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Farewell dear America. Here’s why I will never again walk on your soil

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By Simon Davies

This is a painful commitment to make, but I’ve taken the decision to never again travel to the US. The bullying, intimidation and hypocrisy have gone too far.

The US has a noble history of civil liberties protection – tragically vandalised by successive recent administrations that exert a corrupted centre of gravity across the planet.

I’m hurting because I deeply love so much about America. I’ve traveled there perhaps 200 times over the past 25 years to be with many dear friends and colleagues and to participate in its affairs. The US has a noble history of civil liberties protection – tragically vandalised by successive recent administrations that  exert a corrupted centre of gravity across the planet.

The United Kingdom behaves no better, but I am a citizen here and I can fight its idiocy – as I have done so often before. On matters of security the UK is a mirror of the US – they feed each other’s intransigence and arrogance. However Washington has always been the puppet master.

I’ve been through this commitment before with other nations in ethical decline, and I recognise the superficial pain. Initially of course I’ll miss bagels in Central Park,  jazz clubs in Chicago, delightful sunny afternoons with friends in San Francisco and intelligent debate in an NPR studio. But most of all I’ll miss having the luxury of fooling myself into believing in America’s once noble values as a global leader of rights and liberties.

The disgraceful witch hunt of Edward Snowden is merely the last straw, but it’s by no means out of character for US administrations. America’s security edifice has been sliding into disrepute for the past decade, with the Obama administration aiding and abetting a fake accountability that sometimes worries even the UK. Amidst all the threats and gnashing of teeth by the US over Snowden there has been not one solitary expression of interest by the administration in reflecting upon its own failings.

Amidst all the threats and gnashing of teeth by the US over Snowden there has been not one solitary expression of interest by the administration in reflecting upon its own failings.

We in Europe have been forced over the years to live with intimidation by Washington over our own affairs, most recently in the matter of privacy reform. Before that we bruised under America’s boot on issues like extradition, military policy, international aid, law enforcement cooperation and intellectual property restrictions.

I mentioned in a previous blog that Stewart Robinson, Justice Counsellor with the US Mission to the EU, stunned participants at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference in Brussels earlier this year by condemning the European privacy proposals and then asserting that rights are “what we [the government] give you”.

I thought at the time – charitably – that Robinson was just a rotten apple, but he’s not. Robinson is merely a product of an elite that is going bad.

The writing was on the wall twenty years ago with the ascendancy of the Clinton administration. Then, at the inauguration outside the Capitol, we all hailed a prosperous future for rights and liberties. How wrong we were. The military-industrial complex was alive and well then, and it has grown in influence ever since.

I had fervently hoped that the US would not slide into the same mire that has now enveloped Australian and Russian administrations – often paranoid, inward-looking, reactionary and ethically compromised, but the White House has long pursued that sodden path.

America’s declining track record internationally appears to be matched by its zeal to curtail rights at home, whether through government agency surveillance, domestic wiretapping or a refusal to honour commitments on privacy reform. Most dangerous of all is the apparent paralysis of investigative journalism in the US, with media reporting giving every appearance of sliding into passivity.

The writing was on the wall twenty years ago with the ascendancy of the Clinton administration.

Am I being over-dramatic in closing off my travel options to the US? I doubt it. There was a time many years ago when my contribution to US policy was conditionally welcomed. Now I feel like an alien – and in more than the legal sense of the word. I believe that my type – foreigners – are less welcomed now by US authorities than at any time in recent American history. I don’t want to be the unwelcome guest, and I don’t want to be the hypocrite that just cherry-picks the best of what that great country has to offer.

My last – and final – trip to the US was undertaken to meet and interview Noam Chomsky. He reminded me with startling clarity why my misgivings were well founded. It’s fitting perhaps that my old love affair with America would end there.

I could turn this blog into an essay, but I’ll spare you the drama. I just hope that caring people in the US can find a way to stop the decline of a nation that – like the UK – could at one time have claimed the moral high ground on at least a few aspects of rights. But those caring people are probably mourning more than I.