“US Persons” as instruments of foreign policy or as property of government – The tragic story of Robert James “Bobby” Fischer”

Warning! The following video contains language that may offend some of you. To articulate the obvious:

1. The language in the video is irrelevant to the purpose and message of the post.

2. If I need to say this: obviously I do NOT share Mr. Fischer’s bigoted views.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed!

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

–        Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The notion of “dual loyalties” may seem old-fashioned to some – a throwback to the days of Cold War spy-sniffing. But the concept is hardly obsolete, for the same reason that monogamy isn’t obsolete (for most of us, anyway): No one can serve two masters at once.

The above interview of Bobby Fischer after his release from prison in Japan contains some interesting comments about U.S. citizenship. Why did the U.S. government not intervene on behalf of  U.S. citizen Bobby Fischer? Where was the protection of the U.S. government?

 What is citizenship? A voluntary association or is it a condition of servitude?

If citizenship is a “voluntary” association it implies that one is free to leave the “association”. A voluntary association can be terminated. One just leaves the association. One simply renounces citizenship. One simply ceases to reside in the country. If one leaves, then that country does not attempt to apply  its laws in an extraterritorial manner.

If citizenship  is a condition of servitude then the situation is different. The country assumes a “property right” in the citizen. Ownership of the citizen implies that the country:

–        Can tax the citizen regardless of where the citizen resides

–        Can conscript the citizen into military service; and most interestingly

–        Can control the behavior of the citizen outside the country

U.S. citizenship bears some of  the “earmarks” of a  condition of servitude. The U.S. assumes a property right in its citizens and extracts a payment from the citizen to end the ownership. This is remarkably similar to some African American slaves, buying their freedom from their masters. The historical practice is documented as follows:

“A rare option was “self-purchase” (the term itself revealing the base illogic of slavery). In 1839 almost half (42%) of the free blacks in Cincinnati, Ohio, had bought their freedom and were striving to create new lives while searching for and purchasing their own relatives.”

The U.S.  system of citizenship-based taxation is unique in the world. In the same way that the slaves could sometimes buy their freedom, some U.S. citizens are required to pay an Exit Tax to receive their freedom. Further examples of the United States treating its citizens as property are:

The U.S. subjected its citizens to military service.

The U.S. by imposing the death penalty assumes the right to end the life of a citizen.

The U.S. through laws with extraterritorial application assume the right to control the conduct of its citizens outside the United States. Examples include: taxing citizens who live outside the United States; prohibiting U.S. citizens from traveling from Canada to Cuba; requiring citizens who live outside the United States to file FBARs and comply with aspects of FATCA; making it unlawful for U.S. citizens to do what is legal for those who are not U.S. citizens.  These are examples of treating  the citizen as the property of the government.

The Use of The Citizen as an Instrument of Foreign Policy

The United States uses its citizens as  instruments of U.S. foreign policy without their will. It does so by criminalizing their conduct outside the United States. This is antithetical to the “dignity of the individual” (recognized in a number of International Human Rights documents).

Introducing Bobby Fischer – Fischer Spaasky One – Iceland 1972

The case of Bobby Fischer provides an interesting example of how the United States  used its “ownership of a U.S. citizen” to further foreign policy objectives.

Those of us “of a certain age” remember world chess champion Bobby Fischer. (Those who don’t remember him would do well to learn about him.) Bobby Fischer was a U.S. born citizen who played Boris Spassky and the Soviet Chess machine for the world chess championship. The match took place in Iceland in the summer of 1972. It captivated the world for two reasons:

1. Chess is a hugely popular game throughout the world.

2. The match took place during the height of the cold war. It was widely seen as a contest between the U.S. and Soviet systems. Make no mistake about it, much of  fascination was based on the fact that Bobby Fischer was a U.S. citizen who was playing the Soviet Union ( represented by Boris Spassky).

The U.S. government was deeply interested in the Fischer Spassky match and what it represented.  Fischer was considered to be an extension of the United States.

In the months leading up to the World Chess Championship, Fischer indicated that he would NOT participate. Fischer was absent for the opening game. (He was still in New York.) U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger intervened and encouraged Fischer  to go to Iceland and play for the United States. Kissinger called Fischer with the intention of telling him that:

I think if I call him I should just call him and tell him from a foreign policy point of view I hope the hell he gets over there.

Although the influence of  Kissinger is unclear, Fischer did attend and defeated  Boris Spassky. By so doing he also defeated the  Soviet chess machine to become champion of the world. Fischer’s victory was an amazing achievement.   This was because, although the Soviet Government supported Mr. Spassky, the U.S. government provided no support for Fischer.

The lack of support notwithstanding, the U.S. government was quick to trumpet Fischer’s victory as a U.S. victory over communism and the Soviet empire. To quote one commentator:

Imagine the Psychological pressure he would have to face taking on the Soviets. USA should FOREVER thank Bobby Fischer for having trounced the Soviets , all alone. Bobby might have done it in his own interest. It just happened that his mother moved to USA, which proved to be USA’s gain.

After having won the world championship Fischer went into seclusion. He was not heard from again until 1992.

Fischer Spaasky – Round Two – Yugoslavia 1992

In 1992 a Yugoslav businessman arranged for a Fischer Spassky rematch in Belgrade, Serbia. What happened next is described in Wikipedia as follows:

“The U.S. Department of the Treasury had warned Fischer beforehand that his participation was illegal as it violated President George H. W. Bush‘s Executive Order 12810 that implemented United Nations Security Council Resolution 757 sanctions against engaging in economic activities in Yugoslavia.[265] In response, Fischer called a conference and, in front of the international press, literally spat on the U.S. order forbidding him to play, announcing “This is my reply”. Following the match, the Department obtained an arrest warrant against him. Fischer remained wanted by the United States government for the rest of his life and never returned to America.”

Fischer’s crime was accepting payment for playing chess in Serbia contrary to U.S. law.

The U.S. encouraged Fischer to play chess in Iceland, in 1972 when it was perceived to be in the interests of the U.S. government (remember the Kissinger intervention).

The U.S. prohibited Fischer from playing chess in Serbia, in 1992, when it was against its interests. The U.S. criminalized Fischer’s playing chess in Serbia.

The U.S. government took the position, that because Fischer was a U.S. citizen, and therefore the property of the United States, that it  could control his conduct outside of the United States.

By prohibiting him from playing, the U.S. was using Fischer as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Fischer did play. He won the rematch with Spassky. Fortunately he received a prize of approximately 3.5 million dollars. That was the good news. The bad news was that by playing he had upset the United States. He was now a fugitive from U.S. justice. As a result he could not return to the U.S.

Fischer Arrested in Japan

Life continued well until 2004. In July of 2004 Fischer was arrested trying to board a plane in Tokyo.  Under what many believed was pressure from the U.S. government, Fischer was arrested and held in a Japanese jail for six months. Where is the U.S. embassy when you need it?

These events were described as follows:

“The Status Report by Einar S. Einarsson of the Icelandic RJF Committee complains that Fischer has been held for almost six months in jail, and that a month has now passed since he was granted a residence visa in Iceland. Still no tangible progress has been made, the US Embassy in Reykjavik has still not given any formal answers on the matter. The Japanese Authorities, too, are buckling under pressure from the US. When Fischer’s assistant asked how long they intended to hold him, a high-ranking official replied, “We can keep him as long as we like. We can eat him if we choose to.” Bobby is taking this harsh and hostile treatment admirably well, but he is getting physically exhausted by this very lengthy proceeding over a passport. He suffers from frequent headaches and dizziness.

The Detention

“Six months in a Japanese prison over a passport” is an article by Guðmundur G. Thórarinsson, a former Icelandic Parliamentarian, former president of the Icelandic Chess Federation and chief organizer of the Match of the Century between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972. He describes Fischer’s situation: the detainee is allowed to go outdoors for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. He suffers from chronic and worsening headaches and dizzy spells. “For twelve years, this lonely genius has been exiled from his homeland. He has sat in jail for six months because his passport is invalid.” Thórarinsson reminds us that Fischer’s crime was that he played chess in Yugoslavia in violation of the economic sanctions then in force. In his autobiography Bill Clinton says that the Americans passed this regulation knowing that numerous parties were selling weapons to the Balkan nations, but that no charges were filed in those cases because of the great shortage of weapons in the region. Neither were artists indicted when they worked there. Thórarinsson writes: “The only person in the world to have been indicted for a violation of this regulation – a regulation that has long since ceased to be in force, and a violation committed in a country that no longer exists – is Robert James Fischer. This case is an example of a barbarous violation of human rights.

Fischer’s Release – A Gift From Iceland – Iceland Citizenship

Fischer was released because he had been granted citizenship in Iceland. The saga  is described as follows:

Saemi realized he had to change his strategy. He returned home and with the backing of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Saemi went straight to the top and appealed to Iceland’s Prime Minister – if Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship then he would no longer be bound by American law and Japan would have to free him.

But Saemi had a tough fight on his hands. The Icelandic government was not known for rocking the boat. Keeping a “good relationship” with the USA was high on their agenda and not only that but the Icelandic PM was also a friend of President George Bush. Saemi delivered his argument anyway – why should Fischer be persecuted just for playing a game of chess? The matter was put to the vote at the Icelandic parliament where they won by a unanimous vote. The Prime Minister said that Fischer’s citizenship had been granted for humanitarian reasons and because Saemi was a “man of honor”. Against all odds, Saemi had done the seemingly impossible. He had freed his friend.

As soon as the documents were stamped, the authorities in Tokyo had to release Fischer. He was taken to the airport where the world’s press eagerly awaited him. But Fischer’s psychopathic tendencies wouldn’t let him just bask in his freedom. Instead, he used the opportunity to deliver a bitter tirade against the President of the U.S. and the PM of Japan, saying they should be hanged for their crimes.”

During his detention Fischer did attempt to renounce his U.S. citizenship. It is unclear whether he was successful.

Bobby Fischer  lived the rest of his life in Iceland. He died in Iceland in 2008 at the age of 64. Who knows whether his detention in Japan contributed to his relatively early death.

U.S. Citizenship and the life of Bobby Fischer

U.S. Citizens As Property Of The U.S. Government

Clearly Fischer’s troubles were the result of the U.S. assuming jurisdiction over him while he was in Serbia. The U.S. believed that it had the right to control his behavior while he was outside the United States. Had Fischer not been considered under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. government, he never would have landed in jail.

Imagine – going to jail for accepting money for playing chess in Serbia.

Another interesting example of the “citizen as government property” comes from an interview with Fischer. Here is an excerpt:

The second interview, which is just over an hour long, was recorded on Aug 20, 2004 at 20:40h Japanese time. It was conducted by GM Eugene Torre, an old friend of Fischer, Boy Pobre, chairman of the Philippine Chess Aficionados and Masters Association, the studio anchor and other guests.

Torre, Anchor: How are you, Bobby?

Bobby Fischer: Fine. I got some good news today. The US says they are willing to come to the detention center so I can renounce my citizenship, take the official oath. That is a good sign. Hopefully this will satisfy the US and they will tell the Japanese to let me out of jail. Then I can try to rebuild my legal status and get papers and passport from some other country.

Boy Pobre: A few days ago we had a car caravan with signs saying “Free Bobby Fischer” and we wrote a letter to the governments of the United States and Japan, asking them to free Bobby Fischer and allow him to seek asylum in a country of his choice. [Reads:] “His continued detention and deportation would be a violation of his basic human rights, as he has not committed any crime. Bobby Fischer is the greatest chess player of all time. He is an international treasure and no nation can own him alone.” But the embassies of both countries refused to accept the letter. In fact we were harassed by guards and military personnel at the US Embassy. We are also urging our own government to take action and invite you to stay in the Philippines, as an honoured future citizen.

Fisher: Thank you. You know, when I was over in Hungary, in the late nineties, the US government made an announcement saying that all American citizens in Hungary and Budapest could not go to a certain hotel in Budapest to eat or spend any money, because this hotel is owned by the Libyan government. “If you go there we are going to find out about it, and we are going to prosecute you and put you into prison.” Can you imagine telling Americans in Budapest they cannot eat in a certain restaurant?

Fischer attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship – to end his servitude

While he was in custody Fischer attempted to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

In the following we bring you two letters handwritten by Fischer and addressed to the US consular authorities in Tokyo. In it the former world champion attempts to renounce his US citizenship.

August 6, 2004 From: Robert James Fischer at the Narita Airport Immigration lockup. To: “Peter” at the Tokyo U.S. Embassy.

Dear “Peter” (you won’t tell me what your last name is) I called you yesterday at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo at about 10:00 am and we discussed some of the various vicious crimes the U.S. and the Japanese governments have committed against me working in collusion and in conspiracy since at least July 13, 2004. I say “at least” because obviously the conspiracy to commit those crimes had to begin some time before July 13, 2004. I also told you that I wished to renounce my U.S. citizenship on that very day August 5, 2004. I asked that either you or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo come over to the Narita International Airport Detention center lockup immediately so I could officially renounce my U.S. citizenship on that very day, yesterday August 5, 2004. You made one excuse after another as to why neither you nor anyone else from the Embassy could come over to do it. Such as: you had no time that day, and no one else at the Embassy had time that day, you didn’t know the law and you’d have to study it first, also you would have to check with Washington D.C. first. I said could you or someone else from the Embassy come over tomorrow (i.e. today) to do it. You said you didn’t know and you couldn’t say. Judging by your jittery, jumpy nervous answers to my demand to officially renounce my U.S. citizenship I realized I’d hit a nerve. Apparently my renouncing my U.S. citizenship does not fit in too conveniently with the U.S.-Japanese plot to illegally deport me to my “home” country the U.S.A. and illegally try, convict, imprison, torture and murder me there. At about 9:30 am this morning I will request my kidnappers here to place a call with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for about 10:00 am. I will again demand that either you or someone else from the Embassy come over here so that I can officially renounce my U.S. citizenship today. I’m quite sure that in violation of my rights you will not. (If I’m wrong so much the better.) But assuming that you won’t I will now do the job myself. Since you are refusing to cooperate as the U.S. law commands you to I believe this renunciation has full validity under the law. That is if one can even speak seriously about “law” in a lawless country like the U.S.A. Here goes: I am Robert James Fischer. I am a U.S. citizen. I was born on March 9, 1943 in Chicago, Ill. U.S.A. My U.S. passport no. is or was Z7792702. It was issued at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. The issue date is January 24, 1997 and the expiry date is January 23, 2007. I Robert James Fischer do hereby irrevocably and permanently renounce my U.S. citizenship and all the supposed rights and privileges of United States citizenship. I will do my very best to get this letter hand delivered to you at the Tokyo U.S. Embassy today. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last.

Robert James Fischer

August 10, 2004 From: Robert James Fischer at the Narita Airport Immigration lockup. To: “Peter at the Tokyo U.S. Embassy

Dear “Peter” (you wont tell me what your last name is) I just spoke with you again on the phone about you or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo coming out here this morning so that I can officially renounce my U.S. citizenship in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer and you flatly refused. You also said nobody else from the Embassy could come today to do it. I asked you if you had received my letter to you of August 6, 2004 and you said you had. I told you that in my opinion the letter was legally valid and that I was no longer an American citizen. I asked you if you agreed and you refused to answer. You said if I had any request to make to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo I should communicate it in writing by letter and then hung up. I have demanded that you or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo come out here every working day since Aug. 5, 2004 until today August 10, 2004 so that I could renounce my U.S. citizenship before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer. I spoke with you August 5, 2004, August 6 2004, and today August 10, 2004. I also called the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo yesterday August 9, 2004 to renounce my U.S. citizenship here in front of a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer but the Embassy secretary refused to put me through to you or anyone else at the Embassy and she hung up on me about 4 or 5 times. However she did admit that you were there at the Embassy at that time but that you were “unavailable” to talk to me. She also admitted that she believed that you had received my letter to you of August 6, 2004. Well, “Peter” (you won’t tell me what your last name is) that’s all by way of background. So now here is my demand to you and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. I demand that you immediately send a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer over to me at the Narita Airport immigration detention center lockup so that I can sign an oath of renunciation of my U.S. citizenship in front of him or her today. I’m told by my kidnappers here that they’re moving me to another prison today. They’re moving me to the Ushiko Immigration detention center lockup in Ibaragi prefecture. I’ll be leaving here at about 1.00 p.m and arriving at the Ushiko Immigration detention center lockup a few hours later. So if it’s too late to take the oath of renunciation here at Narita today we can do it tonight or tomorrow morning in Ushiko. I will endeavour to get this letter hand delivered over to you at your Embassy today. No more delaying games and royal runaround “Peter.” I demand my right to officially renounce my U.S. citizenship in front of a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer NOW. It’s not like the old days “Peter” all this is going to the Internet and the whole world is watching your chicanery and criminality. You’ve already physically destroyed my perfectly valid U.S. passport No. Z7792702 by punching holes through it. This illegal act was meant to criminalize me but in reality it only criminalized you and the U.S. government! O.K. “Peter” (you won’t tell me what your last name is) get off the stick and get yourself or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo over here or to Ushiko so we can officially do the renunciation bit.

Robert James Fischer

Bobby Fischer Renounce In Peace and Rest In Peace

U.S. citizen Bobby Fischer was treated by the U.S. government as the property of the U.S. government.

His U.S. citizenship was used to the advantage of the U.S. government in:

– 1972 when he was trumpeted as the U.S. citizen who beat the Soviet chess machine

– 1992 when the fact of his U.S. citizenship was used by the U.S. government to try to prevent from playing chess in Serbia.

It is clear that U.S. citizenship was not a benefit to Fischer and in fact was the source of many of his difficulties. The greatest tragedy of his life was that he was born as a U.S. citizen. Bobby Fischer lived at least the last 16 years of his life outside the United States. Do you think that Bobby Fischer ever filed a U.S. tax return? Do you think that Bobby Fischer ever filed  an FBAR?

Rest in peace Bobby Fischer!

As a tribute to Bobby Fischer I include the following four documentary videos about the 1972 World Championship match.





1 thought on ““US Persons” as instruments of foreign policy or as property of government – The tragic story of Robert James “Bobby” Fischer”

  1. fischertranscripts

    I just got an interesting point
    from your paragraph:

    “- 1992 when the fact of his U.S. citizenship was used by the U.S. government to try to prevent from playing chess in Serbia.”

    Thus the USA was trying to
    use Bobby Fischer’s fame
    as a way to punish their enemies,
    saying essentially:
    “this great chess play
    can’t play with you because
    we don’t like you, take that.”
    It back fired when Fischer
    did play and made fun of
    the USA’s tactics.
    Naturally unbridled brutality followed,
    as punishment and a warning,
    showing off
    what the USA can do.


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