March 10, 2006
DPW, Some Round Up Thoughts on the Blow Back
I shall make this briefish note as the DPW fiasco continues to steam ahead. In many ways this is good for me personally as I expect increased in-region / non-US flows for MENA money. But it is bad for investment in the US, bad for US MENA policy and reveals as clearly as clear can be the deep vein of anti-Arab bigotry hiding beneath the surface in the United States. A loss for moderation, a loss for state security interests and a loss for economic efficiency and investment in key assets. Yes, bravo to ignorant know-nothing racist jingoism. This blows back not only to commerce, but also to our pious middle conversation, make no mistake about it.
First, following on my note regarding Israel's Zim lines perfect comfort with Dubai and DWP, a somewhat late coming article in The Financial Times:
A few extracts, to highlight the ignorant racist knee-jerking: On Container Security & Investment Therein, at Dubai port now, in US ports.... well who knows, after some under-capitalised, semi-nationalised US AMTRAK type entity takes over perhaps? You know, to keep it all in the hands of good honest Americans:
x-ray scanner inside is large enough to examine a whole truck with a container on its trailer and look inside at the contents. It has been built under the container security initiative (CSI), through which Dubai’s ports and more than 40 other big container terminals worldwide host US customs officers who check US-bound containers for suspicious material. In return, cargo cleared at participating ports enters the US with minimal further inspection.
Of course such people are untrustworthy, and likely to leak US security procedures. This operation should be shut down in the interest of national security.
Sadly, Dubai customs officials and managers at DP World were left, yesterday with the cold soup of noting for the record that
their record in Dubai and their co-operation with the CSI show they are just as interested in securing the world’s container supply system as the US government.
Ahmed Butti Ahmed, the director-general of Dubai’s customs service, points out that Dubai is seeking to develop its economy through commerce, tourism and regional financial services for the Gulf.
“You cannot develop those sectors if you do not have proper, tight security,” he says.
Mohammed Sharaf, DP World’s chief executive, says the company was enforcing stringent safety rules even before the September 11 attacks. Dubai has subsequently become the first port in the Middle East to join the CSI. “We have been proud of what we have been doing here all along,” he says.
Tough, of course, but you're a dirty wog and can't be trusted with the rusting, under-developed under-invested, inefficient US ports, which clearly, like the US railroads before them, need to be protected from dangerous foreigners and rolled up into a US-only entity.
Amusingly, DPW has to remain in part silent on its own cooperatoin while the xenophobes and anti-Arab bigots spin half-truths and grossly distored stories:
On the port operators’ part, Mr Sharaf says DP World’s main responsibility is to provide US and Dubai customs with the containers they request for screening. Although Mr Sharaf will not give details, the company has also regularly informed customs on shipments it regards as dangerous.
“These are things you cannot announce in the press,” Mr Sharaf says. “You would be just opening the door to the other party to find ways [round the safeguards].”
The company’s efforts have won credibility with the world industry, which has shared few of the US politicians’ concerns about DP World’s takeover of P&O.
But foreigners, what do they know?
Neil Davidson, a container ports analyst at London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants, says DP World is generally viewed positively.
“They’ve had the reputation for a long time of operating efficient terminals in all respects – the performance and organisation and security,” he says.
Well in London I guess we're used to the wogs.
But let me get to David Ignatius' fine and telling Op Ed which cuts to the very heart of this fiasco:
Burning Allies -- and Ourselves
By David Ignatius
DUBAI -- Officials here heard late Thursday that Karl Rove had decided to pull the plug. President Bush's political adviser was said to have conveyed to a top manager of Dubai Ports World in Washington that the White House couldn't hold out any longer against congressional pressure to kill the Arab company's plan to acquire freight terminals at six U.S. ports. The initial response of one Dubai executive was: "Who's Karl Rove?" But in the end, political leaders here recognized that it was time to fold a losing hand.
Until Rove's decision, Dubai's business leaders had insisted they would fight on. The chairman of Dubai Ports World, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, told me emphatically on Wednesday that his company would do whatever was necessary to convince Congress that the deal posed no security risk -- new investment, additional equipment, more scanning of cargo, special checks of UAE personnel, including himself. But that was before the House Appropriations Committee voted 62 to 2 to kill the deal.
Bending over backwards still did not, as Ignatius suggests, change the mind of the mindless Nativist mob.
Unreservedly I agree with Ignatius on the following:
I suspect America will pay a steep price for Congress's rejection of this deal. It sent a message that for all the U.S. rhetoric about free trade and partnerships with allies, America is basically hostile to Arab investment. And it shouldn't be surprising if Arab investors respond in kind. One could blame it all on craven members of Congress, if the opinion polls didn't show that Americans are overwhelmingly against the deal -- and suspicious of Muslims in general. Those poll numbers tell us that America hasn't gotten over Sept. 11, 2001. If anything, Iraq has deepened the country's anxiety, introspection and foreboding.
To appreciate how cockeyed America's Dubai-phobia is, you have to spend a little time here, as I did this week.
The truth is, this is one of the few places in the Arab world where things have been going in the right direction -- away from terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism and toward an open, modern economy. That's why congressional opposition came as such a surprise here. People in the UAE think they're America's friends.
Sure they are, if they stay in the right side of the No Wogs line.
Certainly, it also seems right, as Ignatius suggests, that the utter fiasco that has been Iraq has driven Americans into a deep blue funk, having been first suckered like the ignorant rubes that they are, into thinking they'd be greeted as real liberators of Iraq (being utterly and completely unaware of the colonial history of the region and how their Yank troops would fit nicely into the anti-Imperialist playbook. The gross naivete of the self-deciving navel gazer).
That with the recent horrid reporting on the cartoons controversy, where mere hundreds of hooligans were able to paint the millions of Muslims, who did not riot or in fact do much of anything, with the "they" tarpaper.
The "they" of "those Muslims" of course. As I said during the Cartoons Controvery, headlines such as "Millions of Maghrebines ignore controversy, go to work as usual" just aren't as punchy as "Muslims [okay 30 odd] burn Consulate" - and then for the inattentive, perhaps naturally bigotted but more likely merely ignorant viewer, "Muslims are a looting and a burning" all across the MENA region.
Of course the irony is the reverse question was thrown out during that controversy, "Can't 'they' tell the difference between" the newspaper and the country etc, as if the questioner was able to tell the difference between the average Mohammed going off to work in the millions, and the Excitable Ennis going down to do some burining (representing a handful of hooligans).
Here again we have a fiasco that is the defeat of moderation and plays into the hands of the scaremongers.
Continuing with Ignatius' observations:
The ports deal was part of the UAE's embrace of things Western. . .... Before the deal collapsed, Sulayem had a free-trader's conviction that good business judgment would prevail over political rhetoric. "We are businessmen -- we don't understand politics -- but it is a surprise to us. We have been cooperating with the U.S. We are their best friends."
Many of the UAE's political leaders, including the crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, had grown increasingly convinced this week that the wisest course would be to pull out. But that view was resisted until almost the end by the business leadership in Dubai, including Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid.
Arab radicals will be gloating, admonishing the UAE leaders, "We told you so."
President Bush tried to do the right thing on the Dubai ports deal, but he got rolled by a runaway Congress. The collapse of the deal was a measure of Bush's political weakness -- but even more, of America's traumatized post-Sept. 11 politics. The ironic fact is that the UAE is precisely the kind of Arab ally the United States needs most now. But that clearly didn't matter to an election-year Congress, which responded to the Dubai deal with a frenzy of Muslim-bashing disguised as concern about terrorism. And we wonder why the rest of the world doesn't like us.
Ignatius was spot on here. Finally I would be remiss not mentioning the General Abizaid's commentary on the deal: "I am very dismayed by the emotional responses that some people have put on the table here in the United States that really comes down to Arab and Muslim bashing that was totally unnecessary''.
But such fun in the off season.
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I wonder how many of the rubes realize that they owe a substantial part of their security to an Arab-American general named Abizaid? Does the aptly-named Jerry Lewis have any idea at all?
Posted by: pantom at March 10, 2006 08:57 PM
With the disclaimer that I have actively supported the guy and would probably do so again, it is kind of funny to observe the charge of terrorism risk against DPW being led by Homeland Security Chair Rep Peter King, who has been, for all intents and purposes, the Congressman from the I.R.A., and supporter of White House visits by Havana-visitor and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (scroll down a bit on link).
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Posted by: matthew hogan at March 11, 2006 08:13 AM
Is there a remote possibility that President Bush suckered the pols in Washington - dem and rep - to publicly acknowledge - however ineptly -that we are in a global war on terror?
Posted by: John J. Coupal at March 11, 2006 10:09 AM
The hurting, it just doesn't stop:
Yet while one Dubai company may be giving up on U.S. ports, another one shows no signs of quitting the U.S.—or of giving up a contract with the Navy to provide shore services for vessels in the Middle East. The firm, Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), is an old British company that last January was sold to a Dubai government investment vehicle for $285 million. ISS has more than 200 offices around the world and provides services to clients ranging from cruise ship operators to oil tankers to commercial cargo vessels. In the U.S., the company operates out of more than a dozen port cities, including Houston, Miami and New Orleans, arranging pilots, tugs, linesmen and stevedores, among other things. The firm is also a defense contractor which has long worked for Britain’s Royal Navy. And last June, the U.S. Navy signed on too, awarding ISS a $50 million contract to be the “husbanding agent” for vessels in most Southwest Asia ports, including those in the Middle East, according to an unclassified Navy logistics manual for the Fifth Fleet and a press release from ISS.
The rest of the article is the "yes, but" part, actually, saying that it makes sense, is perfectly routine, etc etc.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at March 11, 2006 11:51 AM
The info in that article is worth a full post.
Posted by: matthew hogan at March 11, 2006 01:13 PM