TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Amnesia, Anyone?

Do you still remember Sept. 11, 2001? That’s the day four planes were hijacked. Two were flown into the Twin Towers in New York and another into the Pentagon. The last crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania when its passengers overcame the terrorists who had planned to take out a fourth target.

The hijackers were 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda. Do you remember that 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia? Two others were from the United Arab Emirates; one each came from Egypt and Lebanon.

In its infinite wisdom, the United States military was unleashed upon … Afghanistan. You know, a country that had nothing to do with the bombings. You figure that one out because I can’t.

The Trump administration has looked with favor upon the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. Do you think it’s because, shortly after a meeting with the Saudis and the Emirates, U.S. firms signed enormous military contracts were signed with them? Do you also suppose it could also be because lucrative and much-needed financing was suddenly made available to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to bail his family real estate company out of substantial, pressing debt?

We still have a large troop presence in Afghanistan. We talk about the serious opioid crisis in our country; what seems even more serious is that Afghanistan is the greatest supplier of opioids. Why isn’t our country attacking the supplier-growers on their own ground, rather than only concentrating on the cure for overdoses? With all of our electronic surveillance capabilities, including the use of drones, the military could greatly diminish the drug pipeline. They are already there. Why hasn’t their mission changed?

Perhaps if we were constantly reminded that 115 people die every single day from drug overdose, we would focus more clearly on the source of the supply.

In Syria, we have troops in harm’s way. The president has said we should get out “quickly.” No sooner had he said that when Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad authorized the use of chlorine gas against his own people.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the Russians benefit if we leave or are thrown out of Syria.

As we view situations such as the one in Syria, it reminds me of the days before and during World War II as the world, including this country, stood by and did little as the Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. If you believe we didn’t know what was taking place in Europe during those times, I have some hot air to sell you from my backyard.

We all see the same news reports of the slaughter of men, women and children in Syria. Bombs, rockets and artillery shells are not selective when it comes to death.

To bring the bad news closer to home, think about Puerto Rico and Michigan. Puerto Rico has endured months without essential infrastructure, including electricity, because for some reason our leadership can’t or won’t make use of the National Guard or active-duty military and their combat engineers to assist them. Restoration would make a wonderful peacetime practice for war. Where else could they get better on-the-job training.

More than three years have gone by, and people in Flint, Mich., still can’t drink their lead-tainted water. Engineers from the military or the Guard could come in with supplies right now, but that hasn’t happened. The government talks a lot but the talk is not matched by action.

We need thinking men and women in Congress who can get it through their heads that they represent we, the people. That is not happening now. It’s hard to argue with that fact, notwithstanding your political affiliation.

The world is in turmoil. That includes our own country. We need meaningful, considered, thoughtful discussion. Then comes the hard part: prioritizing and acting first upon our actual needs, then upon our wants.

When so many people with so much money are running the country, the regular people are shortchanged. The rich get gigantic tax cuts, while the average person gets a pittance … and often thinks that’s just great.

If the wealthy were taxed like the average citizen, and if we stopped spending on military items we don’t need (as Dwight David Eisenhower warned us so long ago), we could develop a balanced budget. Some of these problems do predate the current administration, but the worst can be laid at its feet. Amen.

CHRIS ALLEN: Dubai Journal — What Is Dubai?

What is Dubai?

Dubai is planted firmly in the Middle East. It is the most famous of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is a founding member of the once-powerful cartel OPEC, which controlled oil prices for nearly 40 years. It is now weakened by in-fighting and by a defiant Saudi Arabia, which is determined to set its own course in deciding oil production quotas based not on its own economy or those of its coalition partners, but it’s enmity of Iran.

Dubai is Arab. It is Muslim. But step out of its spectacular airport, climb into a taxi, and drive toward the city, and you don’t see Arabia. You see a city that could be planted in America, Canada, Europe, Japan, China, Australia or parts of Africa. You see steel, glass, marble and granite. You see construction cranes and rebar and cement. Shopping malls that house ice skating rinks, an indoor ski slope, and miles of stores with European couture names.

You see six- and eight-lanes highways that carry a lot of foreign automobiles. You see an elevated tram that scoots along the highway, crammed with people. Automobile dealerships selling BMWs, Audis, Mazeratis, Bentleys and Lamborghinis down to the lowly Toyota, Ford, VW and Chevy. Hyundai and Kia bring up the rear.

You see people from all over Southeast Asia. They come from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan to find work. They come from Africa — Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Sudan — and send money back home. Business people from around the globe work here in every sort of business. The executive and technology jobs are filled with suited or casually dressed expatriates from America, Canada, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, China, Japan and Thailand.

Yes, Dubai is Arab, but it is minority Arab. By some estimates, only 10 percent of Dubai’s population is actually from Dubai, and no estimate puts it above 20 percent.

Dubai runs on an expat population. Emiraties — citizens of the United Arab Emirates, own many businesses and ventures. But it’s the expatriate population that runs them. Unlike in neighboring Oman, which is two-thirds to three-quarters Omani, very little Arab is heard spoken here.

There is almost no oil left in Dubai. The largest of the emirates, Abu Dhabi, has the remainder of the oil here. It is the richest of the emirates, a fact that Dubai would just as soon you don’t know.

A friend of mine was dining with an old classmate, and the classmate leaned over the table and said what he had to say had to be whispered because he wasn’t sure who might be listening. Dubai, he confided, is in a recession. Hardly surprising news to anyone who’s been following the price of oil as it crawls along at drastic lows from five years ago. But why the big secret?

The only things that keeps Dubai going are global business and tourism. Oil, which once seemed unlimited and lucrative, is depleted and cheap. Dubai has to keep up the façade of a forward-looking, economically progressive city that is still growing, still vibrant, still vital and still relevant. The fear is that if global businesses scent an economic slowdown, they’ll start to flee. And if they flee, there is no replacement for the lost revenue any more. If businesses flee, the money leaves, the tourist attractions will begin to deteriorate, and Dubai will return to the sand.

That is the fear, of course, and like many fears, it is probably overblown. Dubai is not going away any time soon. It is still an economically progressive city. It is still relevant. But the floor is much thinner, more precarious that it has been for the past 50 years.

The Middle East has been important to the global economy precisely because of the oil. But as the world moves away from oil as its energy source, the Middle East in general will become less important, less a place that business feel they have to be involved in to protect their interests.

Politically, the region will change as well. Staying on the good side of Gulf countries in the name of world economies will become less important. The region will still be part of the global economy, but a smaller part, and with less influence in the economy than it has had by controlling the price of crude.

It will affect the Arabs and the expats alike, and Dubai needs those expats.

Executive and technology workers have offices in the steel and glass towers, sitting in air-conditioned offices, suites and cube farms. The construction workers build those towers, laboring in 95-degree heat with visible heat waves shimmering off the concrete and steel. Taxi drivers drive a couple hundred miles a day.

Some of them get to work in air conditioning. Service workers in hotels, restaurants and office buildings make sure everything looks great for the hordes of tourists and business people who make trips to this glitzy, money soaked spot in the sand.

But in Dubai, the money is showing the first signs of drying up. The question now is not What is Dubai, but What is Dubai’s future?