22 February 2006

Another Great Idea

It simply boggles the mind.

WASHINGTON - Brushing aside objections
from Republicans and Democrats alike,
President Bush endorsed the takeover of
shipping operations at six major U.S.
seaports by a state-owned business in the
United Arab Emirates. He pledged to veto any
bill Congress might approve to block the
The president on Tuesday defended his
administration's earlier approval of the sale
of London-based Peninsular and Oriental
Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World,
despite concerns in Congress it could
increase the possibility of terrorism at
American ports.

The sale — expected to be finalized in early
March — would put Dubai Ports in charge of
major shipping operations in New York, New
Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and
Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that
this transaction would jeopardize the
security of the United States, it would not go
forward," Bush said.

"It sends a terrible signal to friends around
the world that it's OK for a company from
one country to manage the port, but not a
country that plays by the rules and has got a
good track record from another part of the
world," Bush said.

Good track record, huh? Here’s what U.S. News & World
Report had to say about Dubai back in December 2005:

From Egypt to Afghanistan, when terrorists
and gangsters need a place to meet, to relax,
maybe to invest, they head to Dubai, a
bustling city-state on the Persian Gulf. The
Middle East's unquestioned financial capital,
Dubai is the showcase of the United Arab
Emirates, an oil-rich federation of sheikdoms.
Forty years ago, Dubai was a backwater;
today, it hosts dozens of banks and one of the
world's busiest ports; its free-trade zones are
crammed with thousands of companies.
Construction is everywhere--skyscrapers,
malls, hotels, and, soon, the world's tallest

But Dubai also serves as the region's criminal
crossroads, a hub for smuggling, money
laundering, and underground banking. There
are Russian and Indian mobsters, Iranian
arms traffickers, and Arab jihadists. Funds for
the 9/11 hijackers and African embassy
bombers were transferred through the city. It
was the heart of Pakistani scientist A. Q.
Khan's black market in nuclear technology
and other proliferation cases. Half of all
applications to buy U.S. military equipment
from Dubai are from bogus front companies,
officials say. "Iran," adds one U.S. official, "is
building a bomb through Dubai." Last year,
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
agents thwarted the shipment of 3,000 U.S.
military night-vision goggles by an Iranian
pair based in Dubai. Moving goods undetected
is not hard. Dhows--rickety wooden boats
that have plowed the Arabian Sea for
centuries--move along the city center,
uninspected, down the aptly named
Smuggler's Creek.

Hey, if Brown & Chertoff can be put in charge of disaster
response, and Cheney can create our energy policy, why
not let the folks from “Smuggler’s Creek” administer our
ports? Really. What could possibly go wrong?

Digby writes:

If there are three hallmarks of this failed Bush
administration, it is hubris, incompetence and
cronyism. This port deal features all three.

Indeed. You know you’ve hit the trifecta when even Frist
and Hastert start looking for the exits.

The confrontation between Mr. Bush and his
own supporters escalated rapidly after the
Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, and the
House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, joined
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. George E.
Pataki and a host of other Republicans in
insisting that the transaction must be
extensively reviewed, if not killed. That put
them on essentially the same side of the
issue as a chorus of Democrats, who have
seized on the issue to argue that Mr. Bush
was ignoring a potential security threat.

The White House appeared stunned by the
uprising, over a transaction that they
considered routine — especially since China's
biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports
in the United States, as do a host of other
foreign companies. Mr. Bush's aides defended
their decision, saying the company, Dubai
Ports World, which is owned by the United
Arab Emirates, would have no control over
security issues.

Of course not. They’d just be in charge of answering the
phones, replacing the toner in the copy machines and
receiving large sums of U.S. tax dollars they can send
back to their friends in Smuggler’s Creek.

C’mon guys! What’s the worst that could happen?