TCS Daily

Questions for the "Portgaters"

By Gregory Scoblete - February 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Ask yourself this question: if a German or French company was poised to take control over six key U.S. ports, would Congress and a bi-partisan coalition of commentators be in an uproar?

Not likely. So why the furor over Dubai Ports World (DPW), which is owned by the United Arab Emirates?

The central argument goes like this: While a nominal ally in the war on terror, the UAE has lavished money on radical Islamic causes (mostly through charities) and has a mixed record in combating terrorism. Indeed, Dubai also served as a clearing house for the nuclear trade of Pakistani scientist and arch-proliferator A.Q. Khan. Even four years after 9/11, U.S. ports are the soft underbelly of homeland security. Since the U.S. inspects only a fraction of the billions of cargo containers it accepts annually, American ports present the most attractive option for terrorists looking to smuggle in heavy weapons, including a nuclear device, from overseas. Blessing the takeover amounts to giving radical Islamists an opportunity to inflict serious damage on the American homeland.

The assumption underpinning this argument is that since it's an Arab government with a mixed record in the war on terror (including the participation of several of its citizens in 9/11), the government of the UAE or employees of DPW would, either willfully or neglectfully, allow hazardous cargo to enter the U.S. It's a serious argument and one that deserves close scrutiny. Clearly the Bush administration, which has taken no end of criticism for being overly aggressive in its defense of the homeland, is comfortable with the deal. According to Reuters, the U.S. State Department has hailed the UAE's effort against terrorism and noted that the country was instrumental in several key al Qaeda arrests, including that of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the men charged with the 2000 attack against the USS Cole.

What is the standard for doing business in the U.S., particularly if that business overlaps with key security concerns? One thing's for sure, you don't need a spotless record on either the war on terror or nuclear proliferation. Here are three words for critics of the Dubai deal: France and Iraq.

The French government's history of corporate and political collusion with the regime of Saddam Hussein is rightfully the stuff of legend (government officials in that country were receiving money from Saddam Hussein for goodness sake). A French citizen, Zacarias Moussaoui, is the alleged "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 plot; yet no U.S. official would lose sleep if a French-owned business was poised to take over the commercial activity of a U.S. port. Nor would they worry much about Germany, despite the fact that the lead cell in the 9/11 terrorist attack lived in Hamburg or that German companies were instrumental in the A.Q. Khan nuclear trade.

According to the Atlantic Monthly's William Langewiesche, "though the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had come into force, and parallel protocols had been agreed upon to restrict the export of materials necessary for the construction of nuclear bombs, enforcement was lax, and individual companies, particularly in Germany, were eagerly doing business with a growing number of nuclear weapons-aspirants....Then as now, European attitudes were soft."

European governments are also soft on advanced arms sales to China. Though the ban preventing such deals is still in place, its hold is tenuous as the EU's powerful arms industry presses for access to a lucrative Chinese market. EU cash also enriches Palestinian terrorists. Will the U.S. suddenly close off access to sensitive domestic markets to the whole of the EU? Of course not.

It's particularly ironic that liberals would decry a deal that would help an oil-dependent nation diversify its economy and further integrate it with the rest of the world. One of the most persistent criticisms of the Bush administration's prosecution of the war on terror is that it has neglected our so-called "soft power" in favor of a lopsidedly militaristic approach. Now, as the U.S. employs the key element of soft power -- integration into the global economy -- liberals are aghast.

Upon closer inspection, the decision to allow Ports World Dubai to take ownership of several key U.S. ports may indeed endanger national security. The government of the UAE may harbor powerful Islamist sympathies that would motivate it, or employees of Dubai Ports World, to some nefarious plot. But it's just as likely that, as we have ruefully discovered in London and Madrid, the will toward terrorism transcends neat geographical boundaries.

If one had any confidence that members of Congress would use this occasion to thoughtfully probe the issue rather than mindlessly grandstand, then a Congressional inquiry would be indeed worthwhile. But what are the chances of that?



Why even bother?
If this is the best argument libertarians and the para-Marxist capitalists can make, that "we need to make money" and "everyone else does it anyway",

What's the friggin point of the United States?

What exactly would you be willing to defend us against?

An invasion force here to take what is not theirs? Then why will not not secure the Mexican border against the invading millions?

Terrorists and criminals who wish to enter the US to do their evil deeds? Then why do you argue for "Open Borders" in the name of "free markets" and allow anyone who wants to come here, to come here?

Invading armies only? What about MS-13, various Chinese and Russian criminal enterprises that would be called armies at any other point in history?

To defend the virtue of our womenfolk? HA! You would just as soon have them all ***** themselves out to any one, of any race, for cold cash or in the name of "Right to Privacy" -- so long as it undrmines the descendants of the founding population.

To prevent the hostile siezing of our assets from foreign governments or other powers? DOUBLE HA! If this port thing is not a hostile takeover, I don't know what it! It was plotted and consummated in complete secrecy. We learned of it as a fait accompli, a private coup d'etate over the sovereign (?) land of six principal ports of entry plus two military ports.

To preserve the economic privilege of the citizens of the United States? HA! That $7,000,000,000 ain't going in my pockets. Neither is the fortune funneled to India/China/Pakistan via "Businss Transformation Outsourcing" but that's another battle.

So how about you greedy-but-easily-manipulated stooges come clean for a change?

ADMIT THAT YOU WISH TO DISSOLVE THE TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF THE UNITED STATES to further your fantasized potential for personal avarice.


Of course, were we to inquire even superficially into the recent heritage of those calling for "open borders" and "transparent markets" we would find a marginal dedication to the United States in the first place.

Makes me wish my 19th C. ancestors did a better job keeping you out. You don't belong here -- your loyalties are to your own selfish puropses, not mine.

Mercenary instincts
Great comment. The author can't seem to find any reason to prohibit nations that do business and cooperate with America's enemies from acquiring US assets. How about banning such nations from doing business with any asset that is considered to be a national security asset?

Clinton told the Associated Press, that the Bush Administration’s enormous penchant for secrecy was responsible in sparking a strong reaction to Cheney’s shooting mishap.

The Port storming media frenzy reflects once more Bush’s habit of keeping secrets and playing double standards. Facing strong opposition not only from the public and the Democrats but also from the Republicans, Bush, in another act of total disregard to the American people, stated this morning: “ People don’t need to worry about safety”. To my knowledge, his Administration doesn’t have a lot of credibility to just ask the people in trusting him. Katrina was a flop, Iraq was a lie, and Bin Laden is till out there (no that I really care though) So to ask to blindly trust the Government with safety is a tad, a big tad too much.

You can’t compare France, Germany and China to the Middle East. And here I do say the Middle East, because indeed, for the general public, there is not much difference between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Iraq, Iran, or even Pakistan. At this present time in history, there is an Islamic problematic and the population do see the religion association a matter of concern when comes time to decide if the management of some of our ports should be done by a Dubai company. It is unfortunate but is a reality of communication. Bush should no be crying for he, most of anyone else, has been elected and been running on religious values and beliefs over facts and truth.

I do feel sorry for DPW (Dubai Port World), I do believe their good intention. I do believe there would be way too much at risk for them to even hint an association with terrorists – they are one of the most effective and profitable port management companies in the world. But often, it is just a question of timing, and right now the timing is really bad.

Anger at al Qaeda's appeasers
While lumbering through the "War on Terror," the Administration relied heavily on simple-minded appeals to patriotism. Who can forget President Bush's declartion that, "We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them"?

So is it any wonder that the American public feels betrayed when it turns out that two of our key allies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have a greater connection to Al Qaeda then did Iraq?

Want Saudi and/or UAE to fall?
On 9/11/01, the Saudi Royal Family fled to Switzerland.
The royals in both countries are walking on a sword and do really want to bring their people into the 21st century.
But they don't have as much internal power as you might suspect. Most of the work force in both countries are imported.
So let's do all we can to punish those Royals like Jimmy did to the Shah and we can have the entire middle east just like Iran.

A house already divided
The royals themselves are not of one mind -- case in point:

The Saudi Paradox
Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2004

Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a crisis, but its ELITE IS BITTERLY DIVIDED on how to escape it. Crown Prince Abdullah leads a camp of liberal reformers seeking rapprochement with the West, while PRINCE NAYEF, the interior minister [Note: he is now King], sides with an anti-American Wahhabi religious establishment that has much in common with al Qaeda. Abdullah cuts a higher profile abroad -- but at home Nayef casts a longer and darker shadow...

Abdullah is now the king and the crown prince, Sultan, is more pro-west than Abdullah.
Sure, they have a problem, but if we don't support Abdullah and Sultan, Nayef will gain more control.
The real internal police were under the control of Abdullah and were trained by the US.
And it is not a country, it is a kingdom with too many rich princes.
UAE is in a better situation, they have fewer indiginous population to worry about.
Choice: publiclly support Saudi Arabia and UAE or not and risk an Iranian styye revoulution.
Let's wait until we have our nuke plants built.

Supporting Royalty at the Subjects' expense
You're correct that it's Abdullah who became King, but our "support" is arguably weakening, not strengthening, the pro-Western faction of the Saud royalty. Our money enriches a very oppressive monarchy that the people see as benefiting the U.S more than themselves. Thus it's quite possible that our policies will forment an Islamic revolution as happened in Iran.

Saudi reformers say have little faith in U.S. help
Reuters, February 23, 2006

Saudi liberals said on Thursday they had abandoned hope that the United States would pressure the government to reform the absolute monarchy given the country's status as an oil supplier and key ally.

The liberals said that while they were not expecting Washington publicly to press for reform or to rally to their cause, it now appeared clear that THE U.S. WAS NOT EVEN PUTTING PRIVATE PRESSURE ON THE GOVERNMENT TO PROMOTE CHANGE.

"All Saudi liberals have lost faith in the United States. NOW NO ONE IS EXPECTING ANY SUPPORT FROM THEM," rights activist and newspaper columnist Abdullah Bakheet said. "America has an agenda which is decked out with talk of democracy and freedom."

What is a Saudi liberal?
After spending 3 years there, they have made great progress.
There are those who are like Osama and they oppose any liberalization and they are not afraid to take violent action.
They now have satellite TV, internet and cell phones. Change takes time, but if they change too fast, the conservative religious types will succeed.
Also, it does not help that they are the keeper of the two holy mosques so they have to appear more pious for the rest of the world and let all muslims in to visit.

Why is it so hard to UNDERSTAND
Why do those in the media have such a hard time understanding that no one is taking over the ports, that the ports are not for sales, that security is and will be continue to be run by US Customs and the US Coast Guard?

The whole issues is about a UAE company purchasing a British company that manages one of several terminal at each of the 6 US Ports. That is it. By the way the majority of the terminals are managed by Foreign companies in the US.

Killing hope one Saudi liberal at a time
TVs and internet? These people want the right to vote, the right to run for office, the right to determine their own future -- hell, the women would settle for the right to drive.

Besides, it's not me you have to convince, it's the Saudi people -- and the Administration is failing in that regard. Last year, Columnist Abdullah Bakheet (the Saudi liberal quoted in my last post) was still hopeful -- not anymore...

Saudi Writers Risk Flogging to Challenge Islamists
The Washington Post, March 28, 2006

...Columnist Abdullah Bakheet upset Saudi Arabia's morality police, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, when he said they were STOPPING PEOPLE WATCHING ANYTHING BUT RELIGIOUSLY SANCTIONED TELEVISION.

"I went to the market to fix my receiver ... and no one cooperated. They said it is prohibited to deal, or fix or sell any receivers except for al-Majd television receivers," Bakheet said. Al-Majd broadcasts mainly Islamic programs...

He hopes the court will accept it has no right to judge him, but says Prince Abdullah's ruling on jurisdiction has yet to be publicly acknowledged. "No decree has been published officially," he said...

Bakheet said Saudi rulers should be given time to change the deeply traditional country. "This is not a conservative country. IT'S MORE THAN CONSERVATIVE -- IT'S TALIBAN."

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