Thursday, March 02, 2006

Port Security vs Islamophobia: Part 2

*** This article will appear in the next issue of the Mendota Beacon ***

Good morning, class. Today’s one question pop quiz deals with the topic of port security and the bid for a United Arab Emirates company to purchase the British company that currently operates six United States ports. The question is; what does this deal have to do with U.S. port security? If you answered, “Nothing,” then take your seat at the head of the class.

There is no question that the case involving the $6.8 billion takeover of London-based port-operator Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O) by state-owned Dubai Ports World (DPW) has aroused a vitriolic reaction from both sides of the aisle. The opponents of this deal are saying that it puts unnecessary risk on port security in a time when our number one priority is the safety of American airports and shipping ports. Supporters of the deal, led by President Bush, argue conversely that the DPW-operated ports would run just as smoothly and safely as the same ports have under P&O operation. More recently, the tide of the debate has shifted to a matter of whether or not this administration knows what it is agreeing to in the deal, and thus the takeover has been delayed at the request of DPW corporate brass.

What one must understand is the extreme patience that DPW has shown through this whole process. The takeover of P&O will transfer operation of ports not only in the United States, but also in Australia and Great Britain, to DPW. However, according to DPW Chief Operating Officer Ted Bilkey, the trouble they have run into here “has come as a surprise.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported last Wednesday that the debate in the U.S. is the only obstacle preventing this deal from reaching a conclusion. Are we to assume that the U.K. and Australia have nothing to fear from terrorism? I was under the distinct impression that Muslims had attacked the heart of the U.K. in July.

Let us quickly analyze the role played by the United Arab Emirates in assisting us as we fight the war on terror. First, we must confront the fact that two of the 9/11 hijackers hailed from the UAE and used their banking system to move money for use in planning the attacks. Well, in a WSJ editorial, former Clinton Defense Secretary William S. Cohen points out that Great Britain, Germany, Florida, California, and Arizona banks moved money for the terrorists, but “no one … has suggested that any of them were deliberately aiding or abetting terrorism.” Then there is the conveniently ignored fact that the UAE has been one of our strongest allies in the war on terror. According to the WSJ, “[I]t was one of the first countries to join the U.S. container security initiative, which seeks to inspect cargo in foreign ports.” Does this not seem like useful information for the current debate?

It is really quite simple; Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, is attempting to shift its world image from oil-rich desert oasis to an international financial hub comparable to New York or London. This was the plan set forth shortly after 9/11 by Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the emir of Dubai. Would it be smart policy to facilitate the attack of a major trading partner, especially when it would seem so obvious that they were complicit? Of course not, and if you were the head of P&O, would you willingly allow your company to be taken over so the company you built up could be used as a front for anti-Western Islamofascists? The security risks posed by this deal are purely imaginary. Until we realize this, the tide of this debate will remain unchanged.

No comments: