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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Petarded 

President stands firm. President is "completely adamant." Strong-eyed steely-jawed President will not relent on the Dubai deal!

How-evah:
Facing unrelenting political and national security concerns, an Arab maritime company offered late last night to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports, after White House aide Karl Rove suggested that President Bush could accept some delay of the deal . . . .

The surprise announcement should give Bush extra time to try to convince lawmakers from both parties that the port deal does not present an avenue for terrorists to exploit the nation's vulnerable and heavily populated seaports. Earlier in the day, Republican and Democratic senators questioned whether the Bush administration followed federal law when it approved Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., also known as P&O. That purchase will give the Dubai-owned firm managerial control over operations at six ports, including those of New York and New Orleans.

Ten administration officials faced a barrage of questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee as they defended their decision to forgo a national security review of the deal.
Awfully thoughty of the Sheikh (Ibn Rashid al Maktum) and the Sultan (Ahmed bin Sulayem), who no doubt realized that the completely adamant President was of far more use to them sitting in the Oval Office than running for the Northern Virginia hills in a light, bipartisan coating of tar and turkey feathers.

How did the port deal blow up in Mr. Bush's face, and why didn't he see it coming? William Greider, who happens to be the favorite writer of our BARBARic colleague Mr. Chas. Dupree of Bad Attitudes, has a few thoughts on the subject:
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.

Bush was the principal author, along with his straight-shooting Vice President, and now he is hoisted by his own fear-mongering propaganda. The basic hysteria was invented from risks of terrorism, enlarged ridiculously by the President's open-ended claim that we are endangered everywhere and anywhere (he decides where). Anyone who resists that proposition is a coward or, worse, a subversive. We are enticed to believe we are fighting a new cold war. But are we? People are entitled to ask. Bush picked at their emotional wounds after 9/11 and encouraged them to imagine endless versions of even-larger danger. What if someone shipped a nuke into New York Harbor? Or poured anthrax in the drinking water? OK, a lot of Americans got scared, even people who ought to know better.

So why is the fearmonger-in-chief being so casual about this Dubai business?

Because at some level of consciousness even George Bush knows the inflated fears are bogus. So do a lot of the politicians merrily throwing spears at him. He taught them how to play this game, invented the tactics and reorganized political competition as a demagogic dance of hysterical absurdities, endless opportunities to waste public money. Very few dare to challenge the mindset. Thousands have died for it.
On a similar note, Simon Jenkins argues that the U.S. and Britain have squandered their political and moral capital in pursuit of what writer David Runciman terms "spook politics":
On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al-Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro-Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting Bin Laden as a cosmic threat . . . .

Were I Bin Laden I could not have dreamt that the spirit of 9/11 would be so vigorous five years on. I have western leaders still parroting my motto that “9/11 alters everything” and “the rules of the game are changed”. I have the Taliban resurgent, financed by Europe’s voracious demand for oil and opium. I have the Pentagon and Scotland Yard paying me the compliment of a “long war” of indefinite duration. My potency is said to require more defence spending than was needed to contain the might of the Soviet Union . . . .

There never was a “terrorist threat” to western civilisation or democracy, only to western lives and property. The threat becomes systemic only when democracy loses its confidence and when its leaders are weak, as now. Terror attacks are for the police. For George Bush and Blair to demand a “long war” against Bin Laden and, by implication, a long suppression of civil liberty is ludicrous. Western civilisation is not some simpering weakling that cowers before a fanatic ’s might, pleading for leaders to protect it by all means, however illegal. It has been proof against Islamic expansionism since the 17th century. It is not at risk.

The American president and the British prime minister have spent half a decade exploiting Bin Laden for political ends, in thrall to their security/industrial complex. They have relied on terrifying their electorates with new and bloodcurdling threats, with what Runciman calls “spook politics”. But they will pass. The half-baked “message” laws passed by Britain’s limp parliament last week will fall in disuse. The vitality of British and American democracy has always been its ability to produce antibodies when truly challenged by an internal or external menace. The West will rediscover its self-belief and restore the liberalism, properly defined as freedom, that it once exemplified to the world.
(Thanks to our esteemed colleague Flame821, the brand-new blonde at Blondesense, for the link.)

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