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Friday, February 24, 2006

Jingo Blowback

the digby

Last night Kevin approvingly linked to the same William Greider piece that I did and said:

On a related note, it makes me feel almost nostalgic to watch the toxic stew of cherry picking, half truths, and outright misrepresentations currently being used to demonize the UAE as a virtual arm of al-Qaeda. You know what it reminds me of? The way Bush & Co. tried to sell Saddam Hussein as Osama's best buddy in the Middle East. It's poetic watching the Bushies squirm when they're on the receiving end of this stuff.

I think this comparison is off base. To the extent it is demagogic, this UAE outcry falls into the category of political ox-goring, the likes of which are seen every day in our system. Comparing it to the lies, distortion and institutional manipulation that led the nation into a war is vastly overstating it.

This would be better compared to the white house having a fake case of the vapors over Newsweak reporting that Korans had been defaced at Guantanamo and "causing" the riots in the mid-east. The head of the joint chiefs of staff said the whole thing was used as an excuse by the heavies in Afghan politics, but that didn't stop the administration from lecturing the press about revealing these accusations. Many people accepted the idea that Newsweak erred, particularly when it was shown that the report was unreliable. Bush and his boys had been saying that revealing information about torture and abuse was playing into the enemies' hands for months, so this fit perfectly with their "loose lips sink ship" rhetoric. In this case, Bush has been saying "we're fighting 'them' over there so we don't have to fight 'them' over here" for years. Saying now that it's ok to bring "them" into our ports creates cognitive dissonence. They have only themselves to blame for the outcry.

In both the UAE port outcry or the Newsweak outcry, the demagogic argument coming from the administration is that these things will harm our image in the middle east and make it more difficult for us to prosecute the war on terror. It works fine as long as it doesn't conflict with one of their other demagogic arguments. But neither of these flaps come close to the invasion of Iraq for sheer bad faith and demagogic overkill.

Besides, there is a legitimate reason to be wary of the UAE being involved with US port management and calling it racism, in particular, is puerile nonsense. Like Pakistan, another close ally in the war on terror, the UAE have been playing both ends against the middle for a long time. We all understand that and accept it. They have to deal with the vicissitudes of their own political situation which doesn't always accrue to our benefit. Welcome to the real world where the black and white formulation of "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists" is shown as the bullshit it always was. As Yglesias says here:

... the UAE isn't a strategic partner of the United States in the way that the UK is. The number of countries who have British-style security relationships with the United States can be counted on one hand, if not one finger. We share intelligence with the British that we wouldn't share with Portugal, much less Dubai. An ally as close as Israel has been known to screw us over in defense and intelligence matters because, hey, countries have different interests. A private British firm operates in the context of the rule of law; a state-owned enterprise in Dubai . . . not so much. These are different countries in a thousand ways that have nothing to do with skin color. Pretending not to see the difference is childish and absurd. That a country hosts American military bases proves almost nothing -- we have bases in all kinds of places.

I would suggest that if the UAE is holding access to their ports over our heads as a way to ensure this deal goes through, then we may have to evaluate whether they are even the nominal ally in the war on terror we think they are. That's called blackmail. They can't interfere with our domestic policies any more thaan we can interfere with theirs.