Saturday, March 04, 2006

That's a Spade!

In some restaurant, somewhere near you:
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"I'm sorry, but I can't serve you."
"What? You've got plenty of tables. Of course you can serve me."
"No, I really can't. You'll have to leave."
"Why?"
"Because you're African."
"I'm not African, I'm American! I was born and raised here!"
"Well, you're black."
"That doesn't make me African!"
"It's close enough. You look African. AIDS came from Africa, and you probably have AIDS. I can't serve you. You have to leave."
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No American in their right mind would sit by and allow this interaction to take place.

Let's call a spade a spade, shall we?
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n : the intolerance and prejudice of a bigot

Bigot
n. One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

Intolerant
adj: Opposed to the inclusion or participation of those different from oneself, especially those of a different racial, ethnic, or social background.
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Right then... now that that's out of the way, and we're all on the same page...

Why is it okay to express bigotry towards Arabs, but not blacks?

Why can't we say:
"You're black, so you must have AIDS!"

but we can say:
"You're Arab, so you must be linked to a terrorist organization!"

I don't intend to put a lot of political garbage on here, because if you wanted to read that type of thing, you'd be somewhere else. This
Dubai Ports mess bugs me, though. Racism is racism, no matter what the politics are. No one should feed people's real fear of harm to further their own position. It's just wrong.
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"There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," I said, "but no good reason ever to have without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive." (Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night)


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to ask you about this for some time, as you're about the only person I know who has any practical knowledge of that part of the world.

I also agree that opposing the deal simply on the ground that 'they're Arabs, we can't trust 'em' would be racist in the extreme. I've met some folks, mostly riding in public transit, who've even stated this view in pretty much those words.

I haven't seen racism as a driving factor in the discussion regarding whether or not to hold the 45-day security review that, on the one hand, the administration seems to think is good in principle but, on the other hand, thinks is unnecessary in this case. I think any interested person would accept that there are fewer security concerns associated with, say, a Canadian company operating a U.S. port terminal than with, say, a North Korean company operating a U.S. port terminal - the real question becomes, is Dubai closer to Canada or to North Korea in the amount of scrutiny their security measures must pass before we're satisfied? Does that mean that anybody who thinks Dubai should be more trusted than North Korea is a racist who prefers Arabs to Asians? Obviously not, and I know that's not the point you were trying to make here, porce.

Is there racism among man-on-the-street style opinion-mongerers? Absolutely. I've seen and heard it myself. As the old saw says, opinions are like assholes - everybody's got one, and some of them stink.

--
Pauper

Mr. Miller said...

I find it interesting here that you (plural) have defined most of the race-type emotional buzz phrases, except for the one that is used most passionately here – and that particular word, “Racism” seems to be the one that is actually used incorrectly in this context. In order to bandy about the word “Racism” you have to have some root knowledge of it’s meaning.

Most dictionaries define Racism as a belief that “….one race is inherently genetically superior to another”.

I cannot, in all logical thought processes connect “We don’t want the proven harbingers of terrorists and terrorist training having control of our largest ports..” to any hint that the real reason for this disdain is a feeling of genetic superiority over the good folk of the U.A.E.

Our rational fear is NOT based on the notion that Americans are genetically superior to the Arabs, but based on Behaviors on their part proving beyond any shadow of doubt that they do not have our best interest at heart, and for that matter never have – any more than our president does.

Mouth said...

Pauper:

Actually, Canada/N. Korea isnt a terribly accurate analogy. In this instance, you would more closely equate N. Korea to Iran, since we've had direct problems with both.

UAE would would then be associated with S. Korea... we have US military bases there (small one in Dubai, somewhat larger one in Abu Dhabi), which is similar to S. Korea; they're "on our side", politically and economically; they practice a Westernized lifestyle and maintain a largely commercialist economy. So, the concept would more closely be linked to the following:

We've had problems with N. Korea in the past, and because S. Korea is also Asian and geographically close to N. Korea, we could very likely have problems with them in the future.

Doesn't make a lot of sense... unless there's evidence linking S. Korean contributions to the antagonization started by N. Korea. The outrage with the DPW deal was initially, "They're Arab!", until somebody said, "Yanno, you can't discriminate just cuz they're Arab." Then folks started pulling out back-water reports saying that somewhere, some years ago, some one in UAE MIGHT have had SOME connection to a terrorist group.

Well no shit. Just about every country's had a problem with that. The British, themselves (who were the selling agent in the deal, and therefore previously had control of the port) had several in-house subway and bus attacks a year or so ago... some of the folks involved in those attacks were British citizens. Does that mean that Britain, as a nation, is harboring terrorists and linked to terrorist activity?

Maybe we didn't question THAT port-master, because when we looked across the pond, the faces blinking back at us were pale with light eyes...

Mouth said...

For your benefit, Mister Miller...

Racism (according to www.dictionary.com)

n. 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

In this instance, I was referring not to one race's belief of superiority, but rather, discrimination against DWP based strictly on the fact that it's an Arab-owned and Arab-run corporation. That, alone, mitigates your entire conjecture. However, I'll go on, in an effort to "educate the educator", so to speak (c'mon, you know you love it when i go all "Daddy" on you)...

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a collection of a small handful of Emirates, which are very similar to our states. Yes, the UAE has a "federal" government, but each Emirate also has it's own independant "state" government. Dubai, for example, operates under slightly different (and significantly more Westernized) laws than Abu Dhabi.

Dubai World Ports is operated by the government of Dubai, one of seven Emirates that make up the UAE. Links with the UAE and terrorist contributions are indistinct, at best, and for the most part are linked to Abu Dhabi, not Dubai. Holding Dubai responsible for "terrorist contributions" (however indistinct and questionable those connections may be) that occured with/in Abu Dhabi is like holding the citizens of New York responsible for a riot that occurred in L.A. It just doesn't make sense.


As for your "proven harbringer of terrorists and terrorist training", the majority of the links associated between UAE and current terrorist organizations are as follows:

Two of the 9/11 hijakers were from UAE (along with 1 Egyptian, 1 Lebanese, and 15 Saudi's, yet we continue doing business as usual with Saudi Arabia, and nobody bats an eyelash).

The UAE government does not recognize Isreal as a valid nation.

The UAE government recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's official government (one of only three nations, worldwide, who did so).

Theorists believe UAE ports are transfer stations for nuclear equipment and supplies for N. Korea, Iran, and Lybia (they've had less luck proving this as they have had finding WMD in Iraq).

After 9/11, the UAE was "uncooperative" in assisting the US Treasury Department in tracking down O. bin Laden's financial information. (Nevermind that the Swiss won't release criminals' bank account information when we request it...)

The last known, documented and proven terrorist attack orchestrated by the UAE was in 1982, on Bombay.

From where I'm sitting, that doesn't make the UAE any more a candidate for "proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that they do not have [the US's] best interest at heart" than any other nation on the face of the planet. They want to come do business here, just like every one else. They want to make a profit, just like every one else. It isn't in their best interest, economically, to facilitate terrorist activities. Dubai is extremely business-concious. They don't want to blow us up, they want to take our money... what's the problem?

Outside of that, if we ostracize ourselves from the small handful of Arab nations we still have support from, we're setting ourselves up for decades upon decades of malice and war with that part of the world. They WANT to be on our side, but we're making it very, very difficult for them to do so without losing face, which is very important to them, culturally.

Show me again where refusing to do business with DWP is in our best interest?

Mouth said...

Pauper: Sorry, missed your comment on the 45-day review.

I have no problem with a 45-day review (of security and operations abilities), as long as it's implemented for ANY foreign-soil company taking over an import/export arena... air traffic, water traffic, land traffic, communications... all of it. At this point, Italy is just as likely to host terrorist activity as Dubai, so if you're going to be suspicious, be suspicious of everybody.

Anonymous said...

"We've had problems with N. Korea in the past, and because S. Korea is also Asian and geographically close to N. Korea, we could very likely have problems with them in the future.

"Doesn't make a lot of sense... unless there's evidence linking S. Korean contributions to the antagonization started by N. Korea."

Well, no analogy is perfect, and you've found a spot where my original analogy begins to break down.

On the flip side of the coin, I disagree that North Korea is the only potential agent of concern in the area. After all, you've got third-party terror organizations there, too: the Jemaah Islamiya organization has executed terror bombings in the Phillipines, while Aum Shinrikyo executed a coordinated sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system some years ago. I'd say those two organizations give good reason to at least look at the security situation, even without considering any potential North Korean influence.

"Then folks started pulling out back-water reports saying that somewhere, some years ago, some one in UAE MIGHT have had SOME connection to a terrorist group."

Well, that's a bit of an oversimplification, as you note yourself in your response to Mr. Miller. A terrorist group in the UAE organized and executed an attack in India less than 25 years ago. Two UAE citizens participated in the 9/11 hijackings. That's a heck of a lot more than 'might have had some connection.'

Does that mean everyone in the UAE is a potential terrorist? No. Does it mean we should think of them as transplanted Canadians, which until recently shared an undefended border with us for longer than pretty much any other two nations in the past two millenia? Well, no.

For contrast, consider that the Japanese national constitution, basically imposed by the U.S. in the aftermath of World War II, contains an article that basically prohibits Japan from making war:

***ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.***

This article has existed for nearly 60 years. Discussions to repeal or amend the article, which have happened sporadically since the 1980s, invariably provoke protests, not just in Japan's neighbors, but among Japanese citizens as well. I don't think those protests are necessarily ill-informed, or racially motivated.

(For an overview of this, see - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Article_9_of_the_Constitution_of_Japan)

"I have no problem with a 45-day review (of security and operations abilities), as long as it's implemented for ANY foreign-soil company taking over an import/export arena... air traffic, water traffic, land traffic, communications... all of it. At this point, Italy is just as likely to host terrorist activity as Dubai, so if you're going to be suspicious, be suspicious of everybody."

Absolutely. Is such a transfer rare enough that this is the first time such an international exchange has occured since 9/11, or is it just the first one we've heard of? I honestly have no idea, and I don't see anybody hurrying to answer that question. It would be a much bigger deal if terminals like this were changing hands all the time, but this particular exchange were being made into a political issue just because there's an Arab company involved. (I get the feeling that you believe this is actually the case.) If on the other hand this is the first such exchange, then, yes, we should investigate *everybody*, and this is our first chance to actually do so. With that backdrop, the criticism doesn't seem nearly as ridiculous.

I will say one thing, though. That this administration could actually say, in effect, "Hey, we've done our homework on this one. Trust us," and expect people to believe them seems extraordinarily naive. When it comes to 'doing their homework', this administration doesn't get very good marks.

--
Pauper

Mouth said...

Of course N. Korea isn't the only one to be concerned with in that area. N. Korea was used in the analogy to draw a parallel between Asia and the Middle east, between the aggression of N. Knorea/Iran and holding another, non-aggressive country responsible for those actions (S. Knorea/UAE).

Regarding the two 9/11 hijackers, as I explained to Mister Miller on the telephone (pity you weren't privy to the conversation... it was rousing), you cannot hold an entire nation accountable for the actions of two independant citizens. If we were going to do that, we would have to be more suspicious of Britain than we would the UAE, even, since their active terrorist cell was able to execute even more attacks than were brought against the US, AND three were born and raised in Britain (one was born in Jamaica).

However, neither of these groups (neither the UAE terrorists of the US 9/11 tragedy, nor the tube/bus bombers in Britain) were sponsored by the governments of these countries. They were independant citizens acting of their own accord. Do you feel that we should hold a nation responsible for the behaviors of its citizens, no matter what their location?

If an American citizen is in a foreign country, loses it, and kills somebody, do you expect the host country to simply stop doing business with America, because of the actions of one independant citizen?

Regarding the business between UAE/India, I dont know enough about that to say much, other than that area of the world has been at war with itself off and on for generations. I don't know if the thing in '82 was a tit-for-tat attack, government sponsored, etc. What I DO know is that the UAE transferred leadership from father to son some years ago, so the leader of the nation in '82 is dead, replaced by a much more forward-thinking, Westernized type of guy, who happens to be very close with our government (both pre- and post-Bushy, since he was head of the ministry of something-or-other before he was crowned).

Regarding "What's the big deal?"

It's a 6.8 billion dollar sale. Any time that type of money is changing hands, it's a big deal.

It's six ports, not one (NY, Newark, Baltimore, Philly, Miami, NOrleans).

With all the buzz from the current fiasco, I've been unable, as of yet, to discover how often ports change hands. I did, however, find that US ports are also operated by China, Taiwan, G. Britain, Denmark, and Singapore.

Other information involving US ports:

DPW is buying the OPERATION of the port. The port is still owned by taxpayers and the local governmnet... DPW is simply buying the right to operate it.

It's a financial transaction, mostly. The current dock workers will remain the same, the lower- middle- and most upper-management will remain the same. The only difference will be that they'll report to a board of directors in UAE instead of G. Britain. Even if they don't keep the labor the same, if DPW had designs on bringing in their own labor, each individual would have to get a work permit and go through all that mess before they'd be admitted to the country to work (and don't think they're going to let an Arab-based company bring in Arab workers without going over each of them with a fine-toothed comb).

US port security is still the job of the Coast Guard and Customs. The problem with that is that we've got Coast Guard folks deployed all over the world, rather than guarding the coast. US Customs is understaffed. They only inspect 1 in 20 containers coming through.

42 foreign ports allow US agents to inspect containers prior to sealing and shipping them to the US. The UAE is the ONLY Middle-Eastern country that allows our agents to come onto their soil and run our equipment over their exporting loads.

Here's the issue: We set up a system of rules, a series of hoops, if you will. Dubai Ports World (and the UAE) have jumped through all those hoops. They've crossed every "t" and dotted every "i", and we're still standing fast against doing business with them.

I would be okay with the situation if the US government were buying port operations back from all other countries, but to refuse the UAE, an ally, business on US soil, based on the grounds that they're Arab, is wrong. Setting a tone internationally, that the United States of America, a nation that touts liberty and justice for all, will willingly and without good cause discriminate against another nation based on race, is a mistake. We're losing what little bit of international respect we've managed to salvage already, because of the outcry associated with the deal. If it doesn't go through, if Mr. War-on-Terrorism buckles under the pressure and allows the bodies to pass a bill refusing the DPW deal, we may as well sign our warrants for death now, because whatever support we have in that part of the world will be gone. Whatever dogs we have on our side in the Middle East will gravitate towards the hand that doesn't strike them.

Arabs are a proud people. They'll not take this slap in the face lightly. I'm not saying there will be retaliation involved, simply that whatever fences they've erected to help hold back the aggressors will come down, quickly and quietly. We'll be the agents of our own destruction. Refusing the DPW deal is a mistake.

Anonymous said...

"you cannot hold an entire nation accountable for the actions of two independant citizens."

That's true, though again it's quite an oversimplification of the issue at hand. Criticism of the ports deal isn't driven by the fear that a private citizen or two might do something crazy - heck, I recall that the Oklahoma City bombing was quickly thought to be the work of foreign (read: Arab) terrorists until it was revealed that the bombing was carried out by an American citizen.

Normally I'd even object to the apparent equivalance of the UAE government and Dubai Ports World in this argument, except that DPW *is* owned by the UAE government, so even I have to admit that the connection is real.

The real concern is, will DPW do what they can to help keep those port terminals secure? (The deal isn't for the entire ports of Newark and Baltimore, for instance, just for some terminals within those ports - though for the purposes of sneaking something into the country, a single terminal is as good as an entire port for that purpose.) Sure, the UAE is an ally now - there's good reason to believe that personal connections to the Bush administration are significant factors in this closeness (as is also the case in Saudi Arabia, our other close ally in the region). What happens when a more blatantly pro-Israel administration is elected someday? As you noted, the UAE was one of just three countries in the entire world to recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan; would the UAE be as eager to work with, say, a President Franken as a President Bush? I sure don't know, and expect that this is one of the questions any security review will ask.

"Regarding the business between UAE/India, I dont know enough about that to say much, other than that area of the world has been at war with itself off and on for generations. I don't know if the thing in '82 was a tit-for-tat attack, government sponsored, etc."

Well, I've been looking for it, and can't seem to find it. I did, however, find an attack which occurred in 1993, where a number of bombings occurred in Bombay against various targets (the Stock Exchange, the headquarters of the state-run airline, and three luxury hotels) - two of the suspected bombers fled to Dubai.

http://www.tkb.org/Incident.jsp?incID=7036

And it's great that the leader of the UAE is a Western-thinking guy, though I seem to recall that Al-Qaeda doesn't much care for Western-thinking Arab leaders. Would Al-Qaeda attacks on Dubai cause the UAE to grow closer to the US or force the two nations apart? Again, I have no idea, but expect that folks whose job it is to ask these questions will ask them, if given the opportunity.

"It's a 6.8 billion dollar sale. Any time that type of money is changing hands, it's a big deal."

True enough, but the US has no authority to actually cancel the entire deal. The six US port terminals are only part, and a small part at that, of a larger collecion of terminals that are the focus of the deal. The US has the authority to prevent DPW from taking ownership of the US port terminals, which might cause the entire deal to hang fire, but DPW and the British company in question could simply restructure the deal to exchange the non-US terminals now (for a sixable percentage of the price for the entire package, no doubt) and hold off on the US terminals until the political situation dies down.

What make the situation more complicated is that the Bush administration seems disinclined to keep DPW from taking possession of the terminals, and the Congress clearly doesn't have the direct authority to do so. So even if a belated 45-day review is performed, and serious questions are raised, the response could easily enough be, "Oh, well, DPW already owns and operates those terminals now, and to kick them out would cause an international incident. Better just hope for the best."

It seems like one of those situations where it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

"Setting a tone internationally, that the United States of America, a nation that touts liberty and justice for all, will willingly and without good cause discriminate against another nation based on race, is a mistake."

And here's my bigger problem - yes, there is plebian knee-jerk racist response to the idea of DPW operating US port terminals. But the administration and its supporters are painting their opponents on this issue as having the same motivation - despite there being fairly obvious and well-reasoned arguments, having nothing to do with knee-jerk recism, in favor of at least taking a closer look at what a DPW-operated port terminal would mean to US security.

Hilary Clinton (as a convenient example) is not the one saying that we can't allow this deal because 'they're Arabs and we can't trust them'. If the Arab world does get the impression that the US is dragging its heels on the DPW deal because of racism, the fault lays with administration apologists and officials who are blindly painting Clinton and other opponents with the racism brush, despite the reality of the situation.

--
Pauper

P.S.: As for phone conversation, I think you have the number, and you know you're welcome to call any time.

Mouth said...

P:

I do, indeed, have the number, but I'm a smart enough girl to know better than to confrence call a staunch Libertarian and a Left-wing nutjob (affectionately, of course). No WAY I'm signing up to let you two tag-team me!

p.

Mouth said...

What do you do when you go to a store and the service is crap?

You take your business elsewhere.

Go figure.

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