Sunday, February 19, 2006

Is That the Fox Watching the Hen House?
Bush Administration Pushes for Arab Emirate’s Control of US Shipping Ports

In a move that stunned both Democrats and Republicans, the Bush administration has thrown its support behind the sale of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co, a London based firm that runs 6 shipping container port operations in the United States, to Dubai Ports World. The proposed transaction would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration has considered the UAE, the home country of Dubai Ports World, as an ally in the “War on Terror”. But despite this official classification, many Americans, lawmakers and citizens alike are outraged with this decision. Are they justified in their questioning of this move? Well, let’s see.

The Jamestown Foundation notes “One of the most active offshore zones is Dubai, of the United Arab Emirates. The former Taliban regime's diplomatic ties with the UAE likely helped facilitate Afghan-based terrorists in conducting financial deals through Dubai companies. It is believed that huge amounts of criminal income, including some of drug dealers, are also laundered in Dubai. While officially denying this charge, the UAE has begun to impose more rigid conditions on the activities of its national banks. After September 2001, illegal financial operations became punishable by lengthy prison terms and sizable monetary fines.”

My view on this statement:
Although the government of the UAE has allegedly clamped down on such banking systems, there is no way to verify that;
1) they have identified and shut down all terrorist funding operations within its official banking system.
2) they have made any progress neutralizing the unofficial Hawala banking system that is a cash system and works outside of government control.
3) people working for Dubai Ports World are not terrorist sympathizers, or operators.

On November 7th 2001, the Bush administration froze the accounts of 18 companies based in the UAE, all but 1 bare a variation of the name Al-Barakaat. I find it hard to believe that a shadowy organization would leave all of their assets in companies and accounts so obviously identifiable by name alone. Further more, this does not account for any individuals who sympathize or personally contribute funds to terrorist organizations.

The charity networks that funded Al-Qaeda had close ties to UAE. One in particular, the Al-Wafa Humanitarian Organization with known ties to the UAE had still been in operation as late as 2004. In 2001, the British news organization Telegraph stated, “It is in those states, principally Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where many of the men who bankrolled Osama bin Laden and his like can be found. Not men with overt political power, but influential nevertheless.”

“Respectable, wealthy, even royal, their money, counted in millions, has flowed steadily into the hands of bin Laden's al-Qa'eda network and other groups such as the militant Palestinian group Hamas, despite their governments' oft-stated opposition to terrorism.”

Even if I were to give the benefit of the doubt to the Bush administration (which I no longer feel obligated to do), and accept the argument that the government of the UAE deserves to be rewarded for their perceived assistance in our quest to roll up Al-Qaeda, this does not justify allowing them such access to an industry with such a profound and physical connection to the safety of the American homeland and citizenry. It would be like giving the keys to your house to the guy who drove the van for the burglars who robbed you, just because he snitched on his buddies when he got caught.

Once again, the Bush administration has proven to me that they are an equal threat to national security as any other terrorist group. Way to go Georgie!


Anonymous Michael Cook said...

This is an issue that should be widely disseminated, and its potential threat driven home to the American public with such ferocity that it will make "Shock and Awe" look like a grade school food fight. If we allow these arrogant, unilateral, and "secret" corporate/government decisions and deals, we may soon find ourselves in the midst of the biggest shock and awe yet - on our own shores, in our own ports.

Allowing "Trojan-horse corporations" to operate our greatest points of vulnerability is beyond belief. Who's minding the store?

After the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, would you trust someone like Michael Chertoff to ensure our national security by inviting in a company based in UAE to run ports that are already demonstrably insecure?

This is insane. Let's get the word out across the nation on this - and let ALL our elected representatives on both sides of the aisle know that we won't allow such dictatorial, incompetent, short-sighted, stupid, and self-serving interests to further erode our security, to dictate flawed policy under the guise of keeping secret reviews of those same national security concerns that we've fought hard to to re-establish in this post-9/11 era.

The future security of our nation is at stake. What'll it be? Trusting thieves in high places to dictate these policies to us - or responsible, open decisions on running our ports? Contact your representatives now, write letters to the editors of your local newspapers and electronic media; DEMAND that this ludicrous proposal at least gets the oversight by competent officials it requires and deserves.

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