President Bush has approved a deal selling control of six major US Ports to an Arab company, Dubai Ports World, for $6.8bn. DP World, a state-owned business based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), bought out London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. which runs major commercial operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. (1)
This has the two parties in an upside down tizzy with the Democrats screaming about national security and foreigners and the Republicans -- at least of the free trader sort -- hurling back epithets about anti-Arabism and racism.
It’s enough to make one take to . . . well, port.
The free traders mutter peevishly that behind this port-entous row is only a host of misunderstandings.
The ports will not be owned by the Dubai company, they point out. Only the contracts to manage them will go to it. And many of the top executives at DP World are American. So are the port workers. The US Coast Guard and US Customs Service will still be in charge of security, as they are at all US ports. The management change won’t affect that.
They also point out that there was nothing secretive about the deal. In fact, it was widely covered in the media because of a bidding war between DP World and a Singapore owned company. And they note that it’s not unique. China and Singapore already run terminals at Los Angeles and Oakland respectively.
Dubai is an ally of the United States. Doesn’t that count?
And what about free trade? What happens to US competitiveness if we can’t get the best companies to work here?
Finally, according to Homeland czar Michael Chertoff, DP World passed all the US security requirements. Doesn’t that matter? (2)
No, says Republican Representative Peter King of New York. US regulatory requirements “relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures, but it doesn't go to who they hire or how they hire people.” (3)
And anyway, what are those security requirements, Mr. Chertoff? Can we the people take a peek?
But Brer Chertoff isn’t talking because, says he, the information is classified and can only be divulged to Congress at secret hearings.
Oh . . . like those torture pictures.
But for the rest of us plebs, here’s some unclassified, quite public information that might help Mr. King in his reflections on the im-port of ex-porting security.
The UAE was the home of two of the hijackers involved in the 9-11 attacks. The FBI found that the UAE's banking system filtered much of the money used for the operational planning before the attacks and that many of the hijackers traveled to the United States through the UAE. (4)
Dubai is the base (with Saudi Arabia) for the Lashkar-e-Taiba jihadist group that is implicated in numerous terrorist attacks in India. (5)
A key figure in the illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons by A. Q. Khan -- the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb -- was B.S.A. Tahir, a Sri Lankan businessman living in Dubai whom President Bush himself called Dr. Khan's “deputy and chief financial officer and money launderer.” Tahir set up a front company, SMB Computers, and reportedly placed an order for centrifuge parts with a Malaysian company, claiming they were for the oil and gas industry. The actual order was said to have been placed by a British company in Dubai in which Tahir had a partner. (6)
And, the UAE is not only -- at the very minimum -- the backdrop for nuclear smuggling, it is also implicated in the traffic of South Asian youngsters into domestic slavery. The Bush administration has made the traffic of human beings a big priority. Then why bring a state-owned company from a country with this record right to our shores? (7)
And now, a senior DP World executive (director of operations for Europe and Latin America), David C. Sanborn of Virginia, will become the new administrator of the Maritime Administration of the Transportation Department. (8)
Does any of this pass the smell test?
Talk about giving terrorists safe . . . err . . . harbor.
Actually, forget the Arabs. The resume of the principal American running this show isn’t exactly a confidence builder.
Michael Chertoff was one of the leading architects of the Bush Administration's legal strategies in the War on Terror. It was he who authorized the detainment of thousands of Middle Eastern immigrants -- including Middle Eastern Jews -- without charges. (9)
As head of the DOJ’s criminal division, Chertoff was the one who advised the CIA how far to go in interrogations. (10) We now know how far that was. Apparently it’s quite kosher for innocent bystanders snatched up at random in street sweeps to be stripped, savaged by dogs and sodomized, but a company owned by a state elbow-deep in terrorist money laundering is absolutely the only one we can consider when it comes to watching the gateways to the country.
And here’s another tidbit: Chertoff was the co-author, along with Viet Dinh, of the USA PATRIOT Act that became law on October 26, 2001. (11) That’s right. Keeping tabs on obscure peace activists, spying on Joe Citizen’s summer reading at the library, and monitoring your Internet chat buddy in Europe -- that’s all fair game. But for god’s sake, respect the right to compete in the US market of one of the leading perches of worldwide jihad.
And the plot thickens. . . .
Chertoff turns out to have his sticky fingers in every wedge of the post 9-11 American pie.
It was he who supervised the 9-11 investigation. Chertoff was the senior Justice Department official on duty at the FBI command center right after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was he who identified the terrorists with almost miraculous speed and linked them instantaneously to Osama bin Laden and it was he who pushed to meld into a seamless whole domestic surveillance and foreign espionage -- which until then had been kept strictly apart. (12)
And while in charge of the 9-11 investigation, it was Chertoff who defended Dr. Magdy el-Amir, a prominent New Jersey neurologist at the center of a terrorist web in Jersey City, alleged to have siphoned millions straight to Osama. Chertoff, it is said, may have shielded el-Amir from criminal prosecution. (13)
It was Chertoff who called the shots in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the 9-11 suspects, a trial which some experts believe was an important step in an effort to subject federal trials to “ad hoc exemptions of whatever laws (be they constitutional, criminal code, or rules of procedure) that will suit their purposes” and whose long term goal is to “cripple and dismantle the federal courts as we know them.” Remember that Chertoff is a member of the Federalist Society, a far-right group rabidly intent on dismantling civil protections at home and discarding international law abroad. Moussaoui and even his attorneys were not allowed to receive all the documents pertinent to the case because of “national security” interests; witnesses were allowed to appear in court behind screens; and for the first time in history a Fourth Circuit hearing was closed. All this fits into a larger pattern of “secret warrants (or no warrants), secret hearings denying bail, secret trials, and now secret appellate court arguments. Next, we can expect the Supreme Court to be closed...” (14)
Finally, keep in mind that it was Chertoff on whose watch the Katrina relief effort was so badly botched. At the time, he even had the gall to assert that no one had ever predicted a disaster of this magnitude when in fact warnings had issued for years from experts and government agencies, including FEMA itself, which identified a Katrina-type disaster as one of the three most likely to hit the US.
Shades of the 9-11 warnings.
Orchestrated anti-Muslim propaganda all over the media; yet another Osama tape threatening an attack on the US; escalating threats of sanctions against Iran . . . and now contractors cozy with terrorists at our gates . . . doesn’t this all sound so familiar?
Forget DP World. What we need is an investigation into Michael Chertoff.
Lila Rajiva is a freelance writer in Baltimore, and the author of the must-read book The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the US Media (Monthly Review Press, 2005) She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright (c) 2006 by Lila Rajiva
1) “Arab firm to oversee 6 US Ports,” Ted Bridis, AP, February 11, 2006.
2) “Chertoff Defends Arab Firm Control of US Ports,” MSNBC February 19, 2006.
3) “More Objections to Port Takeover by Arab Entity,” AP, February 20, 2006.
4) National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch7.htm
5) “Why terrorists struck Bangalore," B. Raman, Rediff.com, December 28, 2005. See also, International Terrorism Monitor: Paper No. 8 -- Terrorist Strike in Bangalore, B. Raman, South Asia Analysis Group, December 29, 2005.
6) “On the trail of the black market bombs,” BBC, February 12, 2004.
7) “Far From The Finish Line,” Azmat Abba, Herald, June 2005 describes the abuse of underage camel jockeys.
8) Bridis, AP, Feb, 11, 2006.
9) “Amid Praise, Doubts About Nominee's Post-9/11 Role,” Michael Powell and Michelle Garcia, Washington Post, January 31, 2005.
10) “Confirmation hearings open for Homeland Security nominee,” Mimi Hall, USA TODAY, February 1, 2005.
11) “Homeland top job to Patriot Act architect,” AFP, January 13, 2005.
12) “Crackdown,” Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, November 5, 2001.
13) “Trail of Terror,” Chris Hansen and Ann Curry, NBC’s Dateline, August 2002.
* Dubai Does Dallas by Niranjan Ramakrishnan
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