Backtalk, February 24, 2006

Hating Arabs

Dear Mr. Raimondo:

I find this really disconcerting, but I actually like the way Bush has so far handled the controversy over the Dubai Ports World purchase of six U.S. ports. [Editor’s note: The ports are not privately owned. Dubai Ports World purchased the company that operates those ports.] In the face of an orgy of political grandstanding and Arab-bashing, Bush strongly defended his administration’s approval of the deal and even threatened to veto any attempts by congressional bigots to block the deal. Maybe the realists are finally taking charge in the Bush White House.

Also, as you note, the UAE is one of last countries in the Middle East that U.S. senators and congressmen should be bashing for extremism. While Salafi nutballs like Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi garner all the headlines, a counter-movement for economic freedom and religious moderation (some would say religious traditionalism) is gaining momentum in the Arab and Islamic world. The UAE, along with countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, are in the forefront of this trend. We should be doing everything possible to encourage this trend by supporting fully deals like the Dubai Ports World purchase that spur trade and investment and create economic bonds between the U.S. and the Middle East and the Islamic world.

~ GM

Raimondo’s article doesn’t seem to square much with what investigative reporter Wayne Madsen writes when he says,

“[U]AE banking insiders have revealed that accounts used to fund the Taliban and Al Qaeda involved members of the Dubai royal family. Banking insiders in Dubai report that in March 2002, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill visited Dubai and asked for documents on a $109,500 money transfer from Dubai to a joint account held by hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi at Sun Trust Bank in Florida. O’Neill also asked UAE authorities to close down accounts used by Al Qaeda and affiliated partners like Victor Bout. The UAE complained about O’Neill’s demands to the Bush administration. O’Neill’s pressure on the UAE and Saudis contributed to Bush firing him as Treasury Secretary in December 2002.”

~ Pauline Wilson

Dubai Ports World: Commercial Racial Profiling

Ivan Eland believes that opposition to DP World running six U.S. ports is an exercise in racial profiling. I have seen some specious arguments over the last five years by the White House and its propaganda arm, popularly known as the MSM, but to suggest that the reason that many politicians and lots of non-politicians are strenuously objecting to Dubai Ports World (DP World) is racial profiling is ludicrous. The objections are because the Emirates, particularly Dubai, have been identified as financial supporters of a certain Saudi: Osama bin Laden.

Your argument that we still do business with Britain even though the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, was a British citizen is equally ridiculous. Reid was also a member of al-Qaeda. I really think that the al-Qaeda relationship sort of trumps his citizenship!

Britain does not finance terrorism against the U.S. or have its royalty go on hunting parties in the desert with known terrorists, as did Dubai’s. The Clinton administration had to back off on a plan to hit OBL with a cruise missile because a good portion of the Dubai royal family were hunting at the desert training camp set up by OBL that was to be the target. This was in 1998 or ’99.

Treasury Secretary John Snow has a financial relationship with DP World.

There is also this little gem from the White House about the appointment in January of one David Sanborn to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. Sanborn was formerly, that is until this appointment, head of DP World’s European and Latin American divisions. More Bush crony appointments, and this one looks very much as if it was set up so Mr. Sanborn could oversee his former employer, DP World. …

~ James Domenico, San Francisco, Calif.

The outburst by jingoistic blowhards railing against the acquisition of P&O port management operations on the U.S. East Coast by a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates is depressingly unsurprising. That security experts would not find any reason for concern in the acquisition is likewise unsurprising. Anyone worried about Emirate ownership of a firm managing American ports has never been to the Emirates, and is just an ignorant xenophobe. What IS surprising is the vigorous defense of the deal by President George W. Bush and his staff. Bush is taking on the populist base of his own party, giving his Democratic opponents an unexpected opportunity to attack him rhetorically “from the right” on an issue where there is no political upside. Not only are he and his proxies standing up for a fight on an issue that is seemingly both a loser and trivial, but he has gone so far as to threaten his first veto. Why? Our supposedly conservative president has not seen fit to veto a single piece of budget-busting legislation. Looked at from this perspective, his determination seems bizarre. Can this really be the first unpopular, principled position he is willing to fight for? Has Karl Rove been sent to Guantanamo?

The inexplicability of his determination to fight for the Emirates’ right to buy what is being called a “strategic asset” is less inexplicable than it seems if we remember what once seemed the most threatening scandal of the post-Cold War Era, the BCCI collapse. The Bank of Credit and Commerce International debacle compromised – if we accept the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conclusions co-authored by Senators John Kerry and Hank Brown – virtually everyone in the Anglo-American establishment … from the CIA to the Bank of England. Fortunately, the agreement of the emir to provide partial compensation to the bank’s creditors to the tune of $1.8 billion helped massage the scandal into one that died with a whimper rather than a bang. Thanks to the emir’s amazing generosity, the scandal was permitted to disappear down the memory hole, becoming a topic of discussion confined to die-hard conspiratorialists and greedy lawyers. But wait, a shareholder paying off creditors? This defeats the entire idea of limited liability. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, who died little over a year ago, saved the legitimacy of the American establishment and the British establishment from complete oblivion. In coming to the aid of the Emirates, George W. Bush is showing solidarity with a family that saved his father and his father’s world from destruction.

Were it not for Sheikh Zayed’s sacrifice, GW would never have become president. Bill Clinton would never have become president. And none of us would have heard of the neoconservative cabal.

~ Eric Smith

Conservatives Endorse the Fuhrer Principle

No one has chronicled as well as Paul Roberts the descent into dictatorship our country is now experiencing. Today, the Rubicon was crossed. Republicans on the Senate committee considering the possibility of holding hearings on presidential violations of the so-called FISA legislation caved to pressure and gave der Fuhrer a way out. There will be no investigation into the facts, no holding Bush to the standard of law. Chuck Hagel, his maverick posturing notwithstanding, proved himself a compliant toad.

In 1933, Adolph Hitler attained to the chancellorship of Germany in a political environment permeated with the myths of the stab-in-the-back, the treachery of the Jews, and the imminence of a Marxist revolution. Any violence was tolerated to assure immunity from these threats. The National Socialists, not alone mind you, but with the aid of other parties comprising a larger nationalist configuration and well-supported by public opinion, then took Germany into the abyss. A similar pattern has asserted itself today in the United States, and it, too, enjoys the support of public opinion. The American people, desensitized by decades of self-seeking and self-absorption, can no longer identify the elemental principles that ground their freedom, and, what’s more, they just don’t care. …

~ John Lowell

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I agree with John Lowell. The Republican Party values its power above the law and the liberty of Americans. The Rubicon has been crossed.

Dear Mr. Roberts,

I write as a bewildered fan. A fan because I truly admire your past service to our nation as a government official and your past contributions to our intellectual culture. Bewildered because your recent posting on compares America’s defense against terrorism to Nazi Germany and because, even more inexplicably, your opinion appears to be based on total fiction.

I woke up this last Saturday to the following message on my e-mail:

“‘Last week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn’t get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.’
~ Paul Craig Roberts

"If you are so enamored with totalitarianism, maybe you ought to return to your ancestral home."

I resisted the temptation to dismiss the message as another bigoted attack and asked for a source citation to what I assumed to be a made-up quotation. No reply. So I researched and to my surprise discovered that the cowardly e-mail had indeed quoted your post on

As it is obvious that you are writing without any firsthand knowledge of the facts, let me be very clear about what was said and what was not said. I did not, nor did anyone at CPAC, to my knowledge, say that “the rule of law mustn’t get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.” Nor was there any standing ovation. I would have thought, before your post, that an accusation against an individual, an entire audience, and indeed a nation’s anti-terror strategy of being akin to Nazism would require a bit more responsibility to the facts.

Assuming some fealty to the truth remains, let me recount what I said during my debate with Bob Barr at CPAC. I acknowledged that conservatism derives from a tradition of healthy skepticism of governmental power. However, I said, “At times that healthy skepticism must unfortunately yield to a greater threat to our national security.” I posit that the question is not whether the president is above the law but rather whether anyone, including Congress, is above the Constitution, and specifically noted that “no one without operational knowledge of the details of the NSA program can come to a definitive conclusion as to its propriety or legality.”

Finally, I concluded, “At this time, the greatest threat to American liberty comes from al Qaeda and its associates who would seek to destroy this nation, not from the brave men and women who defend America and her people.”

If you disagree with any of the above points, I would love to engage you in a conversation. If you were there and differ in your recollection, I would ask to see your notes or better, that you check your facts with Bob Barr. If you were not at CPAC and did not observe that which you purported to describe, I hope you will come clean. But nothing – nothing, sir – justifies your spurious accusation of “brownshirtism” against anyone, least of all against one who has suffered the tyranny of totalitarianism.

~ Viet D. Dinh

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I stand by my characterization of Viet Dinh’s remarks in his debate with Bob Barr at the recent CPAC annual meeting and by my statement that conservatism has morphed into brownshirtism.

Viet Dinh is one of the authors of the so-called “PATRIOT Act,” an anti-American piece of legislation recognized throughout the civil libertarian community as an assault on American civil liberties. Former Republican congressman Bob Barr has fought to restrain the act’s more egregious intrusions on the constitutionally protected privacy of American citizens.

Even Republican U.S. senators, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, are concerned about the Bush regime’s proclivity for warrantless spying in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Sen. Specter is drafting legislation with which he hopes to curtail President Bush’s illegal activity. As far as I can tell, the legal community recognizes that Bush’s warrantless spying is illegal, except for members of the Republican Federalist Society, a group of lawyers dedicated to concentrating unaccountable powers in the executive.

There are several news reports on the CPAC conference and the debate between Bob Barr and Viet Dinh. My observations follow from these news reports.

Writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 11, “Bob Barr, Bane of the Right?,” Post reporter Dana Milbank, for example, reports that Barr asked the CPAC audience, “Are we losing our lodestar, which is the Bill of Rights” to the Bush regime’s zeal in its war against terror?

Barr confronted the conservatives: “Do we truly remain a society that believes that every president must abide by the law of this country” or “are we in danger of putting allegiance to party ahead of allegiance to principle?”

Barr’s questions were greeted with silence followed by booing. According to Milbank, “Dinh brought the crowd to a raucous ovation when he judged: ‘The threat to Americans’ liberty today comes from al-Qaeda and its associates and the people who would destroy America and her people, not the brave men and women who work to defend this country!'”

How else are we to interpret Viet Dinh’s words? Clearly, he is saying that it is more important for Bush to seize powers to protect America from Osama bin Laden than to obey the law and abide by the separation of powers. The entire position of the Bush regime is that protecting the country from terrorists is more important than loyalty to habeas corpus, the Geneva Conventions, the proscription against torture, open government, and an accountable executive.

Dinh himself endorsed the Fuhrer Principle and urged it upon the conservatives when he declared, “The conservative movement has a healthy skepticism of governmental power, but at times, unfortunately, that healthy skepticism needs to yield.” Yield to what? To the Leader who works “to defend this country.”

That’s exactly what Hitler said following the Reichstag fire, a staged incident that he used to remove himself from accountability.

Milbank notes that by turning the debate into the issue of whom do you fear – George Bush or Osama bin Laden – Viet Dinh employed “the sort of tactic that has intimidated Democrats and the last few libertarian Republicans who question the program’s legality.”

Milbank reports that Viet Dinh’s tactic did not work on Bob Barr, who nailed Dinh: “That, folks, was a red herring. This debate is very simple: It is a debate about whether or not we will remain a nation subject to and governed by the rule of law or the whim of men.”

Trust the Leader, Dinh told the conservatives. They seemed to agree. This certainly is not America’s way.

Destroying America does not mean blowing up buildings. It means destroying the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers. Al-Qaeda is powerless to bring about such destruction. Only our own government, enabled by the public’s and Viet Dinh’s and Attorney General Gonzales’ endorsements of the Fuhrer Principle, can destroy America.

America and Iran: At the Brink of the Abyss

If this scenario should prove to be true, then it would be an atrocity far worse than the Iraq war and an event that would make Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki pale into insignificance. America is basically saying that any country that manages to defend itself even half-capably (and Iran may for a while, given its logistics, compared to Iraq), will feel the full force of a nuclear strike, with all the horrific side-effects it brings.

Iran has never in modern history invaded or attacked another country, and if it has helped groups regarded by the U.S. and Britain as terrorists, then it is no more than we have done in helping countless numbers of dictators around the world in the last hundred years. Iran has every right to develop nuclear power for energy production. I sincerely hope that the world will not stand by and watch so-called civilized, democratic countries carry out preemptive strikes on another simply because of a simmering hatred between two countries.

Are the American people so hungry for war, and possibly revenge, that they will lash out at whoever has a different culture to theirs? I do not agree with the current hard-line regime in Iran, but why have they been elected, and why have Hamas been elected in Palestine? The reason is that Islamic countries feel genuinely threatened by the aggressive actions of America and Britain abroad, and like yourself I feel that we are on the edge of the abyss.

~ Andy Cheshire, England

Jorge Hirsch replies:

Precisely: Iraq was weak enough that the use of nuclear weapons could not have been “justified.” With Iran, the administration believes it will be “defensible” and supported by the public, to save lives, and they couldn’t care less what the rest of the world says. The world cannot stop this at this point; only Americans still can.

I Don’t Have to Fight You

Mr. Henderson,

Your article “I Don’t Have to Fight You” was excellent. However, when you stated that Roosevelt and Congress did NOT have to declare war after the Japanese government bombed Pearl Harbor, I did NOT understand your (seemingly) illogical reasoning. For you see, it is common knowledge that FDR provoked the Japanese government into attacking the United States for the sole reason of acquiring a “back door” entry into war with Germany. Please note that after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Pacific (Japanese) war was put on “hold” until Germany lay in ruins and the war was “won” in Europe (oh, sure, there was some relatively minor operations in the Pacific, but the overwhelming bulk of the U.S. forces were fighting or preparing to fight against Germany). The “illogical” part comes when one would say Roosevelt could have chosen NOT to declare war on Japan, when the SOLE PURPOSE of provoking the Japanese government (which had a reciprocal defensive treaty with Germany) was to get the United State INTO the war in Europe.

~ James Lewis

David Henderson replies:

Dear Mr. Lewis,

Thank you. I’m glad you liked my article.

Regarding your criticism, nothing I said contradicts what you said about FDR’s motives. I have read much of that literature, beginning with John T. Flynn and George Crocker. Although I’m inclined to agree with them and you about Roosevelt’s motives, I’m not positive they’re right. I try to write about things I’m sure of, or to say that I’m not sure when I’m not. But none of that matters for the point I made. I wrote that the U.S. government did not have to go to war with Japan. The U.S. government had a choice. That’s true. FDR might have had reasons for putting himself in a position where it was easy to declare war on Japan. But again my point is that he made a choice that he didn’t have to make.

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