It was inevitable that Arianna Huffington, "compassionate conservative"-turned-limousine-liberal, would join the bipartisan chorus of voices screaming bloody murder over the Dubai port deal. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that she was canoodling with Newt Gingrich and cavorting with the neocons. And if there’s anything the neocons hate, it’s those inherently violent and even terroristic Ay-rabs. Here she is jumping on the Arab-bashing bandwagon, denouncing the Bush administration’s "jaw-droppingly bad decision" and affecting shock shock! that her fellow bandwagoneers seem to be mostly conservative Republicans:
"It’s been getting harder and harder to tell the (R)s from the (D)s on a growing number of issues, including Iraq, the drug war, and the fight to cut pork-barrel spending. But the dubious Dubai deal has the potential to be the most division-blurring of all and the most damaging to Karl Rove’s dreams of turning 2006 into a replay of 2004."
She’s right that the pro-war, pro-spending, pro-big government consensus extends to both parties, overarching the Left and the Right, but she seems blithely unaware that her own commentary best reflects the staleness of this orthodoxy. Nothing exemplifies this better than her view of the controversy surrounding the granting of Dubai Port World (DPW), an international shipping and port management company based in the United Arab Emirates, a franchise to manage maritime facilities in major American cities, including New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
According to Arianna and her army of "progressive" blogger-harpies, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a snakepit of radical Islamism, the lair from which Osama and his fellow vipers sallied forth to strike out at the West:
"You don’t need to be a member of the Council on Foreign Relations to grasp that a country that embraced the Taliban, was a financial hub for the 9/11 attackers, and whose own ports were used by notorious Pakistani scientist A.Q. Kahn to smuggle nuclear components to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, probably shouldn’t be handed the keys to shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans (I mean, c’mon, haven’t Bush and Chertoff done enough damage to the Big Easy?).
"This deal is a nonstarter and a no-brainer. A Harriet Miers debacle to the hundredth- power. Next thing you know, the president will be assuring us that he knows what’s in the heart of Dubai Ports World, Inc."
In politics, one should always follow the money and, as I’ve said before, on this occasion someone’s financial interests seem to be intertwined with the effort to smear DPW. In a similar vein, when it comes to internet journalism, one should follow the links and, in Arianna’s case, the result is baffling.
Let’s take the first link reproduced above: this takes us to a Martini Republic blog post that reproduces testimony in front of the 9/11 Commission, which, among other things, informs us that in 1998 a missile strike targeting bin Laden was called off because he might have been in the company of certain royal personages from UAE. This meeting supposedly a falconing expedition is being touted on Democratic Party hack sites like DailyKos.com as the "smoking gun" that identifies Dubai and its government as a terrorist "hub." Yet this argument is self-refuting: after all, the strike was reportedly called off precisely because the Americans were afraid to hit visitors who weren’t and aren’t terrorists or sympathizers.
Yes, the UAE established diplomatic relations with the Taliban after Mullah Omar and his gang took over Afghanistan, but, like Arianna, the Martini Republicans fail to mention that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two of our staunchest allies in the region, also sent ambassadors to Kabul.
The first link cherrypicks every mention of Dubai in the 9/11 Commission report, and yet only establishes that the Dubai royals and bin Laden were engaged in what appeared to be a state visit which the latter, as the head of an international organization with standing in the Arab world, surely merited. Killing the future planner and sponsor of the 9/11 attacks on that occasion would have made no more sense than the CIA taking out Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev when he paid a state visit to the U.S. in 1959.
The second link, which goes to a post on AmericaBlog, is frankly ludicrous, and I reproduce it here, in full, so as to capture the full flavor of Arianna’s utter flakiness:
Does Bush even know that Al Qaeda used Dubai as ‘a logistical hub’?
by Joe in DC – 2/21/2006 06:36:00 PM
"Today, your President posed this challenge to the critics of his plan to turn over American port security to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates:
"’I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company,’ Bush said. ‘I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, "We’ll treat you fairly.”’
"Of course, Bush got a few facts wrong (not just making up the term ‘Great British’). The company is owned by another country. That’s a critical fact Bush chooses to ignore.
"So, not sure that Bush reads AMERICAblog, but we’ll step up. How about we help explain the concern by pointing to this USA Today article from just 18 months ago?:
"’Osama bin Laden’s operatives still use this freewheeling city as a logistical hub three years after more than half the Sept. 11 hijackers flew directly from Dubai to the United States in the final preparatory stages for the attack.
"’The recent arrest of an alleged top al-Qaeda combat coach is the latest sign that suspected members of the terrorist organization are among those who take advantage of travel rules that allow easy entry. Citizens of neighboring Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia can come to Dubai without visas, which other nationalities can get at the country’s ports of entry.’"
"Doesn’t that make you feel safer? Oh, sure. The article is 18 months old. But do you really think things have changed all that much?
"Just imagine if a Democratic President cut this deal and defended it the way Bush has. Karl Rove would have a field day. This is a major political issue. Remember, Rove’s the one who wants to make national security a political issue this year."
As the fastest growing city in the world, and a free port where visas are no problem and the free market reigns supreme, Dubai is the financial and industrial hub not only of the Persian Gulf but also of much of the Middle East. With a per capita income of over $20,000, and corporate offices of Ford, Johnson & Johnson, MSD, FedEx, ExxonMobil, CMS Energy, Microsoft, Motorola, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics ensconced in its gleaming ultra-modern skyscrapers, Dubai is the logistical hub of just about every sort of human activity in that part of the globe. It is the Manhattan of the Arab world, so it’s no surprise money that wound up in the 9/11 hijackers’ pockets might have been funneled through UAE banks or that one or another al-Qaeda operative may have passed through what is a booming metropolis.
"More than half of the Sept. 11 hijackers flew directly from Dubai to the United States in the final preparatory stages for the attack" here is a statement that could not be more meaningless. In the Bizarro World of Huffington and her ditzy Hollywood friends, this is the "smoking gun" that indicts Dubai as the World Capital of Terrorism. In the real world, however, it only means that Dubai airport has lots of flights to major cities all over the world.
The third link leads to a post by Larry Johnson, a former counter-terrorism official, who, in trying to prove that Dubai has "links to al-Qaeda," cites a piece in U.S. News breathlessly informing us that smuggling actually has been known to take place in that city! Gee, who woulda thought? There is nothing, alas, that backs up Arianna’s claim about Dubai being the "transit point" for A. Q. Khan’s nuclear black market network. We are told that a great many illegitimate attempts to buy U.S. military equipment come through Dubai-based "front companies," but, again, it makes sense that most Arab companies trying to affect a credible veneer would have a Dubai address.
The UAE, unlike our own Coast Guard and Homeland Security, actually inspects all tonnage bound for the United States that transits Dubai. As noted above by those geniuses over at AmericaBlog, that "alleged top al-Qaeda combat coach" was arrested, presumably by the UAE authorities hardly evidence of complicity between bin Laden and the government of Dubai.
I really don’t have the stomach to wade through Arianna’s farrago of falsehoods and catty cheap shots and follow down each and every link to its absurd dead end go ahead, be my guest. But I’ll say this: The HuffPuff and her gaggle of wild-eyed Democratic Party bloggers have no interest in this issue, or any other issue, except as a bludgeon with which to bash George W. Bush. They aren’t antiwar they’re anti-Bush. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so eager to join in this latest orgy of Arabophobia. They would be sensitive to the atmospherics to the clear message being broadcast by the U.S. Congress that Washington has no use for Arabs of any sort, no matter how pro-American, secularized, and capitalistic they may be.
The big argument of the neocons for democratizing the Middle East by force of arms is that the region’s troubles, including endemic terrorism, are due to the fact that Arab civilization has fallen behind and failed to enter the gleaming, stainless-steel world of modernity, where secularism rules and religious fanatics like bin Laden have no place, no voice, and no influence. Yet when such a gleaming city rises out of the desert floor and towers above the clouds as an example and a model of regional aspirations, the same crowd claims it’s all a mirage. There’s no pleasing some people, is there?
What I find really striking, however, in examining Dubai’s alleged "links to al-Qaeda," is how closely they resemble Iraq’s alleged "links to al-Qaeda" as claimed by the Bush crowd in the run-up to war. That is, the factoids we are served up are cherry-picked morsels of "intelligence," taken out of context and blown up to ridiculous proportions. When they aren’t making up stories out of whole cloth, the anti-Dubai propagandists are stringing all sorts of entirely irrelevant bits of pseudo-facts together in order to make the "links." But these links stink. They either don’t exist, or are just totally beside the point: in short, they prove nothing about Dubai’s alleged complicity with or sympathy for Osama bin Laden and his cause. Rather, they prove only that certain people will say anything to advance an argument and score points and that Arianna Huffington could care less about the truth.
In her better moments, Arianna probably does remember why she hates the president so much: the war, a foreign policy based on pure aggression, his all-out assault on civil liberties, etc. But the problem is that she has allowed that hatred to narrow her perspective, and this permits her to grasp at any argument, no matter how lame, how counterproductive, or how dangerous it may be.
I can’t say I’m surprised. Arianna represents the Bush-hating, knee-jerking, partisan Democrats of Hollywood crowd that trades, after all, in emotions, onscreen and off. What does surprise me, however, is that she failed to cite the apocryphal story about bin Laden and Dubai: his alleged hospital stay there, in July of 2001, as reported by Le Figaro. Although, on second thought, this omission is entirely understandable, given that the same reportage claims the terrorist mastermind was visited there by a CIA agent or two. This ingredient didn’t make it into the anti-Dubai propagandists’ stew because it would put U.S. intelligence in the same category as the Emirati of Dubai and from that point on we will have entered tinfoil-hat country, a region Huffington and her pals set foot in the moment they began to equate the emir of Dubai with Mullah Omar.
Huffington and her fellow Bush-haters want us to abolish the international maritime trade, introduce racial profiling into the process of deciding who can do business in the U.S., and issue a gratuitous insult to Arabs the world over, when maritime experts and common sense tell us that DPW is being unfairly targeted by bloviating politicians and pontificating pundits.
Parading her ignorance with all the arrogance of a wealthy dowager flashing her diamonds, Arianna doesn’t even begin to realize that her polemics could have dangerous and even deadly consequences. By ratcheting up the atmosphere of hate and hysteria that has characterized the relations between the Arab world and the West in recent weeks, she is lining up with the War Party. In open alliance with neocons like Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, and the National Review/Weekly Standard crowd, Huffington and her fellow "progressives" are poisoning American politics to the point that "World War IV" the wet dream of every neocon becomes a distinct possibility.