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Bush's Ports Affair

By Pratyush Chandra

13 March, 2006

Finally Dubai Ports World has decided to transfer US ports business to a "US entity". Bush must have felt relieved along with his colleagues (both for and against the ports deal). They must have patted each other for effectively creating a drama around the deal that achieved two ends - it has homogenised and 'jingoised' the American opinion to a certain degree, while giving a softening touch to the warrior image of Bush.

Colleagues in the Republican Party, along with Democrats reproached Bush for the ports deal that gave the Arab company the right to manage six ports in the US. Bush, until now the most vocal of the 'crusaders', was accused of betraying the cause.

Of course, there is nothing surprising about the US' dealing with the Arab companies. The whole enterprise of the war on terrorism and people in the Middle East could not have been undertaken without Arab states and capital being complicit. Moreover, money that lubricates the American war economy and its warheads in the Middle East is not fully domestic (contrary to what some leftists claim sometimes to woo the taxpayer conscience of the American public) but also derived from the joint Western-Arab corporatist exploitation of Arabic resources (human and material).

However, what is remarkable in the deal is the smoothness of its undertaking - its conception and the end result. Like Sancho Panza, Britain always finds a role to play in the adventures of its master. The British, who were managing the ports until now, were comfortable and enthusiastic in the whole affair. Since it was a business that was not under loss, the British interests' readiness to allow it to go away from their hands seems devious. Even Britain's Department of Transport refused to intervene calling it "a private market issue".

The Republican colleagues of Bush and the Democrats cry foul, while the White House shouts the merits of the sale. To understand the combined implication of the whole affair, we just need to visualise the effects of these dosages of rhetoric on the American public and world opinion at large.

The "grassroot" Republicans' jingoist cry (if effective) invokes the already heightened paranoia in the US. It further ghettoises the fragile consciousness of the American citizen, who is under constant fear that his American Dream is being stolen away by the people around him. This xenophobic rhetoric on TV and in newspapers is part of the daily dosage of the Common American. The politics in the ports affair seeks to make him/her cautious and insecure. It helps in enlivening the 9/11 fears, which were being overpowered by the abysmal scenario of the Iraq war - its endlessness, morbidity and the consequent corruption of the American military, coupled with the anti-imperialist anti-war propaganda.

In this affair the ever-transforming Bush attained another transformation. Every year, a divine vision dawns on Bush, ever since God willed him as the president of the American people! As Paul Krugman noted, "Until September 11 [the] story line [in media] had it that George W. Bush was dumb but honest; after September 11 the new story was that he was a tough-minded hero, all determination and moral clarity, "Texas Ranger to the world"."

Now this Ranger seems to have grown white wings and transform himself into a messenger of friendship, alliance and "reconciliation" (a pet word of Bush and his ambassadors). The Dubai ports deal definitely comes as a vision, and he is transformed. More his colleagues in Congress shout against the deal, more heroically he will assume his new avatar. He is already in his meditative mood: "It would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."

History shows that this is the way the rightists have always gained legitimacy. This is the way Bush can sustain and spread his acceptability (his 'godliness') before the world. And moreover the ports affair will allow him to change his "crusader" image that remarkably worked till now in uniting the domestic forces behind him and his global war cries. Now Bush can reach out to the global forces with a new image, the transformation that will not cost him anything. The hues and cries over a regular business deal with the Arabic bourgeoisie can effectively masquerade his 'crusading' crimes and let him emerge as a friend of the Middle East, while continuing to maim its people in search for Osama and WMD. (But all these small things happen in the holy struggle for the protection of their economic growth, freedom and democracy - "the savage wars of peace", as Kipling described!) Lo, Bush emerges as a great egalitarian too - he bestows the same love and affection on the Arabic billionaires as on the British!

Cumulatively, the rhetoric war around the ports deal allows the US rulers to stabilise their global hegemony and imperialism - by homogenising the domestic citizenry by heightening fear and paranoia, while "reaching out to the world", assuring the world that they are conscious of the "white man's burden". In this regard, Bush and his "opponents" in Congress are remarkably complementing one another. The whole affair is dramatically analogous to Advani's Jinnah drama in India - making him up to fit as a "secular" prime minister, without harming the BJP's and RSS' communalist agenda.

An important similarity between the modern "democratic" rightists and the fascists (if we do not wish to equate them) is their cacophonous eclecticism, their simultaneous and even at times apparently contradictory incarnations. The leaders appear at the same time as mobsters and solemn, and we find their audience "one minute …baying like a mad dog in its hatred", "the next it is up there in heaven, with the Leader and Jesus side by side" (as R.W. Johnson described France's Le Pen and his followers in the 1980s).









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