Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Port of Call

It's hard to run things rationally when you have so many people ready to Monday morning quarterback your calls. But it comes with the territory and Mr. Bush must have wanted this job because he sure fought for it.

Everyone and his brother has an opinion on the UAE state-owned company, Dubai Ports World, which recently bought up the British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

Here are five facts about Dubai Ports World, from The Khajeel Times:

  • Shareholders at Britain’s P&O, who had been managing the ports, voted last week in favour of Dubai Port’s multibillion dollar bid, giving the firm control over the management of P&O’s global operations, including in the US ports of New York and New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami.
  • The deal made Dubai Ports World the world’s third-largest ports group.
  • Dubai Ports World purchased the global port assets of US freight rail company CSX Corp. in 2005 for $1.15 billion. US Treasury Secretary John Snow is a former chairman of CSX, but left the company a year before the Dubai deal.
  • One of DP World’s top executives, David Sanborn, was nominated by President George W. Bush in January to become the administrator of the Maritime Administration in the US Department of Transportation. At least one senator plans to hold up Sanborn’s confirmation until more questions about the port deal are answered.
  • Dubai Ports has international operations in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Germany, Romania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, India, China, Malaysia, South Korea and Australia in addition to the UAE.

What is most striking about this whole dust-up is the lack of information in every quarter. Do we know who made the decision to go with the UAE company (which is essentially staying with the old P&O Company)? I mean, how familiar are any of us with the CFIS -- The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States? Do any of us know anything about the oversight of this committee?

What seems to have gridlocked is President Bush's stubborn executive decision to check out what this committee did, receive assurances that it was standard operating procedure, and then dig his CEO heels in for the tussle. Meanwhile, post 9/11, the whole country is -- to coin a phrase -- up in arms at what seems like lax, dangerous decisions.

And there doesn't seem to be an intelligent journalist out there willing to do the legwork to tell us what's going on. Not that they don't have opinions. Nearly everyone does:

In favor of the deal Opposed to the deal Straddling
George W. Bush James Lileks Bill Gertz
Jimmy Carter Michelle Malkin Cliff May
Wall Street Journal New York Post Jed Babbin
Washington Post Frank Gaffney LA Times
Saudi Arabia Gov Pataki, NY Mark Levin
Reuters Mayor Bloomberg TKS -- Jim Geraghty
Gov. Bush, FL Congress 
Lawrence Kudlow Houston Chronicle 
 New York Times 
 Gov. Ehrlich, MD 
 Miami mayor 
 Baltimore mayor 

Though fewer in numbers, the straddlers get my vote. This is one time to wait and see what can be discovered. Dubai Ports World isn't galloping in here on their camels, scimitars at the ready.

Can we just wait and see what there is to be seen after the shouting and posturing are done with, and the sandstorm of irrational fear has settled enough to allow us to observe reality?



bioqubit said...

Straddling is really about taking a closer look at this whole rotten arrangement. This could be the equivalent of governmental Hurricane Katrina ripping the cover off a lot of sordid activity desparately in need of greater public attention. Just think of all the amazing things we learned about the citizens of New Orleans, the politics and politicians of New Orleans, as well as the environmental science and other cool stuff.

That the CFIS, or CIFS, has rubber stamped all but one of some 1500 deals it has reviewed in the last umpteen years is one big red flag. It's function has flowed smoothly across many administrations. Some many argue this is just another well-hidden rich man's club facilitating globalization of everything.

Representative Peter King's quick study turned up indications that they did no vetting of key personnel whatsoever. Some security check.

Someone else, this evening, on John Batchelor, pointed out that much of the top management of DPW is American or other westerners. Even if this further illustrates how fundamentally incompetent those sand-eating camel jockeys are, it is still cold comfort. You can be sure that Al Qaeda is in overdrive, as we speak, on how to take advantage of this situation.

There is no individual "too low" in an organization, or "too small" in significance, to have a role in some terrorist plot. The point begs the question: Why hasn't it happened yet? We don't know what impact there may have been. We don't even know if this dust up inadvertantly put some plot temporarily on hold or that the scrutiny to follow may not turn up a plot that would have otherwise been missed.

The fact is that these countries, especially the UAE, have functioned as double agents hiding in plain sight. They bow and scrape to America in phony sympathy for 9/11, make the necessary token adjustments to help "participate" in the war on terrorists, while continuing to refuse recognization of Israel and aid and abet Iran and others who want to destroy Israel.

None of this is news to the State Department yahoos. The question no one seems to be able to answer tonight is "Who ultimately benefits from this arrangement?" That is meant both in terms of access to money, and access to information about our security arrangements.

Scott said...

If security is the issue, I wish
someone could tell me what al Qaeda
could not accomplish with a large
motoryacht that could be done more
easily with a container ship?

A 100 foot or so motoryacht can be
chartered or bought and its itinary
escape surveillance. It can cross
an ocean and go where the large
vessel cannot. It does not need to
be inspected by USCG nor is it
required to have a port approved
pilot for docking. It need not stay
in shipping channels, it's crew can
be of the terrorist's choosing. It
can carry tonnes of explosive or
even an atom bomb.

If Arabs are not to be allowed to
spend their surplus DOLLARS on
investments in the US what are they
to do with them? Would you feel
more secure if the UAE, denied the
opportunity to invest in the USA,
were to spend that $6 billion on
US, Russian or Chinese weaponry?

Would the American economy benefit
if Arab states, again denied the
opportunity to invest their surplus
petrodollars in the US, decided to
make the Euro the currency in which
they accept payment for oil?

America had better think this thing
through and not be stampeded into
some foolish emotional reaction.

Nilk said...

I'm a complete nufnuf on this issue, but there has been some good discussion on this over at

It looks like there has been confusion all round on this one over what is basically a stevedoring company. DP won't actually have control over ports - that would be for port authorities.

One pertinent

A port management company deals with scheduling, and nothing but scheduling.

They schedule when ships arrive and depart. Which docks they can use for offloading and loading. For maintenance tasks and replenishment.

Security, ship inspections, cargo inspections are carried out by government authorities such as the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Customs. The port management company has nothing to do with these. The company cannot even hire it’s own cargohandlers as these are *union* jobs and jealously guarded ones at that. Last year the unions shut down every west coast port by having the cargo handlers go on strike.

This is a complete non-issue being pushed by ignorant right-wing bloggers, which has now been taken up by left-wing bloggers and Democrats because they can now use this “bi-partisan” effort to really shaft the Republicans.

As a conservative all I can do is watch this and comment: suckers.

And I blame Michelle Malkin most of all for this since she’s one of the first ones to push this. When she started this she had no clue as to what actually was involved with a port management company. A reader of hers even wrote her an email, that she posted, detailing what a port management company does and Malkin still had no clue.

Frankly this is a composition of stupidity and political convenience that’s going to bite the GOP right in the ass.

There is more interesting stuff on the blog.

Nilk said...

Sorry about the [a] tag. Looks like I'm a nufnuf about html, too.

David Foster said...

"what al Qaeda could not accomplish with a large motoryacht that could be done more easily with a container ship?" Easy. Getting a container off the ship and place on a trailer or a rail chassis for delivery anywhere in the country.

Jason Pappas said...

No straddling here: people I hoped we'd keep out of America after 9/11 are now going to guard the border. Absurd!

It’s not the details but the concept. We can’t let an Arab or Islamic company involved in sensitive (real or symbol) security concerns. There have a different culture, tradition, values, and loyalties. The fact that there are good individuals from every nation is irrelevant: we can’t take the vetting risk.

FDR joined forces with Stalin to fight Hitler but believing that the enemy of our enemy is our friend was a grave mistake. We allowed communist penetration in our defense industries, military, and government. Have we learned nothing?

Dymphna said...

Jason Pappas--

This is one area you and I don't agree on. The global reach works both ways and we have more to accomplish than simply trying to impose "democracy" on the unwashed.

The business of ports is divided into many functions, of which one is security. DPO has no control over that, and no control of the rules. They have rent rights, just as they do in many other ports in many other nations.

This issue has neither been researched by the ancienne press [thank you, knucklehead, for that phrase] nor been subjected to due diligence by the blogs doing their research.

As I said, UAE and/or DPO is not galloping in here on their camels, flashing their scimitars. We have time.

THe New York Times is who we should be chasing off the turf. They are the real danger in our midst.
Bioqubit -- "in plain sight" is the key. Would that the corrupt French and other suck-ups to S. Hussein had been so transparent. Now the French are so scared they're rattling their nuclear swords in their scabbards. BTW, an etymological piece of flotsam floated by when I looked up scabbard the other day: it derives from the same source as vagina...needless to say, I found this on a site dubbed "useless information."

goesh said...

I really like the idea that UAE can keep their financial records at home. When you trust friends, your courts never need to have access to their financial records, and I suppose their personnel records too. Who cares if Ahmed from the Pakistani frontier flies in to take a job with UAE and gets placed in a US port? If you can't trust an ally, who the hell can you trust? Most importantly, they are clearly smart in UAE to have a huge business like this - they aren't dumb like the arabs that had to use box cutters to kill 3,000 of us. Bush's support is surging in the MSN poll I just read. He got a 9% favorable nod out of 150+ thousand hits on the poll. You're smokin', baby!! And ain't it just stupid for Americans to mistrust arab muslims?? Hopefully Bush will tell us the ports can't function unless UAE is in charge and it will all just go away. This is really damaging the GOP by the way, but such is the nature of Democracy.

Jason Pappas said...

I see I didn’t convince you. Ah, well, we all must disagree sometimes. Keep up the good work. Respectfully yours, Jason.

Scott said...

David seems to feel that it would
be easier to smuggle something in
on a container ship than have a
private yacht with no schedule or
cargo manifest and freedom to off
load anywhere of its choosing using
its own crew to evade detection.

I don't know David. If you had to
bring a 10 ton load illegal weapons
into the UAE would you rather use
your own boat or someone elses.
Would you take your chances getting
it through their customs and at
their port or offload it in the
middle of the night to place you
had already secured?

kevin said...

The UAE owns Dubai, The UAE is one of only 3 countries to recognize the Taliban. I think that would be reason enough, need more? try these gory details:

Evanston2 said...

I'm no fan of Islam, but I'm with Dymphna on this. We can review our procedures further, but Bush may be correct. On the surface, this does seem to be a simple stevedoring contract and not the port security operation. I worked for 4 1/2 years in Jacksonville, FL in an operation that involved such concerns. The folks who run security just need to pay attention, as they should be doing during all stevedoring operations.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hmmm..I'm straddling, leaning towards no. Here's why.

In the first place,those who say that ports management is just about scheduling and maintenance and that Customs and the Coast Guard handle security miss this little item: that securty measures must be coordinated with port management, giving them an inside look at our security proceedures and capabilities..and the loopholes in the system.

I also don't like the `islamophobia' card being played, or the heavy duty lobbying that Dubai Ports is doing on this. Some of the well known players involved in trying to muscle this through Congress are astounding:
J O S H U A P U N D I T: The latest on the ports deal

There are also some plusses, which I outline in the above post.

But overall, this doesn't pass the smell test, and President Bush needs to make a case for it, particularly in light of the farcical dissembling about his `not being aware of this until it was a done deal'. His remarks to the press make it VERY obvious that he did know about this.

For anyone interested in my favorite question, `why', I have a pretty good idea why President Bush reacted the way he did and why he wants this pushed through.J O S H U A P U N D I T: What's really behind the port deal controversy.

The president deserves to make his case for this,but thus far, I don't think he has. until he does, I think we should err on the side of caution.

Fat Man said...


Thomas Barnett

James K. Glassman

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

Fat Man said...


David Brooks

Bobby Coggins said...

I think one thing most people have overlooked is the Legacy Media reporting that DP World is buying the ports. They fail to mention that they are only purchasing 24 out of 800-plus terminals located in 6 ports.
They are shaping the argument by using misleading terms.