Perhaps Payback is Necessary

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

I will readily admit that I have been to countries under governments that are less than enthusiastic about Americans. There are too many governments in the world that have it in for Uncle Sam, and who see the benefit of actually detaining, imprisoning, torturing and even executing Americans if they want something from the United States or want to “punish” America. North Korea and Pakistan are two excellent examples of this (although Cuba has played into this category as well) . Then there are countries that are so violent and unstable that they are virtual war zones even if they are not. Look to Venezuela and Bolivia as such examples. Yet even with so many U.S. State Department warnings about countries that are not only ruled by extremely anti-American hostile governments and are unstable, there are Americans who go to these countries to “prove” that they have gone on the roads less traveled. They want to “impress” maybe their friends, their girl or boy friends, their families, their classmates or whoever that they had “dared” and come back to live to tell the tale.

Such people very much exist, and such people probably will always exist. Witness the recent American now in a North Korean prison, Otto Warmbier, who went to North Korea despite all of the warnings by the U.S. government that U.S. citizens could be detained, arrested and held indefinitely by the North Korean government as bargaining chips. This does not include those who go to equally hostile countries like Venezuela, Pakistan, and so on. I have heard a growing number of people say that Americans should be officially prohibited from going to these countries. I might agree that this may sound like common sense, but to be truthful I reject this because it is an infringement on our constitutional rights. Even if it means that individual American may get themselves in trouble, imprisoned and even killed, they should be allowed to make their own choices however stupid. I am NOT saying that Americans should not travel off the beaten path. There are wonderful countries out there not much visited, and it would be worth anyone’s time to see those places less visited.

My advice for anyone who wants to travel should talk to someone who has been to this or that country of interest and read what information is available. But again please exercise some common sense in what country you, my reader, will select. Those countries with proven track records of not being too good should maybe be best avoided. Of course, there will be those who will do otherwise. And while I do not prohibit them from going to those less than ideal places, I do think that they should be made to pay for whatever services and help the U.S. government may provide in getting them out (IF the U.S. government can get them out). In most cases this is already being done. If a U.S. citizen is in an unstable area, and needs to get out, they have to sign an affidavit stating they will pay the U.S. government back for a flight and assistance they need to get out. This does not cover those who are wrongfully imprisoned or used as bargaining chips by hostile governments or irregular forces. This usually comes out at taxpayer expense.

Perhaps the U.S. government should consider charging those who knowingly go into countries hostile to the United States and or unstable areas as Germany does for its citizens. If German citizens knowingly go into countries hostile to Germany, and unstable, then the German government will charge them for any aid rendered to secure their release and safety. Likewise, the German government can revoke the passport of an individual who knowingly goes into a country and/or unstable area before they go. Like the United States, the German government does not prohibit overall travel to various countries and regions of the world, but maybe the United States should consider revoking individual passports for those who intend to go to countries and regions that may endanger them. From what I can see there are no real ways or sure methods to stop individuals from going wherever they wish, or doing what they want. But perhaps if we make it clear what penalties there might be for them from the U.S. government as well as what they may suffer in whatever bad situation they may be in, then perhaps they will exercise more common sense.

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