So, aside from the fact that it’s politically idiotic and at
least theoretically presents a national security risk, just what is wrong with
the Dubai Ports deal?
As President George W. Bush actually said, “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’m trying to conduct
foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, we’ll treat you
So, what’s wrong with that? There’s our only president standing
up against discrimination and against tarring all Arabs with the same brush
and all that good stuff. (The fact that it was Mr. Racial Profiling speaking,
the man who has single-handedly created more Arab enemies for this country than
anyone else ever dreamed of doing is just one of those ironies we regularly
get whacked over the head with.)
OK, here’s for starters. We have already been warned that, should we
back out of the DP deal, the United Arab Emirates may well take offense and
not be so nice about helping us in the War on Terra—maybe even cut back
its money, as well as its cooperation. This is a problem specific to the fact
that we are dealing with a corporation owned by a country: A corporation only
wants to make money, a corporation owned by a country has lots of motives.
Second, this is a corporation, consequently its only interest is in
making money. A corporation is like a shark, designed to do two things: kill
and eat. Thousands of years of evolution lie behind the shark, where as the
corporation has only a few hundred. But it is still perfectly evolved for its
purpose. That means a corporation that makes money running port facilities does
not have a stake in national security. It’s not the corporation’s
fault any more than it’s the shark’s.
The president is quite correct that a “Great British” corporation
has no more or less interest in helping terrorists than an Arab corporation.
It is not the corporation that is supposed to have other interests—it
is government. But as Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, said,
“We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact
that we still want to have a robust global trading system.”
“Balance” is the arresting word here—keep your eye
on “balance.” We have an administration that is absolutely wedded
to corporate interests, both American and global. It honestly believes that
“free trade” is more important than the environment and more important
than the people. It has repeatedly demonstrated it is willing to let both go
in order to foster free trade. There is no “balance” in its consideration
on these issues, and now it turns out not much in “balancing” national
The people running this country—and that includes most of the leaders
of both parties—have proven again and again they are perfectly willing
to outsource American jobs, American wage standards, and American health and
safety standards all for the sacred, holy grail of free trade. Why would it
surprise us that national security is ditto?
I am amused by Chertoff’s use of the word “balance.” Since
the administration has done zip, nada, zilch about port security, it’s
unclear what he’s trying to “balance.” In 2002, the Coast
Guard estimated it would take $5.4 billion over 10 years to improve port security
to the point mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Last year,
Congress appropriated $175 million. The administration had requested $46 million,
below 9-11 levels.
As David Sirota points out, the administration has been negotiating a free
trade deal with the United Arab Emirates at the same time the port deal was
being negotiated. This whole thing is about free trade and the lock big corporations
have on our government to further free trade. Sirota also points out you will
see and hear almost no discussion of this fact in the corporate news media.
I have no idea whether DP World represents a security threat, but U.S. News
& World Report said in December that Dubai was notorious for smuggling,
money laundering and drug trafficking in support of terrorists. I suppose the
same could be said of New York, but it doesn’t sound pleasant.
Dubai is believed to be the transfer port for the spread of nuclear technology
by the Abdul Qadeer Khan network. David Sanborn, an executive who ran DP World’s
European and Latin American operations, was chosen last month by Bush to head
the U.S. Maritime Administration, according to the New York Daily News.
It’ll be interesting to see just how much power the free trade lobby
has over the political establishment. Right now, both Democrats and Republicans
are yelling about what appears to be a dippy idea. Let’s see what hearing
from their contributors brings about.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate
web page at www.creators.com