions of power in the United States of America?!? Have they ALL been identified, removed and/or eliminated? Is there no one willing to stand up to these loathsome serial liars and secondhand war criminals who demonstrably wish Americans and the United States ill?
    My GAWD!

    Reply

  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Oh gosh, are we talking about whores now????
    Well, heres my contribution….
    http://www.aipac.org/The_Issues/29184.asp
    Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) Chairman, House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
    “In April 2009, the UN Human Rights Council set up a Commission to condemn Israel. To the surprise of no one, it has done exactly that. But for the grave subject matter, the Goldstone report would be laughable. In the self-righteous fantasyland inhabited by the authors, there’s no such thing as terrorism, there’s no such thing as Hamas, there’s no such thing as legitimate self-defense, and war is like a sporting event or a debate, rather than the most ghastly, destructive, chaotic phenomenon we human beings are capable of creating.
    Had the report been submitted by a group of eager law students or the human rights club on a college campus, I would suggest that their efforts had been unfortunately wasted on the production of a pompous, tendentious, one-sided political diatribe. Notwithstanding all their alleged “facts” there’s very little truth, and for all the so-called “context” they supply, there’s very little wisdom.
    As this diatribe actually carries the imprimatur of a part of the United Nations, there is the sad prospect it may be taken seriously. I certainly hope not. The consequences of such an error will be yet another round of offensive and sterile Israel-bashing that will bring peace no closer, produce no international consensus, and, along the way, further sully and cheapen the reputation of the United Nations and the cause of human rights.
    Certainly, the United States should do all that it can to ensure as little time as possible is wasted on this distraction from the real work of making peace.”
    Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
    “It would appear the UN is continuing its relentless anti-Israel bias, accusing the Jewish state of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    Given that this report’s mandate came from the despot-controlled Human Rights Council, we should not be surprised.
    Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly kicks off another year of anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-freedom activism – transferring its gavel from a defrocked Sandinista to a Qaddafi shill.
    Congress must demand better by enacting pending legislation that would leverage our contributions to the UN to produce sweeping, meaningful reform of that body.”
    Note: The report was released as the United Nations General Assembly began its 64th session under the presidency of Ali Abdessalam Treki, the former foreign minister of Libya.
    Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) Members, House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
    “Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. When Israel’s population – both in the north and the south – is under attack by terrorists who fire missiles at innocent civilians day and night, they have every right to fight back and put an end to the threat. This United Nations report was biased against Israel from the very beginning and fails to see the true root of this problem – Hamas terrorists who want to destroy Israel and are willing to risk their own civilian populations – even their own children – to do so.
    Israel took every reasonable step to avoid civilian casualties, dropping leaflets, avoiding strikes when civilians were present, and making hundreds of thousands of phone calls urging people to leave unsafe areas. It is ridiculous to claim that Israel did not take appropriate actions to protect civilian populations.”
    End.
    Wonderful, eh?
    Its all a big ‘ol UN plot to cast those poor victimized Israelis in an unfavorable light. They did nothing wrong during Operation Cast Lead, they were just defending themselves against bottle rockets, gravel, sticks, and marauding olive trees.
    These pieces of shit, quoted above, are unfit to represent the American people. The are rendering our nation complicit in Israel’s crimes, and those quoted above are no better than the nazi corporal turning the gas valve at Aushwitz. Instead of gas, these people are turning on the valve of subsidation and justification.

    Reply

  10. Dan Kervick says:

    By the way, I think Steve IS supporting Obama’s Cuba policy. Surely the administration understood when it eased travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans that this would create an untenable situation of some Americans possessing special rights not possessed by others. Steve is just running with the anchor leg with the baton that was passed.

    Reply

  11. Outraged American says:

    Whoops – http://whatreallyhappened.com/
    Sam’s site is a national treasure — he takes no prisoners when he
    goes after Congress. He’s the next Helen Thomas. Sam’s site, and
    he’s going to be on the air at whatreallyhappened.com in 15
    minutes.
    SERIOUSLY check out Sam’s site.
    http://www.washingtonstakeout.com/

    Reply

  12. Outraged American says:

    Sam Hussieni the most intrepid reporter in DC (not a hard call) on
    air TODAY at 3 PM Pacific, 6 PM Eastern, 5 PM Central. TODAY in
    less than half an hour.
    Sam does Washington Stakeout during which he gets all those
    sniveling wusses as they leave the Sunday morning talk shows in
    DC like “Meet the Whores” and asks really tough questions, the
    ones the whores in the mainstream media should be asking.
    Stream it live on
    ttp://www.whatreallyhappened.com/

    Reply

  13. Outraged American says:

    She looks like the Octomom with hips. What is up with that mouth?

    Reply

  14. WigWag says:

    It seems to me that Steve Clemons is exactly right about this one. A complete change on Cuba policy including the lifting of trade sanctions may be more than Obama can deliver right now in light of everything else he has to handle.
    But loosening travel restrictions would result in about a three day story mostly in Dade and Broward Counties; then it would all be forgotten. The political fall-out would be minimal.
    The truth is that anyone who wants to go to Cuba already can; there are so many exceptions to the travel rules that it’s easy to find a way around them. Jewish groups in South Florida sponsor trips to Cuba all the time. They’re organized as “educational trips” to study Jewish history in Cuba but of course it’s all bull; the trips are about the sunbathing, the gambling and the nightlife. The education and history are just an excuse.
    With that said, making Americans jump through all those hoops is ridiculous.
    I have no idea whether Zathras is right that Steve wants to spend part of his winter on Varadero Beach, but if he does, what’s wrong with that?
    There’s nothing incompatible about Americans wanting to winter in Havana and Steve correctly pointing out that travel restrictions to Cuba are anachronistic.
    My only question is, where’s the Steve Clemons letter to President Obama on Cuba? He signed one on Afghanistan; what about Cuba? Instead of writing posts for his Washington Note readers who can’t do anything about it, how about getting George Adams, Andrew Bacevich, Michael Cohen, Michael Desch, Robert Jervis, John Mearsheimer, Barry Posen, Steve Walt and the rest of the crew on the case.
    If they work fast and Obama relents, there still might be time for them to get their hotel reservations for Winter Break.
    Realists are usually far more concerned with interests rather than principles. It’s pretty clear to any objective observer that American interests here are rather minimal; in his heart of hearts, Steve must know it too. He wants the travel restrictions lifted merely because they are wrong. Good for him!
    I would say that for a person afflicted with a “realist” perspective, that’s a step in the right direction.
    As a reward, if Steve Clemons gets to Cuba this winter, I hope he will have a mojito on me. But only one; that’s all I can afford. I’ve heard the Cuban hotels charge as much for cocktails as bars in Miami.

    Reply

  15. Dan Kervick says:

    “Steve Clemons has evidently decided there is something to admire about the frequent, repetitive posts on the same subject so beloved of some commenters here. Swell.”
    I call foul, Zathras. There has been no groundswell of commentary on Cuba here, and the Cuba posts don’t seem to generate a high level of commenter interest. Cuba is Steve’s personal cause.

    Reply

  16. Dan Kervick says:

    “This is ridiculous. Democracies are not generally in the business of telling their citizens where they can and can’t go …”
    Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!

    Reply

  17. brigid says:

    Yep, the pressing foreign policy issue of our time, the right of Americans to travel to Cuba. I’m really torn up about it myself. Nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, war in the Middle East, genocide in Darfur, civil war in the Congo, starvation in Zimbabwe…..? Nope.. the access to the beaches of Cuba. That’s the burning issue. And I’ll bet the president is now really focused on it because of this blog post.

    Reply

  18. Outraged American says:

    Sam Husseini, the only honest/ courageous journalist in DC,
    besides Helen Thomas, on the What Really Happened show
    TODAY. 3 PM Pacific, 5 PM Central, 6 PM Eastern. Streaming live
    at: http://whatreallyhappened.com/
    This is what Sam does, beyond molesting children — he’s a
    hero, well, beyond the kid thing. Sam asks the TOUGH
    questions unlike the quislings on Meet the Whores.
    Sam Husseini here. This is an invitation to be receiving emails of
    videos from
    Washington Stakeout — http://WashingtonStakeout.com — it’s
    a project I’ve
    been working on (on and off) for several years. Basically, I ask
    politicians
    questions as they walk out of the Sunday morning chat shows.
    Except, I try to
    ask them tough questions that they don’t typically get asked.
    For example,
    this week, I asked Senators Rockefeller and Snowe about
    whether money they
    take from Wall Street and insurance companies doesn’t compel
    them to do the
    bidding of finance companies.
    You can see that and past work at:
    http://WashingtonStakeout.com

    Reply

  19. Outraged American says:

    Sam Husseini, the only honest/ courageous journalist in DC,
    besides Helen Thomas, on the What Really Happened show
    TODAY. 3 PM Pacific, 5 PM Central, 6 PM Eastern. Streaming live
    at: http://whatreallyhappened.com/
    This is what Sam does, beyond molesting children — he’s a
    hero, well, beyond the kid thing. Sam asks the TOUGH
    questions unlike the quislings on Meet the Whores.
    Sam Husseini here. This is an invitation to be receiving emails of
    videos from
    Washington Stakeout — http://WashingtonStakeout.com — it’s
    a project I’ve
    been working on (on and off) for several years. Basically, I ask
    politicians
    questions as they walk out of the Sunday morning chat shows.
    Except, I try to
    ask them tough questions that they don’t typically get asked.
    For example,
    this week, I asked Senators Rockefeller and Snowe about
    whether money they
    take from Wall Street and insurance companies doesn’t compel
    them to do the
    bidding of finance companies.
    You can see that and past work at:
    http://WashingtonStakeout.com

    Reply

  20. Zathras says:

    Steve Clemons has evidently decided there is something to admire about the frequent, repetitive posts on the same subject so beloved of some commenters here. Swell.
    I continue to be impressed by how little consideration President Obama gets from many of his nominal supporters. Coming into office in the midst of the worst economic crisis in 80 years, attempting fundamental reform of one-sixth of the American economy, and having inherited two wars plus any number of other foreign problems, Obama still has to put up with constituencies insisting that the only “change” that matters is change that gives them exactly what they want, right away. Anything less is a flagrant violation of Obama’s campaign promises at best, an insult to what America is all about at worst.
    Tempting though it is to pose the rhetorical question as to whether Obama take time away from the economy, health care or Afghanistan to attend to Cuban policy, I understand this question would miss the point here. Our host, the realist, is not proposing anything so time-consuming as a negotiation: not with the Cuban government, from which he would ask nothing, or with Congressional supporters of the current policy, to whom he would give nothing. He just wants Obama to sign a piece of paper giving him what he wants, thereby upholding the sacred rights of all Americans in time for the winter beach season. Simple. Easy. What could happen?
    The thing is, liberalization toward Cuba will happen under the Obama administration. It will extend a lot farther than the travel restrictions being complained of here, and it will require changes in Cuban as well as American government policy. If it happens after the economy gets off its back and onto its knees; after health reform that all recent Presidents have failed to get done is enacted; and after the administration finally figures out what it is going to do with Afghanistan, so what? Honestly, so what?
    Not in office a year, and already Obama has his friends taking him for granted. Maybe his enemies, who are getting so much air time now, will turn out to be more trouble for him in the end, but one wonders sometimes.

    Reply

  21. dalivision says:

    I agree with you Steve in that Cuba may be little more than a dot in foreign policy however, it move us to greater influence (hopefully beneficial influence) in South America and other parts of the world. Nothing has changed after decades of embargo. Obama has disappointed me in his foreign policy (so far) but will relax toward him at this time.

    Reply

  22. ... says:

    the interests of the many are seem to be always overlooked by the special interests of a few…. the usa is perfect example of this… money talks and calls the shots… capitalism and democracy don’t have a lot in common, in spite of what politicians or advocates tell you…
    “”In their zeal to try to destabilize Castro these past many decades, the Cuban-American community leadership has endorsed and engaged in behaviors completely inconsistent with democratic practice and human rights.”” i can think of other examples like this… just substitute cuban-american community leadership for a few other ____________”community leaderships” depicting those who have undue influence…. the usa has never lived up to it’s pretty idea of democracy, or democracy can be bought by the highest bidder which doesn’t strike me as democratic… it’s a work in progress with the ‘movers and shakers’ looking for a way round democracy, or taking a rest from the job for making it happen.. you might be a slight exception steve..

    Reply

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