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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/10/09

Dubai, a new Constantinople!

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To your Excellency, the Great Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the most magnificent and most noble and distinguished Emir of the Faithful in Dubai.

Some Times reporters recently compared Dubai's situation to the last days of Rome. What a poor comparison. These are not the last days of Rome, but the first days of a new Constantinople! Not since Constantinople, has such glory been built so quickly! Magnificence, embodied.

You have built a magnificent metropolis on a shore surrounded by absolute desert, with no provision for storing more than a week's worth of drinkable water. As you know, your Excellency, almost all of Dubai's potable water has to be desalinated from the ocean, and this is a very energy intensive process, which, to my understanding, requires so much energy that a gallon of processed water is more expensive than a gallon of gasoline! With all due respect, what if your desalination plants are targeted by some, oh... I don't know, disgruntled slave laborers from Sonapar, or say... Al Quoz?

You have developed no renewable energy for your city-state. And you're living in the land of relentless sun and wind. Your strategy on this eludes me, because your city-state's oil resources are pretty much nil! But then again, I should shut up and not question your wisdom. I only hazard to bring this up, because, as you know your Excellency, Dubai's oil and natural gas revenues are around 6% of your Emirate's GDP, with the remainder coming from soft taxes on foreigners and foreign businesses, and renting out land to themI know, those foreigners are such an eyesore. Let us hope tourism continues in force! After all, sophisticated asset management types wouldn't steer you astray, they have MBAs for heaven's sake! But still, I have to humbly ask you: What if your Muslim brothers in the UAE decide, to not be so brotherly? Covet thy neighbor's city? Or perhaps, buy it at a steep discount in the near future? I must shut up already! I'm so sorry. Why, the nature of impossibility, is that impossibility cannot happen!

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Your indigenous, noble Emirati's are only 5% of your city-state's population. 5%, and the rest are not only foreigners, but many of them slaves. You have a city filled with disgruntled indentured servants who are, by many accounts, being badly mistreated by their masters/employers, suffering high injury and fatality rates on construction jobs, and overall, terribly repressed through just-intimidation. Unfortunately though, the math doesn't quite add up, because even if you and your Muslim brothers have an army consisting of 1,000's of troops, 100,000's of revolting desperate slaves will make quick work of them, and your Arab kingdom too I'm afraid. All it takes is a leader to emerge and organize underground, and then, explode, sacking Dubai, and wreaking a lot of havoc in the process! Think of the Zanj Rebellion, or perhaps, maybe something a bit more sudden like, oh... the Third Servile WarSpartacus. How inconvenient this would be, and not only for you, but for your Royal Reputation, and Dubai's credit rating! This would cause much consternation for investment bankers and their Western companies. But of course, you'll be able to escape to one of your many palaces in the West if this impossibility happens. No worries for the Royal family of Dubai. All praise and thanks be to Allah!

You have built a city in a land that is nothing but desert. Um... you can't grow anything there, there's no animals around to eat. Just sand. Well, that's not quite true, you could fish I suppose, but to be fair, practically everything has to be imported. Dubai is not self-sustainable if a crisis happens, be it either regional or global in scale. But you didn't bother yourself with such trivial concerns as self-sustainability through, oh, I don't know, renewable energy means, which could have been used to flower the desert around the city and build an agricultural base. No, instead of worrying about such trivial things, you focused your almost limitless resources on building sand castles in the ever shifting ocean on a scale that's never seen before and at a cost of 10's of billions. Marvelous! You have made a lot of rich movie celebrities very happy your Excellency! What can we say, everyone knows Hollywood has good taste.

And your city is built on debt, nothing but slave labor and mostly Western (dar al harb) debtdebt that charges interest, which is in violation of the most blessed Prophet's (pbuh) revelations and very words. Perhaps you could issue more of those Islamic bonds in the future, for while the time value of money can't be avoided, it can be renamed for religious reasons, and these bonds, if blessed, are quite acceptable in Allah's eyes. Wondrous! Mysterious ways indeed, especially the investors' claims to the assets... what claims? And speaking of claims, what property ownership? Brilliant!

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It's as if you're trying to do what Emperor Constantine did when he moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople. But whereas he had an Empire's resources, and a habitable location to boot, you, your mighty Excellency, have but a single city-state with meager oil resources, and absolute desert, everywhere. Not since Constantinople has humanity tried to manufacture a great city so quickly! And while Constantinople lasted for over a 1,000 years, until the Ottoman Turks so ruthlessly sacked it in 1492, or whoops! 1453, I'm so sorry, that whole Columbus-thing always clouds my remembering of 1400s dates... But, my personal failings aside, let's pray that your daring vision consumes everything before it, like the locust it's named after.

Oh, and finally, though for tourists, this may be a real problem. Your sewage treatment system appears to be under capacity. I'm so sorry to inform you of this tepid rumor, but reports have surfaced that the beaches around Dubai have fecal counts in, well, beyond counting really. Condoms, toilet paper and you know what, are seen in the waters with disturbing regularity. Perhaps, a few hundred million or so could be allocated to save the beaches, and the artificial beaches of your most magnificent city-state. After all, Brad Pitt shouldn't have to wake in his Palm Islands mansion to find, you know what floating in front of him. He's Brad Pitt, and well, he deserves better, and as Royalty, you know what I'm talking about... Allah says you're entitled, and you are, because... you're Royalty. It's that simple, really.

In fact, I think Louis XIV put it quite well when he said: L'État, c'est moi. Like the monarchy of France, yours too is not a society of laws, but a society of powerful individuals, ruled by the greatest of all: You, your Greatness!

You have fashioned a metropolis in the desert, and you are a guiding light to all of the Islamic world that this, this is how you milk the corrupt democratic West, with its decadent ideas of capitalism, and its Godless ignorance. Why, just a few years ago former US President Bill Clinton called you a role model for the region. Most ingenious your Excellency! And not only are you a genius of strategy, but your poetry rivals that of Abu Nuwas, and your fleet camels are the envy of the world, though, perhaps, you could find another way to get camel jockeys other than through, oh, how shall we say it... questionable means. I know, those pesky American courts (United States District Court Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, filed September 7, 2006), and how they so unfairly went after you, just stupid people who should shut up with the slander already, and stop trying to exploit you and your gracious family. It was only right that someone, somewhere, intervened on your behalf to have the Florida lawsuit dismissed via the US Justice Department. The Bush dynasty is wonderful! (And Obama isn't too bad either.) However, for future reference your Excellency, the West now frowns on the whole slavery thing. But who cares, right? Forget the fickle West! You are a force onto yourself, and your many decadents will rule wisely until the end of time. I only hope that someday soon, I too will be lucky enough to become a visitor of your desert paradise, where I can taste honey from the land of plenty, hear the government appointed Imams wisely instruct the observant faithful in your mosques, and bathe in the 160 story glory, that is, Dubai. I look forward to receiving my visa from your splendid consulate. My eyes are clouded with delicious expectations...

May justice and great peace rise in your reign, most peaceful and generous Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed.


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OK, enough of my satirical homage to Sheikh Mohammed.

In Dubai, like Saudi Arabia, the whole country is run by one family. But their days are numbered, eventually we're going to move away from fossil fuels, and when we do, they're going to get what they deserve. If you contrast the Emirati's with their imported servantsnot the expatriates from countries like the US and Britain, but the foreign underclass from countries like India and Pakistanit's obvious that the only ones who enjoy living in countries like Dubai are the Arabs, who get all the state sponsored benefits. You're pampered your whole life if you're an Arab. And the only reason expatriates from countries like the US and Britain go there, is for the promise of lucrative jobs. The problem with the exploited workers in these Arab countries, is that today we have a global society, and people are oppressed not just by the Arabs in Dubai, but by the whole economic structure.

We can look to our own country and see this happening. It isn't just Dubai that's holding the poor people down. The Northern Mariana Islands are a commonwealth that's in political union with the US, it's considered to be a territory of the US. There's an Asian-based garment industry there that lures Asian women, mostly Chinese, to come work for them. They tell them that they're coming to America, the American dream! But upon arriving in Saipan, the poor women find that they've been had. The garment factory owners charge them so much for their passage, and for their room and board, that they never work out from underneath their debt. The trapped workers are forced to sign away their basic human rights. Tom DeLay, a former House Majority Leader of the US Congress, praised one of these abusive factory owners as being a brilliant capitalist! So, my point is, it's hard to criticize the morality of the expatriates working in Dubai when we have snakes in our own country who hold pretty much the same philosophy. It's the same principle that the conservative Republicans use to praise predatory capitalism. They'll say the desperate workers have a choice: They don't have to work for those wages! But of course, their only other alternative is to starve. So it's not really a choice, it's kind of a coercion.

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