The political firestorm that erupted over the Bush administration’s decision — now on hold — to award the contract for managing six of the nation’s biggest ports (New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Miami) to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates sizzles with irony.
President Bush has spent the four-plus years since 9/11 scaring the nation into mindless subservience with a series of high-octane lies. He justified his war in Iraq by frightening the public into believing that Saddam was building atomic weapons that would be used against the United States. He manufactured the falsehood that Iraq was in some way involved with the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. He promoted the then-baseless assumption that Iraq was an Al Qaeda launching pad. And he continues to orchestrate this symphony of fear to justify the constitutionally compromising Patriot Act and illegal domestic-spying scheme.
Now the flames of deceit have burned the hand that lit them. Pity.
The real pity, the tragic pity, is that Bush’s lies misinform the men and women fighting in our name in Iraq. An astonishing 90 percent of our troops believe they are risking their lives because Saddam played a role in 9/11, according to Zogby International’s latest poll. That misconception doesn’t impair their common sense, however: 72 percent of those surveyed think the US should withdraw within a year, and one in four wants to get out now.
Irony aside, the reason for Bush’s unfolding scandal is simple: big bucks. Treasury secretary John Snow, whose department led the government effort that gave preliminary approval to the port deal, used to run CSX, a rail firm that after Snow’s exit was sold to Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, for $1.15 billion. In the eyes of a big-business Republican, once a good customer, always a good customer; it was probably just unfathomable to these dollar-minded knaves that a deal worth serious billions could ever be compromised by the political passions inflamed by Bush.
Of more immediate interest to Snow and his fellow Bushies was, no doubt, Dubai’s purchase last year of $9.7 billion worth of Boeing 777s, with an option to buy another 20 planes. That, by any measure, is a big deal. And it’s a deal that Bush can with justice be proud of, since it will provide thousands of jobs for American aerospace workers. (It is also understandably why he would so fear pissing off the UAE’s emir.)