Friday, February 24, 2006

The Portsgate and Racism

In an interesting up-is-down development it is now us liberals who are being blamed for racism. Even the arch-racist Rush Limbaugh says this. So it must be true. Anyone who disagrees with George's contract with his UAE royalty pals is a racist.

The whole question of racism is complicated, you see, and George must explain it to all of us. It is racist to profile The United Arab Emirates, because all countries should be treated the same, in a race-or-religion-blind manner. But are we now assigning civil rights to countries rather than the individuals inside them? Remember that the Dubai company we are talking about is a state-controlled one.

And we are told that we didn't oppose this agreement when it was a British firm running the ports. Isn't that a clear example of racism, hmh? Except for the fact that I at least had no idea it was a British port who owned these contracts, and I suspect that this ignorance was pretty common.

Then there is the whole odd detail that Rush and other wingnut commentators don't find it racist that we attack countries like Iraq but do find it racist if we object to the power of foreign states to take over the ports. This is some complicated definition of racism, my friends, and one that I have a lot of trouble deciphering.

But yes, of course a lot of the opposition to the contract has origins based on fear and loathing. We have been encouraged in this fear and loathing for the last five years by commentators like Ann "The Ragheads" Coulter, and now we are supposed to take a step back, to breathe deeply, and to accept that nothing whatsoever is wrong in the apparent 180 degree turn that the administration has suddenly embraced.

It seems that there are good Arabs: the Saudis and the Emirates, and then there are bad people: the Iraqis, mostly. The problem with this right-wing classification scheme is that it was the Saudis and the Emirate guys who had more of a connection with 911 than the Iraqis, and even if one is opposed to religious or racial profiling it is very odd that we appear to reward those governments which clearly have failed to control their fundamentalism very well.
Later: Krugman agrees with me in his newest column:

The administration also tells us not to worry about having Arabs control port operations. "I want those who are questioning it," Mr. Bush said, "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."

He was being evasive, of course. This isn't just a Middle Eastern company; it's a company controlled by the monarchy in Dubai, which is part of the authoritarian United Arab Emirates, one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.

But more to the point, after years of systematically suggesting that Arabs who didn't attack us are the same as Arabs who did, the administration can't suddenly turn around and say, "But these are good Arabs."