Sunday, February 26, 2006

Imperialist Diversions

Let's be blunt: this fuss about ports isn't "really about Arabs," as Nicholas Kristof (see column below) postulates in his latest New York Times op ed. It's about America and global empire.

Ignoring history, Kristof resorts to Bush-lite journalism, and literally misses point.

Yes, it's true that "Dubai Ports World is run mostly by Western executives, under an American chief operating officer." Which only goes to prove my point that the Dubai port deal has nothing to do with port security.

The whole 'port security' controversy is nothing more than a brilliant diversion: in reality, the Dubai port takeover is a lucrative international business deal completed in secret in order to keep Americans in the dark about the typically huge financial windfall awaiting BushCo and friends.

Port security is beside the point. It is common knowledge that our ports are far from secure. Inspecting a mere 5% of the cargo entering our ports can scarcely be called 'security.'

Funny, isn't it, that BushCo doesn't seem concerned about that? Maybe, just maybe, one could surmise, they really aren't as concerned about terrorist attacks on the United States as they caution us to be. Maybe that's why evidence shows our government complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Maybe it's time for Kristof to investigate that for his next column or two.

I suspect, however, that Kristof knows far more than he is letting on. (If he doesn't, he should). "Sure," he writes, "there are 'implications' [about a company from Dubai running American port terminals] but they are manageable. And there are also implications about rejecting and scorning a modernizing ally like the United Arab Emirates — that would be a gift to Qaeda propagandists."

Time for Kristof and all of America to read John Perkins' 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: How the U.S. Uses Globalization to Cheat Poor Countries out of Trillions.' Suddenly, after reading Perkin's first hand account, the altruism of our gifts of modernization to developing countries around the world will seem anything but altruistic. Suddenly, the violently hostile feelings of Arabs--including O'sama bin Laden-- toward the United States government become quite easy to understand. And suddenly, enlightened, we will be empowered to 'read between the lines' of our government sponsored propaganda called 'news' and moved to aggressively change both our leadership and the direction of our country.

Kristof's final assertion that, after 9/11, while we can't be "blazé about national security, paranoia doesn't work so well, either--it has led us to Iraq, Guantanamo and domestic N.S.A. wiretaps"--is at least half true.

What led us to Iraq et. al. was a government spouting lies and propaganda about a 'War on Terrorism' that they conveniently whipped up in order to create the paranoia necessary to hasten us into a real war--complete with Hussein's overthrow, torture, rendition, oil, Haliburton, and illegal wiretaps. All this they did while conveniently distracting us from, and removing our ability to protest, their real agenda: filling their pockets with the ever more gluttonous spoils of their imperialistic world empire.

Ports, schmorts. Terrorists, schmerrorists. It's about money and power, people. Wake up.

The Arabs Are Coming!
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
Let's be blunt: this fuss about ports is really about Arabs.

Port terminals have been managed, without alarm, by companies from Britain, China, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. So let's look at the arguments of those who believe we should discriminate against Arabs. ...

Look, Kristof, if this is discrimination against Arabs, that's because it was Arabs who attacked us on 9/11 and still threaten us today. If Singaporeans were plotting to set off nuclear explosions in American cities, then we'd scrutinize them, too.

Even if you believe in racial profiling, you have to look beyond the profile. Senators talk about Dubai in dark tones that suggest they've never been there. Dubai is the Disneyland of the Arab world — it's the place people go to relax, to shop, to drink. It is staunchly pro-American and pro-business, and its vision of the Arab future is absolutely the opposite of Osama bin Laden's. If we want to encourage Arab modernization, we should be approving this deal — not engaging in quasi-racist scaremongering.

Critics of the deal seem to suggest that swarthy men in black turbans are going to be arriving to provide port "security" in Newark. But Dubai Ports World is run mostly by Western executives, under an American chief operating officer. Nothing is going to change on the ground in Newark.

That's easy for a columnist to say; by this time tomorrow, your words will be forgotten at the bottom of the bird cage. But you can't be sure of what will happen in Dubai in 10 years, and this is about ports, the weak link in our homeland security.

Suppose you were Osama bin Laden and wanted to set off a nuclear weapon or a "dirty bomb" in front of the U.S. Capitol. First you would bribe Russians with access to loosely secured nuclear materials.

Then you would ship them to the U.S. — but the key step would occur in the foreign port: hiding the materials in the shipping container of a well-known and trusted exporter. If the container were shipped out of Rotterdam and seemed to contain Lego toys, for example, U.S. customs officials (who are now also based abroad) might not bother to examine it.

So even if agents of Al Qaeda infiltrate Dubai Ports World, and some manage to get U.S. visas and be stationed in Newark, it's not clear that they could help the plot.

So you're claiming that there are no security implications about a company from Dubai running American port terminals?

Sure, there are "implications," but they are manageable. And there are also implications about rejecting and scorning a modernizing ally like the United Arab Emirates — that would be a gift to Qaeda propagandists.

The reality is that ports aren't the only investment with security implications, and all countries wrestle with such concerns. China imported American telephone switches and discovered that the U.S. could eavesdrop more easily on Chinese officials; the Chinese imported U.S. planes, and the U.S. installed sophisticated bugs on the Chinese version of Air Force One.

So every country accepts trade-offs. We admit European tourists without visas, even though terrorists may slip in as well. But since 9/11 there has been a nativist, Know-Nothing streak in politics; a year ago it blocked China's deal to acquire Unocal, and today it rages at the Dubai ports deal.

Secretary of State Cordell Hull used to say that "when goods do not cross borders, armies do." If we want to promote global markets, as an avenue to peace, we have to practice what we preach.

Look, 9/11 showed that you can't be blasé about national security.

But paranoia doesn't work so well, either — it has led us to Iraq, Guantánamo and domestic N.S.A. wiretaps. It was counterproductive for Republicans to get so hysterical about national security that they justified locking up hundreds of Muslims after 9/11. And it's just as wrong for Democrats to get hysterical today.

If Democrats want to improve national security, they can tackle it in a thousand ways. The biggest vulnerabilities in our ports could be addressed by increasing customs inspections abroad, by adding radiation detectors, by examining more containers or by making containers tamper-proof. And if the aim is to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism, then how about more support for the Nunn-Lugar program to secure Russian nuclear materials?

Democrats have so many legitimate reasons to criticize President Bush — from ruining our nation's finances to despoiling American wilderness — that it's painful to see them scaremongering in just the way that Mr. Bush himself has.

Photo credit: Nicholas D. Kristof. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Related articles--MUST READ:


UAE terminal takeover extends to 21 ports

Daily Kos: Baker Key to Dubai Ports Mess

The Ports: Right reaction, wrong reason

Bush's Response To the Ports Deal Faulted as Tardy

A Port in the Storm Over Dubai

Homeland Security Protested Ports Deal

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