Thursday, July 15, 2010

Give Me More of That Yummy Smart Diplomacy

Talk about the gang that can't shoot straight. The past several days there's been a story developing about an Iroquois lacrosse team unable to travel to the UK for some tournament because they lack proper passports. So instead of using this as a teachable moment, our esteemed Secretary of State instead decided to pander to this outfit and waived her magic wand, ostensibly allowing them to travel overseas.

Just one problem. The Brits weren't playing along.

An Iroquois lacrosse team heading to England was cleared for takeoff by the State Department Wednesday - only to be grounded hours later by the Brits.

The 11th-hour developments left the athletes stranded at Kennedy Airport, heartbroken at the prospect of missing a world championship.

"We are deeply disappointed," said Chief Oren Lyons, honorary chairman of the team.

The team was supposed to leave for Manchester on Sunday, but the U.S. refused to recognize native passports they've used for more than 20 years.

Team managers spoke for more than an hour with Secretary of State Clinton's chief of staff Wednesday morning, seeking permission to travel on the Iroquois Confederacy documents.

With the clock ticking down on the only flight that would get them to the tourney in time, they hammered out an agreement for a one-time waiver.

"She did take a personal interest in it," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Clinton's involvement.

"She feels the same way that many Americans feel, which is we want to see a team, which is by every indication one of the leading lacrosse teams in the world, have the opportunity to participate in the Olympics of lacrosse."
Clearly the American public, fresh off the stirring World Cup, has now embraced the Iroquois lacrosse team. Can't you feel the excitement?

Instead of pandering to these people, might it have been a good time to explain to them they need to use actual American passports to travel to the UK? Surely these people are aware of security concerns and international travel requirements, no?

Uh, guess not.
The U.K. Border Agency said in a statement that the British government would welcome the Iroquois team, but only if their players “present a document that we recognize as valid to enable us to complete our immigration and other checks.” The statement did not discuss the letters issued by the State Department, and a spokeswoman declined to elaborate. Until Wednesday morning, when Mrs. Clinton authorized the waiver, State Department officials had noted that federal law does not allow a tribal document to be used in lieu of a United States passport for international travel. (Security is one reason: The Iroquois passports are partly handwritten and do not include any of the security features that make United States passports resistant to counterfeiting.)

What the State Department did offer, however, were expedited United States passports for the team and its 20-person entourage. The Iroquois refused to accept them, saying that traveling to an international competition on what they consider to be a foreign nation’s passport would be an affront to their sovereignty.
Oh well, they they need to just deal with the reality they won't be attending the tournament.

Here we have the Secretary of State groveling to these folks and it's still not good enough. The Brits, to their credit, realize the potential security concerns and tell them where to go.

Clinton isn't the only one rolling over for these ingrates.
A number of elected officials have lobbied on the team’s behalf in recent days, including Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and two Democrats from New York: Representative Louise M. Slaughter and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

A spokesman for Ms. Gillibrand, Glen Caplin, said Wednesday evening that the senator planned to ask the State Department to join with the Canadian government to work out any concerns the British or any other countries have about tribal passports, “so that this kind of situation never happens again.”

The situation has been a costly one for the Iroquois team, which raised $300,000 to finance the trip to the tournament. Chief Lyons said the delays were costing the team some $25,000 per day. The filmmaker James Cameron, who has taken an interest in helping indigenous peoples, agreed to donate $50,000 to the team to defray those costs.
They could have all gotten passports for a lot less money and be playing games in England already.

But no, they've got to make a political point and look where it's gotten them: Looking like whiny children while our Secretary of State looks like a bumbling incompetent.

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