President Bush’s decision to allow Dubai Ports World to manage six U.S. ports not only caused uproar among party officials, but it has questioned America’s ability to hold relationships with Middle Eastern companies.
DP World, which is controlled by the United Arab Emirates, has been viewed by officials as a threat to America’s national security. In an Associated Press article, many lawmakers pointed out UAE’s role as an operational and financial base for hijackers in the 9/11 attacks and are opposed to having UAE run operations at ports vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Despite Bush’s faith that DP World will not be a threat to national security, lawmakers are non-believers.
Officials do not plan to take any chances with DP World being in control of such sensitive property. This is not a matter of officials being racist or prejudiced against the Arab world, but it regards reliable protection from terrorists and avoiding possibly devastating events. Since only 5 percent of a port’s shipment is inspected, U.S. ports are easily accessible for terrorists to launch an attack on American soil.
In a February Philadelphia Inquirer article, U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) said: “In the war against terrorism, some countries are not totally transparent and cooperative. Because of that, Congress has to be made more involved in the process.”
Lawmakers shouldn’t be blamed or questioned about their reaction to this deal.
Since the 9/11 attacks, officials have been walking on pins and needles, making sure history doesn’t repeat itself. If anything, this deal has established a focal point on how port security should be improved.
Bush believes the failing of the port’s deal has possibly put America’s relationship with the Middle East on the fence. In a recent New York Times article, Bush said: “I’m concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies ’round the world, particularly in the Middle East. In order to win the war on terror we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East.”
Bush does make a valid point about maintaining strong relationships with America’s allies. But America still remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Lawmakers must be cautious about every deal and agreement that is conducted with the American government, especially when it involves the country’s security.
Those who were in favor of the deal didn’t feel Congress had given it enough thought. In last Friday’s New York Times, Mohammed al-Roken, vice chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Society, said: “It looks like the Arabs this time proved to be more mature than the Americans. [The UAE] understood that this was a business deal and that if something stood in its way, they were not going to fight it.
“I’m glad that Dubai did not allow itself to get into a clash with people who are not discussing facts.”
Business and national security are different subjects. Lawmakers must do what is right for the sake of America. If DP World seemed to be a threat to security, officials had every right to protest the deal.
Of course, America’s Middle Eastern allies are important in the fight against terrorism and strong relationships are of great importance. But protecting American soil overrides any business deal.
Mary L. Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.