By Eric Heyl Friday, September 2, 2005
It's outrageous, I tell you.
The U.S. Department of State is blatantly ignoring a request from the Pennsylvania Senate to issue a travel warning to the strife-torn island of Aruba.
Turns out the General Assembly did more in July than merely vote itself pay increases of up to 34 percent. Four senators -- including Republican Jane Orie of McCandless -- also found time to introduce a resolution advising the State Department to finally take some action on Aruba.
Sitting north of Venezuela, the tiny Caribbean nation is thousands of miles from the district Orie or any other senator represents. But so perilous is any journey there these days that our legislators felt compelled to get involved in a treacherous
situation extending beyond their districts' -- or even their nation's -- borders.
Aruba, after all, is chock full of such dangers as tropical, sunny weather.
Travelers there often are accosted by white sand beaches and clear ocean water.
It's a place where, lacking less suitable accommodations, visitors frequently are forced to stay in world-class hotels, often subsisting for weeks at a time on nothing but gourmet cuisine.
Aruba also is where an 18-year-old Alabama tourist, Natalee Holloway, mysteriously vanished in May. This raised the number of mysterious tourist disappearances on the island this year to an incredibly alarming, deeply disturbing total of, uh, one.
Yet despite these obvious hazards, despite prodding
from our globally aware state senators, the State Department has yet to advise the citizenry that it might be a good idea to avoid Aruba.
Instead, the State Department has wasted its time warning of the land mines and unexploded ordnance in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It has spent precious moments cautioning that Sudan still isn't safe, despite the recent peace treaty that threatens to end the country's civil war.
It feels obligated, for some reason, to ignore Aruba while pointing out that terrorist groups might be planning future attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan.
It also has prohibited minor dependents from accompanying U.S. government employees to the U.S. embassy in Cote d'lvoire, a place many Americans still believe is not a nation but an expensive type of baguette.
Perhaps Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is embarrassed that the possible pitfalls of an Aruba vacation have to be pointed out to her by the likes
of Orie, who, let's face it, isn't as well-known on the international stage.
If that's the case, Rice should put aside her ego and put the interests of potential Caribbean tourists first.
She should order her underlings to comply with the wishes of that international watchdog, the Pennsylvania Senate, and immediately issue an Aruba travel warning.
Even if it's only to warn of the risk of sunburn.
Eric Heyl can be reached at email@example.com or (412)320-7857.