Posted by: sean | May 12, 2010

Elections, visas, ice and Idi Amin

The blog has been dormant for a while, but there are a couple of good reasons for that. First, it’s the end of the semester, and I always tend to get bogged down with grading, which hampers, not to say paralyzes, my activity here. Second, I’ve recently gotten hitched, so that has taken up a lot of time as well as generating a lot of happiness.

Here in Lebanon, we’ve had municipal elections first in Mount Lebanon and then in Beirut, and so far things seem to have gone off without much of a hitch. Hopefully that will hold true for the rest of the country. I don’t really have much to say about the results, because, honestly, I haven’t really been following them, except to look at the different election posters in various neighborhoods.

Besides that, I’ve had the chance to experience the new US non-resident visa applications, which have been streamlined and placed online so that one need only fill out an electronic form, then go to the bank to pay the fees ($133) and take an appointment. Apparently, the decision is made on the spot. While this seems like a better system than the previous one, which took much longer, I couldn’t help but smile about some of the questions asked in the visa application:

Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?

Are you a member or a representative of a terrorist organization?

Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted or otherwise participated in genocide?

Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted or otherwise participated in torture?

Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted or otherwise participated in extra-judicial killings, political killings or other acts of violence?

This immediately makes me think of the story about Idi Amin’s various attempts to procure a tourist visa to the US after he was deposed and was living out the rest of his life in Saudi Arabia, where he was often spotted at the Jedda Safeway. Apparently, he  applied once to go to Disneyworld and another time to become a professional bowler.  An article I once read (but unfortunately can’t find online) about Salvadoran and Ethiopian government torturers and their victims coming face to face in ex-pat communities in the US also comes to mind. Moreover, there have been recent cases of Rwandans in the states who have been accused of being génocidaires.

So while I can understand the impulse to filter out torturers and inciters of genocide, I can’t help but wonder how many people, guilty of such heinous crimes, would actually list them on a visa application.

Finally, I’m brought to think of one of my very first jobs, the application for which asked, “have you ever done ‘ice’?” My first reaction was to ask, “what the hell is ice?” My second was to wonder, “who the hell would put that they’ve done it on a job application?”


  1. Less about who’d put down an affirmative answer and more about warning that these things might be checked (and a liar would likely be black-listed)… which makes me wonder why wouldn’t they be black-listed in the first place?

  2. the point isn’t that people will be honest, the point is that people can be convicted/expelled/deported for lying on their forms if other grounds can’t be proven.

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