Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Selling our Ports to Terrorists?

I have to admit that at first glance the administrations determination to allow a United Arab Emirates company to manage six major U.S. ports seemed like a bad idea to me. After all, on 9/11 we were attacked by radical Islamists, two of which were United Arab Emirates citizens. We are currently at war against radical Islamists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I decided to take a deep breath and try to examine both sides of the issue. This turned out to be more difficult than I imagined because most of the opinions flying around are all negative. Finally I found a calm rational sounding article on the Wall Street Journal Online that was able to answer all my questions.

I couldn't understand why President Bush would be so anxious to turn over our ports to people who attacked us.
Yes, some of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens. But then the London subway bombings last year were perpetrated by citizens of Britain, home to the company (P&O) that currently manages the ports that Dubai Ports World would take over.
so I guess one could argue that our ports are already being run by a company from a terrorist nation. Not that I would ever characterize Great Britain as a terrorist nation. But the London Bombings were carried out by British citizens. So denying a UAE company the rights to contract because two of the 9/11 highjackers were thier citizens would be like saying that no United States company could bid on this contract because Timothy McVeigh was a US citizen. You can't condemn an entire nation because of the behaviour of two of its citizens.

But what about security. Wouldn't turning security of our ports over to a company that is more likely to employ terrorists than a western company be dangerous.
Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There's a difference. Port security falls to Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials. "Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday. "The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Kristie Clemens of U.S. Customs and Border Protection elaborated that "Customs and Border Protection has the sole responsibility for the cargo processing and cargo security, incoming and outgoing. The port authority sets the guidelines for the entire port, and port operators have to follow those guidelines." Again, nothing in the pending deal would affect that arrangement.
Personally I trust Coast Guard to defend our ports. At least I do as long as guys like George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are in charge.

But now I have to come to grips with the fact that Jimmy Carter and I agree on this topic. Ow! That makes my brain hurt.

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