Dear Mr President,
I'm disappointed. Disappointed that despite, in the words of our Prime Minister Tony Blair, "standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States" on some of the most wide opposed foreign affairs decisions in recent history, your administration has recently dealt the UK such an unceremonious slap in the face.
I am referring to the issue to the foreign nationals visiting the United States under the current Visa Waiver scheme. I don't need to remind you that the scheme, which allows citizens from 'friendly countries' to visit the United States for up to three months without having to first obtain a Visa, was dramatically scaled back in the last couple of years as you decided that America no longer considered many countries in the world as 'friends.' A decision that at the time sparked outrage from countries such as Japan, France and Brazil, but fortunately for you was of little interest to the national American media.
You will recall how you personally announced America was tightening its borders in an effort to step up national security. A move that earned you political points at home from Americans who were being told to fear the terrorist who might just live, or move in next door, but a move that very few actually understood. You created some new jobs in immigration and customs with the new tighter border controls, despite the findings of your own government commissioned study which concluded that there would be NO significant improvement in national security by reducing the Visa Waiver program, and treating visitors to America like criminals by finger printing and photographing them at point of entry to your country.
Now it seems, in what appears to be a hugely shortsighted act of near xenophobia, you will not be extending Europe's October deadline to conform to new biometric passport standards that America saw fit to demand from all countries. This rash decision will mean that nearly all Europeans who would currently be able to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver program will now have to apply to their American Embassy in person for a Visa.
At this time UK citizens applying for American Visas have to visit the American Embassy in London and go through the application process that not only includes a processing fee, but also takes most of a day to complete. Add to this the fact that most of the people in the UK do NOT live in or near London (for example I live some 5 hours from the capital) and you then have to consider the extra costs of travel and possible overnight stays in the capital. All in all the process is ridiculously drawn out and hugely inconvenient not to mention expensive.
With this in mind I am left wondering how many people will simply choose other locations in Europe or Canada as their vacation destinations instead of an America that effectively closes its borders to a one time friend. A friend whom I need not remind you is in Iraq and Afghanistan with you as I write this, a friend who has committed to staying there despite popular opinion. A friend that has stood by Americas side in the face of huge international opposition to unpopular military and political decisions. A friend who will no doubt view this latest act of paranoia is just another outrageous slap in the face.
Like any reasonable person in the world, I despise terrorism as much as you. My quandary is that I love America and the American people. However in the light of what seems to be a growing climate of fear cultivated by the mere threat of another September 11th, I am left wondering wether I should show my disgust at your administrations closed minded approach to this international problem of terrorism, that I remind you was around long before '9/11,' by simply not visiting America, a country I have come to love as much as my own.
I put little faith in you ever listening to my request, but as an Englishman, a friend and an ally, I would urge you, indeed I would urge America, to find it in your hearts and minds the ability to discern your friends from your enemies and treat them accordingly.
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I will complete this, improve it and send it
to the President!