February 25, 2006
Any Storm in a Port
Here's my take on the news that Dubai Ports World, a company largely
owned by Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, is about to run operations
at six major U.S. ports.
sort of story bares the worst tendencies in U.S. punditry and
Beltway politics. Financial papers were reporting on the impending
Dubai Ports acquisition of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam
Navigation Co. -- of London -- that was running these ports, but
folks in the news biz didn't see it as a front-page story. Now,
pundits are suddenly experts on port economics, and they're bashing
President Bush and his aides for poorly handling something they
didn't perceive as an issue as little as two weeks ago. (My expertise
lies in having seen ads for the Dubai International Airport that,
to me, scream out: Ladies, if you're Western, you don't have to
wear a veil.)
security is an oxymoron. Everyone knows that the government isn't
doing enough to check cargo containers. Security at the ports
was bad before Dubai acquired P&O, and it will be bad if Bush-bashers
somehow manage to keep Dubai out. When the Bush administration
reminds critics the federal government will remain in charge of
port security, that's not exactly reassuring.
left's outrage about racial profiling goes out the window the
minute partisans see an opportunity to bash Bush. Ditto all that
high-minded rhetoric about the need for America to win friends
among the -- all bow -- international community.
believe editorial writers have singled out Dubai Ports World simply
because Dubai served as a base of operations for al-Qaida, as
a San Francisco Chronicle editorial claimed. If ties
to terrorism were the issue, editorial writers would have made
a stink about P&O because convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid
is a British citizen. Face it, Dubai is a target because it is
Arab and Muslim.
a matter of time before former Veep Al Gore denounces the Dubai
deal -- even if he recently lashed out against the "terrible
abuses" inflicted on Arabs in America after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks when he was in Saudi Arabia, and despite his
Jeddah pronouncement that, "The worst thing we can possibly
do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding
between Saudi Arabia and the United States."
the Bushies are too chummy with CEOs -- both American and foreign
-- and that looks bad to the general public. If Bush showed more
skepticism about corporate ethics, it would be easier to trust
his administration's judgment on the port question.
is an ally. Dubai serves as a primary staging base for the U.S.
Navy in the region. It sends humanitarian aid to Iraq. The Emirates
supplied troops during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. As Sen. John
McCain, R-Ariz., noted in a statement, "Dubai has cooperated
with us in the war and deserves to be treated respectfully."
To the extent
that Dubai respects the culture of Westerners who respect its
culture, it especially merits respect.
still, I don't mind making Dubai Ports World suits squirm a bit.
Two Sept. 11 terrorists came from Dubai. Emirates banks funneled
money to the Sept. 11 hijackers, and the Los Angeles Times
has reported on allegations that, before the Sept. 11 attacks,
the Dubai Islamic Bank funneled money to al-Qaida.
If the Middle
East can target Denmark's economy -- prompting the Danish pavilion
to pull out of a Gulf Food exposition in Dubai last week -- because
a newspaper published some cartoons Muslim leaders don't like,
let a Middle Eastern country feel some pain, too.
wants to hold hearings, conduct an investigation and otherwise
make Dubai Ports World perform somersaults, I can't get too indignant.
At least Washington will have put Ports World on notice that it
would be a bad thing if a bad thing happened in a Dubai-run port.
2006 Creators Syndicate