Friday, March 10, 2006

Au Port

You may find it odd that during all this talk about our ports I could not stop thinking about Au Port, one of my favorite St Barth restaurants.  Could it be an inner urge to get away from it all?  In the end the Dubai mess had nothing to do with security (though we most certainly have gaping holes in that regard) but was born out of five years of systematic demonizing of Arabs and of as much self created terror (which isn’t a bomb but fear) as from the results of atrocious acts of religious extremists.  After years of fooling most of the people all of the time, the chickens are coming home to roost.  It seems that everyone is “mad as hell and not going to take it any more”.  Even Republicans are now reacting to an administration that has been governing from an undisclosed location on a need-to-know (read that very few do) basis.

The demonizing of course is as bad as anything else and sadly reflects a long term disease in the myopic American soul.  It got Japanese Americans interred in the 1940s.  It tarnished the reputations and often careers of anyone who even looked to the left in the 1950s.  It seems that we can’t function without a broad brush boggy man enemy.  Thank God for the Arabs, we felt so empty without the Commies to knock about.  People old enough to know don’t need George Clooney to remind them of the similarities between our time and the McCarthy era.  Muslims, Commies they're all the same.

But it isn’t merely that.  We are all painfully aware that our government now, and in the past, has consistently given itself over to hypocritical mixed message policies and have continued to so right up to this past week.  At a moment when we are screaming about Iran’s sneaking about trying to develop nuclear weapons, we’re making a deal with the Indians who did precisely the same thing – only they actually tested and have bombs.  Instead of demanding that they at least sign on to the non proliferation pact, we tell them that we choose to see only the peaceful side of their program because we need them so to give us poor computer users tech support.  That deal won’t fly in Congress for both the right and many wrong reasons.  The next day we cross the border and tell the Pakistanis whose program mirrored that of India that we won’t offer them any deal.  India is Hindu governed, Pakistan is Muslim.  Hello.  Oh, it’s not like that you say.  India actually has more Muslims and Pakistan.  Maybe so, but in a world driven as much by appearance as substance, impressions do matter.

The Administration’s big problem is that they have lost all credibility.  Dr. Rice, the lady who spoke of mushroom clouds in the run up to Iraq, is not talking of them again with regard to Iran.  Look up; can you see the sky falling?  She may be right.  The Israelis (speak of a stealth nuclear power) certainly share her view.  The problem is that we can’t be sure of anything they say any more.  What does that do for our security?. 

What is so very sad and troubling is that the beacon of liberty for which all those wonderful young people are dying is now and has been for some time off the grid.  Any dim light it emits is powered by an emergency generator; a democracy on life support, whose leaders have made it damaged goods.  We are great on pious statements, on trying to impose our own way on others, but when it suits our needs we easily make bargains (if you believe in that, which I certainly don’t) with the devil and we are paying a very high price.  We buy into the “enemy of my enemy” rationalization which got us to support Saddam in his fight with Iran and the Taliban in their fight with the Soviets.  We SUV’d (which I use both literally and as a metaphor) ourselves into depending on unstable oil rich nations.  We buy in, and we do it over and over again.

So here we are.  The port deal seems to be dead.  All but the President are on the same page, and all are in a way equally blind sighted.  I personally find no more comfort in my two Democratic United States Senators pontificating about national security (ah, we got you now W) than to have heard Republicans opine on it during these last years.  My senior senator who has never passed a microphone he didn’t ask out for a date, sounds no better than those war hawks who got us into all this mess.  If 70% of the country (according to a poll released today) thinks we’re headed in the wrong direction, I doubt that offering more of the same just managed by someone else is going to do it.

OK Justice Scalia, you’ve won me over to the fundamentalist position.  I want to revert to those high minded ideals that made risking life and limb worthwhile for the ill equipped and anything but powerful colonialists who fought off the British.  We need some fundamental change, a new direction with new leadership.  I love Au Port, but I’m dreaming about sitting at one of its tables for the wrong reason.

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