In a warning issued this week, the US State Department ordered all non-essential staff and dependents of Nepalis to depart America immediately. All other US citizens are advised to leave as soon as possible. "America is such a dangerous place," said State Department spokesperson Lars Ego, "that we can't in good conscience advise US citizens to remain."
The warning advises Americans that dangers in the US include random shootings, school massacres and armed robbery. "Because the US refuses to control the spread of guns, Americans are at very high risk," according to the statement, which says that more than 90,000 Americans are killed or injured by guns in the US each year.
The statement reports that acts of violence against Americans residing or traveling in the US are common, and that the random nature of the violence in America creates a risk of US citizens being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a violent incident. The warning adds that US citizens who visit or reside in America should factor the potential for violence into their plans and maintain a low profile while in America. The statement advises American citizens to avoid public places, to watch their valuables at all times and to maintain a high state of alert while in the US.
"There is a continuing high volume of reports of threats, harassment, robbery and extortion against Americans in the countryside, cities and tourist areas in the US," spokesperson Ego continued. He said that criminal gangs are common and continue to prey on Americans in the US, despite decades of government attempts to subdue them.
Terrorism continues to be a major danger for US citizens in America, according to the report. "Terrorist spokesmen continue to publish anti-American rhetoric and to threaten US-associated organizations," it says. The warning points to major attacks in Oklahoma City, Atlanta, New York and Washington DC and warns that, "More such attacks are possible without warning in any part of the country."
Travel in the US poses major hazards for Americans, according to the State Department. The warning says that there is "a shockingly high risk of mutilation or death on American highways," and quotes a US government source that states more than 43,200 Americans were killed while traveling by motor vehicle in the US last year. "We urge US citizens who choose to remain in America to avoid non-essential road travel," Ego said.
The statement cautions Americans that the control of major US media outlets by a handful of corporate conglomerates can result in censorship of unpopular political expression. When asked to elaborate, Ego pointed to attempts to quash recent films about Fidel Castro and Ronald Regan and said that the Disney Corporation was blocking distribution of Michael Moore's latest project, a critical examination of the US war on terrorism and occupation of Iraq. "We are gravely concerned about the erosion of freedom of expression in America," he said.
Ego went on to say that other civil rights that Americans in the US take for granted are in jeopardy as well. Quoting from the statement, he said, "Recently-enacted legislation allows the government to monitor anyone in the United States without his or her knowledge and without a court order." He noted that American citizens in the US were detained for long periods without access to counsel by declaring them terrorism suspects or material witnesses. "Without basic legal protections," he said, "American citizens' freedom and liberty cannot be guaranteed while they are in the US."
While the warning was pessimistic in tone, it also expressed hope that conditions in America would soon permit US citizens to return. "Perhaps after the elections scheduled for November," Ego said. "We are confident that once there is a popularly-elected government in America, conditions will improve."
John Child is an American who has already heeded the warning and lives in Kathmandu.