U.S. Government Denies Visas for a Reliable Ally
Over 15,000 Polish troops have served in Iraq loyally fighting alongside U.S. troops, but today most Poles cannot obtain a Visa as easily as the citizens of most other European Union countries. On March 20, 2003 the U.S. and three close allies, the U.K., Canada and Poland entered and overthrew the government of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Poland has continued to support the U.S. even after evidence showed the Bush Administration falsely began a preemptive war when Iraq was not an imminent threat to the world. Beyond the Iraq War, as early as 2002, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski visited the new Afghan President in Kabul and publicly voiced Poland's commitment to rebuilding the region. In Oct., 2007, the Polish Ambassador, General Edward Pietrzk was wounded in Baghdad and a 29 year old Polish soldier named Bartosz Orzechowski was killed in the ambush. To date, 23 Polish citizens have died and 70 wounded defending the U.S. in Iraq and in the liberation of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Max Boot, a conservative military analyst and Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in 2007, "Poland has been one of the US’s most reliable allies in recent years, sending troops to both Afghanistan and Iraq, but Polish attitudes, while still firmly pro-American, are changing for the worse." In late 2007, seven Polish soldiers were arrested and held in a military prison facing war crimes after six civilians including women and children were allegedly killed by Polish mortar bombs. The rising death toll and war crimes case has made the wars even more unpopular in Poland. But despite the enormous human sacrifice and controversy in defense of an ally, Polish citizens, unlike their Canadian and British counterparts are routinely denied visas to enter the U.S. Adding even more insult is that each U.S. visa denial costs the Polish applicant $100 per visa application. While every country in Western Europe enjoys a visa waiver program, Poland, the committed ally to the U.S., still does not.
Today Poland has 2,000 soldiers battling the Taliban in Afghanistan as the U.S. refocuses on capturing Osama Bin Laden, and yet 25% - 35% of Poles are denied U.S. visas. At the funeral of Bartosz Orzechowski, the soldier who died defending the Polish ambassador, a Catholic Bishop eulogized, "He understood his service in Iraq as a patriotic duty in the interest of our homeland, for which he was always ready to die, as he was saying to his relatives." NATO allies who are essential to bringing lasting stability to Afghanistan are likely watching how the US takes care of the unique interests of its closest allies. As the U.S. experiences its deadliest month in Afghanistan, America may need to alter its visa policies toward Poland and recognize the country's human costs spent supporting the US militarily and politically.