Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kicking Arabs In The Teeth

By David Brooks
New York Times
February 23, 2006

It's come to my attention that many of the foreign goods we import into our country are made by foreigners who speak foreign languages and are foreign. It's come to my attention that many varieties of hummus and other vital bread schmears are made by Arabs, the group responsible for 9/11. Furthermore, it's come to my attention that the Chinese have a menacing death grip on America's pacifier, blankie, bunny and rattle supplies, and have thus established crushing domination of the entire non-pharmaceutical child sedative industry.

It's therefore time for Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Bill Frist and Peter King to work together to write the National Security Ethnic Profiling Save Our Children Act, which would prevent Muslims from buying port management firms, the Chinese from buying oil and mouth-toy companies, and the Norwegians from using their secret control of U.S fluoridation levels to sap our precious bodily fluids at the Winter Olympics.

In other words, what we need to protect our security and way of life is a broad-based, xenophobic Know Nothing campaign of dressed-up photo-op nativism to show foreigners we will no longer submit to their wily ways.

Never mind — the nativist, isolationist mass hysteria is already here.

This Dubai port deal has unleashed a kind of collective mania we haven't seen in decades. First seized by the radio hatemonger Michael Savage, it's been embraced by reactionaries of left and right, exploited by Empire State panderers, and enabled by a bipartisan horde of politicians who don't have the guts to stand in front of a xenophobic tsunami.

But let's be clear: the opposition to the acquisition by Dubai Ports World is completely bogus.

The deal would have no significant effect on port security. Regardless of who operates the ports, the Coast Guard still controls their physical security. The Customs Service still controls container security. The harbor patrols, the port authorities and the harbor police still do their jobs. Nearly every expert who actually knows something about port security says the ownership of the operating companies is the least of our concerns. "This kind of reaction is totally illogical," Philip Damas, research director of Drewry Shipping Consultants, told The Times. "The location of the headquarters of a company in the age of globalism is irrelevant."

Nor would the deal radically alter the workplace. If the Dubai holding company does acquire the operating firm, the American longshoremen would stay on the job, the American unions would still be there to organize them, and most or all of the management would probably stay, too.

Nor would the deal be particularly new in the world of global shipping. Dick Meyer of CBS News reports that Dubai Ports World already operates facilities in Australia, China, Korea and Germany. It's seeking to acquire facilities in 18 other countries — none of them caught up in an isolationist fever like the one we see here. Eighty percent of the facilities at the port of Los Angeles are run by foreign firms — somehow without national collapse — including one owned by the government of Singapore.

Nor is Dubai a bastion of Taliban radicalism. All Arabs may look alike to certain blowhard senators, but the United Arab Emirates is a modernizing, globalizing place. It was the first country in the region to sign the U.S. Container Security Initiative. It's signed agreements to bar the passage of nuclear material and to suppress terror financing. U.A.E. ports service U.S. military ships, and U.A.E. firms have made major investments in Chrysler and Time Warner, somehow without turning them into fundamentalist bastions.

In short, there is no evidence this deal will do any harm. But it is certain that the xenophobic hysteria will come back to harm the U.S.

The oil-rich nations of the Middle East have plenty of places to invest their money and don't need to do favors for nations that kick them in the teeth. Moreover, this is a region in the midst of traumatic democratic change. The strongest argument the fundamentalists have is that they are engaged in a holy war against the racist West, which imposes one set of harsh rules on Arabs and another set of rules on everybody else. Now comes a group of politicians to prove them gloriously right.

God must love Hamas and Moktada al-Sadr. He has given them the America First brigades of Capitol Hill. God must love the folks at Al Jazeera. They won't have to work to stoke resentments this week. All the garbage they need will be spewing forth from press conferences and photo ops on C-Span and CNN.

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