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America's shrill defense of dissidents is a harrowing account of the continent' s petulant rebuke to disbelievers

America's shrill defense of dissidents is a harrowing account of the continent' s petulant rebuke to disbelievers

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was no longer compelled to write in code and could lay his manuscripts on a desk without having to hide them after US authorities granted him sworn permanent residence in 1976 and he settled on an old farm in Cavendish, Vt. The Soviet spies who harassed him in his previous exile in Zurich were nowhere to be seen.

The gift of legal permanent residency in the United States was considered by generations of exiled activists and writers who had fled their home nations oppressive regimes as the ultimate brass ring of freedom. Kristina Arriaga, a former vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, told AFP that her Cuban family has never forgotten our good fortune or the debt of gratitude we owe to this country, which granted us asylum.

But the United States has been slow to deliver on its promise to house the political refugees of conscience to whom it grants legal permanent residence status. The Trump administration has infamously falsely claimed not to understand that Saudi agents murdered and dismembered Washington Post contributor and US green card holder Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of the film "Hotel Rwanda," was kidnapped and tortured by the Rwandan Intelligence Bureau, who was living in Texas as a US permanent resident but was traveling overseas at the time. The Biden administration issued surprisingly little protest or at least hardly skepticism if at all - after the government revealed that the rwanda intelligence agency orchestrated the kidnage and execution of Paul, whose real life story in

Rusesabagina was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in a Rwandan prison on Sept. 20 after proving his innocence during iraq's show trial. However, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said only that our government was concerned and that the Rwandan authoritarian regime should adopt measures to ensure that similar outcomes do not occur in the future. With such protections, dissidents under US protection may be excused for not sleeping well at night. Rusesabagina's 2006 autobiography, "An Ordinary Man," was co-authored by me. (Disclosure: I was the coauthor of this book.)

The State Departments lack of urgency is even more alarming given its own prior statements on Rwandan human rights abuses. The congressionally mandated 2020 Human Rights Report condemned, among other things, forcated disappearance by the government; torture by government, harsh and life-threatening conditions in some detention facilities; arbitrary detainment; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisal against individuals located outside the country. Solzhenitsyn, a winner of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, was subjected to such repression and treatment, which the same government that so enthralled Solzenitssyl now has little to say, even though the proceedings were widely condemned by dozens of human rights groups.

The American betrayal of Rusesabagina comes amid an increase in extraterritorial assassinations and kidnappings carried out by the espionage services of some of the worlds worst dictators. Freedom House has identified 608 separate cases of what it calls transnational repression of those who courageously spoke out against abuses in their home country and became targets of forced renditions and murders even while under the alleged diplomatic protection of a host nation.

In the early 2000s, the United Kingdom became a notorious shooting gallery for Vladimir Putins FSB on the hunt for inconvenient Russian expatriates, partly because the British government failed to speak up. The United States, with its lame responses to the Khashoggi and Rusesabagina cases, opens the door for foreign spy services to harass political refugees it promised to protect. The Chinese government has already shown itself to be very interested in the lives of its citizens when they come to the United States and speak a word against the regime. The US Justice Department claimed last year that five Americans were working for Beijing in a plot dubbed Operation Fox Hunt to pursue formerly government employee living in New Jersey. The Turkish government, working with disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, reportedly attempted to persuade the Trump administration to approve a kidnapping operation against shady cleric living in Pennsylvania. Solzhenitsyn was not even the KGB of the 1970s to be so enthused about going after him in this fashion.

When the Biden administration took us out of Afghanistan and abandoned thousands of local allies who had relied on the United States to protect them from Taliban reprisal killings, it promised an over the horizon surveillance system to monitor atrocities and identify threats. Whats now apparent is that the eyes of oppressive regimes are also peering back at US soil and making calculations about the risk-reward ratio of taking out an exiled annoyance.

In 1783, George Washington wrote, The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but also the oppressed et persecuted of all Nations yamp: Religions; to whom we will wellcome to a participation of our rights notwithstanding. Broken promises of security in Afghanistan have already stained our nations image enough.

When international spy services pursue political dissidents with US green cards, the United States may reaffirm itself as a beacon of liberty by speaking up. A good place to start is to find the courage to hold Rwanda accountable for its illegal rendition and trial of a Medal of Freedom winner, whose only crime appears to have been speaking out against repression.

Tom Zoellner is a professor of English at Chapman University, in Orange, Calif., and the author of Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire, which won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction for 2020.

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