Xenophobic paranoia or teapot tempest
By Daryl L. Hunter

In the uneasy climate after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration's hasty decision to allow Dubai Ports World to purchase of operations of six U.S. ports is incomprehensible to most Americans.

Dubai Ports World a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, although allies to the US but like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and France they can't be depended on for our safety. The Sept. 11, hijackers used the UAE as an operational and financial base; the UAE has also been a transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the administration had a "very extensive process" for reviewing such transactions that "takes into account matters of national security, takes into account concerns about port security."

It is regrettable that the administration didn't factor perception by the American people into their analysis.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asserts Dubai Ports World agreed to certain conditions to ensure national security. He said details of those agreements were secret.

I am so comforted that Chertoff has gotten assurances from the UAE they promise to now be good.

This illogical move by the Bush administration is developing into a major political headache for the White House, as well it should. Whether it is safe or not, most Americans perceive this is a gross failure of national security. A February 24 Rasmussen Poll found 64% of Americans believe the sale should not be allowed.

Support for the deal from former President Carter is all the more alarming, the only good decision Carter has ever made was to harvest peanuts in the fall. Carter has become such a partisan activist that I can see him endorsing the deal in order to undermine President Bush's core support base to help democrats win midterm elections.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist R-Tenn. and House Speaker Dennis Hastert R-Ill, called on GWB to delay the takeover too reevaluate the security risk. The Frist and Hastert dissention is a major break with the White House.

The rare near unanimity of a normally disagreeable congress speaks volumes about the deal. New York Gov. Pataki (R-NY) and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R-MD) are threatening legal action to block Dubai Ports World from taking over operations of U.S. ports. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said: that he and Sen. Clinton (D-NY) will introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of port operations to foreign governments. This begs the question; why was it ever legal to begin with? Lindsay Graham R-South Carolina said that the administration approval was "unbelievably tone deaf politically," later Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) made a similar statement.

I think that Sen. Graham & Foley are to kind, I'm afraid that the UAE deal is administrative malpractice and politically suicidal.

President Bush has vehemently defended the deal telling reporters that he would veto any bill to hold up the UAE deal. Bush, who has yet to veto a bill during his administration, warned that the U.S. is sending "mixed signals" by attacking a Middle Eastern company after the ports were run by a British firm for several years.

Many conservatives are outraged about a veto threat considering the many bills that should have been vetoed and weren't. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he was "absolutely mystified" by the hard line taken by the president. Rep. Foley said: "Of all the bills to veto, if he lays down this gauntlet, he'll probably have 350 members of the House ready to accept that challenge,"

GWB would be wise to remember that republicans lack the dogmatic, sycophantically, dedication of the democrats.

Due to public concern the Bush administration has authorized a second review of security risks of the UAE ports deal recommended by congress. The new 45-day investigation is hoping to avert a political showdown. Dubai Ports World Chief Operating Officer Ted Bilkey an American citizen citing American concerns has agreed to the 45-day review.

Shining sufficient sunlight on the deal will prove one of two things, that this is a tempest in a teapot or our xenophobic paranoia is well founded.

Although Sen. Frist has recommended legislators wait for the outcome of the investigation before acting on legislation to delay or block the deal, a bipartisan group of senators proposed legislation that would give Congress power to block the UAE deal. This legislation would give Congress the authority to reject the ports deal after completion of the new 45-day review.

Today my perception is that I am less safe than yesterday, and my basis for my feeling is my country's domestic security (borders and ports) are being ignored in a reckless and apathetic manner. We are in a war with Islamofascist forces from the Arab world, and although our offensive strategy is bearing fruit our defensive strategy appears weak. Many fear the UAE deal could be a Trojan horse for militants wanting to attack the US.

GWB in the future may want to factor intangible perceptions by the American people a bit higher on his priority list. The UAE deal could be the most innocuous foreign affair of America's history but it damn sure doesn't appear to be.

 

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