* Ever Visited Dubai, Senator?

The Creek, Dubai. Photo by Emily Messner.

Kristof's statement led me to wonder just how many of the Dubai Ports World deal's vocal opponents have actually visited Dubai ....

I checked with the offices of each senator whose name appeared on S. 2333, the bill that addresses the Dubai deal specifically -- Senators Boxer, Clinton, Coburn, Coleman, Collins, Durbin, Lautenberg, Menendez, Mikulski, Reed, Santorum, Schumer and Snowe. I also checked in with the press office of Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is working on legislation that would ban all foreign-owned companies (not just foreign government-owned) from holding infrastructure deemed critical to national security. Hunter was quoted in bold at the top of today's Washington Times front page as saying, "Dubai cannot be trusted."

At most of the offices where I spoke to a live person, the answer was either some variation on 'no, the senator has not visited Dubai,' or 'it's doubtful the senator has been there, but I'll check to be sure.' According to members of their staffs, Senators Menendez, Mikulski, Durbin, Reed and Collins have not visited the emirate, and staff working for Rep. Hunter and Senators Coleman and Lautenberg say their bosses probably have never visited, but they're not absolutely positive. The others haven't gotten back to me yet.

The most entertaining response came from Sen. Clinton's press secretary, who displayed his mastery of the non-answer over the course of four e-mails. Instead of responding with a simple 'yes,' 'no,' or 'I don't know,' he wanted to know "why we warrant such special attention." I never did get an answer from him, but I hope I didn't bruise his ego with my response that he and Sen. Clinton "do not warrant any special attention." I was just curious.

Here's why: Although lawmakers can certainly bad mouth a country (or an emirate) without ever having set foot on its soil, it lends more credibility to their criticisms if they have taken the time to visit the place they disparage.

Consider foreign correspondents -- even if the Post's Jakarta-based reporter was not actually in the Philippines when protests against the government began, she could still write more authoritatively about the political upheaval there than could someone sitting at a desk back in Washington. That's because the correspondent has been there, she's gotten to know some of the people and their culture, and she has personal contacts among the locals who will be able to give her a reliable assessment of the situation on the ground.

The fact that so many of the lawmakers loudly protesting this deal have never experienced the beauty of Dubai or the warmth and intelligence of its people does not delegitimize their position. But it is something to think about next time you hear someone dissing Dubai.

By Emily Messner |  March 3, 2006; 4:56 PM ET  | Category:  Middle East , U.S. Foreign Policy
Previous: Finding Facts Amid the Ports Controversy | Next: Alienating Our Arab Allies


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Amen to that, sister.

Posted by: Matt | March 3, 2006 05:39 PM

Dubai is pretty darn Progressive and mostly ex-pat. The only thing it has that irks people is the Arab in the UAE title.

After so much effort spent on demonizing Arabs, the Bush Administration is finally getting its just desserts.

Posted by: DAV | March 3, 2006 05:55 PM

Ever been to Saudi Arabia Emily? But you are sure it's uber repressive? Do we need to check out Tora Bora before we bomb the Talibans? All that glitters is gold?

Anybody who's traveled extensively can tell of the 'warmth and intelligence' of the locals everywhere, why is Dubai the one to be praised? Besides it's not the warm and intelligent people that worry us. It's the nasty and cunning hiding in their midst who can blow us up that we don't want.

It seems Emily has been sent abroad once to Dubai and she's now totally seduced. Go more Emily. Travel to other places. Other parts of the UAE. Go beyond the skyscrapper part of the city. Go into the dark alleys. Go where A Q Khan conducts his business. Take a few pictures and show them to the Khan. Tell him you intend to have them printed on the front page of the Post. See if he or the Emir's agents will let you leave Dubai in one piece.

The world can be a nice place where people would welcome you into their own home. The world can also be a nasty place where people cut your throat in split seconds. When it comes to our ports we don't want to take the chance that there are cutthroats in the mix. That is all. And we no longer trust the word of our govt and their experts. We've been fooled one too many times lately.

Look past the veneer some times. And do grow up quick.

Posted by: Seduced in Dubai | March 3, 2006 06:41 PM

Having visited Dubai does not make you an expert on that country. I can see a scholar who has studied the country for many years, but come on, exchanging flights in the country makes you an expert on it? Now Emily, in all fairness have you ever asked George Bush if he has ever been gay or had an abortion, is that what it takes to make him an expert on those issues? Sounding personal between you and Hillary, did not smile back at or something?

Posted by: Jamal | March 3, 2006 07:22 PM

"Here's why: Although lawmakers can certainly bad mouth a country (or an emirate) without ever having set foot on its soil, it lends more credibility to their criticisms if they have taken the time to visit the place they disparage."

Emily that has to be the biggest BS you've written. Senators are not travel agents. Do you seriously think a congressman on a junket will meet terrorist sympathizers infiltrating the government?

Back in the Cold War (if you are even old enough to remember it) did you have a beef with the poor Soviet peasant trying to put a meal on the table, or was it with the government? Did the loveliness of the Hermitage mean we should forget about the missiles they had pointing at us?

I'm sure the crown prince who used to travel to Afghanistan to hunt with OBL is a nice guy. He'd probably show me a great time in lovely, sunny Dubai. He might even put on a good show about having not understood his good hunting buddy was really the one who killed so many Americans on the Cole or those other places. If only I could meet him I'd be certain he was ever so sorry that he didn't believe those American "rumors" that his friend was a terrorist.

How naive can you be?

Posted by: patriot1957 | March 3, 2006 07:28 PM

Emily, So your point is Michael Jackson is more qualified than Hillary Clinton, Senators Menendez, Mikulski, Durbin, Reed and Collins on UAE's?

Posted by: Jamal | March 3, 2006 08:52 PM

some responses miss the point: stereotype impressions on Dubai and by extention the Middle East are driving the heated debated on DP World's deal. Also never forget congressial elections year, political embarresment to Bush and above all American ignorance. Do you know that US customs have a base in Dubai to check all US bound container ships? if you are unable to visit Dubai, at least read about Dubai.

Posted by: Sam | March 3, 2006 11:59 PM

Posted by: Sam,

"some responses miss the point: stereotype impressions on Dubai and by extention the Middle East are driving the heated debated on DP World's deal. Also never forget congressial elections year, political embarresment to Bush and above all American ignorance. Do you know that US customs have a base in Dubai to check all US bound container ships? if you are unable to visit Dubai, at least read about Dubai."

The American negative stereotype impressions of the Islamic Middle East started long ago when the United States became a supporter of Israel. Desert Storm, Libya, 911, and the Iraq war to name a few were also strong contributors to the negative stereotype.

Since 911 Bush has brainwashed Americans into fearing a global Islamic Empire. His politicizing of Islamic terrorism is the number one reason most Americans are against the Port Deal. He is the first to blame.

Posted by: Jamal | March 4, 2006 12:26 AM

Ah yes the 'warmth and intelligence' of the people of Dubai! How could we uncouth, unadventurous, not so well traveled people have known? The other Arabs, the Saudis, they are cold and unintelligent. They are desert dwellers and camel riders. But the Dubai Arabs, they are different.. they are westernized, civilized almost, they live in tall buildings and ride in cars, they are intelligent! Imagine that. We can trust them with our ports while we have 'better priorities'. Like occupying their neighbor so we can civilize them too.

Dare we detect a whiff of the old imperialist's condescension toward the natives? The old white man's attitude toward a darker skin people? Or should we say the white woman's attitude in this case?

Ah how it must feel to be a Post columnist! We have a more elevated view of the world. Our words are of what is and what shall be. Long term consequences be damned! Especially long term consequences for the other people, the ones who live and work near the ports, the natives, the Iraqi Arabs. What more do they want? They are liberated. Dead and six feet under maybe. But damnit they are liberated! Our president says so to this day. And we endorsed him enthusiastically not too long ago. We do now endorse him on this port deal yet again. Long term consequences be damned!

Posted by: Emily's Native | March 4, 2006 07:07 AM

box, whilest restrained in a pillory...

for five years,

filling the box with live snakes, that get fed by releasing mice and bugs into the box....and televise it with 24/7 coverage on the internet....

as part of the reparation package requested by the people of these United States....after the properties of the bushe families are seized and sold....

thank you..

Posted by: I suggest that we let the president live in a lucite | March 4, 2006 11:00 AM

You just don't get it do you? America belongs to the american people and culture. Politicians that want to sell america off slowly need to leave the usa permanently. The very reason this country is stuggeling is because of forign investers stealing our resources to provide for our own ecomonic stability. Were slowly putting america out of bussiness because a few of our goverment top people want to pocket some money and look good to the world while the average american gets screwed out of jobs and social justice. Our security is i big concern to people in making us feel comfortable in our own back yards. The muslims and aribs say the world belongs to them and everyone else should die. If you support this cult then your part of the problem not the solution. The serbs had the right idea when the muslims started killing there people in order to get some terrorist demands met. Thats right they wiped thier asses out of there country and had every right to do so. How can the world say they went on a killing spree when in reallity the islamic cult are the ones terrorizing the world. I praise the serbs for standing up to these racis pigs of islam. Port take overers are just another way of muslims infiltrating a country. Bush should be tried for treason as any one else who wants to let this cult infest the usa. dubia is of the same back ground as the aribs, iran, turkey, palitine, jordan, and all the other middle east muslims. Maybe we need a civil war here again to oust the terrorist sypmothisers in america. Sell your own god dam things to the arib muslims but leave america out of it. Get the fucking picture yet? We dont want these hitlerized, race hating, kill all not muslim in our country, let alone in charge of our ports. World relations is a must but supporting terrorist is just stupid treason. No ports should be managed by any one other than us citizens. Bush wants to put santions on everybody that doe not play his way. Mabe all the sanctions he has put on americans like, medicare, bankrupcy, and cutting of funds to schools and social programs should be reviewed and voted on buy americans not congress. What kind of fool whould let a race in that has vowed to kill the world and has proven thier intent with some of the worlds most horriffic acts. It is not the american public letting these things happen it is terrorist sympothizers in office of the us goverment that lean towards deals that threaten american security and world freedom.

Posted by: david theerman | March 4, 2006 01:09 PM

"The very reason this country is stuggeling is because of forign investers stealing our resources to provide for our own ecomonic stability. "

They're not stealing it, we're selling it to them. There is indeed a big difference.
We will sell them the rope with which they hang us.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | March 4, 2006 02:17 PM

my god!!! iam shocked...untill now we people in india though that u guys were intelligent and know wts going arount in world ,but now i realize its wrong ...u know only wt cnn and fox told u ..
dear freinds u r living in a democratic country ..u can do lot of things for the world ..just getout of your clubs and burger shops ..try to understand the worlds ..
middle is the place where chistianity/islam/judaisam were born and they are leading a good cultural and social life for centuries ,may be you people were living at that time in jungles ...
Muslims were here for past 1500 years and only within last decade they became so called "terorrist"...why ?????u people should think that ...u are the one who first attacked them ,without any rational reason ..and continuing ur attack
they came to your place dacade after u attacked them ..
So pls read other news channels and try to understand wts happening around you

Posted by: dilshad ,india | March 5, 2006 01:06 AM

Seduced in Dubai:

Dubai doesn't have an Emir.

Posted by: sw | March 6, 2006 02:23 AM

No I have not been to Dubai, and the question is immaterial and irrelevant given the fact that Bush & Co. are involved in the deal. The issue is Bush cannot be trusted. Repeat after me 100 times. If Bush says it's "Okay" then you should know (unless you are really, really stupid) that's it a very bad deal for all except a few of his fat cat campaign contributors, including his corporate war profiteers. And, I don't trust folks who trust Bush either!

Posted by: hsk01945 | March 6, 2006 07:40 PM


Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Emir of Dubai.

Posted by: Will | March 7, 2006 06:29 PM

cut the senators some slack here ...
.... a single visit does not an expert make ...

it's a straw man argument to say Congress shouldn't legislate about the UAE running ports, since they don't have first-hand knowledge -

does a president have to know first-hand of war before he starts one voluntarily? how about the country he attacks in war?
how about the threat the country posed?

isn't starting a war a much more serious decision, requiring more thought, better info, than who runs a US loading dock?

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | March 8, 2006 12:06 AM

Any fool who believes the people of Dubai have anything in common with the terrorists is basically a racist. These folks have everything to lose if these terrorist criminals take over. (See Kuwaitis massacred in 1990 when Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait City) This is not a scenario anyone if the Middle East (with the exception of Iran, Syria and other terrorist states) wants to see repeated.

Posted by: Mac | March 9, 2006 10:23 AM

I for one do not feel the people of Dubai are terrorists. I do have concern, however, that a terrorist may infiltrate their ranks and in reality that could occur if it were England, India or anyone for that matter. I do hope that Congress will give this a fair shake, but the timing - before elections - is not favorable. The Administration has done its level best to use fear to squelch critism of war, secret phone tapping, etc. Now, it is coming back to haunt them.

Posted by: slickasglass | March 9, 2006 10:36 AM

Reading the preceeding postings make me quite certain that those claiming to have been to an Islamic country have neer been anywhere near one. I, my wife, and children, lived with these people and they are nothing, if not utter monsters. My wife and daughter were threatened, followed home,and treated like dirt. I wouldn't dream of going out in public after sundown. A close friend was murdered, his throat slit, while walking a mere two blocks to a neighborhood store. And we lived in a "nice" area. Forget it. No American can ever hope to understand or be understood by the Arab world and the sooner we disabuse ourselves of that notion, the sooner we can get around to dealing with these people if and only if be absolutelty must; and, then, with our guard up and no illusions about them ever being our "friends".

Posted by: Mike | March 9, 2006 07:33 PM

"...I for one do not believe that the people of [India or] Dubai are terrorists...". Well, guy, they ain't are buddies either! All of those nice Indian guest workers are stealing the shop while over here working for the lunatics that run our corporations. The Iranian nuclear weapons program was STARTED by Indian's and Indian companies are actively involved in the present nuclear weapons programs in Iran, Brazil, Argentina, and elsewhere. Indian and Chinese technician's, trained in the U.S. and using U.S. made equipment, installed the optical fiber network Saddam's Iraq used....and the ongoing one in North Korea, and god knows where else. At best, India and China and the U.S., have some mutual short term interests; but the key word is "short term". When those interests cease to coincide, and you can bet they will, the only question I have is will we have given them enough of our technology, enough information about our infrastructure, have discouraged enough Ameican's from taking up engineering and science as careers, that we are helpless before them and will be utterly destroyed. I am not overly optimistic about the U.S. having any kind of future.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | March 9, 2006 07:48 PM

Being a citizen of the UAE I can most assuredly say that the UAE is a very, very safe place. We are one of America's key allies in the war on terror, and are home to a major American military base.
During former President Clinton's admin, UAE/US were trading F16's under President Clinton's personal say so. By the way, a major fact which seems to be lost in it all...the 2 terrorists involved in the 9/11 bombing had FAKE UAE passports. They were most definitely not of UAE descent.
The UAE is more than capable of handling ports, since we handle our own successful ports, Jebal Ali Free Zone. It's a shame that American's ignorance and bias towards all Arabs post 9/11 allowed them to squash the deal.
Lastly, if 40% of America's current ports are run by the likes of Korea (a major enemy to the US) or China, why can't an Arab country, the UAE partake in ownership? When it all comes down to it, there will always be a bias towards Arabs, it's a shame. As Emily said, you have to go there to know there.

Thank you.

Posted by: UAE citizen | March 12, 2006 10:10 AM

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