Dick Meyer, editorial director of CBSNews.com, has written a terrific article debunking the major myths that fuel the opposition to the Dubai ports deal. In reading this, I’ve learned that even I have been wrong in characterizing aspects of my argument. But let’s start with those myths:
A nefarious multinational corporation secretly controlled by a hostile Arab government has engineered a covert takeover of six major U.S. ports. America is at risk of losing control of its borders and compromising national security in an entirely preventable way.
Never have I seen a bogus story explode so fast and so far. I thought I was a connoisseur of demagoguery and cheap shots, but the Dubai Ports World saga proves me a piker. With a stunning kinship of cravenness, politicians of all flavors risk trampling each other as they rush to the cameras and microphones to condemn the handover of massive U.S. strategic assets to an Islamic, Arab terrorist-loving enemy.
The only problem — and I admit it’s only a teeny-weeny problem — is that 90 percent of that story is false.
Myth #1: An Arab company is trying to buy six American ports.
No, the company is buying up a British company that leases terminals in American ports; the ports are U.S.-owned. To lease a terminal at a U.S. port means running some business operations there — contracting with shipping lines, loading and unloading cargo and hiring local labor. Dubai Ports World is not buying the ports.
Several companies will lease terminals at a single port. In New Orleans, for example, the company Dubai Ports World is trying to buy (P&O Ports) is just one of eight companies that lease and operate terminals.
Here is where I went wrong. I wrote in an earlier post that a Chinese government-owned shipping company ran the ports of Long Beach (CA) and San Francisco. As Meyer points out, this isn’t true. Shipping companies don’t run the ports, they lease terminals. But what’s important here is that everyone who’s been beating their heads against the wall about this doesn’t understand what’s happening. DPW isn’t going to “own” or “run” the ports. It will lease terminals within ports. Those are two different animals and opponents of the deal should get their facts right.
Myth #3: American ports should be American.
Well, it’s too late, baby. According to James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation (a place really known for its Arab-loving, soft-on-terror approach), “Foreign companies already own most of the maritime infrastructure that sustains American trade…” Thirty per cent of the countries port terminals are operated by companies that are, um, unAmerican.
At the port of Los Angeles, 80 per cent of the terminals are operated by foreign companies. Chinese companies operate more than half the terminals. So why is this suddenly a threat?
…My colleague Charlie Wolfson reports that State Department sources say Dubai Ports World already handles port calls for U.S. Navy ships from the 5th fleet for their regular port calls in the United Arab Emirates — a pretty high measure of trustworthiness.
Everyone who’s been screaming about how much of a security risk Dubai Ports World is should consider that if we entrust U.S. Navy ships to DPW, especially in the aftermath of the Cole bombing, then they must be trustworthy (and fully vetted for potential security weaknesses).
Myth #4: The United Arab Emirates has “very serious” al Qaeda connections…
Yes, Dubai has plenty of blood in its hands, especially as a source or courier for terror funds. To my knowledge its crimes were not government sponsored. It is not a rogue state. It has been among the closer and more cooperative Arab allies for the past two years…
And Meyer closes his piece with this parting shot at the gunslinging politicians who dredged this controversy up and milked it for all it was worth:
Often bipartisanship is a sign of pragmatic consensus or noble common cause. In this case it is merely a demonstration of an occupational hazard of politicians: cover-your-arse-itis.
I wish I could post this article on the foreheads of all the ignoramuses posting utter nonsense in the comments thread of this Daily Kos diary I published today.
BTW, a terrific new post by Faiz at ThinkProgress which also rebuts the opposition to the ports deal.
Hat tip to Faerie Bell’s Blog for turning me on to this excellent reporting.