There are, of course, many members of Congress opposing the Dubai ports deal. There are just as many saying patently stupid things about the deal. Members who I always thought were a little short in the brains department like Duncan Hunter have been taking their “stupid” pills. But just as surprising, a senator like Charles Schumer, who I always believed could tell the difference between stupid and smart politics, proves on an ongoing basis that he’s lost his bearings regarding this issue.
Today’s NY Times brings news that both have commented today about the affair in breathtakingly dumb ways. Let’s start with Hunter first:
Mr. Hunter said Dubai’s record on handling nuclear materials and other weaponry disqualified it from having one of its state-owned businesses operating port terminals.
“Their track record is terrifying,” he said.
Actually, it’s Hunter’s ignorance and grandstanding that is terrifying. Just howso “terrifying,” Mr. Hunter?? Or are we to take your word on faith minus any evidence whatsoever? Not I, that’s for sure. I’d suggest that, like Alice, you go back to that pill and take another bite. The first bit made you stupid, maybe the second will make you smart.
As for Schumer, here’s what he had to say:
Other lawmakers said the disclosure that the administration had begun a security review of a proposal by another Dubai company to buy a British manufacturer of precision tank and aircraft parts in Georgia and Connecticut increased doubts.
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, pressed administration officials to explain why the sale of the company, the Doncasters Group Ltd., merited a close review while the port deal covering a potentially greater vulnerability did not. “It just doesn’t add up,” Mr. Schumer said.
If any lawmakers do believe that a security review of a Dubai company seeking to buy a British munitions company increases doubts about Dubai Ports World’s qualifications to manage U.S. port facilities, then they’re morons. They’re doing a security review. Final judgment on whether their IS a security risk from the transaction will not come till the end of the review. Why in heaven’s name would you assume that doing a review meant there WAS a risk? It only means you’re studying the question.
Second, Mr. Schumer, DPW has already agreed to the very 45-day security review which you raged about for a week. Why go back over ground that’s already been planted? As a judge would say: “Asked and answered, Mr. Schumer, now let’s move on.”
Third, I can definitely see a reason why a munitions deal would warrant very serious review. The British company makes precision tank and aircraft parts. Do we want our soldiers using defective parts in their equipment? Do we want our planes crashing due to factors caused by the manufacturer? Of course not. This is an important issue of national security. As for the issue of whether DPW endangers U.S. port security, that’s highly debatable and most port security and military experts dispute those brainy boys in Congress as you can read in this blog.
UAE Israel Boycott
Jerusalem Post, that right-wing Israeli shmateh (“rag”) attempted to hammer another nail to DPW’s coffin by revealing that UAE officially endorses the Arab nations’ boycott of Israel:
The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned…
“Yes, of course the boycott is still in place and is still enforced,” [said] Muhammad Rashid a-Din, a staff member of the Dubai Customs Department’s Office for the Boycott of Israel.
But apparently the boycott isn’t as air-tight as Mr. a-Din would like. In fact, Israel’s largest shipping company does business with DPW throughout the world and Zim is singing DPW’s praises:
The chairman of Israel’s largest shipping firm has strongly backed a deal that would give a United Arab Emirates-based shipping company control of several U.S. port terminals, while another GOP leader expressed strong opposition…
In a letter to Sen. Hillary Clinton obtained exclusively by CNN, Israel’s Zim Integrated Shipping Services CEO Idon Ofer called state-owned DP World a strong business partner, despite the United Arab Emirates’ boycott of Israel. (Read the letter — PDF)
“During our long association with DP World, we have not experienced a single security issue in these ports or in any of the terminals operated by DP World,” Ofer said in a letter written February 22. “We are proud to be associated with DP World and look forward to working with them into the future.”
If the chairman of Zim Lines does not find the boycott grounds for discontinuing his business relationship with DPW, then why should we??
Did this evidence of DPW’s good-standing within the Israeli shipping industry hold any sway over Senator Schumer? Nah:
The Zim official “has to represent his shareholders,” Schumer told CNN on Thursday. “We have to represent security in America. And so, it really doesn’t matter to me what Zim says.”
You’re playing dumb again, Chuck. Do you seriously believe that if the chairman of Zim Lines had a moment’s hesitation about DPW’s security qualifications (or for it’s alleged boycott of Israel) he would allow his company to do business with them? He’d be out of his mind if he did. Besides, Israel is one of the most security-conscious countries in the world and cargo security has to be very high on its list since it poses a clear terror threat to the nation. Zim must have some of the best maritime security experts in the world on its payroll. Again, I say if it’s good enough for Zim it should be good enough for Chuck.
In addition, I find Schumer’s dismissal of Zim’s support for DPW on the basis of the chairman’s sole concern for his shareholders (and financial bottom line) to the detriment of security to be an insult to Zim and Mr. Ofer. I’d say that he is at least as conscious of security issues as Schumer, if not more so, for the reasons I outlined above.
This Associated Press article argues that though there may be a formal boycott in UAE and the Arab world, it is mostly honored in the breach, if at all:
Dubai’s government may formally subscribe to the Arab boycott of Israel, but a state-owned company at the center of a controversy over its bid to take over some U.S. port operations says it routinely works with Israeli firms.
It’s a contradiction increasingly apparent in the region: Several Persian Gulf states, especially ones entering international markets, mostly ignore the boycott even though they haven’t formally ended it and don’t recognize Israel.
Countries like the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part, have also ended secondary boycotts, meaning Israeli products not shipped directly from Israel are allowed to enter their markets.
So let’s call the “Israel Boycott” argument for what it is–a patently manipulative red-herring that has little, if anything to do with the issue at hand, which is–is DPW a security risk for U.S. ports? And the answer so far is a resounding “No” barring any real evidence coming from the other side.
Dick Berger says
“If the chairman of Zim Lines does not find the boycott grounds for discontinuing his business relationship with DPW, then why should we??”
Surely there must be many reasons for Zim’s interests to be different from those of the U.S. I think you are very wrong on this issue.
I wonder if the Knesset would approve DPW’s management of the port of Haifa. I believe we should phase out foreign management of terminals at all US ports as fast as we can find qualified domestic companies to take over. If we can’t find enough private enterprise firms to do it, I would favor their management by the federal government. It is a ridiculous and sorry situation that we have already outsourced about 80% of the terminals at our ports to foreign companies.
If this trend continues perhaps the only jobs Americans will be doing is flipping hamburgers.
Richard Silverstein says
Dick: I think you fundamentally misunderstand what a terminal operator does (I’ve covered this subject in earlier posts on the ports deal). They unload cargo and they fill out paperwork for that cargo. That’s it. They don’t run security at all. And unloading cargo is increasingly no more than having a guy in a big crane unloading huge containers. How can such a person endanger our security?
I’ve published several posts here, Dick, explaining that the U.S. maritime industry has been in marked decline since the mid-1950s. There are almost no large marine operators left in this country (there are smaller ones operating out of some ports). This is a high volume, low-profit industry & American companies are looking for larger profits than maritime can offer. That’s why the industry is dominated by foreign players. So it’s an impossible dream to say we should re-create an industry that hasn’t existed for 50 years.
I disagree that the feds should run this. Don’t we already have enough commercial areas in which the feds have intervened (not always to good effect)?
The outsourcing argument you mention is tired & irrelevant. The jobs at the DPW U.S. ports will continue to be filled by the same mix of U.S. & other employees as there was before DPW took over. There will be little or no personnel changes since P&O will essentially continue running things. P&O’s entire management structure is being preserved intact in this DPW takeover.