Port security matters, the Dubai controversy does not. If a president and his party choose to secure our nation's ports at pre-9/11 levels, then they are operating in a pre-9/11 mindset. According to Karl Rove, "that doesn't make them unpatriotic -- not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."
In 2002, when the Coast Guard estimated that it would cost "$1.5 billion for the first year and $7.5 billion over the succeeding decade" to adequately secure our ports, our War President ignored the request and asked Congress for a mere $46 million in his 2005 budget, a figure below 9/11 levels. Since then, the federal government has allocated just $708 million to improve port security. Such Congressional generosity has met one-fifth of our security needs and has created a funding gap of over $3 billion.
On the contrary, the President has spent more than $200 billion securing Iraq. In recent days, he was surprised to discover that the Dubai government in the United Arab Emirates is preparing to operate several U.S. ports. On homeland security, George Bush is as uninformed as the next guy, his prompt support for the Dubai deal leaves him at the outskirts of public opinion.
Just "17 percent of Americans believe Dubai Ports World should be allowed to purchase operating rights to several U.S. ports. . . " 64 percent of respondents consider the UAE's recognition of the Taliban and its vulnerability to infiltration from Al-Qaeda troublesome, and they oppose the takeover. (according to a Rasmussen Reports survey)
The public is in good company. The election year has formed a bipartisan Congressional coalition in opposition to the acquisition. Never mind that security would remain at the mercy of U.S. agents and the President's funding, Republicans and Democrats remain critical of an Arab country operating our ports.
In the real world, it's the Republicans who can't be trusted: they invaded a non-threatening country, radicalized Muslim Jihadists and slashed funds for homeland defense. But these Republicans are unique in their ability to project their failures on the opposition. Since budgetary constraints prevent the leadership from walking and chewing gum at the same time, the Republicans have chosen to veto important domestic security measures in favor of fighting the war on terror "over there." As Media Matters for America has documented "[New York Senator Chuck] Schumer proposed an amendment to the 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which would have provided $70 million for research and development to stop nuclear materials from entering U.S. ports." The Republicans defeated his measure. Under their leadership, the contents of only 5.6 percent of containers are annually inspected and the 9/11 Public Discourse Project (the successor to the 9/11 Commission) gave the Bush administration a "D" for their efforts in screening cargo. According to Kim Petersen, president of the nation's largest maritime security consulting company, the Coast Guard "doesn't have either the people or the necessary physical resources to provide the in-water patrols that are so desperately needed."
Republicans hold the unique distinction of de-funding homeland securing, and recruiting terrorists faster than they can capture them. Instead of securing our ports, Congress has demanded a review of the Dubai company. Considering that Dubai would have little influence over port security, they're wasting our time at the expense of our security.
Igor Volsky is an undergraduate student at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, NY. He can be reached through: www.politicalthought.net.
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