Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dubai Ports changes course

"The devil is in the details," said Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY) about the announcement by DP World that it plans to transfer the six U.S. port facilities involved in the P&O deal to "an American entity." What exactly that "American entity" will be, remains to be seen.

In my previous blog entry about Dubai Ports World, I examined the issues raised by the transaction. I'd like to look at how those issues played into this resolution — or at least postponement — of the controversy.

There was much noise about national security in the discussion, with both Republicans and Democrats, and even usually rational people like Bill Maher, panicking about the idea of an Arab state-owned company operating major U.S. ports. We already have foreign companies operating many of our most important port facilities, and even foreign government-owned entities in some ports.

Beyond that, the day-to-day security of the ports would not have been controlled by DP World, which is only a holding company. We would not have ruthlessly efficient terrorist sympathizers helping sneak nuclear weapons into Newark or Houston or Miami, we would have the same incompetent buffoons who currently guard our ports continuing to do their lazy, inefficient, lackadaisical job of occasionally opening a container. Seriously — even if terrorists infiltrated port security, it would provide them only a marginal increase in their chances of success in smuggling in WMD's, perhaps from 95% to 99%. "U.S. port security" is as much a contradiction as "Ramadan beach party."

The Bush administration completely bungled the political handling of the DP World deal, from start to finish, but I have not yet seen anything to make me seriously question the assessment of the career civil servants that the transfer of the ports to DPW would have no significant impact on security. In fact, it's something of a "nowhere to go but up" situation.

The great irony is that it is the Bush administration's repeated cries of wolf (even down to featuring predatory, maybe even rabid, wolves in their 2004 TV ads) that caused the greatest damage to this deal. America's enemies are all around us, just waiting to strike. We must never let our guard down, because we have to be right 100% of the time and they only have to be right once. We must give the President the authority to wiretap without oversight, secretly detain people indefinitely without trial and without even so much as access to a lawyer, renege on treaties, and redefine torture, or else the fucking rag-heads [رأس يغطّى مع خرق قديمة] will kill us all, from Manhattan, New York, to Manhattan, Kansas. We must gird our nation for "The Long War," as the "War on Terror" is now called in Orwellian Bushspeak. [I explain the term rag-head in Arabic not to inflame tensions, but rather because I think it is important for the rest of the world to understand the depths of the racist, jingoistic [أمريكيات ينبغي أبديت المغفلات من أخرى أمم كيف أن يدير هم أعمال وحكومات بشكل صحيح] idiocy that informs much of American political decision-making today.] The one time that the Bush administration correctly points out that there is nothing here to worry about, they get bitten on the ass because they seem to have forgotten that they've whipped everyone into a frenzy with their updated version of "a Red under every bed." [هناك شيوعية روسيّة تحت كلّ سرير أمريكيّة ; Будет русский коммунист под каждой американской кроватью.]

Of course, even here, the Bush administration can't resist the knee-jerk impulse to play the Fear Card yet again. If we shoot down this deal, then the terrorists will win! We will alienate vital allies overseas, and then the sand niggers [زنجيات من الرمل] in the Middle East will no longer trust the word of the U.S. government!! For God's sake, if we don't let Dubai run our ports, the next thing you know there will be homosexuals performing abortions on Oprah!!!! [It's a strange hierarchy of fear-mongering, but it certainly seems to resonate with a large segment of the American المغفلا public.]

But surely anti-Arab bigotry wasn't the only motivating factor in the resistance to the P&O/DPW deal — was it? There was no real threat to our security, nor was there anything particularly new even in having our port facilities owned by a foreign government. The stinging defeat for the Bush administration resulted from their own laziness in not thinking through the political aspects of this deal, coupled with the irrational fears and prejudices that they themselves have helped fuel, compounded by their arrogance and intransigence in the face of any lack of faith in their absolute righteousness. Congress should have let the deal sail right through because Jesus personally told Dubya to trust DPW. After all, there's not a whole lot of difference between Dubya [دوبّيا] and Dubayy [دبي]. Bush looked into the eyes of the emir of Dubai and saw that he has the soul of a good Christian, underneath all that Moslem part.

What should the Bush administration have done differently?

How's this for a fantasy scenario: somebody in the Bush administration senses that there could be some uneasiness about transferring vital American economic infrastructure to the government of a petroleum pusher, and decides, in spite of the lack of substantive reason for concern, to order a 45-day security review. The President and both the Republican and Democratic Congressional leadership get a briefing on the deal, particularly including the salient point that it's a bit late now to be concerned about foreign ownership issues. At the conclusion of the 45-day review, assuming it didn't find any serious problems we haven't heard about, you hold a press briefing. Then the President personally signs off on the deal, and everything proceeds smoothly.

What should the Bush administration do now?

Well, quite honestly, they should all resign, but we know that's not going to happen, and besides, this incident isn't anywhere near the top of the list of reasons that they should.

There really isn't much they can do at this late stage in the Dubai ports deal, other than perhaps examine what led them to stick their proverbial feet in their mouths up to their knees. They could send Karen Hughes on a Middle East trip to try to mend fences with the Arab world, but honestly, I think that would be as likely to do harm as to do good, both for the administration and for the country, because Karen Hughes is almost as qualified for her job as Michael Brown was to lead FEMA. More likely, they'll try to find some new Terri Schiavo or Roe v. Wade or gay marriage between adopted abortionists, or something else to distract the American people from the fundamental reality that the Bush administration doesn't know its own ass from a hole in the ground.

What should Dubai Ports World do now?

Well, the way I see it, there are two basic options:

  1. Sell off the U.S. assets in the P&O deal to a bunch of blond-haired, blue-eyed WASPs wearing American-flag shirts and American-flag blue jeans over their American-flag underwear, with crucifixes displaying Jesus wearing an American-flag loincloth as he smiles happily down from the cross. No matter the weather, the American buyers must not wear any hat or head covering of any kind, lest they be mistaken for Ay-rabs or Jack Abramoff — the dirty Jew who stained the public image of the Republicans by getting caught.

  2. Form a U.S. subsidiary of DPW, with a separate Board of Directors consisting entirely of U.S. citizens, and a "firewall" both to insulate the U.S. subsidiary from interference by the parent company and to protect certain information about the U.S. operations from access by non-U.S. employees of DPW. Insist on a full 45-day security review, to get it out of the way now instead of leaving the questions lingering in the air. Include on the Board at least a couple of directors with impeccable credentials in port operations and especially port security. Figure out a way to make the security at the DPW-owned port facilities demonstrably better than the security at other U.S. ports, and conduct regular reviews of all security protocols to look for areas of further improvement.

    خلقت فرع تابع ال موانئ دبي العالمية في الولايات المتّحدة الأمريكيّة ، مع إدارة منفصلة ، كلّ مديرات الولايات المتّحدة الأمريكيّة مواطنات ، مع "جدار مانع للحريق" أن يحمي الشركة أمريكيّة من التأثير ال موانئ دبي العالمية ، وأن يحمي أسرار من الشركة أمريكيّة من أخرى موظفات ال موانئ دبي العالمية. ألحّت على يشبع ٤٥ يوم أمن مراجعات ، أن يتمّ هو الآن ، دون أسئلة عالقة. سيتضمّن الإدارة الناس مع خبرة معصومة في شحن عمليات وفي شحن أمن. جعلت الأمن في ال موانئ دبي العالمية شحن تسهيلات بإثبات على نحو أفضل من الأمن في أخرى تسهيلات في الولايات المتّحدة الأمريكيّة ، وراجعت كلّ أمن بروتوكولات أن يفتّش مناطق أن يحسن۪
Personally, I'm hoping for #2. I hope I got the Arabic reasonably close [ترجمة بحاسوب غير جدير بالثّقة], because I have readers in places like Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Libya and Lebanon, not to mention about 80 other countries on every continent except Antarctica.

What should the American public do now?

First and foremost, acknowledge and confront the racism that has infused much of the opposition to the ports deal. America has a long and rich history of racism, and an equally long and rich history of denying its own racism. Much though many — including our so-called leaders in both major parties — yammered on about port security, that was never much of a real issue. Yes, it was right to ask the question and demand a better answer from the Bushies than "Trust me or else," but to pretend that we have serious reason to fear for our security is as much an insult to the American people as it is to the Dubayanese people.

Then we need to confront the overall climate of fear the Bush administration, most especially Vice-President "Birdshot" Cheney, has created in this country. If we cut and run from the battle to protect our civil liberties, let down our guard against those who would torture prisoners, and fail to keep tabs on the people who seek to dismantle the system of checks and balances that separates democracy from dictatorship, then we will have done more damage than the 9/11 terrorists, Hurricane Katrina, and a nuclear bomb on the National Mall, combined. Giving up our Constitution is capitulating to the terrorists.

After that, we need to confront the fact that our government has done damned little to actually make us safer from terrorists. With 95% of the cargo coming into our ports going completely uninspected, we have much bigger problems than worrying about a British company or an Arab government doing the bookkeeping. With a government that thinks that invading a country that posed no actual threat to us is somehow a good way to win the hearts and minds of the world, we can't exactly afford to ignore the way we're treating what few allies our President hasn't already pissed off. With an administration that demands blind faith in our Feckless Leader, without considering evidence, subject-area expertise, or critical thinking, we are ill-equipped to choose the course adjustments that are always necessary in steering the ship of state.

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