On September 11th, 2001, I was in Miami when a realtor friend phoned to tell me that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought, as many did, that this initial news must be a mistake. But it wasn't. It was the beginning of what would be, ultimately, the single most transformational event in the life of Americans since the Depression and the Second World War. It was the beginning of a new, fear-based America...a new paradigm.
I reacted in a similar way to the first news about Bin Laden's death: disbelief. I'm one of those who, for reasons most definitely not macabre, insists on seeing photos of the dead man. And although as a Christian it is impossible for me to feel joy at the death of any human being, this person was less than human, and his death makes the world a safer place.
As we fumble through airport security with our belts in the tray and barefoot, wondering what we look like butt naked in that machine and whether the off-site DHS inspector is chuckling, dumping our bottled water and with our little shampoo in the Ziplock bag, it is easy to forget that it was not always this way. And it is apparent that the experiences we as a nation have gone through as a result of this most evil of masterminds prevent us from going back to the pre-9/11 innocence we'd so taken for granted.
Last November, I did an EB-5 seminar in Dubai, and heard many stories about how 9/11 has made things very difficult for Arab businessmen with interests in the U.S. My clients from Lebanon and Pakistan now treat a routine B-1/B-2 visa renewal with kid gloves, insisting that I handle the filing. And the complexity of written and unwritten rules regarding the visa treatment given to persons from the Middle East has reduced itself to an untelligible and illogical muck, a place where I find myself high-fiving a client because the tourist visa he's had for over two decades was renewed. It is a time where the fundamental expectations of how my Middle East clients are treated have been reduced so low that anything good that happens is considered a windfall.
Just as we understand that we can't simply wind down TSA now that Bin Laden is underwater, we all understand that the unravelling of these rules - written and unwritten -- will not happen overnight. But I submit to our leaders in Washington that the first step to normalizing relations between the U.S. and the Middle East -- a place where our reckless and misdirected efforts toward hunting down Bin Laden caused us to invade the wrong nation -- should be directed toward the reestablishment of reasonable visa standards and rules for those seeking to do business in the U.S., free from profiling and old prejudices.
Remember: the 9/11 terrorists were Kuwaiti, Egyptian, Emirati, and Saudi - like Bin Laden himself. And now they found him in Pakistan. Google just how much the U.S. gives annually to these countries ($3.5 Billion to Pakistan alone) and ask yourself this: why is it, again, that we are waging two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...?