Archive for February 22nd, 2006

The sale of six U.S. ports to Dubai’s DP World unnerves me. Not because I’m racist. (I’m against using race for profiling, for example. Plus it doesn’t work.) And not because I think all Arab states are untrustworthy or inherently linked to terrorism. But because of a myriad of factors.

First, the facts.

–DP World is owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, the center of which is Dubai.

–The UAE royal family has ties to Osama bin Laden and 9/11. According a 9/11 commission report, a 1999 attempt to assassinate Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan was foiled by presence of a large number of UAE royal family members. The UAE was only one of three countries that recognized the Taliban as the offical government of Afghanistan. Funds for the hijackers were transferred through the UAE banking system and the US Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating “in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.”

–Dubai’s ports have had a long history of involvement in the illegal shipping of arms, nuclear materials, biological agents, and arms to Baathist Iraq, North Korea, Libya, and Iran. (Oh, and is involved in the trafficking of child slaves, too.) Dubai was the headquarters of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist at the center of a nuclear smuggling ring.

–DP World would be partly responsible for security. They would hire terminal workers and screen and x-ray shipments.

It could well be that DP World will handle its security duties flawlessly. It could be that its owners do not have any intention of allowing terrorists or dangerous material to penetrate our borders. It could be that the hysteria surrounding the sale is completely baseless.

But shouldn’t the facts listed above give us a little pause? Isn’t there enough concern to be at least suspicious? Can we guarantee that no member of the UAE royal family still hasn’t affection for bin Laden and his jihad, and that with the power to hire cargo screeners, could arrange the shipment of arms for domestic-based terrorists? Can we guarantee that the same folks who allowed the illegal smuggling of arms and other banned materials to rogue nations will act more responsibly in the U.S.? Can we take this risk?

And now the president says that the UAE is an ally in the “war on terror.” That we should trust DP World. Is he right?

Digby points out that this president and administration have already gone to some pretty far extremes in the name of security:

He needs to be secretly spy on American citizens without a warrant and he needs to be able to hold them indefinitely in jail without a trial and he needs to be able to torture innocent people with impunity because we just can’t be too careful after 9/11.

But there’s no reason to go overboard by saying that we shouldn’t outsource our port management to a company owned by a state whose leaders have been known to hang out with bin Laden.

Perhaps the best way to put this is that the administration seems to trust the leaders of the United Arab Emirates more than the US congress or the secret FISA Court.

In this case Bush’s rhetoric is completely contradictory to his earlier justification for his encroachment on our civil liberties. Oh, and contradictory to his own earlier stated positions during the last presidential election. From a 2004 speech at Wilkes-Barre, PA:

I will never hand over America’s security decisions to foreign leaders and international bodies that do not have America’s interests at heart.

UAE also fails the same litmus test Bush requires for dealing with Hamas: the UAE refuses to recognize Israel. If the president finds Hamas stance to be too radical to treat with diplomatically, why is it okay to allow a government with similar views to control six of our ports?

The point here is that Bush has gone to further extremes to “ensure security,” as he has claimed. He’s trampled on the rights of individuals, ignored the Constitution, and advocated torture — in other words, he’s gone too far. But doesn’t this deal with DP World genuinely deserve scrutiny? Doesn’t he have more to suspect from a government that has ties to al Qaeda than from U.S. courts and his own citizens?

So why is Bush backing a UAE-owned company despite the overwhelming opposition to this sale? Why go against his earlier stated rhetoric and campaign promises and risk appearing weak on security? Why risk huge political fallout in the upcoming elections to save the deal?

Maybe it was something found in what Senate Armed Serices Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va) said about the ports purchase:

…[Warner] would withhold judgment on the deal’s national security implications until after today’s briefing. The United Arab Emirates provides docking rights for more U.S. Navy ships than any other nation in the region, Warner noted. He added: “If they say they have not been treated fairly in this, we run the risk of them pulling back some of that support at a critical time of the war.”

Or, Digby again:

It may be that we have gotten ourselves into a terrible position in which we cannot “offend” the UAE by blocking this deal because they may reciprocate by blocking access to their deep water ports. If that’s the case, then we are being blackmailed by the UAE for big money and potentially putting our own ports in danger in the process. According to the 9/11 report they have been playing both ends against the middle for years.

Or could Bush’s support for the ports deal be a result of financial indescretion?

There’s no doubt that opposition to the purchase of six US ports is fueled in part by jingoism, xenophobia, and racism. But other opposition is genuinely concerned that the UAE have not only ties to bin Laden, but also a history of smuggling arms and nuclear materials to rogue nations. And it turns out that we might have to compromise at the very least the appearence of safety in order to maintain our operations in Iraq. (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Iraq war has endangered our security.)

But what really gets me about this whole deal is that this scandal — just like the Cheney shooting — represents larger issues involving the Bush administration.

His tax cuts benefit the rich and will be paid by the middle class. His health care plans benefit insurance companies and will force consumers to pay more and do more paperwork. His cronies in Halliburton and other government contractors are making millions — billions — off the Iraqi war while immigrants and working class Americans die fighting it.

Bush wiretaps Americans, throws people into secret prisons without benefit of trial, and bombs Iraqi civilians while cementing business relationships with powerful allies of terrorist organizations: the Saudis and members of the UAE royal family. Americans in New Orleans die by the hundreds waiting for assistance from the federal agencies specifically designed to aid its citizens in time of emergency while GOP political cronies enrich themselves on taxpayer money.

Portgate illustrates Bush’s contempt for the average joe and his adoration of corporate and political power.

Links…

If you didn’t see Letterman’s “Big Bowl of Bad,” watch it. I love it when the late-night shows hammer on the administration – and this is a hammmering, folks – it shows that the issues and facts are filtering through…

Viva capitalism! In other news, Pat Buchanan’s panties twist in a knot.

Get your tin-foil hats ready: 9-11 – a Conspiracy (Theory?) Before you get too caught up, check out Popular Mechanics rebuttal to 9/11 conspiracy theories.

British authorities don’t like it when you participate in political theater.

Ann Coulter is a cancer, an extremist wingnut whose violent fantasies should embarrass the television personalities she hangs out with. Arianna sums up the statements Coulter made and questioned why Sean Hannity has her on his show. Yes, Sean. Why?

He’s done it. It’s official. Conrad Burns has filed for his fourth term in Congress. I’ve said this before, but I think Burns running is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats in an essentially conservative state.

“I think it will be a race,” Burns said in an interview. “I think it will be very interesting. I think it will be mostly fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

Me, too! And so are state Dems:

…[S]tate Democratic Party spokesman Matt McKenna said, “We’re glad he’s in the race, too. Maybe now he’ll start talking about his record. We’ve been anxious to have this debate and he’s been ducking it for months.”

Incidentally, Sen. Burns had this to say for himself:

Burns, who sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said he is responsible for bringing more than $2 billion in federal money to Montana during his career.

I’ll give this to the Senator: he’s worked hard. He took on that second job with lobbyist Jack Abramoff despite the already heavy workload that belongs to a Senate seat. Let’s hope he’s paying Montana state taxes on that extra income. It should be quite a sum.




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