The NY Times notes today that U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Robert Mendendez are polishing their anti-Arab credentials in a rather arcane local issue that has broad international ramifications:
[The senators] added their voices to objections about the Bush administration’s approval of a deal that will give a Dubai company a central role in operating ports in New York and around the country.
…Clinton and…Menendez said yesterday that they planned to introduce legislation to prevent companies controlled by foreign governments from buying American port operations.
The purpose of the bill would be to block the $6.8 billion sale of a British shipping company to Dubai Ports World, a port operator controlled by the government of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates. The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, operates the cruise ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan and has a half-interest in the Port Newark Container Terminal, the third-largest cargo terminal in New York harbor.
“I just don’t believe that our ports should be handed over to foreign governments,” Mr. Menendez said in an interview. Especially not to Dubai, he added, because it has a “serious and dubious history” as a transit point for terrorism.
Echoing other lawmakers in Washington who criticized the federal approval of the deal this week, Mr. Menendez cited reports that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from the United Arab Emirates and that some of the money that financed the attacks flowed through banks there.
Does this mean that because the CIA and Henry Kissinger colluded with Pinochet to overthrow Salvador Allende and murder tens of thousands of Chileans that Chile would be justified in forbidding any U.S. company affiliated with the government (if there was such a thing) from doing business there? How about Cuban-American terror against Cuban civilians? Should Castro forbid U.S. companies closely allied with the government from doing business? Because the Japanese Red Brigades once committed a terror attack at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel should allow no Japanese companies affiliated with the government from doing business there?
Besides, how do you blame an entire country for the acts of two of its citizens on 9/11?
I’m sorry, but I’m with the Bush Administration on this one. Our country has excellent relations with the United Arab Emirates; that country’s leadership has been among the most supportive toward U.S. Mideast policies; it has been most open to considering dialogue with Israel. So what is gained by sticking a finger in the eye of one of the Mideast’s friendliest governments?
…Senior administration officials reiterated their support for the transaction and their favorable relations with the United Arab Emirates.
The Dubai purchase passed a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a panel composed of the leaders of 12 federal agencies and headed by the treasury secretary, John W. Snow.
Mr. Snow and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, said yesterday that the committee had determined that the transfer would not compromise security. Ms. Rice, who is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates next week, described one of them, Abu Dhabi, as “a very good friend” of the United States, according to Bloomberg News.
The anti-Arab bloc in the Senate seems not able to distinguish between different Arab nations. I guess you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all. No good Arab governments and only bad ones as far as they’re concerned. All those A-rabs are bad news, plain and simple.
And let’s call this one for what it is. They don’t want to prevent any company owned by a foreign government from operating a U.S. port. They want to prevent any company owned by an ARAB government from doing so. Why don’t we call it the “Anti-Arab Commerce Clause?” It has a nice catchy ring to it and accurately states the real goal of this xenophobic legislation.
Of course, we must note that each of these Senators is pandering in the basest way to the perceived interests of their Jewish constituents (but hey they don’t speak for me). I think it stinks and makes the Democratic party look like a bunch of raving Arab haters. In addition, Menendez is known for being what Jews call a hondeler (“wheeler dealer”) and I wouldn’t be surprised since the Port of Newark is within his jurisdiction that he may have some ulterior motive for opposing the new company. Perhaps he has his own ideas about who should be running Newark? And might that involve a political ally or friend? Just guessin’. Hope I’m wrong.
And if you’d like to see how paranoid and conspiratorial the right-wing blog world can get over this story, take a look at what Michelle Malkin has brewed.
Very good comment. Pity that easy pandering as you put it seems to be taking off.
Why do they hate us? Western culture, with an underscored respect for reason, capitalism, and individual rights for all members of society is diametrically opposed to the virus of Islamic extremism which is escalating a battle for greater control of the Arab world and beyond. Any progress in lifting the Arab world into modern western standards is not going to be achieved by bribing these regimes to not attack us or capitulating to the demands of the extremists. Our greatest weapon is appealing to the self-interest of Arab companies and workers with the mutual benefits thankfully available through cooperation in modern global markets. Shared interests and shared fortunes with the Arab world will create equal incentives for security both on our shores and theirs. An attack on America by Arabs becomes a self-inflicted wound and sets off internal forces overseas to eradicate the virus.
In the long run, free trade is a more effective diplomacy tool than any number of guns. We are open to working with the Arab world as equals, not as terrorists. Money knows no borders or race or religion.
If these Clintonian political postures are successful, we will send a clear message to the Arab world that America is xenophobic – Arabs need not apply to the modern world, leaving options such as Hamas the seemingly only viable alternative. Assuming the deal is accepted, we send the message that America responds positively to peaceful cooperation and our wrath is only reserved for attacks on the rights that make such free trade available at all.
It’s a shame such bigotry and racism can be accepted in the US. The company was already owned by a foreign company, based in Britain. The only change here is that it’s being sold to a UAE based company. Prejudice like this really makes me sad. Sadder to see that Dems and Repubs are both backing the opposition like it’s just and fair. I am appauled.
Richard Silverstein says
MPH: I agree with almost everything you write about economics and almost nothing you write about religion or politics.
You’re clearly a highly intelligent person and so I am sorry to read the severe cultural myopia in yr. views about Islam.
I don’t accept any of the terms in this statement. ‘They.’ Who is ‘they?’ All Muslims? Preposterous. Who is ‘us?’ Is ‘us’ all the enlightened, civilized supremely cultured peoples of the west? Again preposterous. Besides, hate is not reserved only for Islam. All religions and nations exhibit hatred for their competitors or enemies at one time or another.
I see. Tell me, if ‘western culture’ has an underscored respect for reason and individual rights, how did several central European peoples murder several hundred thousand souls in the 1990s in the Croat-Bosnia-Serbia wars? Or do you not count central Europe as part of the west? I suppose it’s part of the benighted ‘east’ that includes the Mideast and all those viral Arab regimes you can’t stand.
I also object to such glib and empty terms as “the virus of Islamic extremism.” It is deliberately incendiary and but a short step to seeing Islam itself as “a virus” within the ranks of world religions. Am I opposed to Islamic extremism? Sure. But Islamic extremism is not a disease like cancer. And it cannot be extirpated by radical surgery or any of those horrid metaphors.
All nations, religions and ethnic groups exhibit such extremist tendencies. Sometimes, as in the case of Al Qaeda it is religion fanaticism. Sometimes, as in the case of Serbia, it is nationalist fanatacism. But you make a serious mistake in assuming that Muslims are the only ones with this problem.
“Western culture” respects reason and individual rights when it suits and it throws these values to the winds when it suits. Of course, these values are the “angels of our better nature,” the ones we point to when we wish to show ourselves at our best. But to say that western culture always embodies these values is to stick one’s head in the sand of reality.
More cultural presumptuousness. Who says that the Arab world needs “lifting” into “modern western standards?” Do you hear yourself? Your arrogance (I hope unintentional) is troubling. Who says that our values or “standards” are the ones that should be adopted by the “backward” of the world?
I agree with everything in yr last paragraph except this silly, and again glib phrase:
What is “Clintonian” about a group of Democratic AND Republican politicians exhibiting ethnic prejudice in a commercial setting? And what is “Clintonian” anyway? I just hate glib catch phrases which mean something only to the person who coins them and his or her coterie of the like-minded. You forget that it was Bill Clinton who embraced world trade and international agreements which opened markets both here and abroad. I’d venture to say that Bill Clinton would seriously disagree with the position advocated here by his wife and other senators and Congress members.
I share your hope that this political grandstanding will not stand and that the proposed agreement will hold. I am certain that this U.A.E. shipping company will manage our ports just as safely as any other similar company might.
Two quick points, since you want to go there.
“Clintonian” because she was the first senator to make a fuss over this.
“But you make a serious mistake in assuming that Muslims are the only ones with this problem.”
All mysticism is a virus – nationalism, religion, you name it.
Richard Silverstein says
Spoken like a true materialist (I mean that literally, not pejoratively). I for one am a materialist who believes in mysticism, religion & spirituality. But only inasfar as they advance knowledge, understanding, love & tolerance. I do not embrace any ism that takes us down the road of hate, violence or intolerance. And I feel the same way about materialism or whatever you want to call it–economics, capitalism, etc. Open competition whether it involves ideas or business is a good thing. Unfortunately, our president & his cronies have shown us a business approach that is little more than cronyism run amok.
Though I do have to give Bush credit on the DPW issue. He’s shown real leadership on this and should be commended. I guess he doesn’t have too many friendly Arab governments to talk to so he’s got to do right by one of the good ones.
I find this anti-Arab sentiment in COINgress to be so blatently shallow and open.
It is obvious that AIPAC is pulling the strings on this one and as usual, Congress
is open to those who have the most coin to toss their way. And they wonder why
70% of the American Public holds the Federal Govt in esteem just above that
of used car dealers and insurance salesmen. What is truly scary however is how many
radio talk show hosts, including those on 35% Saudi Owned FOX News, are pandering
to this horsedump. Truly sad, America is the World’s laughingstock. I now fully understand
how my friends in Germany and Holland can justify the term ‘dumb Americans’ as a label.
You can apologize to your friends in Germany and Holland that us stupid Americans don’t love our State as much as they do. Yes, State-worship is something to be adored and we should look abroad to the wonders of thriving Europe to see why.