Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, February 24th, 2006.


The Snapping Point II

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Bush Administration, Middle East, War on Terror

Via Crooks and Liars, we see that CNN’s Lou Dobbs reported on Bush family business connections with the UAE. As I wrote in the last post, this is just more of the same stuff the Bush Regime has been engaged in all these weary years since January 2001. Righties, are you finally waking up?

Um, not Charles Krauthammer, who blames the UAE mess on the fall of the British Empire:

If only Churchill were alive today … The United Arab Emirates would still be a disunited bunch of subsistence Arab tribes grateful for the protection of the British navy in the Persian Gulf. And we hapless Americans — already desperately trying to mediate, pacify and baby-sit the ruins of Churchill’s Empire: Iraq, Palestine, India/Pakistan, Yemen, even (Anglo-Egyptian) Sudan — would not be in the midst of a mini-firestorm over the sale of the venerable P&O, which manages six American ports, to the UAE.

Krauthammer’s denial of reality is so vast it’s almost majestic. I can hear the ghost of Rudyard Kipling whispering “The White Man’s Burden.” Somebody send ol’ Charles a monocle and a pith helmet, quick.

Other righties are struggling to justify the UAE deal against years of Bushie conditioning. Some columnists at FrontPage note that the UAE has close ties to Hamas. And Rich Moran of Right Wing Nut House complains,

I don’t like waking up in the morning and discovering that I’m an “Islamaphobe” or “Un-American” for calling the Administration a bunch of rabbit heads for the way they’ve managed the unveiling of this idiocy. To tell you the truth, I resent it. It bespeaks a certain kind of intellectual laziness when the best one can do to counter an argument is to indulge in an orgy of name calling and finger pointing. Better to have the facts at one’s disposal and try and counter an opponent’s argument in a logical and rational manner.

I’ll pause here so that lefties reading this can howl and roll about on the floor for a while. Come back whenever you’ve stopped laughing and/or crying. Take your time.

At Newsweek, Michael Hirsh argues that the UAE episode reveals just how out-of-control the alleged “war on terror” really is.

The way the war was supposed to have been fought—a way that would really have distressed bin Laden and Zawahiri—was that Al Qaeda was supposed to be so isolated by now that we had most of the Arab world on our side. Deals like Dubai Ports World ‘s takeover of the London company that administers some U.S. ports were supposed to be pretty much routine. After all, as one commentator said to me during an appearance on al Jazeera the other day, isn’t this the way globalization is intended to work: you co-opt everyone, even your rivals, into the international system? Instead, so mistrusted is the Bush administration—and so out of control has the war on terror become—that even leading Republican politicians this week sought to cancel the Dubai contract (Bush, to his credit, did manage a presidential response, vowing to veto).

The Hirsh article is excellent; I highly recommend that you read all of it.

If righties have been slow to catch on, so has Congresss (which, after all, is dominated by righties these days). From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

It’s easy to imagine how the Bush administration might have defused much of the uproar over a deal to allow a company owned by the Dubai royal family in the United Arab Emirates to run six American ports. Members of Congress asked for consultation and reassurance that the deal would not compromise already iffy security at one of the most vulnerable parts of the nation’s homeland defense system. What they got was a veto threat and a presidential suggestion that they were all anti-Arab.

If the administration is in trouble with Congress, it’s long overdue. For years now, the White House has stonewalled Congressional committees attempting to carry out their oversight duties. Administration officials appearing before Senate and House committees have given testimony that was, to put it generously, knowingly misleading. Requests for information have been simply waved away with an invocation of national security. Just recently, the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to get information on the administration’s extralegal wiretapping, but was told that it would compromise national security to tell the senators how the program works, how it is reviewed, how much information is collected and how that information is used.

The chickens are coming home to roost. A White House that routinely brands anyone who disagrees with its positions as soft on terrorism is now complaining that election-bound lawmakers are callously using the ports deal to frighten voters. A White House that invaded Iraq as a substitute for defeating Al Qaeda is frustrated because Congress is using the company, Dubai Ports World, as a stand-in for all the intractable perils of the Middle East.

Today in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne writes,

Americans owe a debt to Dubai Ports World for the storm the company has created with its pending takeover of operations at six U.S. seaports. Let us count the hypocrisies and the inconsistencies, the blind spots and the oversights that this controversy has revealed.

Until this fight broke out about a week ago, it was impossible to get anyone but the experts to pay attention to the huge holes in the security of our ports. Suddenly, everyone cares.

Dionne writes that the Bush Administration is too secretive for its own good.

Most Americans had no idea that our government’s process of approving foreign takeovers of American companies through the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States was entirely secret. When Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the Dubai Ports deal at a hearing on Feb. 15, Chertoff declined to answer because the committee’s work was “classified.” Treasury Secretary John Snow told another congressional committee that he was not permitted to discuss specific transactions considered by the foreign investment panel.

Why shouldn’t the public have a right to know about the deliberations of this interagency committee? Hasn’t the secrecy surrounding this decision aggravated the uproar it has caused?

The way this administration keeps secrets strikes me as pathological. Time and time again, we’re told just to trust them. Yet they don’t seem to trust us or our elected representatives in Congress. They don’t want to have honest public discussions about policy; instead we get sales jobs. And manipulation. And fear-mongering.

After Dick’s shooting incident a New York Times editorial said “The vice president appears to have behaved like a teenager who thinks that if he keeps quiet about the wreck, no one will notice that the family car is missing its right door.” But that’s how the Bushies strike me all the time. There’s a furtive guiltiness about them, a whistling nonchalance that’s just a little too practiced.

Finally, David Ignatius, who catches a clue now and then, said something else that needs to be said.

The real absurdity here is that Congress doesn’t seem to realize that an Arab-owned company’s management of America’s ports is just a taste of what is coming. Greater foreign ownership of U.S. assets is an inevitable consequence of the reckless tax-cutting, deficit-ballooning fiscal policies that Congress and the White House have pursued. By encouraging the United States to consume more than it produces, these fiscal policies have sucked in imports so fast that the nation is nearing a trillion-dollar annual trade deficit. Those are IOUs on America’s future, issued by a spendthrift Congress.

The best quick analysis I’ve seen of the fiscal squeeze comes from New York University professor Nouriel Roubini, in his useful online survey of economic information, rgemonitor.com. He notes that with the U.S. current account deficit running at about $900 billion in 2006, “in a matter of a few years foreigners may end up owning most of the U.S. capital stocks: ports, factories, corporations, land, real estate and even our national parks.” Until recently, he writes, the United States has been financing its trade deficit through debt — namely, by selling U.S. Treasury securities to foreign central banks. That’s scary enough — as it has given big T-bill holders such as China and Saudi Arabia the ability to punish the U.S. dollar if they decide to unload their reserves.

But as Roubini says, foreigners may decide they would rather hold their dollars in equity investments than in U.S. Treasury debt. “If we continue with our current patterns of spending above our incomes, by 2013 the U.S. foreign liabilities could be as high as 75 percent of GDP and an increasing fraction of such liabilities will be in the form of equity,” he explains. “So, let us stop whining about the dangers of unfriendly foreigners owning our firms and assets and get used to it.”

Tell the righties and the Bush White House they support to get used to it. It’s their game, and they won’t let anyone else have the ball.

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The Snapping Point

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Bush Administration, Middle East, National Security

I’ve been saying for some time that cognitive dissonance can only be stretched so far. Eventually it either snaps or surrenders to pure delusion.

This week I ‘spect a whole lot of Americans finally reached a snapping point.

The UAE-port deal is being attacked from both the Left and the Right, and lefties and righties are voicing many of the same objections. But on a more fundamental level, Left and Right are seeing two entirely different “Portgates.” Many on the Right are befuddled; like this fellow, Portgate is an inexplicable anomaly. Suddenly Muslims who boycott Danish goods and practice female genital mutilation are “moderate” Muslims who can be trusted, arch-foe Jimmy Carter is a Bush ally, and Presidential Brother Neil Bush is auditioning for the next Michael Moore film. The world has turned upside down.

But on the Left, we’re not surprised at all. This is the same old Bush we’ve disliked all along. And if righties still don’t get it, I suggest they rent “Fahrenheit 911” and watch it carefully for clues.

But our alarm at Bush is about more than selling out our security to Bush’s Arab business cronies. It’s true that the Bushies began to compromise our security as soon as they took office — for example, by interfering with FBI investigation of the U.S.S. Cole bombing because justice for the Cole was less important to the Bush White House than good relations with Yemen. But we lefties have been objecting to many other practices and characteristics of Bushism. We are alarmed because our national resources are being sold off at bargain-basement prices to big GOP donors; our children’s future is mortgaged to foreign bankers, the federal government cloaks itself in unprecedented secrecy even as it threatens citizens’ constitutional rights to keep their personal lives private. Among other things.

Yet these past five + years, every time we on the Left bring up these issues, the Right hoots us down and calls us “looney” and “unhinged.”

Well, my dears, who’s unhinged now?

If history is our guide, most righties will eventually find a way to rationalize the UAE deal and come back to the Bush cultie fold. But at least this episode reveals that years of carefully cultivated fear can’t be erased overnight. And make no mistake, the Bush Administration has spent nearly every waking moment since 9/11 carefully cultivating fear. And until now the fear-mongers have not been, shall we say, overly discriminating about who it is we’re supposed to be fearing.

Paul Krugman writes,

When terrorists attacked the United States, the Bush administration immediately looked for ways it could exploit the atrocity to pursue unrelated goals especially, but not exclusively, a war with Iraq.

But to exploit the atrocity, President Bush had to do two things. First, he had to create a climate of fear: Al Qaeda, a real but limited threat, metamorphosed into a vast, imaginary axis of evil threatening America. Second, he had to blur the distinctions between nasty people who actually attacked us and nasty people who didn’t.

The administration successfully linked Iraq and 9/11 in public perceptions through a campaign of constant insinuation and occasional outright lies. In the process, it also created a state of mind in which all Arabs were lumped together in the camp of evildoers. Osama, Saddam — what’s the difference?

To be fair, President Bush himself has not spoken about the “clash of civilizations,” I don’t believe. He has plenty of proxies to do it for him. But if you know anything at all about the hard-core Right, you know most of ’em are looking at the “war on terror” and seeing a war against Islam — just as their counterparts in the Muslim world see themselves engaged as a war against the West. And the White House hasn’t worked real hard at discouraging that point of view. As Krugman writes, “After years of systematically suggesting that Arabs who didn’t attack us are the same as Arabs who did, the administration can’t suddenly turn around and say, ‘But these are good Arabs.'”

At The Nation, William Greider gloats at bit at David Brooks, who called Portgate an instance of political hysteria.

A conservative blaming hysteria is hysterical, when you think about it, and a bit late. Hysteria launched Bush’s invasion of Iraq. It created that monstrosity called Homeland Security and pumped up defense spending by more than 40 percent. Hysteria has been used to realign US foreign policy for permanent imperial war-making, whenever and wherever we find something frightening afoot in the world. Hysteria will justify the “long war” now fondly embraced by Field Marshal Rumsfeld. It has also slaughtered a number of Democrats who were not sufficiently hysterical. It saved George Bush’s butt in 2004.

I do hope that someone digs up one of Bush’s 2004 campaign speeches in which he derides John Kerry for his “global test” remark. As Digby reminded us,

Bush has been playing politics with this complicated situation for years now, saying things like “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” He spent the entire presidential campaign taunting John Kerry for allegedly requiring a “global test” and using his applause lines like a bludgeon:

    I will never hand over America’s security decisions to foreign leaders and international bodies that do not have America’s interests at heart.

If you’ve forgotten the “global test” spin, you can find an explanation of what Kerry actually said and how the Bushies twisted it at Media Matters. Bush actually said that Kerry “would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions.” Oh, please, please, somebody find a video of that and plaster it about the Blogosphere, please. And email the link to Keith Olbermann.

But this is 2006. And now, bless us, the Bush Administration is telling us that turning six American ports over to the government of the United Arab Emirates is a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to do, and anyone who says otherwise is just a racist. Ellen Terich writes,

The Bush administration is aggressively fighting this objection to their cozy deal with the UAE on two fronts. First, it is insisting that the business deal has been thoroughly and legally vetted and thus should be of no concern. In other words, King George is saying “Trust me. I’ll tell you when to be afraid.” Secondly he is sending out the message, through surrogates, that the objection is racist. We shouldn’t object to this company running some of our ports, in other words, if we haven’t objected to companies from other countries running our ports, countries like Britain, Denmark and Singapore.

Is he serious? The monarch who called a “crusade” against Islamic terrorists, who made sure there was an Islamic terrorist alert every month before the 2004 election (and none since), who rounded up countless Muslims, imprisoned them without due process and tortured them, who lied to the people so he could go to war and expand American empire in the Islamic Middle East, and exploited the people’s fear of “Islamo-Fascists” to ensure his re-election, is now chastising the people for being concerned about an Islamic country running U.S. ports? What you reap, you will sow, your majesty! You succeeded beyond your wildest dreams in exploiting the fears, the prejudices, and lack of sophistication of many of your supporters, and now it is possible (although no sure thing considering how the Congress always ends up bowing to your commands) that this little tactic will backfire and cause you to lose what you and your cronies have really been all about: the acquisition of corporate wealth and power.

As Mahablog reader k commented earlier this week, “We are being dismantled brick by brick and sold on the international market. We will be enslaved one way or another because we have lost our economic independence.” Yes, this is how Bush handles national security; by selling us all out.

Are you paying attention, righties?

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