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Bush Digs In His Boot Heels On $6.8 Billion Port Deal

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Bloviating Zeppelin: Bush Digs In His Boot Heels On $6.8 Billion Port Deal

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bush Digs In His Boot Heels On $6.8 Billion Port Deal

I am occasionally disturbed and vexed by Bush Administration strategies and tactics; count this as one of those times.

The issue has ramped up even more because the Democrats have jumped into the issue with both feet as well. Being the consummate cynic: are they objecting to the actual nature of the deal or is this merely another potential opportunity for Republican and Bush denigration?


Republican Congressman Peter King ratcheted up the discussion by making a public statement earlier Tuesday, pertinent because he chairs the Homeland Security Committee. King said, in reference to the company (Dubai Ports World) slated to take over the managerial control of six major United States ports (Miami, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans and Philadelphia): "By having a company right out of the heartland of al-Qaida managing those ports without being properly cleared or investigated, to me is madness."

Technically, the ports' managerial turnover from the British company (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.) to DPW occurred last month when the Committee on Foreign Investment, headed by Treasury Secretary John Snow, approved the deal.


Additionally, Republican Congressman Mark Foley said on Tuesday: "We're going to be asking specific questions about the transfer of management. We want to raise the level of awareness about what's happening to these six strategic ports. Remember, New Orleans is the second largest in the world."

Security concerns regarding the United Arab Emirates company include:

-- The UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks;
-- Two of the 19 original 9/11 hijackers were citizens of the UAE;
-- The UAE has been named as a conduit of al-Qaida money transfers.
-- Pakistani officials have admitted they had used the UAE to transit nuclear weapons equipment and technology to North Korea.

It was first thought that President Bush would reverse the deal himself; just this past Sunday Brit Hume from Fox News theorized: "I don't think the administration will be able to sustain this (the UAE ports deal)."

Further compounding the issue, Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist also said, on Tuesday: "The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter. If the administration cannot delay this process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review."

Also in the mix from Monday, Republican Governors Robert Ehrlich (Maryland) and George Pataki (New York) made statements of serious concern about the deal. Pataki issued a press release which said: "Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World. I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them."

Gov. Ehrlich said he was "very troubled" that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved the Arab company's takeover of the operations at the six ports. "We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security," Ehrlich told reporters in the State House rotunda in Annapolis.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrote to the President on Tuesday: "I believe there should be an immediate moratorium placed on this seaport deal in order to further examine its effects on our port security," Hastert said in the letter, a copy of which was released to the media.


But now, from Air Force One on Tuesday afternoon, Bush said:

"After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward," Bush told reporters who had traveled with him on Air Force One to Washington. "I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, `We'll treat you fairly.' "

Bush said on the radio, as I wrote this post, that the UAE had been cooperative with and an ally in the war on terror.

The bottom line? President Bush stated he would veto any congressional effort to stop the $6.8 billion sale. To counter that, Bill Frist said on the Hugh Hewitt show Tuesday that Bush's veto would be overridden. The gloves are off.

From the Hewitt interview, Bill Frist makes some interesting observations while reviewing the Port of Long Beach in Fornicalia:

It's interesting, Hugh. I've spent all morning at . . . I'm in Los Angeles right now, and spent all morning at the port in Long Beach and Los Angeles, which is the third largest port in the world (my emphasis -- BZ). And I spent all day actually flying over, walking through, looking how challenging these ports are in terms of guarding, protecting our national security. And it re-emphasized to me the importance of looking at border security, looking at other places of ingress, coming into this country, to make sure that we are protected. These are vast structures with thousands and thousands of people coming through. For example, just each day, about 13,000 containers are going to come through the ports that I visited today. We need to make sure that from a security standpoint, that there is absolute control, because it does affect our national security (emphasis by BZ).

Hugh Hewitt asked Frist point blank: "So before we move onto subject number 2, Senator Bill Frist, can you imagine a Republican Congress overriding a presidential veto on this subject? Is it possible?"

Frist replied: "Oh yes."

Even Jimmy Carter kicked in his 2-cents on CNN's Situation Room Monday, saying: ''The overall threat to the United States and security, I don't think it exists. I'm sure the president's done a good job with his subordinates to make sure this is not a threat.'' Way to go, Jimmy. Spot on, once again.


Just one question continues to cross my mind repeatedly: given the current global terrorism issue affecting this country -- why would the President even remotely want to take a chance with an issue as large and overarching as major American port management and security -- in the country he loves?

Points I should like to highlight:

-- Everything comes through United States ports.
-- We search a fraction of the materials shipped in containers, the primary form of transport
-- A management company would have choice over who works for management, who works for the company, who vets the internal hiring process and more importantly:
-- Who has access to what information about the things that routinely and uniquely come and go through various ports and when, where and how long they are stored on site, and
-- Who has access to these containers unquestioned.

Yes, the Coast Guard is responsible for the physical security of ports; gunboats and sailors on port waters isn't the issue. The above items are the issue.

Granted, port management has historically been privy to a select few companies, and it is not a task envied by the business world at large, primarily because port management companies have to deal with American unions from which the phrase "New York dock" means everything. It is not a pleasant experience. A two-day 1999 Port of Oakland (4th largest US port) Fornicalia strike by longshore workers, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, for example, showed how much muscle the union has as the "meagre" stoppage clogged transportation for weeks, affected trucking, railroads, killed schedules and idled ships off Fornicalia.


Politically, this is a poor time for Bush to exercise his first-ever veto -- a poor place for Bush to draw the "veto line." Which means one of two things: either this deal simply fell under Bush's radar, he didn't expect nor foresee the subsequent reaction and he's being stubborn or, perhaps, he cut a personal deal with the families of the UAE. And yes, this gives political opportunity for "certain persons and elements" to exercise the "look" of being "tough on security."

You do not turn over the management of ports to companies from risky parts of the world -- particularly those companies based in countries who, in my estimation, could wobble left or right at the drop of a Koran.



Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I think this is a case where W is putting his Brit ruling class friends before American interests. The Brits will make a lot of money from this deal but they don't have to compromise their security.

Wed Feb 22, 08:09:00 AM PST  
Blogger TexasFred said...

Ireally feel that Bush has put money above the interest of the average American..

I am totally disappointed in Bush on this one...

Wed Feb 22, 08:29:00 AM PST  
Blogger John The Patriot said...

BZ, this is a tough one...I don't envy the President here. What you said is true and I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this deal going down. BUt I also understand the idea that Bush is trying to maintain healthy relations with our Arab 'allies', and the UAE is arguably one of our strongest. It's hard for him to exclude someone simply because they're Arab...isn't that racism? I dare say the Left would hammer him on that one. If the FBI and DHS show this company is clean, then I'm not sure we have a right to oppose simply because of where they're from...I don't know, my mind is still not made up

Wed Feb 22, 09:10:00 AM PST  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

John: I would posit: would we have put German nationals in charge of R&D for Boeing in WWII? Or Krupp in charge of Boeing R&D? Would we have suggested they be the management firm for the Norden Bombsight Company? Would we have placed Japanese nationals or Mitsubishi in management positions or managerial control of these same ports in the 40's?

Further: would we have opened management of our ports to a Korean company during the Korean War? Vietnamese or Russian companies during Vietnam or the "Cold War?"

And I would submit that, for Islamists, religion is a much more base compelling force than national lines, manufacturing or profit bases. Meaning that Islam will be the overarching force to which the owners/controllers of this company will bow -- and Islam has not sufficiently demonstrated to me that it has the wherewithal to resist the forces of Islamism.

Wed Feb 22, 10:45:00 AM PST  
Blogger TexasFred said...

Whether the UAE is a good ally or not, they ARE Muslim, and that alone is all the reason I need to be very suspicious...

This is opening a door that makes Pandora's Box look tame...

Wed Feb 22, 11:41:00 AM PST  
Blogger TexasFred said...

Read this and note the UAE history lesson I have at the bottom...

And THAT is MY Opinion-Bush Unaware of Ports Deal Before Approval

Wed Feb 22, 11:42:00 AM PST  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

I think that before making a decision on this issue, we need to step back away from the emotion and the paranoia.

Most of the management of this company is Western, and the majority of those Westerners are American. In fact, in the part of the UAE in question, there is a heavy western influence that negates much of the Islamic influence that taints other parts of the Middle East.

Also, the real security problem is not the ports on OUR side, it is the cargo containers that are loaded before they reach the foreign ports. John Batchelor (WABC radio host) focused a lot of attention on this issue tonight and virtually all of the experts he had on the show made some great points as to why this deal does NOT constitute a security threat. I'll see if he posts the transcripts of the interviews and perhaps make a post out of them on my site.

Much of this debate is is political, driven by the Longshoremen's Unions at the various ports. They are very wealthy, very powerful labor unions with a lot of clout to throw around. The Brits are not the only group of people that stand to benefit from the outcome of this deal.

My opinion: I'm ambivalent on the issue. I don't believe it matters much either way.

Wed Feb 22, 08:35:00 PM PST  
Blogger bigwhitehat said...

I disagree. The fact that the democrats oppose this deal makes me want to side with W.

The UAE has been helpful in the War. Their company already loads many of the containers that come here.

The best alternative to Dubai is a Danish firm that doesn't want to deal with our labor unions.

I suppose that we could fire all of the union workers and move the Danish in.

Wed Feb 22, 09:37:00 PM PST  
Blogger Justthinkin said...'s a Canuck's 2 cents worth.

Number 1...our borders are so porous, you can't keep our drugs out and we can't keep your guns out.

Number 2...both of the above scares the hell out of me. Why can't we work together ? I am probably 1 of only about 3 Canucks who think this, but I feel we need NO border between the U.S. and Canada. Between the two of us, we are both under threat from drugs and terrorists, and we should have a common border, 1 that extends from the North Pole to the Rio Grande, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And yes, there are gonna be tons on boths sides that say we are giving up our nationality, our hnor, etc. Guess what? I would sooner be a unified North American, then a dead Canuck or Yank.
As to the ports thing, sorry, If it looks like an Islamist,sounds like an Islamist,smells like an Islamist, it is. Their only goal, whether they be Saudi, Yemeni, UAE,Gypo. etc, is to overthrow and dominate the West. And you can't change their stripes by making all "gushy" with them and giving them a contract.

Wed Feb 22, 09:39:00 PM PST  
Blogger John The Patriot said...

Some excellent points are being made here on both sides of the argument. And what's really interesting is that this is a rare issue that is NOT divided along party lines. I think one way to victory in the Middle East is to westernize those people...and there's no better way than capitalism! I'm leaning more towards the President on this one. But the one thing I don't like is that Jimmy Carter agrees with him also...gasp!

Wed Feb 22, 10:16:00 PM PST  
Blogger TexasFred said...

Well, I don't give a damn WHAT the excuses turn out to be, HERE is the truth, the UAE is Arab, and Islamic...

An Islamic, no matter HOW money hungry, is going to *side* with other Islamics over the USA at ANY opportunity...

Religion before allies... And THAT Gentlemen, is ALL the reason I need to not trust them...

Thu Feb 23, 01:10:00 AM PST  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Sometimes I agree with TF, sometimes I disagree with TF. But Fred has stated what I consider to be the obvious, and what I attempt to see when I step back.

Nightcrawler said we need to step back from emotion and paranoia. I concur. I would ask all of us: step back. What is the largest, most compelling issue of all -- perhaps not to US in terms of our being Westerners, but to those involved in the deal and those whose clearly stated goal is to assimilate us or kill us -- but mostly kill us?

The largest issue is religion.

What religion? Islam.

It is NOT business.

It is not cash -- though with the UAE and other "westernized" Middle Eastern "states" cash plays a large part in goals and personal or family comfort.

ME units are comprised traditionally of tribes and families. Something as abstract as a "state" or "national" "line" is a concept not recognized by Middle Eastern culture until last century. Regions, areas, ebb and flow, nomadism within regions -- these are the traditional units within tribes, groups, families.

One constant: religion WILL be THE overarching issue to which all Middle Eastern power will bow. And nothing succeeds, according to Mohammad, like ambush and assault from within. One good man from within is worth 10,000 from without.

The UAE has been "nice" to us. To be "fair" we should be, in kind, "nice" to the UAE.

That is an abhorrent reason to predicate the CHANCE of compromising security of an entire nation.

Would the UAE allow a clearly nationalistic US company to manage and run the Port of Dubai and acquire that much control of something as large as their sovereign shipping?

Step back, people; step back.

Thu Feb 23, 04:47:00 AM PST  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

There are many, many American and Western companies operating in Dubai and managing facilities there. Furthermore, the issue is money and power, not religion. My proof?

The radical clerics are using religion to control the populace and protect their power. By westernizing the Middle East, introducing them to capitalism and perhaps to the ideas individual freedom, religious tolerance and democracy (such things are extremely helpful for people doing business in America) maybe we can weaken the stranglehold that the clerics have on many of the people.

The only other alternative is to put up a cyclone fence around the entire Middle East, watchtowers and snipers and hope that nobody goes out and nobody goes in. It's either we do something to win the hearts and minds or we commit genocide in the name of self-preservation. What's it to be?

Thu Feb 23, 05:34:00 AM PST  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Nightcrawler: I would submit, that is still not proof. Various ME factions do embrace cash but only insofar as it allows them power, personal and familial comfort -- but do not be deceived that this is their ultimate bottom line. They ultimately DO answer to the various clerics and imams -- money is immediate, money is personal and money is a way to acquire power in the West, provide a way of life and FUND what they wish.

Hearts and minds? That's thinking like a Westerner. We are corrupt, we are evil, we are blaspheming. We either accept Allah or not -- if not, the alternative is elimination. The evidence is in front of our faces.

Thu Feb 23, 06:31:00 AM PST  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

I initially was very against this but Tony Snow and Rush have made some very compelling points for it. I think we need to know more facts and W needs to do a better job of explaining it.

Thu Feb 23, 03:48:00 PM PST  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

02 23 06

"You do not turn over the management of ports to companies from risky parts of the world -- particularly those companies based in countries who, in my estimation, could wobble left or right at the drop of a Koran."


Thu Feb 23, 07:59:00 PM PST  
Blogger James Manning said...

This is a good post. I'm not on board with this. Port security is already an issue that the President and Congress have yet to address, why compound the problem. I think this is one of those that got away from the Bush machine and now they are scrambling. I feel a shell game going on now. the company postponed, not for our sake, but to give Bush some breathing room. He placed his sacks on the table and everyone knew the Republican Congress were set to chop them off. That's the last thing Bush needed.

There is no way Republicans are going to approve this and then go run on a platform of national security in November. Thankfully, I think this has solidified Bush's lame duck status.

Fri Feb 24, 08:57:00 AM PST  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I'm with Nightcrawler here. I'm as much a stickler on national defense as anyone. But what I mostly see is a kind of hysteria, and Islamo-phobia (not that we haven't been given good reasons for it...but still).

Nightcrawler also brought up a good point when he mentions

the real security problem is not the ports on OUR side, it is the cargo containers that are loaded before they reach the foreign ports.

We can't be isolationists, but the only way you're ever going to be able to protect the shores from all conceivable forms of attack by foreign enemies, is to close ourselves off from the rest of the world. We're reacting like this is big news. It isn't. Stuff like the ports management sale has been going on for years and years. That's why the Administration is so baffled by the johnny-come-lately hoopla surrounding this. Many western assets are either sold or managed and controlled by foreign investors and companies.

Do you really think we were any safer when a British company owned it, given the problems they've had with their Muslim population, including "bombers" and shoe-bombs? The only other company that was bidding on this, was a company from Singapore. Look at the huge Muslim population in Indonesia.

And now, after the deal has already been shaken hands on, if we renege, it only makes us come across as xenophobes and confirms the negative attitude that Muslims have of the U.S. I know some of you could care less what Islamists think of us, and that the whole of Islam can kiss our collective asses. But as despicable as the UAE is, with its anti-Semtism and anti-American voting record in the UN, it has also been a staunch ally in the GWOT. They have a vested interest in this, as al-Qaeda is also their enemy. And in this war against terror, we need allies in the Islamic world. This is not the same thing as appeasement, or multicultural sensitivity, to maintain an alliance with someone who has worked closely, side by side with our military.

Fri Feb 24, 09:37:00 PM PST  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

LMC, Mahndisa, James, Wordsmith:

Thank you for your comments. I thank everyone for adding their comments to this very important topic.

I have attempted to make plain the issues beyond those which have been readily identified by the MSM and various biased factions.

James: I don't think it's about Bush's LD status; it's about his making a mistake and then sticking to it because he's a human being.

Wordsmith: Good and salient points. But I will still back up to my core beliefs. One of them is this: we, the denizens of the United States, have to win EVERY TIME there is an attempt to kill us on domestic soil.

Terrorists have to win only once.


The stakes are such that fissile materials, SADMs, CBW events are of such a stage that their very nature engenders catastrophic results.

This isn't Low Stakes Poker anymore. It's ALL THE CARDS ON THE TABLE.

With every hand.

Wealth, money, PC, logic, proportion, rationality -- all of these concepts are OUT THE DOOR now. Capitalism? Nice try.

Check this out:

Let ONE dirty bomb detonate on sovereign US soil and there will be a paradigm shift of the Nth Degree -- and thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands killed and/or later affected through generational genetic defects.

In order to be Politically Correct, I am simply not willing to take that chance.

Yes, the UAE have been, comparatively speaking, supporters of the US in the ME. Perhaps even our greatest supporters.

These days, now, all it takes is one Good Person, Well Placed, to acquire the Appropriate Technology and then Disseminate it.

But you are right; the British don't have their collective fingers on the Proper Way To Run American Ports. Assholes can slip through. And -- in all reality -- may have already. Indonesians -- holy crap! A MAJOR source of Islamists.

Except: they're not HERE yet. And we work with what we have when we have it.

In the meantime, if this slows our ports -- know what? I'll take that chance.

We absolutely, positively, MUST recognize that the stakes are in fact THAT high.

Bottom line: I couldn't care less about how we look and how we are perceived globally; I only care about how many US citizens are vaporized, where, and when.


Sat Feb 25, 09:05:00 PM PST  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Let ONE dirty bomb detonate on sovereign US soil and there will be a paradigm shift of the Nth Degree -- and thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands killed and/or later affected through generational genetic defects.

Of course. But there is no more a security risk on the ports issue than airline security, the borders, etc. Foreign investors and company purchases of American assets abound. All of our ports on this scale are operated by foreign countries. I don't buy into the notion that the UAE is anymore a security breach than is a country like Britain, which has a Muslim population that appears largely anti-American. London bombings, has anything changed? Dubai comes in as investors. The same Americans employed by the British company will be working for Dubai Ports World.

We are porous in a lot of areas, and picking on just the port issue is baffling. To be consistent, where's the same level of hysteria over other areas? This changeover doesn't increase the risks of us being attacked. But what it does do, is bleed the Republican party, and strengthen the Democrats, who have not rightly earned trust in being keepers of America's security.

In order to be Politically Correct, I am simply not willing to take that chance.

It's not about political correctness. Screw that. But it is related to not going to the other extreme, which is based on racist xenophobia.

Speaking as a minority, I am no fan of diversity and multiculturalism as the Left knows it.

Yes, the UAE have been, comparatively speaking, supporters of the US in the ME. Perhaps even our greatest supporters.

I've listened to a number of military and port authorities now speak of their personal experience with Dubai and with the UAE. They've had nothing but praise to sing; and stress how vital they have been to us in the GWOT, including the freezing of terrorist bank accounts. In this, they have been invaluable.

This found at Flopping Aces:

A few points I would like to make. I have been in the Navy for 17 years and have been to the U.A.E. many many times. The Navy fully vetted DPW a long time ago because they run Jebel Ali the worlds largest manmade shipping port. All the supplies that go to U.S. Naval vessels and a large part of the supplies for the Army in Iraq come from either Jebel Ali or Fujiera U.A.E. also a huge amount of the cargo containers destined for the U.S. go thru Jebel Ali and we have Customs and HS inspectors there inspecting the containers that is why we did not have to investigate them as thurouly as others and may explain why it was considered no big deal by the CFIUS.

If a cargo container with a WMD makes it to say NY harbor it is already to late so the key to security is inspecting the containers before they get here. If we stop this deal does anyone honestly believe that the U.A.E. will continue to allow us to inspect cargo in their country? I know if I was the U.A.E. I would tell those U.S. inspectors to pack their bags and get out as well as the U.S. Navy. So all the hysteria and the threat from Congress to stop this deal will actually make us less secure.

Bottom line: I couldn't care less about how we look and how we are perceived globally; I only care about how many US citizens are vaporized, where, and when.

Agreed, 100%! After reading Jean Francois Revell's "Anti-Americanism", he's convinced me that America's seeming unilateralism is because the rest of the world has not stepped up to the plate in our collective global security. Frankly, the rest of the world has it wrong in perceiving America as an evil empire. It's crazy! So I say screw world opinion, in this regard.

Wed Mar 01, 02:45:00 AM PST  

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