Ports

Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero … must drink brandy. — Johnson.

So much for the better sort of the port. The less interesting kind has lately been in the news with the administration’s plan to sell the rights to various operations at six U.S. ports to a Dubai-based company. At first, talk-radio blowhards, Republican congressmen, and other types normally inclined to trust the president in matters of national security — when he’s authorizing warrantless wiretaps, for instance — revolted against him on this issue. But now the public generally has come to oppose the deal, if the polls are to be believed.

In the absence of any evidence to suggest that Dubai Ports World poses a threat to U.S. security, some doubts about the deal might still be understandable. But the level of hysteria we’ve seen goes well beyond that; what we’re looking at here is instead an indication of just what the American public, and its right side in particular, thinks the “war on terror” is all about: fighting Arabs and Muslims, whether they’re in Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or Dubai. Evidence? We don’t need to wait for evidence that Iraq has WMD or Dubai Port World has anything to do with al-Qaeda. They’re enemies until proven otherwise.

That’s true right here in the land of the free, too: take note of this late 2004 survey showing that much of the public thinks Muslim Americans’ civil liberties should be curtailed. “27 percent of respondents supported requiring all American Muslims to register where they live with the federal government.” I wonder how many of my countrymen would understand the implications if a pollster were to ask them if they also believe that American Muslims ought to have, say, some identifying mark on their license plates or maybe even on their clothes?

It only took 19 hijackers to bring about this state of public opinion. If the next 10 or 20 happen to come from some other demographic background, what nationality or class of person will our freedom-loving patriots decide needs to be bombed or branded next?

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