A funny thing happened today as I was arriving at a job site. I got a call from one of my co-workers, actually the supervisor who asked me "Jerry, what's going on anyway?". As asked "Regarding what, Rod?" He replied "Has the president lost his mind?" I said "What are you talking about?". He told me he had been hearing something about the president threatening to veto some legislation. I said "Is this about the Dubai port management contract buyout?" He said it was and wanted to know why the president would allow Arabs to take over our ports. I told him I couldn't talk about it now on the phone but I'd see him later.
When I returned to the shop this afternoon I sat down in the office with Rod and asked him "Ok, now what's your beef with the president?" He said "how can the president allow Arabs to take over our ports, it doesn't make any sense. What about our port security? Isn't this just inviting terrorists into our country?" I said "Rod, this transaction in no way jeopardizes our port security and may even be of benefit to our national security and help in the war on terror. We spent the next hour discussing the issue and when we finished, I asked Rod if he still thinks the president has lost his mind. He said "No, I guess not. I just didn't know the facts and understand what's really going on, and was nervous about having Arabs running our ports".
And that is the problem with most of us, we don't understand what all is involved in the Dubai Ports World buyout of the British P&O port operations contract that has been in effect at 6 major US ports for many years. I felt the same when I first learned about it but one thing I have found since, is the more you learn about this deal, the less threatening it looks and you may find it even be beneficial to America's security in the long run. Like Rod, most Americans just don't know enough about it, and what it would mean to allow Dubai Ports World to operate ports in the United States. In this article, I'll try to explain a few things we need to know and understand. Please also read my previous article;Should 'Dubai Ports' Take Over Our Ports? if you haven't already, for more information.
Let me first make it clear that my opinions here are my own and have nothing to do with my support for President Bush. I don’t care which side of this issue he stands on, my conclusions are gathered from my own research and beliefs.
Like other Mideastern countries, Dubai has oil resources but United Arab Emirates were not satisfied to just sit back and live off the oil like some other countries in the Middle East. They invested their oil profits in the banking industry, world trade, port building, shipping, and other businesses not unlike Americans invest money in commerce in hopes of making their money grow. Their banks were open to all Islamic countries as a matter of business practice and attracted deposits from all over the Mideast, including some questionable accounts. Oil now provides only 6% of the UAE income. When the War on Terror began and the US began freezing various Islamic bank accounts, some countries such as Saudi Arabia decided to transfer their funds to the banks of Dubai. Much of this money was invested into Dubai's shipping and port building industries and Dubai Ports World became the 6th largest port management company in the world and still growing. Dubai is a modern, western style metropolis, it’s even been called the "Paris of the Middle East" for it‘s modern and progressive culture and construction.
Dubai is a center for western Tourism all around the year with excellent
Resorts, Shopping, special events, and Sports facilities available throughout the year!
Dubai and Terrorism
Before 9-11-01, if you looked deep enough, you could find that most every Mideast country had some sort of ties to terrorists. Dubai is no different. It's not that the Government of the United Arab Emirates supported terrorists or terrorism, but their infrastructure such as banks, airports, shipping, etc., was open to anyone. There were instances of terrorist money being transferred through Dubai banks as well as terrorists traveling through and even living in Dubai. That does not mean that they were known to the government or given government approval. Yes, 2 of the 9-11 hijackers lived in Dubai for a period of time, but then again, quite a few of them lived right here in the United States for some time as well. That does not make the US a terrorist supporting country.
UAE recognized the Talliban as the government of Afghanistan but so did many other countries because the Talliban was, in fact, governing Afghanistan at the time. If you wanted to trade with them, who else were you going to talk to? Remember, at one time the United States supported Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro too. But for Dubai and the UAE, all that changed after 9-11 and the War on Terror. The UAE knew they had to choose sides and they chose to side with the United States and the western world and against terrorism. They were a huge asset to us in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I keep hearing critics talk about what UAE did back in the 90s. Sean Hannity talks about their shipping industry transferring questionable materials to Iran and other offenses in the late 90s. That's a commerce issue because they are in the shipping business and say they ship anywhere in the world. John Gibson says we had a missile attack planned on Osama bin Ladden in 1997 but canceled it because there was someone from the UAE there with him in Afghanistan. He's also asking "why do they get the ports? Why not Disneyland or other enterprises, why the ports?" I always thought Gibson had more smarts than that. Maybe he doesn't know that Dubai is in the shipping business, not the theme park business?
Other examples I keep hearing are all pre 9-11 issues, mostly from the 1990s. Lots of other countries did the same but also had to change their ways after 9-11. I have heard no examples of Dubai having any ties to terrorists reported since the beginning of the Bush Administration or 9-11. Maybe the UAE just didn't like Bill Clinton and didn't want him as an ally. They don't have a problem with George W. Bush and now want to be our ally. Since they are in the shipping and port operations business, isn't it better to have them on our side in the War on Terror, than to have them on the enemies side? What if it was Kuwait who was buying the port contract? Would we be having the same problem accepting their services? Do we have a problem with cruise ships which are all registered in Liberia? Why do we not worry about terrorists coming ashore from cruise ships, but worry about Dubai operating our ports?
Dubai’s Support for America
Dubai has been one of the strongest allies to the US in the War on Terror. They provide ports of choice for our Navy ships to dock at in the Middle East, and have made their airstrips and bases available to us to use as a launching pad for the war. They have been very helpful in passing intelligence to us on Islamic terrorism. They have imposed the same financial sanctions and restrictions on terrorist money and bank accounts that the US has. They want to do business with us, their western style culture is much like ours, they oppose terrorism as we do, and love capitalism and the freedom it provides. Dubai is like a little America in the middle of Islam. Their days of doing business with terrorist groups are over, they've come into the 21st century. They have been our good friends in the Middle East since the War on Terror began and want to continue that relationship. We really need to encourage Arab countries like Dubai to be and stay on our side. One way we can do that is by allowing this contract to go through. The more Arab countries we have on our side, the better for us in the War on Terror.
Dubai Ports World and American Port Security
The first thing we need to understand about the port issue is that DPW is not buying our ports, nor would they be controlling them, the ports remain under the control and laws of the United States. They are purchasing the operational contract from the British P&O Co to which port management was "outsourced" many years ago. If that concerns you, it shouldn’t. Long Beach Port in Los Angeles, along with several others on the west coast are operated by the Chinese of Hong Kong yet no one seems to be complaining about that. The United States does not manage port operations and never has, not even at our own ports.
The Dubai contract, if approved by the US government, would give operational rights to DPW. This means they would own the dock equipment and be responsible for the coordinating of cargo ship loading and unloading, that's it. They would not be providing port security, we do that with our own Coast Guard and Port Authorities. US Customs would still be providing security and inspections of shipping containers. The Longshoremen's Union would still be providing the manpower on the docks. DPW is 100% agreeable to any conditions the US wishes to add to the contract sale. They want the commerce, not terrorism, and do not hate and kill Christians and Jews because they‘re not Muslim. Dubai is one Islamic country where the moderate Muslims live and enjoy western culture.
The job of Dubai Ports World would be to receive the shipping invoices prior to a ship docking, determine where to dock the ship and what personnel are needed to unload and load the ship for it's return trip. DPW would then contact the Longshoreman's union boss with their information on what personnel is needed at what location. On payday, the workers paychecks would be signed by DPW instead of the British P&O company.
DPW is a port management company responsible for coordinating port and dock activities, that's all they do. They have nothing to do with port security. There is no way even DPW could be involved in slipping something through customs and security because we will still be providing all that. There will be virtually no changes made at the docks at all, including the American personnel actually doing the work.
Ask anyone who they think is the most diligent and aggressive proponent of our national security right now and they will most likely tell you it's President Bush. Does anyone really think that Bush would be supporting this if he were not convinced that it would have no adverse impact on our national security? President Bush would be the last person to put this country at risk by making our ports more vulnerable than they are now. I have been seeing and hearing a lot of anti-Arab spin, but no real facts to indicate that this deal would do anything to put our country in jeopardy. No doubt, opponents to the deal, and especially the Democrats who want to make this a political issue, will try to dig up every bit of dirty laundry on Dubai they can find, just like they do in campaigns and judicial confirmation hearings. In the final analysis, 99% of it doesn't fly or isn't relevant to the issue at hand. Our biggest problem with this issue is just getting past our Arabaphobia and understanding that not all Arabs are terrorists, or support terrorism.
The Benefits of Contracting With DPW
I know some of you are still thinking I'm out of my mind, but consider this: The new DPW contract includes added security measures that aren't even in the P&O contract. It would be easier for a terrorist to breach port security now than it will be after the DPW contract goes into effect, if it does. I hear complaints that our port security is not as good as it should be and that has a lot of citizens concerned. Well, here's a chance to fix it and it won't cost us a dime. The DPW contract has many new shipping and port security features built right into it and we can add more if we choose to. “But it will be easier for UAE citizens working for DPW to get visas for their new assignments in our country”, they say. Ok, I suppose it will. But don't you think those visas are going to be very closely scrutinized and backgrounds carefully checked before they're issued? I sure do.
One of the conditions of the contract specifies that any shipping container destined for a US port must pass inspection at the foreign port before it's even loaded onto the ship. Once loaded, those containers are not accessible to ship personnel because of the compact pattern in which they are carried. It would be impossible to access the doors on the containers because of the lack of space. If any container should arrive with the door seal broken, that container is then flagged for a thorough inspection by US customs agents. US Customs computers currently flag about 5% of incoming containers for a higher level of inspection, that’s not likely to change. Once they arrive at a US port, containers are then solely in the hands of US personnel, not Arabs. DPW does not handle the cargo, they simply manage it. In conclusion, DPW presents no security threat to the United States.
Consider also the War on Terror. If the contract is denied, how do we tell one of our best allies in the War on Terror "Thank you for the use of your country, be we don't trust you to be in ours"? How do you think this would play out in the Islamic propaganda media? I think you know the answer to that, I don't have to tell you what would be all over the Islamic press the next day. In our current position of trying to make friends and allies in the Middle East, this would tell them, and al Jazeera would make sure of that, that we don't like them, we don't trust them, and we don't want them in our country. It would be a slap in the fact too all Islamic allies we have gained to this point. Do we really want to tell them we don’t trust them to manage our ports because they’re Arabs? I think the opponents to this issue better come up with a better case than that for blocking the contract, and do it without the falsehoods about port security.
Believe me, I do understand the epidemic of Islamophobia that exists in our country, but that seems to be the only real excuse that I've found for opposing the Dubai buyout. That is, of course, if you discount the lies being told by Clinton and Schumer about "outsourcing our port security". The other arguments being brought up apply to events that happened years ago in the UAE, and prior to 9-11, which quite frankly, are not valid or relevant today.
Allowing Dubai to operate our ports will help in the War on Terror. Taking into consideration that at least half of the War on Terror is not military, but political and ideological, "winning the hearts and minds of the people". Forming this business and commercial relationship with Dubai would strengthen their support for America and make them an even better and stronger ally. This is exactly what we need in the Middle East to win this war. The more countries in the Mideast we can get on our side brings us just that much closer to winning the war. On the other hand, if we deny the contract to Dubai, they will no doubt be offended by our reasons for it, or lack of them, which will weaken our relationship with them. They could decide they don't want our Navy in their ports and our Air Force on their bases. If things really heat up in the Mideast, they could just decide to switch sides and consider us not worth it. If the contract is approved, Dubai will set an example for other Islamic countries who in time may decide that their clerics and dictators just aren't worth it.
Dubai is not a threat to America. Yes, they're Arabs, but their western Arabs much like the people of Jordan, Kuwait, and much of the good people of Iraq who support our efforts, and are so grateful for the American liberation of their country from Saddam Hussein. But also consider the alternative. Someone has to manage our ports and since we don't do it, it has to be done by a foreign company who is in that business or the ports would simply shut down. P&O of Britain is selling out and Red China is the next highest bidder on the list. I would have a real problem with Communists operating more of our ports than they already do. If not Dubai, then who is going to do this job? Would we have the same, or even worse problem with the next bidder? Perhaps there is some enterprising, very rich person here who would like to start up an American port operations business. Any takers?
Dubai is a pro western country interested in industrial and economic progress just as we are. They deserve a chance to prove themselves in commerce, just as they have proven themselves in the war on terror. It's only natural to be skeptical of this port contract sale, so if my investigation of it is not enough, look into it yourself. I believe, like me, the more you learn about it, the more you will approve of it.
Some Comments from dock management personnel and workers.
You don’t know what it means to "run a port". I do. I am not concerned.
All shipments are declared to Customs before they are even loaded on the vessel at the foreign port.
All importers must submit an Entry to Customs and pay a duty. Usually they need to submit Commercial Invoices on the stuff they are importing. All of this paperwork is sent to Customs for every shipment.
Its the Customs computer which flags cargo for the 5% that get intensively examined.
The information that Customs gets comes from the Shipping Line before the Vessel departs the foreign port.
I worked for an Ocean Shipping Line for the past 10 years and everything Terpfen said is the reality at every port in the US. Those who oppose this deal have no clue how a port works. Their opposition is emotional at best, racist at worst.
I worked for an Ocean line in the imports department. I know the ILA isn't about to be invaded with Arab terrorist union workers. And I know that no single port can disrupt the USMX-ILA Master Agreement Contract in place for all ports from Maine to Texas.
Did you notice that the people opposed to this deal have absolutely no idea how a port works and the people who are not concerned about it do know how a port works?
The only type of security breach that a Port Operator is going to be able to assist in is "jumping over the fence" kind. So what's easier: - Coordinate the sale of a major shipping corporation to an Arab country and transfer "ownership" of an American port, so that you can cut a hole in the fence so that hopefully at 3 AM no one will see you stealing out of a container?
Reporting to Customs is done by the Ocean Carriers. Authorization to release cargo is controlled by Customs and the Ocean Carriers. The Port Operator facilitates the yard management required to stage containers.
In all this hysteria no one has put forth a plausible scenario of specific wrongdoing. No one has stated what exactly can happen that can't happen now.
This ownership does not imply authority over cargo screening, nor does it imply that it controls labor.
Most of the container ports on the East Coast and Gulf are ultimately managed by USMX. USMX has one contract with the ILA dock union that covers the enter area of coverage. The function of the Port Operator is to be the coordinator between the Shipping Lines and the Union providing the labor. The Shipping Lines tell the Port Operator which ships are coming and the amount of containers that need to be handled and how many "gangs" of labor they need. The Port Operator tells the Union there x number of people for how ever number of gangs will be needed for any shift. The dock worker goes to the Union dispatch hall and gets his assignment. It's not like a Port Operator (who is basically a glorified vendor) can come in an erect a garrison.
The Port Operator has no influence over the degree in which Customs inspects any shipment. And since no one except Customs screens shipments there's no advantage you get by being a Port Operator.
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