From a U.S. Department of State Travel Warning issued today about Iraq:
…The security threat to all American citizens in Iraq remains extremely high, with a high risk of attacks on civilians. International organizations have reduced their staff in Iraq as a result of attacks, bombings and threats to civil aviation. This supersedes the Travel Warning of June 25, 2004.
The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous….
All vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous. There have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous. Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah, travel between al-Hillah and Baghdad, and travel between the International Zone and Baghdad International Airport is particularly dangerous. Occasionally, U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to select areas depending on prevailing security conditions. There continues to be heavy use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and dead animals. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas. Travel should be undertaken only when absolutely necessary and with the appropriate security.
For the average Iraqi, things appear to be worse than the prevailing danger during the Saddam Hussein regime. Had the United States worked with the United Nations to enforce the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, rather than rushing to war, Americans would be seen as being involved and concerned with the health and safety of individual Iraqis and Muslims rather than at war with them.
Of course, the perceived threat of terror is how we measure our security these days. If that’s the case, the constant addition of terrorist organizations to our lists of such organizations seems to indicate the world is becoming increasingly dangerous. This compels a “war approach” to the world (think of President Bush gesturing to his head on Meet The Press and saying “I make decisions with war on my mind”) that increases the alienation of America from the concerns of individuals around the world, since our administration now encourages the abridgment of liberty in favor of security. For example, the State Department today added Nepal’s Communist Party to the list of terror organizations. So, it’s dangerous there, too:
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley unless they have reliable information that they can proceed safely in specific areas at specific times. In March 2004, Maoist leaders announced road closures (blockades) in certain western and southern districts of Nepal. However, The Embassy received widespread reports of Maoists forcibly blocking major roads throughout the country, including roads to Tibet, India, Chitwan, Pokhara, and Jiri. Recently, Maoists forcibly blocked all traffic in areas surrounding Pokhara, preventing the departure of tourists for an extended period and causing some to miss their international flights from Kathmandu. Other district centers have been blockaded without warning. U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for the latest security information, and to travel by air whenever possible.
Because of heightened security risks, U.S. official personnel do not generally travel by road outside the Kathmandu Valley. All official travel outside Kathmandu Valley, including by air, requires specific clearance by the Regional Security Officer. As a result, emergency assistance to U.S. citizens may be limited. Active duty military and DoD contractors must obtain a country clearance for official and unofficial travel to Nepal.
U.S. citizens who travel or reside in Nepal despite this Travel Warning should factor the potential for violence into their plans, avoid public demonstrations and maintain low profiles while in Nepal.
Safer indeed. According to the Department of State, during the past three or so months, Americans’ safety in the following countries has changed (not become unsafe, just changed, the total list is much longer): Nigeria, Algeria, Haiti, Bahrain, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kenya, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Burundi, Israel and the West Bank, Central African Republic, Colombia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, and Liberia. Only Libya is deemed to have improved, but we are actually relying on a totalitarian government there to ensure Americans’ security.