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It's the Corporation, Stupid

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted February 23, 2006.

The government is willing to outsource American jobs for the holy grail of free trade. Why is it surprising that national security is ditto? Tools
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More stories by Molly Ivins

So, aside from the fact that it's politically idiotic and at least theoretically presents a national security risk, just what is wrong with the Dubai Ports deal?

As President George W. Bush actually said, "I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I'm trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, we'll treat you fairly."

So, what's wrong with that? There's our only president standing up against discrimination and against tarring all Arabs with the same brush and all that good stuff. (The fact that it was Mr. Racial Profiling speaking, the man who has single-handedly created more Arab enemies for this country than anyone else ever dreamed of doing is just one of those ironies we regularly get whacked over the head with.)

OK, here's for starters. We have already been warned that, should we back out of the DP deal, the United Arab Emirates may well take offense and not be so nice about helping us in the War on Terra -- maybe even cut back its money, as well as its cooperation. This is a problem specific to the fact that we are dealing with a corporation owned by a country: A corporation only wants to make money, a corporation owned by a country has lots of motives.

Second, this is a corporation, consequently its only interest is in making money. A corporation is like a shark, designed to do two things: kill and eat. Thousands of years of evolution lie behind the shark, where as the corporation has only a few hundred. But it is still perfectly evolved for its purpose. That means a corporation that makes money running port facilities does not have a stake in national security. It's not the corporation's fault any more than it's the shark's.

The president is quite correct that a "Great British" corporation has no more or less interest in helping terrorists than an Arab corporation. It is not the corporation that is supposed to have other interests -- it is government. But as Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, said, "We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system."

"Balance" is the arresting word here -- keep your eye on "balance." We have an administration that is absolutely wedded to corporate interests, both American and global. It honestly believes that "free trade" is more important than the environment and more important than the people. It has repeatedly demonstrated it is willing to let both go in order to foster free trade.

There is no "balance" in its consideration on these issues, and now it turns out not much in "balancing" national security, either. The people running this country -- and that includes most of the leaders of both parties -- have proven again and again they are perfectly willing to outsource American jobs, American wage standards, and American health and safety standards all for the sacred, holy grail of free trade. Why would it surprise us that national security is ditto?

I am amused by Chertoff's use of the word "balance." Since the administration has done zip, nada, zilch about port security, it's unclear what he's trying to "balance." In 2002, the Coast Guard estimated it would take $5.4 billion over 10 years to improve port security to the point mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Last year, Congress appropriated $175 million. The administration had requested $46 million, below 9-11 levels.

As David Sirota points out, the administration has been negotiating a free trade deal with the United Arab Emirates at the same time the port deal was being negotiated. This whole thing is about free trade and the lock big corporations have on our government to further free trade.

Sirota also points out you will see and hear almost no discussion of this fact in the corporate news media. I have no idea whether DP World represents a security threat, but U.S. News & World Report said in December that Dubai was notorious for smuggling, money laundering and drug trafficking in support of terrorists. I suppose the same could be said of New York, but it doesn't sound pleasant.

Dubai is believed to be the transfer port for the spread of nuclear technology by the Abdul Qadeer Khan network. David Sanborn, an executive who ran DP World's European and Latin American operations, was chosen last month by Bush to head the U.S. Maritime Administration, according to the New York Daily News. It'll be interesting to see just how much power the free trade lobby has over the political establishment.

Right now, both Democrats and Republicans are yelling about what appears to be a dippy idea. Let's see what hearing from their contributors brings about.

Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

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Bush = Bad
Posted by: rusrus on Feb 23, 2006 11:16 AM    [Report this comment]
I've run the gambit on thoughts over this deal, and I'm getting closer and closer to my usual thought: "whatever Bush supports is bad for this country."

It's really too bad, but it seems that whatever Bush wants to do is a way of getting our assets (money) into the pockets of his friends (corporate contributors).

I know we can all wait for the hugely gratifying "I told you so" in a few years, after we've ALL agreed that Bush was a toxic President, but when you are watching it happen... Bummer!

This Dubai thing: on the surface it might seem inocuous, but he's probably sewn-up some kind of oil deal that will keep him and his cronies in the money for a few more generations while the rest of us choke on exhaust fumes and over-pay for gasoline to the tune of more record oil company profits. Nothing against you personally, Dubai, but I friggin' hate your friends!

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So you don't have to search
Posted by: chaoslegs on Feb 23, 2006 11:19 AM    [Report this comment]
Here is the link to David Sirota's article.

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EIGHT PORTS...not six
Posted by: Begonia Buzzkill on Feb 23, 2006 11:29 AM    [Report this comment]
White House insists on claiming 6 ports in this deal when there is actually 8? If in fact, there are EIGHT ports at issue...why are they not stating so? If, as they claim, there are no problems inherent in this deal . . why MORE secrets?

British Shipping newspaper Lloyd's List reported (Feb. 20) that 2 more ports are up for grabs in the deal which are actually major U.S. MILITARY shipping ports, apparently granting Dubai agents access to MILITARY SHIPPING MANIFESTS.

(WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A deal that allows an Arab-owned company in Dubai to manage six major U.S. ports was scrutinized for security risks by an obscure intelligence agency that has existed for only four months, American officials said on Wednesday.....The Intelligence Community Acquisition Risk Centre, or CARC, overseen by the office of intelligence chief John Negroponte, was asked by the government committee that vets foreign investments in the United States to look into the ports deal soon after it came to its attention in early November.)

Their contract with the United States Surface Deployment and Distribution Command would provide stevedoring [loading and unloading] of military equipment at the Texan ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi through 2010.

According to the journal Army Logistician "Almost 40 percent of the Army cargo deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom flows through these two ports."

The Inter Press Service highlights exactly what's at stake, quoting a conservative activists who admits that this is all about trade:

"The United States' trade relationship with the UAE is the third largest in the Middle East, after Israel and Saudi Arabia. The two nations are engaged in bilateral free talks that would liberalise trade between the two countries and would, in theory at least, allow companies to own and operate businesses in both nations. 'There are legitimate security questions to be asked but it would be a mistake and really an insult to one of our leading trading partners in that region to reject this commercial transaction out of hand,' said Daniel T. Griswold, who directs the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank."

Just last year, Congress approved a U.S. taxpayer-funded loan by the Bush administration to a British company to help build nuclear technology in Communist China. Despite major security concerns raised - and a legislative effort to block the loan - Congress's "free traders" (many of whom talk so tough on security) made sure the loan went through so as to preserve the U.S.-China free trade relationship that is allowing lawmakers' corporate campaign contributors export so many U.S. jobs.

There is no better proof that our government takes its orders from corporate interests than these kinds of moves.

That's what this UAE deal is all about - the mixture of the right-wing's goal of privatizing all government services (even post 9/11 port security!) with the political Establishment's desire to make sure Tom-Friedman-style "free" trade orthodoxy supersedes everything.

This is where the culture of corruption meets national security policy - and, more specifically, where the unbridled corruption of on-the-take politicians are weakening America's security.

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» RE: IGHT PORTS...not six Posted by: Artkansas
The British Are Coming
Posted by: Artkansas on Feb 23, 2006 11:54 AM    [Report this comment]
Given our history with the British, a Great British firm would be no more trustworthy than the Arabs. Look at what happened the last time the British were in charge of our ports.

Giving up control of any of our ports to any firms outside the country is a serious mistake.

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Let's see if I've got this straight...
Posted by: Crazy H on Feb 23, 2006 12:35 PM    [Report this comment]
Bush nominates an old crony to the post of Maritime Administrator. Said crony is also a high-ranking executive in a company with which the Bush clan has done business for years. Soon thereafter, that company coincidentally gets a sweet deal for managing six (eight?) major US ports.

When congress threatens to block the deal; Bush threatens to veto.

Then Bush has the balls to declare that he didn’t know any of this was going on until the public started making a fuss.

Too bad Clinton didn't think of that defense. "I didn't realize that Monica was lickin' my chicken until I read about it in the papers..."

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We, The People We, The Government
Posted by: bsdone on Feb 23, 2006 12:39 PM    [Report this comment]
It looks like ordinary citizens must take their security in their hands. Well, this is according to the view that "we do not need government" any more - all will be self sufficient. At least the reach 1% of our population. I am wandering what kind of motivation young people have to study science, engineering, computer science when all those jobs are subject to outsourcing to other countries? And finally, who will pay for goods even sold in Wall-Marts?

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This is absurd
Posted by: HeroesAll on Feb 23, 2006 12:48 PM    [Report this comment]
I've never been a fan of privatisation, but this really takes the biscuit. The fashion of governments all over the world to turn public utilities and public services (ie things to help and serve the public) into profit-making ventures (ie things whose sole rationale is to make a profit) is whacky in the extreme.

I thought it was really dumb to have doctors answering to bosses who want them to cut costs and cut corners; water and power companies whose main aim was to cream off as much as possible for the shareholders, rather than providing reliable services at a reasonable price; job agencies which make their funding out of the unhappy people they should be serving.

But to have crucial security matters in the hands of a foreign company, regardless of nationality, is mind-bogglingly stupid. Aside from the huge problem of their motivation being profit instead of service, there's the excuse of commercial confidentiality that's raised to prevent people finding out what they're doing.

And another thing: telecommunications companies have things called Service Level Agreements, which state what service you can expect for the price you pay. Because phone calls are messy and unpredictable, they'll only say things like "85% of calls will be handled within 3 seconds". Imagine a Service Level Agreement for a port company? "85% of bombs will be detected and handled safely"...

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So when the government spends all our money
Posted by: sisterbluerose on Feb 23, 2006 3:56 PM    [Report this comment]
So when the government spends all our money, we should get us some guns, go into our foreign ports and lilberate some cargo? I don't know, the way things are going by that time it may be the will of allah.
Pray your prayers, cast your spells. We have to get the constitution back for we the people.

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Maybe duct tape?
Posted by: Sojourner on Feb 23, 2006 5:14 PM    [Report this comment]
"...Coast Guard estimated it would take $5.4 billion over 10 years to improve port security to the point mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Last year, Congress appropriated $175 million."

The best defense I heard for the deal was that DP would not be responsible for providing security. Now, I see why. No one is responsible for port security. ($175M/year covers one swift boat with 2 bloodhounds to sniff the air? And maybe a couple cases of duct tape?)

Wasn't it in some South American country last year they busted a drug gang's submarine project? The vessel was close to completion. I hope the FBI is checking enrollment at submarine driving schools. If the Coast Guard can be outrun by drug gang speed boats, how long before we get one loaded with anthrax? (Or whatever.)

Yes, I live just a couple miles from a major port complex. A rabbit's foot on a chain has become a hot item here. I've been practising holding my breath. If the danger passes within 30 seconds, I'll survive. Any longer than that and I'll need one of those paper masks that people wear to avoid bird flu, HIV, and goblins.

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