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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Don't Buy Dubai Lies

Over the past two months, there has been a frenzy of media attention over the takeover of P&O (a London-based company) by Dubai Ports World (a United Arab Emirates company). This was suddenly ended when the company agreed to sell their American operations to an American shipping company.

Both Republican and Democratic politicians have been outspoken in opposition to allowing Dubai Ports World to operate the former P&O terminals. In a poll of 1000 American adults, only 17% agreed with the Dubai Port deal. These 17% are the smart ones.

But let’s compare the opposing arguments with the facts. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “I don’t think any foreign government company should be running our ports, managing, leasing, owning, operating.” However, Dubai Ports (DP) World is what is called a terminal operator. This means that DP World would only operate a few terminals in each port. In no way does any company “own” a port. The port operator is responsible for “the area within the port that serves as a loading, unloading, or transfer point for the cargo. This includes storage and repair facilities and management offices.” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security). Furthermore, foreign companies already run nearly all the port terminals on the West Coast and about half of those on the East Coast. For example, Los Angeles alone has port operators from China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and Denmark.

Senator Dianne Feinstein asked, “Do we want our national security assets to be sold to foreign powers?” Never mind that U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard are responsible for port security. Or that U.S. Customs and Border Protection screens 100% of all cargo before it arrives in the U.S. Or that “the workers handling security in U.S. ports are supplied by longshoremen's unions” (Washington Post, 2/22), meaning that the workers will remain the same no matter who the port operator is.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine began, “When Americans expressed concern about turning our ports over to the government of this country...” Governor Corzine should recognize that “Dubai Ports' top executives include two Indians, a Dutchman and several Americans, including a guy who went to the University of Maryland.” (Baltimore Sun, 2/26). These people are hardly terrorist-friendly Arab government executives.

“Why in the world should we let this rogue government control ports in the United States?”, asked Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Again, no company is “controlling ports”. Yes, two of UAE's 1 million citizens became hijackers in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the terrorists did store money in UAE banks. However, it is also true that the hijackers were allowed to take piloting lessons in our own country. If we rule out every country that at one time unknowingly contained terrorists, we would rule out ourselves.

Another argument is that the UAE recognized the Taliban after they seized the Afghan capital Kabul in 1996. Yet, the UAE completely severed all ties with Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Now, UAE ports host more U.S. Navy ships than any port outside the United States. According to a government fact sheet, “[A] team of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers is permanently stationed inside Dubai's ports, where they work closely with Dubai Customs to screen containers destined for the United States.” and “cooperation with Dubai officials has been outstanding and a model for other operations.” Also, “The UAE has provided significant monetary and materiel support to the Iraqi government, including a pledge of $215 million in economic and reconstruction assistance.”

So how can our politicians be so illogical, and how can so many people be wrong? The answer is that politicians are taking advantage of our own ignorance in an election year. I mean, somehow, our politicians failed to “protect” us from dangers of the Chinese, Japanese, Danish, British port operators. That they are only against Dubai Port World, now, is absolute proof that this is not a real issue. As I have shown above, having DP World as a port operator would not lessen security in any way. Instead, it would enhance it by strengthening our alliance with the UAE, who in turn are giving us needed resources and information. Our politicians are exploiting our concerns about security, while alienating one of our best allies just because they are Arab. If you don’t believe me, then look it up for yourself. But whatever you do, don’t buy the lies.

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