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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Port problem

--posted by Tony Garcia on 2/22/2006

I know the story...but there is too much of the puzzle missing for me to be comfortable. The Ports are being sold to a state-owned company. The state owner happens to be the United Arab Emirates. The reaction has been fierce and almost entirely in opposition. Why? Much of the howling has very little substance behind the howls. My gut reaction is to also be opposed to the idea but I MUST hear some of the other side. I have a feeling that the more I look into this story the more it will be like the Harriet Miers ordeal: a bunch of bitching with no honest justification.

It seems my hunch so far is confirmed by The American Princess.
It’s not like turning over any port operations to anyone even remotely tied to terrorism sounds like a Peachy Keen Doris kind of idea, but in the end, the opposition to the deal is acting on a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the country is Arab (a little xenophobic if you ask us), and in the interest of their own pet projects—particularly the private businesses that are paying for their flights to Hawaii. Until someone comes up with a better reason for opposing this deal than “two of the 9/11 hijackers came from UAE,” like say, a business-or-security-related one, we’re totally hanging with George,

The Wall Street Journal is on the case for us:
Some of us are scratching our heads all right, but we're wondering why Mr. Graham and others believe Dubai Ports World has been insufficiently vetted for the task at hand. So far, none of the critics have provided any evidence that the Administration hasn't done its due diligence. The deal has been blessed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multiagency panel that includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.
Why, indeed? Well, the two basic contentions are, UAE is a “terrorist-supporting nation” and “we can’t turn over control to a foreign business!” both of which are ill-supported, and would not serve to deter a rationally-minded person from engaging in the deal.
More from the WSJ article:
Besides, the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port "security" to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense. Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There's a difference. Port security falls to Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials. "Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday. "The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Kristie Clemens of U.S. Customs and Border Protection elaborated that "Customs and Border Protection has the sole responsibility for the cargo processing and cargo security, incoming and outgoing. The port authority sets the guidelines for the entire port, and port operators have to follow those guidelines." Again, nothing in the pending deal would affect that arrangement.

The timing of this sudden uproar is also a tad suspicious. A bidding war for the British-owned P&O has been going on since last autumn, and the P&O board accepted Dubai's latest offer last month. The story only blew up last week, as a Florida firm that is a partner with P&O in Miami, Continental Stevedoring and Terminals Inc., filed a suit to block the purchase. Miami's mayor also sent a letter of protest to Mr. Bush. It wouldn't be the first time if certain politicians were acting here on behalf of private American commercial interests.

Critics also forget, or conveniently ignore, that the UAE government has been among the most helpful Arab countries in the war on terror. It was one of the first countries to join the U.S. container security initiative, which seeks to inspect cargo in foreign ports. The UAE has assisted in training security forces in Iraq, and at home it has worked hard to stem terrorist financing and WMD proliferation. UAE leaders are as much an al Qaeda target as Tony Blair.
So far the reactionaries are losing my support and I'm leaning towards supporting Bush on this one.

Any help would be appreciated.


Blogger Pete Arnold said...

The Ameri-Can'ts are just bitching again. Though I would prefer that US ports not be controled by a company that isn't US, they wern't before, so why should it be a big deal now. The UAE is being very "polite" about this whole thing.

February 27, 2006  

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