Ilija Trojanov was at the airport in Brazil’s Salvador da Bahia, on September 30, checking in for his flight to the United States, when the person behind the American Airlines counter told him that the computer had issued a "Border Security Crossing" alert – and that it was necessary to contact the American authorities before he could be issued a boarding pass. As the time for his flight approached he was told the airline was forced to refuse him entry to the flight – and that he must return to Germany.
Trojanov is an acclaimed author of 20 books, including Along the Ganges, Collector of Worlds, and Mumbai to Mecca. He is the co-author of Angriff auf die Freiheit (Attack on Freedom), with Juli Zeh, a 2009 jeremiad against State surveillance. Trojanov was on his way to the Denver conference of the German Studies Association, and had been issued an invitation to appear at the Goethe-Institut’s "New Literature From Europe" Festival in November.
He had earlier been denied a visa to enter the United States, but with the help of an American university he was finally granted his travel papers: thus the "security alert" came as a surprise.
So why all the trouble over traveling to the US?
In response to media queries, the US embassy in Berlin had "no comment" to make. That’s because no comment was necessary: Trojanov was among the prominent signers of an open letter addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel protesting NSA surveillance on German soil as an "historic attack on our democratic, constitutional state." That is clearly the reason for this Soviet-style harassment by the Obama administration.
This latest outrage is part of a disturbing pattern of repression that all points to one ineluctable conclusion: the United States is the Soviet Union of the new millennium – an ideological state with global ambitions that holds itself up as the epitome of "freedom" and yet is the single most powerful enemy of liberty worldwide.
Trojanov’s history makes this Soviet-style persecution all the more ironic: he and his family fled Bulgaria when he was very young, seeking refuge in the former Yugoslavia and finally being granted political asylum in Germany. During the regional uprising against Soviet domination and the revolts against the dictatorship of the Communist parties of the Warsaw Pact, the peoples of Eastern Europe looked to the United States as the torchbearer of freedom and the symbol of all their hopes for a better future: that one of those hopefuls is now being barred from entering "the land of the free and the home of the brave" on account of his political views is utterly sickening.
The American PEN Center, representing thousands of American writers, has issued a formal protest to our clueless Secretary of State, who’s too busy arguing for funding Al Qaeda jihadists in Syria to be bothered with answering for travel restrictions on ideological grounds: the German government is also making "inquiries." Washington’s response continues to be "no comment."
Okay, so it’s only this one guy, and maybe it’s a mistake, and why am I making such a big deal about this?
Because it isn’t only just one guy: as the Pen Center points out, "Mr. Trojanov is at least the third member of one of our international affiliates who has been barred from entering the United States since September 2001" on ideological grounds, and it doesn’t stop there. While the Bush administration was no friend of the freedom to travel, the Obamaites have escalated the government’s attack on visitors it deems politically incorrect.
When writers and journalists are targets of government repression, you know you have a problem – a big problem – on your hands. And that is precisely the case here in the US. Why else would the Committee to Protect Journalists be doing a study – for the first time – of the mounting difficulties put in the way of reporters in America? Facing prosecution for "espionage" on account of their probing into Washington’s spying on its own citizens, as well as others worldwide, US journalists find themselves increasingly in the crosshairs of Justice Department prosecutors, who are taking some lessons from their Soviet forebears:
"For three decades, the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported on assaults on press freedoms in China, Iran, Syria and other countries with government regimes traditionally hostile to a free and robust news media.
"This year, for the first time, the Committee is conducting a major investigation of attacks on press freedoms by the U.S. government, led by an Arizona State University professor.
"’Journalists working in the United States have told us that their work has become more difficult as aggressive leak investigations and prosecutions have chilled certain kinds of reporting,’ said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists."
What in the name of all that’s holy is going on?
An empire is, invariably, a tyranny, no matter how it starts out. In its efforts to extend its frontiers, and protect its conquests, the US imperium must inevitably repress those who stand against it, who question it, and who report its depredations to the world. As the great Old Right polemicist Garet Garrett put it in his 1952 pamphlet, Rise of Empire:
"A second mark by which you may unmistakably distinguish Empire is: ‘Domestic policy becomes subordinate to foreign policy.’
"That happened to Rome. It has happened to every Empire. … the fact now to be faced is that it has happened also to us.
"It needs hardly to be argued that as we convert the nation into a garrison state to build the most terrible war machine that has ever been imagined on earth, every domestic policy is bound to be conditioned by our foreign policy.
"The voice of government is saying that if our foreign policy fails we are ruined. It is all or nothing. Our survival as a free nation is at hazard.
"That makes it simple, for in that case there is no domestic policy that may not have to be sacrificed to the necessities of foreign policy – even freedom."
Our "small government" conservatives may labor in the vineyards of politics, pushing back here and there, and perhaps even winning a victory or two on occasion, but their efforts will prove ephemeral and utterly doomed unless and until they take aim at the Empire. As long as the frontiers of "American interests" are indefinitely extended until they cover the earth from Thailand to Timbuktu, all efforts to rein in the Leviathan must end in defeat. As Ron Paul has pointed out time and again: our foreign policy is the problem, the number one reason why liberty is being martyred to the gods of authority.
Trojanov must be denied entry because, after all, isn’t the NSA our great Bulwark Against Terrorism? Isn’t its all-pervasive presence necessary for our very survival as a nation? Aren’t we engaged in a Global War on Terrorism in which defeat is not an option?
And so we go from naming terrorists in a cave somewhere as our enemies to targeting writers, journalists, and indeed anyone who raises his or her head and questions this fatal monomania.
It this fearsome tide irreversible? No. But the hour grows late, and the confusion amongst the last remaining friends of liberty is considerable. Either we rid ourselves of the albatross of imperial ambition or else we lose what once made this nation worth fighting for.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).