Saturday, March 7, 2009

I don't want to fly out of Dulles again!

I don't know whether you have ever travelled out of Washington Dulles International Airport. I happen to live practically in spitting distance of the place, and so I am a semi-regular customer of the place.

I have always wondered a little bit about this Dulles guy whom the airport is named after. Guessed he must be a politico of some sort (this is Washington DC after all). But didn't know very much about him, and though mildly curious, I was too lazy to look him up.

Then the name turned up in Ramchandra Guha's India After Gandhi. Turns out, John Foster Dulles was the new secretary of state right after India's independence, and can be pointed to as one of the architects of the cold, distrustful, passive-aggressive relationship between India and the United States for many decades thereafter.

Dulles was first and foremost a communist hating, cold war warrior. True to his ilk, he called India's attempts at neutrality in the cold war 'obsolete, immoral and short-sighted'. To which Nehru is supposed to have remarked with some irony that India was going through 'a gargantuan effort towards parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, freedom and equality for all religions, and social and economic reforms, while among the countries which Dulles praises and subsidizes because they were "willing to stand up and be counted" as anti-communist, are effete or persecuting tyrannies, oligarchies and theocracies, sometimes corrupt as well as retrograde.'

Dulles also became a thorn in India's side by starting the process of large arms sales to Pakistan as a potential strategic deterrant against the Russians in Afghanistan. And as we all know, that turned out really well.

Finally, Dulles was all in support of Portugal keeping the colony of Goa, right in the middle of an Indian nation. A 'light of the West in the lands of the Orient' so to speak. As he was known to say "if he is a bastard, at least he is our bastard."

So where was I? Ah yes, I was talking about Dulles international airport. The place has the longest security lines in aviation history. And the slowest staff. Then there is this bus that takes you from the plane to the terminal, which you've got to see to believe. And the shopping is better in the strip mall next to my house.

On top of all that, now I hate the name of the darned place! Thanks for nothing Mr. Guha!


  1. I think members of congress have well developed senses of irony in naming the airports after individuals that most citizens of DC do not have much affection for to say the least. In the hippie communities I hang out in, we refer to the two airports as "National" and "International," and nothing else.

  2. Haven't heard from you for a bit Quang. Welcome back! Is that who names these things? Congress? I thought these are largely privately run ... don't the owners get to name them whatever the heck they like?

  3. Not sure if you know, but Ramchandra Guha is Kram's uncle or grand uncle


  4. The constitution actually grants the federal government ultimate authority over D.C., and the congress uses this authority often. In the late 80s congress decided to "relinquish control" over the airports to a local authority, but still intervened later on in renaming Washington National Airport after the 40th president.

  5. There was a point a few years ago when a member of Congress (from Texas I believe) wanted to rename 16th Street in DC after Ronald Reagan. This was after they had already renamed National Airport after the Gipper. One Washingtonian was quoted in the Washington Post as saying "Why don't they just rename DC "Reagangrad" and be done with it?"