30 November 2007

Scary stuff

The first munitions factory in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), worth Dh268 million, will soon be established at the Zayed Military City in the capital to cater to the needs of the armed forces in the UAE and the region.
Three companies have have come together in a joint venture to build the Al Burkan munitions factory: Tawazun Holding LLC, an investment company established by the Offset Program Bureau of the UAE; Al Jaber Trading Establishment, part of Al Jaber Group; and Rheinmetall Munitions Systems, a German armaments manufacturer.
Expected to start production by mid-2009, the factory will use technology from world-class suppliers in manufacturing, loading, testing, and assembling various ordnance, including aircraft bombs, artillery and naval rounds, and small arms ammunition.

Rico says: just what they need in that part of the world; more things that go bang and boom...

27 November 2007

Thoughts on leaving the Sandbox

My assignment in Dubai is finished. While there are many places much worse to spend a couple months, I have found this country particularly troublesome.
I got a new insight into Arab culture (and you can't separate Arab culture from Islam) when I learned about the practice of buying children (three to four years old) and using them as slaves in the camel racing business. Some estimates say that there have been as many as 30,000 children told into slavery. I found it hard to reconcile a culture that would do that to children with what they advertise as their public persona. Our founding fathers debated slavery during the formation of the country, but in Dubai and other Arab countries, slavery, even child slavery, seems to be an accepted, and an acceptable, fact of life. And there are other forms of human servitude such as the poorly paid and housed manual laborers that drive the construction industry there or house maids or prostitutes.
The laborers are basically indentured servants at the mercy of their labor contractor who holds their passports and to whom they have to repay the fee he charges for getting them a job in Dubai. They are crammed into substandard housing and worked six days a week. The standard Emirati response is that they are better off working in Dubai than back in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc., because they can earn more money and support their families at home.
Prostitution is winked at by the authorities. Everyone seems to know where it is happening and where to go to find a girl, but the police seem to be clueless as to how to stop it. India recently enacted laws setting a minimum age at which girls could be hired as 'housekeepers' and sent to Dubai, as many were being sexually abused by their employers. Dubai is on a Department of State watch list for failing to control human trafficking.
Dubai is a country that is run by a megalomaniac dictator. Whatever Sheikh Mohammed says is the law. They also have some very silly laws by western standards. It is illegal to eat or drink in pubic during daylight during Ramadan. This applies to everyone, even westerners. The western apologists say they will conform out of respect to the 'culture' and Islam. I say that, if you want westerners to visit as tourists and to become expatriates to operate your businesses, you have to allow them to live normally. There is nothing in the Koran that requires fasting of non-Muslims except for the concept that dhimmis (non-Muslims) must be made subservient to the tenets of Islam, even though they practice a different religion.
And there are other things derived from Sharia law: PDPAs (Public Displays of Personal Affection) are arrestable offenses. It is illegal to say anything negative about the rulers of the UAE. It is illegal to make rude gestures. Only Emiratis can get window tinting on their vehicles. All forms of communication– music, internet, movies, books- are censored by the Ministry of Culture. Some web sites, not just the porn sites, are blocked by the proxy servers. For example, Michele Malkin’s blog is not available. [Rico's note: Horrors! The injustice! The narrowness of vision! You'd think they were Democrats...] The scene of the workers being mistreated were sliced from Syriana before it was shown in the UAE. They throw people who default on loans in jail until someone pays their debt. They jailed an expat safety director when a laborer was killed in an on the job accident. The jailed a UN employee who had been working on drug eradication in Afganistan for having minute amounts of hash in his pants cuff.
On the flip side, Dubai is an ally in the War on Terror. There is a Navy base in Jebel Ali that supports our fleet in the area, including the USS Nimitz.
While we may need them, don’t be taken in by the public face the Sheikh puts on Dubai...

06 November 2007

The real thing from someone who knows

Posts on this blog will be by a guy who works in the Sandbox, and sees the real deal up close and personal. His words will appear here, alas, without a proper byline, merely as the Peripatetic Engineer, as his continued employment, let alone his continued health and (perhaps) his very life, depends on anonymity. But he knows what's really happening, and tells it like it is. You'll never look at the nightly news the same way again...