Kathleen Parker

The Greeks and Sigmund Freud had a name for what may ail President George W. Bush: Thanatos. The death wish.

Thanatos was the Greek personification of death, which Freud later expanded to describe man's "death instinct," or the unconscious wish to abandon life's struggles and return to a state of quiet repose.

That would be the grave, as Freud envisioned man's endpoint. But for Bush, perhaps the metaphor extends only as far as a nice, quiet ranch in Crawford, Texas, where, as Yeats once put it, "peace comes dropping slow."

How else to explain this administration's inexorable march toward political death?

The final throes of Bush's journey toward self-destruction may have found expression with the apparent sale of operational rights to six of our nation's largest ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Approved by the Bush administration against all reason, the $6.8 billion sale includes the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Despite bipartisan condemnation, the Bush administration has defended the sale to Dubai Ports World as not only safe, but prudent. The UAE, which incidentally served as a financial and operational base for the Sept. 11 hijackers, is an important ally in the fight against terror, we're told.

Of course they are. And Colombia is an important ally in the war against drugs. And Mexico is an important ally in the fight against illegal immigration. Perhaps, given that much of our illegal drug supply and immigrant population come from Colombia and Mexico, respectively, we should reconsider our strategy.

Meanwhile, is this our new bombs-to-butter ploy in the Middle East? Instead of blocking the sale, which might have suggested American distrust of Arabs and/or Muslim nations, we give them the keys to our houses. Clever.

In the parallel universe we affectionately call Planet Earth, insanity seems the better word.

Let's assume that the UAE is, indeed, a power player in the game against terrorists. There's reason to hope, as supporters of the sale have suggested, that the UAE has a vested interest in port security. It's a business deal, after all, and what's good for jihad isn't necessarily good for business.

Plus, as others have noted, the ports themselves are unionized and staffed by "Archie Bunker-kind of Americans," in the words of Stephen E. Flynn, of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. Which is to say, Baltimore's waterfront isn't suddenly going to be swarming with red-checkered keffiyehs.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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