Consider the tale of DP World, Dubai’s state-owned company trying to spend almost $7 billion to buy a company that operates port terminals around the world, a few of which are in the U.S.A.
This morning’s New York Times tells us that President Bush was shocked—I say, shocked— at the breadth and intensity of objections from Congress and the general public to the notion that some of our ports would be operated by a state-sponsored Arab company: “Bush and his aides issued a strong defense, suggesting that racial bias lay at the core of the objections…”
Actually, I believe Bush was shocked, because like so many people of his class, he understands that racial and ethnic scapegoating is a strategy to divide and conquer, but that all such differences are erased by money. Bush feels right at home with Dubai, which shares his value system of profits before people, so it never occurred to him that others might not.
You see, Dubai is not so much of a nation as a business. But it’s not an oil power. In fact, it makes the bulk of its considerable income from the Jebel Ali Free Zone, a mega-enterprise zone offering huge business and tax incentives to corporations, also operating the world’s 13th busiest container port as well as providing warehousing and distribution facilities for global corporations. It’s also a huge travel destination, with an estimated 650,000 Britons (and untold others) visiting every year for sun and shopping. It has more than 30 malls, including the Mall of the Emirate, which boasts “the world’s third largest indoor winter sports complex.”
Good people. My kind of people. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, hell of a nice guy. Loves animals. Hosts the world’s richest horse race. Owns the Godolphin Stables, right there in England. Mo’s net worth is $10 billion, and mine’s only $15 million, but he’s a real down to earth guy: loves family. Did you know Mo put money into my brother Neil’s software thingy?
(Okay, I confess, I invented the President’s inner monologue, but not any of the information in it.)
But while Bush himself has no more trouble embracing Arab zillionaires than any other variety, he’s kept the rest of us trembling in fear. He’s also locked up quite a few loyal citizens and innocent others for the crime of being Arab in public. Indeed, Bush charging the DP World deal’s opponents with racial bias is very like the defendant who, having murdered his parents, throws himself on the court’s mercy as a poor orphan. Since his famous speech to the National Endowment for Democracy last fall, naming the enemy (“Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism”), Bush has made it his stock-in-trade to denounce “Islamic radicalism” at every turn.
This is more or less the same (and about as free of bias) as if I were to denounce Bush’s foreign policy as “Christian militarism,” since he regularly evokes divine purpose, proudly asserting his beliefs.
Remember the furor back in 2003 when Bush told a Mideast delegation that he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Bush and his supporters have repeatedly asserted that his presidency was divinely ordained. I particularly like this one, from a 2004 Slate.com compilation of such comments:
Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who got in trouble for derogatory comments about Islam, argued that it must have been God who selected Bush, since a plurality of voters hadn’t. “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of America did not vote for him. He’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”
Since he first got the recipe on 9/11, Bush has been stirring a steaming cauldron of fear and hatred of Arabs. Now he has burnt his finger on it. DP World is seeking an American company to which to “transfer” its domestic port holdings (in the language of scams, this is called a “beard”), and everyone in Washington is breathing a huge sigh of relief because they don’t have to embarrass the president by outright rejecting his friends.
Does that sound cynical? Then don’t take it from me, take it from the same Times piece I quoted at the beginning:
In Dubai, a senior political official with intimate knowledge of the deliberations said: “A political decision was taken to ask DP World to try and diffuse the situation. We have to help our friends.”