While We Were Distracted

Just thought I’d mention that in the past few days, while we’ve been distracted by Dick Cheney’s hunting accident and the UAE port imbroglio, civil war broke out in Iraq

Granted, it’s not an official civil war yet. As with the insurgency, it will take the talking heads awhile to figure out that it’s actually happening. Expect our Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to be the last to know — other than Bush himself, of course, who never will know. But that’s another rant.

As always, read Juan Cole.

Update update: And Riverbend, too.

Follow the Money

The Associated Press reports that

Under a secretive agreement with the Bush administration, a company in the United Arab Emirates promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of its takeover of operations at six major American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The VRWC echo chamber is dutifully putting out the word that security concerns about the United Arab Emirates managing major American ports was just so much scare-mongering.

As I noted at the end of this post, some smart people have been saying this deal wouldn’t really compromise port security. But even if we take security issues off the table, there are other reasons to be alarmed about the UAE ports deal.

For example, note the second and third grafs in the AP story:

The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

In approving the $6.8 billion purchase, the administration chose not to require state-owned Dubai Ports World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

Josh Marshall writes,

But even if the fears are more nativist than real, it seems like the White House will still not leave critics hanging — if nothing else, on old-fashioned and true-to-form insider and cronyism grounds. …

… The failure to require the company to keep business records on US soil sounds like a pretty open invitation to flout US law as near as I can tell. Forget terrorism. This is the sort of innovative business arrangement I would think a number of Bush-affiliated American companies might want to get in on. Perhaps Halliburton could be domiciled in Houston, pay its taxes in Bermuda, do its business in Iraq and keep its business records in Jordan.

Digby writes,

What a tangled web. It certainly appears that the UAE has us wrapped around their little fingers, doesn’t it? And it’s not just that they are “both a valued counterterrorism ally of the United States and a persistent counterterrorism problem.” They are holding something else over our heads as well (again via Atrios):

    But he said he would withhold judgment on the deal’s national security implications until after today’s briefing. The United Arab Emirates provides docking rights for more U.S. Navy ships than any other nation in the region, Warner noted. He added: “If they say they have not been treated fairly in this, we run the risk of them pulling back some of that support at a critical time of the war.”

This is obviously a very complicated relationship, which explains why Bush was singing kumbaaya around the drum circle yesterday asking everyone to give peace a chance.

See also Jane Hamsher at firedoglake. And if you missed David Sirota on Countdown last night, you can find a link to the video on his blog. David discusses other quid-pro-quo business arrangements the White House has going on with the UAE. There should be a transcript of this program available later today at the MSNBC site.

Further, I’ve yet to see significant follow up to the fact that two administration officials, Treasury Secretary John Snow in particular, who helped put this deal together have a vested interest in the outcome. Nor have I seen a satisfactory answer to the charge that the deal was shoved through without observing a legally mandated review period. Once again, it seems the Bush White House thinks those pesky little legal details don’t apply to them.

It also seems to me this episode relates to what I wrote last night about a column by David Ignatius in the Washington Post. Trying to explain why so many in the Middle East are turning toward Islamic nationalism, Ignatius writes,

… as elites around the world become more connected with the global economy, they become more disconnected from their own cultures and political systems. The local elites “lose touch with what’s going on around them,” opening up a vacuum that is filled by religious parties and sectarian groups, Sidawi contends. The modernizers think they are plugging their nations into the global economy, but what’s also happening is that they are unplugging themselves politically at home.

Sidawi’s theory — that connectedness produces a political disconnect — helps explain some of what we see in the Middle East. Take the case of Iran: A visitor to Tehran in 1975 would have thought the country was rushing toward the First World. The Iranian elite looked and talked just like the Western bankers, business executives and political leaders who were embracing the shah’s modernizing regime. And yet a few years later, that image of connectedness had been shattered by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution, whose aftershocks still rumble across the region. The Iranian modernizers had lost touch with the masses. That process has been repeated in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority — where the secular elites who talked the West’s line have proved to be politically weak.

I think there’s a variation of this same dynamic going on here. We have, on the one hand, the corporate rush toward globalization to maximize profits, enabled by Washington politicians from both parties. But we also have, on the other hand, politicians who play on our concerns about this process to get themselves elected. Democrats have to mollify the old hard-hat, Union base as their manufacturing jobs are outsourced. And many Republicans are walking a policy tightrope — exploiting nationalism and xenophobia to get themselves re-elected even as, behind closed doors, they work on behalf of global corporate power.

Digby brings up a good example of the latter:

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.

    … the senator would have America bend over backwards to satisfy a handful of governments with agendas different from our own.

    This is my opponent’s alliance-building strategy: brush off your best friends, fawn over your critics. And that is no way to gain the respect of the world.

More examples where that came from.

Now, the question is, will the nationalistic, xenophobic Bush base be able to rewire themselves and think “War With Oceana — So Yesterday“? Or will other politicians, seeing an opportunity, attempt to attack Bush from the right to siphon off some of his supporters?

Unrelated: This is a hoot.

Update: See Claudia Long: ‘When assholes collide: Bush, Dubai, corporatists and the right-wing noise machine