Control of U.S. Ports

I don’t quite understand letting Dubai manage U.S. Ports. There must be some rhyme or reason for doing this! Has President Bush become (even more) unhinged? We he let Abu Dhabi control the toll bridges next???

That situation has made for some odd bedfellows. Jimmy Carter supports Bush. Hillary Clinton and Bill Frist think its a bad idea.

Personally, I am against the deal just on protectionist principles, but I honestly don’t know what the whole thing entails. shrug

It’s all about the croneyism?

It is rather telling that Bush is threatening to veto any bill which derails the sale; what is so urgent about this giveaway that he’s willing to finally exercise a veto to ensure it goes through?

Can anybody here tell me–factually and knowledgeably–if there were any competitive bids from any capable US companies for this?

Personally, I hope this brings the Bush dynasty’s beholdenness to mideast petrodollars into clearer focus.

The British firm P&O used to run the ports in question-somehow, we never had a!security problem with them! The fact is, this UAE firm runs a lot of the world’s ports. As to why American firms don’t like this kind of businss, I have no idea-I suspect two reasons:
(1) low profits
(2) low growth
(3) high probability of being sued
Look at our merchant marine-most of our ships are registered in panama! Are we at risk by allowing this sale? probably no more than with the current system.

I’m not sure if you were thinking this or not, but just to be clear on what is happening… It’s not like the US put these ports up for sale and then the UAE company bid for them. The ports were already managed by a British Company, P&O, which is in the process of being bought out by the company based in the UAE. There isn’t necessarily going to be “competitive bids” in this type of transaction. And, keep in mind that security for the ports, contrary to what some politicians are saying, will still be the responsibility of the US.

The UAE is considered an ally of the US, and an ally in fighting Isalmic terrorism. I have to wonder how that alliance would be compromised if we decided that “hey, it’s OK if a European country operates our ports, but not an Arab country. No siree, Bob. Don’t want no brown-skinned folks of a certain Muslim persuassion to get a foothold on US soil.”

Personally, I don’t know what the right answer to this issue is. But it seems to me that if we are going to allow foreign ownership of the operation of our ports, we can’t just reject one foreign company beause “it’s Arab”. Remember, they won’t own the port itself, and they won’t own the security for the port-- they’ll own the operation of the port.

I have yet to see any reason why this is more problematic than any foreign country owning part of the operations.


Shipping is a huge global trade. Honest question, even if the US could post a bid on the sale, is there a large enough US owned shipping interest able to make one?

I don’t know the answer either. However, transportation is such a vital part of any nation’s wellbeing that I’m uneasy about having any foreign government or company operating our ports, rail yards, airports or anthing like that.

If this goes on for a time, domestic skills in such things will deteriorate and then in case of disagreement (or worse) with that the country doing the managing we are in deep trouble. In addition, I sort of like to see those in charge of such vital assets right here in the USA where we can get at them legally and hold them responstible and accountable.

Had I known that P&O was operating the ports I would have bitched about that too. I don’t care how good friends they are, you don’t let them hold the rope that is around your neck.

I wouldn’t dream of rejecting it because “it’s Arab.” I might reject it because the company will soon be owned by a foreign government (Do any European governments own operating rights to any of our ports? My impression is that they do not) or because the new owners have an uncomfortably cozy history with al Qaeda (and are one of three sovreigh states to recognize them diplomatically). It’s a little early in the game to attribute my concerns to anti-Arab bigotry, don’t you think?

If the government of Venezuela acquired the operating rights to the port of New Orleans, or the Cali Cartel bought a controlling stake in the port of Miami, wouldn’t a degree of concern be warranted? Especially if we had a president whose family had massive financial ties to the new owners? I don’t know the answers either, but there’s nothing bigoted about asking more questions.

Why, exactly? How does Dubai Ports World, or its predecessor, hold a rope around our necks? Please lay out a few specifics so we can discuss whether they actually hold water or not.

I’m not trying to be confrontational; I simply fail to see any significant issue here, save one of possible financial shenanigans originating with David Snow, who organized the previous sale of CSX’s port assets to DPW. I’m not an expert on this issue, but I know enough about it to recognize that the people who are bitching loudest about this deal know next to nothing about this industry or how it is operated. Likewise, I have not the slightest concern that there is any security issue involved that would not exist with any other entity, American or otherwise, managing US port operations.

I didn’t attribute your concerns specifically to anti-Arab bigotry. Only the first paragraph was directed at you, and even then I was careful to say that I wasn’t sure if you were thinking along the lines of what I posted.

There seems to be a lot of information really lacking in this story. For example, just what is it that the company does? I take it there won’t be unknown Arab men swarming the docks and loading/unloading shipping containers. Is this mostly a financing/bookkeeping company? Or what? If this is a security risk, how does that happen? Does this company have some special access to port facilities? It seems to me that this is rather critical to understand, but none of the articles I’ve read on this have really covered it.

If there truly is no security risk, then this seems to me to be a good move - if you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world, then a show of even-handedness like this seems to be a good idea.

But we’re severely lacking in details, so far.

It’s good to see that Jimmy Carter is backing Bush on this one–I was starting to wonder what’s wrong with a pinko like me, that I thought Bush was making a good call! :smiley:

As John says, it’d send a terrible message to say that a European company could be trusted, but a Middle Eastern company couldn’t. I’ve emphasized repeatedly that we’re losing the propaganda war here, that we keep handing propaganda victories to Al Qaeda when it would cost us very little not to do so. This is a case where it’d cost us very little to gain a propaganda victory for ourselves: we can showily say, “Look, we’d love to have ME allies working with us in the states. The US does a lot of stuff in the Middle East, but that’s not because we’re colonialists: it’s because that’s how a global economy works. If you’ll look, we’ve got Middle Eastern countries doing stuff in the United States. That’s because we trust them: it’s only the nutjobs that we mistrust, not Muslims or Arabs.”

Already we risk losing that easy propaganda coup and turning it into another costly failure. If we reject the UAE’s offer, that’ll be one more thing bin Laden et al can point to when trying to convince Muslims that the US is a racist regime fighting a war against Islam.

Why do it? Why not take the easy victory?


That’s exactly my thinking. You’d have to show me exactly, in detail, how this threatens U.S. security before I’d think it was a bad move, because on the face of it it sounds like a perfect way to gain a little bit of trust in an area that is sorely lacking in it.

It seems to me that those who manage the transportation facilities have essential control of the economic well being of a country.

I realize that in order for them to make money they ports have to operate, but making money isn’t always everyone’s aim under all circumstances.

You aren’t required to worry about it, but to me such control of a vital part of our transportation system by someone over whom we have no means of control other than the indirect one of economics is worrisome.

Then perhaps we should stop torturing them. In their place, that would piss me off a lot more than business dealings. To again quote Bill Mahr, while most Arab Muslims are kind, peacefull people, all of the terrorists who want to kill us are Arab Muslims. :slight_smile:

Having just read a bit more about this, I discovered the following:

  • The company is really just a holding company. There aren’t going to be Arab workers in America. The port workers will remain the same.

  • This company already runs port operations in many countries, including countries that routinely ship into the U.S. If they wanted to use their company for terror, they could already do so (only a tiny fraction of shipping containers are ever inspected, and this won’t change)

  • The government vetted them, and the company was completely cooperative.

  • The UAE has bent over backwards to help the U.S. in the Middle East and iin the war on terror.

In short, absent a concrete example of a security hole this creates, cancelling this deal just because the company is Arab would be a PR nightmare. This war is a battle for hearts and minds, and deals like this are a good way to increase cooperation, spread good will, and show that this not a war against Arabs or Muslims, but against terrorists.

And it also occurs to me that having middle easten countries have significant financial interest in U.S. operations gives the U.S. leverage in the same way that having the U.S. dependent on middle eastern oil gives middle eastern countries leverage over the U.S. If push comes to shove and the UAE begins behaving badly, the U.S. would have a multi-billion dollar operation to use as leverage.

Is there actually an offer to reject? We’d have to explicitly forbid them from operating the ports in question, wouldn’t we? Like I said earlier, it’s not like we put the operations up for sale-- they were already owned by a foreign company.

If we say that foreign companies cannot operate the ports, I’d like to see what other contracts we’d have to cancel in order to maintain a consistent policy.

And Bush needs to get out in front of this if he doesn’t want to end up with a huge fight on his hands. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but it is not obvious to the casual observer that this is a good thing.