Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

Bush meets his Waterloo at Dubai
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   03/03/2006)

Dubya, meet Dubai.

Has a ring to it doesn't it?

Kind of like “Napoleon, meet Waterloo.”

The deal to turn over six major ports and more to a company from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, provides ammo for Demos and cover for Republicans fleeing Bush's embrace as his approval ratings sink into the 30s—just about rock bottom for modern politics. Even during impeachment, President Clinton never fell so low.

Lots of conservatives and lots of Republicans—notably Tennessee's senior senator, Majority Leader Bill Frist—are not down with this deal, so to speak.

Catcalls from right wing media voices, which alert reader Michael Paskel of Oak Ridge pointed out in recent emails, are equally damaging to Bush. For instance, there's….

Pat Buchanan: “Just as sky marshals seat themselves behind young Arab males, not grannies taking the tots to Disney World, so Americans, in deciding who operates their ports, naturally prefer ourselves or old friends.”

Or how about The Weekly Standard magazine, a bastion of neo-conservative opinion, where

Irwin Stelzer sensibly observed, “Two of the attackers on the World Trade Center were citizens of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of which Dubai is a component state; Dubai is alleged to be home to some of the banks that laundered money for the attackers; and A.Q. Kahn's nuclear-smuggling network hid behind a Dubai front.” Ouch.

Or take recent emails published in The Asbury Park Press, a Jersey newspaper that twice endorsed this Bush for president based near one of the ports: “Why not sign up Saudi Arabia to manage our airports? They have a lot of guys that know a few things about planes. And why not hire the Mexican police to patrol our borders?”--Sal Runfola.

“President Bush says he would veto any attempt to block this deal from going through. Where in God's name is his rationale? His lack of good judgment in sending our children to war with Iraq would only be superseded by going through with this insanity.”--Joe and Marsha Stopko.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said, "Although the UAE is an ally in the war on terrorism, the country has historically been used as a base of terrorist operations and financing."

Pretty damning, but not as damning as ultra conservative Anne Coulter, who wrote, “Bush's defense of the port deal is to say that `those who are questioning it' need to `step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company.' First of all, it's not `all of a sudden.' The phrase you're searching for, Mr. President, is `ever since the murderous attacks of Sept. 11…' attacks that received indirect support from the United Arab Emirates….”

Buchanan again: “The real question this deal raises is what happened to the political antenna t the White House. Did it fall off the roof about the time President Bush named Harriet Miers tohe Supreme Court?

“Surely, before approving this deal with Dubai Ports World, someone should have asked: How do you think Bubba will react when he's told sheiks will take over the port of Baltimore, where `in Tom Clancy's 'Sum of All Fears,' Arab terrorists smuggle in an A-bomb and detonate it?"

Despite the uproar, it isn't hard to imagine Bush restoring luster to the crown that landed on his head like a bad cosmic joke in 2000. Bush and advisor Karl Rove are wily coyotes and the public is fickle, half-informed and forgiving, and so we've become used to this pattern:

Bush, Cheney or underlings perpetrate some outrage, the media angrily protest, Congress erupts in outrage, Bush replies with a Sunday morning media blitz, Big Media fall all over themselves to repeat his line, Congress backs down, bin Laden emerges on tape, or a Yellow Alert washes the controversy off the front page. It's happened over and over. WMDs, torture, wiretapping, New Orleans, secret energy deals, Valerie Plame's ouster, Harriet Miers, Halliburton corruption, environmental desecration, the prescription drug sell-out, Cheney shooting the old guy, Bush's military record, on and on. Bush's many rises from the ashes are worthy of a latter day Napoleon. Still, one can dream that Frist will stand firm, the media will not go wobbly and the public at last will see what's been obvious to many from the start. The emperor has no clothes. As Buchanan concluded, “This episode is going to end badly.”

Napoleon met his Waterloo.

Dubya, meet Dubai.