ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Update from the Conspiracy & the Politics of Ports

Well, the pace of my job (you know, the one that actually pays something) has been relentless... I travelled to the UK last week for a 1 day meeting - 2 days of travel plus jet lag for a lousy 6 hour meeting. I'm back in the home office this week for a short respite, but there doesn't seem to be much free time.

Karl is clearly asleep at the switch. I'm sorry, but this is one of those instances where good economics does not equal good politics. Even if there is a zone of protection which the UAE-owned company won't be able to influence and EVEN IF there is ZERO impact to national security, this whole deal is a big fat, hanging curveball right across the plate of the two Senators from New York.

I can't believe Karl let this pass... and didn't even bring in the B-team (ahem, that'd be us) to handle it. ;-)

Perhaps this is a bone to the Middle Eastern countries, to show that the US is a great partner and doesn't connote Islam with Terror automatically. But, perhaps the ports should be the last bone to throw... perhaps there's some miniature golf course that they could've turned over to them to start with instead.

This Chicago Tribune op-ed is just an example:

The Bush administration won't offer details about the security assessment of the firm. "We make sure there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Sunday.

When the Tribune editorial board on Thursday pressed Treasury Secretary John Snow for justification of this deal, he said, essentially: You'll have to trust us. Given the critical nature of these ports and legitimate concerns about seaport vulnerability to terrorist infiltration, "trust us" is not good enough. Nor is it reassuring to Americans that the White House considers the UAE, a federation of seven emirates including Dubai, an ally in the war on terror.

The proposed sale could have been blocked by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which includes representatives from the departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security. The committee reviewed the sale and satisfied itself that it would not endanger national security. But because the details of its deliberations are classified, the administration refuses to disclose how it came to that conclusion.

There are big questions about this. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the terms the committee applied for approving this takeover don't go far enough. "They relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures," he said, but don't go to "who they hire, or how they hire people." Left unanswered is how this company will "guard against infiltration by Al Qaeda or someone else [or] how are they going to guard against corruption," said King.

This isn't about foreign ownership. The company operating these ports now is foreign-owned. Under British or UAE control, American longshoremen will continue to work the docks. This also isn't about the competence of Dubai Ports World to manage American ports. The company insists that it intends to maintain and enhance port security.

This is about the long war on terror and the assurance that U.S. ports will be secure when they are managed by a firm owned by a government in one of the most volatile parts of the world. The administration says this deal won't compromise security. But the secret nature of the process has left many people with a lot of questions and no answers.

The Politics of Ports (wine, cheese, or actual) just isn't a winner... Add to this the fact that Shumer et al were already on Dept Homeland Security for "not securing our ports" and it doesn't take a brilliant political strategerist to figure out that this isn't a winner.

And by the way, if only the Left were as critical of their own like the Right has been critical of this administration. If you want diversity of opinion, you might have to turn that steering wheel to the right...

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Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (4)
Stop Bush! said...


So, let’s just be clear. After 9/11, Bush said “No one could have known they were going to fly planes into buildings.” After Katina, Bush said “No one knew the levees were going to break.” Now, this.

So that Bush can’t say “No one knew…” here goes: MR. PRESIDENT, I KNOW THAT THESE ARABS ARE GOING TO ATTACK OUR PORTS. Now, everyone on this blog knows, so no one here can ever say “no one knew…”

Let’s see how long it takes. It’s just a matter of time.

jfdk said...

President Bush makes a valid point when he claims that since it is currently a British company in charge of managing ports in cities such as New York, Miami, and Baltimore, there is no reason why we shouldn’t allow the contract to go to a country from the Middle East. I agree one hundred percent. Since some of the 9/11 hijackers were natives of the country, Bush should not have used the UAE as his case study.
When the government signs a deal that involves national security, it must be able to withstand all scrutiny and the UAE has a history which must be scrutinized.

St Wendeler said...

I agree with the economics of the decision... and to some degree, think that the involvement of DPWorld probably won't have any impact on the security of our ports.

However, it's not a good move politically.

By the way, rescinding an already accepted contract isn't exactly a good solution, as it will show that the US won't keep their word on a legally enforceable contract (I'm assuming it's at that stage now).

However, while the UAE won't be running the security, they certainly will have more involvement in the ports than they currently do - and that in itself is cause for concern.

I certainly don't want to be xenophobic regarding this transaction, but I do think more information regarding the specifics of the deal is in order. And is there any concern about the proceeds from this transaction going to support groups that are less than friendly to the US and its interests?

just a couple of questions spinning around in my head.

Monterey John said...

As the esteemed Senator Graham said, it was an "incredibly tone deaf" move.