Tuesday, February 21, 2006 at 11:38 AM
Now comes the hysteria over its contract that gives management control of six major U.S. ports to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But it would be a strategic mistake (in the anti-terror war) to rescind this contract – notwithstanding bipartisan calls by craven politicians and jingoistic bloggers likeMichelle Malkin. And here’s why:
Donald Rumsfeld was on the Hill last week bemoaning the fact that America’s goodwill in Muslim countries (reinforced by tsunami aid in Indonesia and earthquake relief in Pakistan) is being undermined by a failure to communicate (ie. “US losing web war” – where its good deeds are being upstaged by al Qaeda propaganda and insurgent guerilla tactics.)
Yet, what does it communicate to the UAE, arguably America’s best ally in the Muslim world, when its contract with the U.S. government is greeted with this kind of xenophobia, indignation and undisguised distrust?
“We have worked very closely with the United States on a number of issues relating to the combat of terrorism, prior to and post Sept. 11.” [Sheik Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, UAE's foreign minister]
For the record, it’s important to understand that all of the hue and cry about this dealjeopardizing national security is grossly misguided. Moreover, it unwittingly betrays pervasive (latent) anti-Arab bias in America. After all, the UAE merely bought the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company that has been running commercial operations at shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia for years, without a single terrorist incident. And this transaction was consummated only after the nonpartisan:
“…Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, run by the Treasury Department, reviewed an assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies. [And] the committee’s 12 members agreed unanimously the sale did not present any problems.
And, after investigating all the speculation about the UAE funding terrorist activities, this committee probably found that UAE banks do not fund such activities anymore than Citicorp and JPMorgan Chase do. But, if America stops doing business with Arab countries it suspects of doing business with terrorists, Saudi Arabia, not UAE, should be boycotted!
Moreover, what does it communicate to the UAE and Muslims around the world (especially those trying to quell the riots over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad) when it’s so patently clear thatthe only reason controversy has erupted over this contract is because the buyer is Arab and not European?
Of course, Rumsfeld is right to wonder why America’s image abroad is taking such a beating. Because it is undeniable that Americans are doing many good things in many places (including in Muslim countries) for which they get little recognition and even less gratitude. But it’s a wonder America has any respect in the Muslim world at all when so many reputable Americans can be whipped into an anti-Muslim frenzy without any credible provocation whatsoever. Indeed, rescinding this contract will not only fail to win hearts and minds, it may also achieve the opposite effect of giving bin Laden and his jihadists
more fodder to goad moderate Muslims into thinking that America is, in fact, at war with all Muslims, not just Muslim fanatics like him.
NOTE: It’s disingenuous for critics to argue that the mistakes and secretive modus operandi of the Bush Administration – as delineated in the opening paragraph – justify their questioning the propriety and national security implications of this deal. Because, not so long ago, these very same critics were bashing Bush for being too zealous in his attempt to protect the American people by eavesdropping on communications between terrorist suspects.
Alas, poor George, he’s damned for wanting to lock-up America’s Muslim enemies (al Qaeda) and damned for wanting to do business with America’s Muslim friends (UAE)….
UPDATE: Just moments ago (today Tuesday @ 4:15pm), President Bush declared that the U.S. ports contract with UAE poses no national security ramifications and dismissed opposition to it as purely political. He then vowed to veto any attempt by Sen. Schumer and his Congressional “Minutemen” to block the deal; adding that:
“It would send mixed signals because no criticism was raised when a British company was in charge.”Well done, Mr Bush! US ports, UAE contract, national security