Thursday, March 09, 2006

DPW Surrenders

My Way News has the story here!

The finer points:
Bowing to ferocious opposition in Congress, a Dubai-owned company signaled surrender Thursday in its quest to take over operations at U.S. ports.

"DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations ... to a United States entity," the firm's top executive, H. Edward Bilkey, said in an announcement that capped weeks of controversy.

Relieved Republicans in Congress said the firm had pledged full divestiture, a decision that one senator said had been approved personally by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

"The devil is in the details," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, reflecting a sentiment expressed by numerous critics of the deal.

The announcement appeared to indicate an end to a politically tinged controversy that brought President Bush and Republicans in Congress to the brink of an election-year veto battle on a terrorism-related issue. The White House expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

"It does provide a way forward and resolve the matter," presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"We have a strong relationship with the UAE and a good partnership in the global war on terrorism and I think their decision reflects the importance of our broader relationship," he said.

A leading congressional critic of the ports deal, Rep. Peter King, applauded the decision but said he and others would wait to see the details. "It would have to be an American company with no links to DP World, and that would be a tremendous victory and very gratifying," said the New York Republican, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"This should make the issue go away," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The Tennessee Republican was one of several GOP leaders to tell President Bush earlier in the day that Congress was ready to ignore his veto threat and scuttle the deal.

After weeks of controversy - and White House veto threats that spokesman Scott McClellan renewed at midmorning Thursday - the end came unexpectedly.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 62-2 on Wednesday to block the deal, and GOP congressional leaders privately informed the president Thursday morning that the Senate would inevitably follow suit. Senate Democrats clamored for a vote, increasing pressure on Senate Republicans to abandon the president.

It was unclear how DP would manage the planned divestiture, and Bilkey's statement said its announcement was "based on an understanding that DP World will not suffer economic loss."
Rick Moran of The Right Wing Nut House weighs in:
It was never about the security of the ports. It was never the fact that the UAE has a leader that has gone hunting with Bin Laden. It was never the fact that the UAE government has funded Wahabbist Madrasses all over the world to the tune of billions of dollars over the last 2 decades. It was never the fact that they don’t recognize Israel or that their banking system may be a financial way station for al Qaeda funds or that they were Muslims and I’m a bigoted fool.

It was always about the Bush Administration and their arrogant, cavalier attitude toward this deal and other aspects of homeland security including securing our borders. The committee set up to vet DPW was a bureaucratic rubber stamp made up of second and third tier assistant secretaries who didn’t even feel the need to brief the heads of their agencies about the deal. They never felt the need to brief the Joint Chiefs. The never felt the need to brief Congress.
Michelle Malkin has a round-up.

The Anchoress echoes Rick Moran, and then reflects on the mess of it all:
This deal has been stupidly, sloppily handled from the start. In a post 9/11 world, Dubai SHOULD have perhaps been a trifle more sensitive to how the deal would initially been perceived, and should have maybe done some visible PR work at the first sign of American skittishness.

When the president found out about it, HE should have done a better job calling for further study and explaining to America just who the UAE are to us.

When Bill Clinton was discovered to be a force behind the deal he should have - for once in his miserable life - stopped triangulating, stopped trying to weave a political cloth that could fit the patchwork of his ambitious double fantasy of a marriage and spoken plainly. To you know, actually help his country understand something.

When Bob Dole saw the GOP running on the emotion of 9/11 and more recent Muslim madness, he should have stepped out from behind his Erectile Dysfunction royalties and talked to the people who were freaking out.

When the blogs were boiling over, the WH communications people - who are woefully bad at their jobs - should have been talking to them via conference call.

And those bloggers (like me) who did change their minds from their initial knee-jerk objections to the deal should have made it a point to be as loudly vocal in their support as they had been in their opposition.

The president should not have been defensive and - for the first time in his presidency - threatening a veto. It was too hot-headed, too arrogant. The congress should not have been so eager to shoot down a deal because “the people writing letters and emails,” to whom they never listened before, suddenly mattered in this election year. No, GOP, I’m still not impressed with any of you. Not that you’d know that, or care, but still. :-)

We won’t even get into the press’ awful performance here. First they ignored the whole story in order to pursue Dick Cheney and Birdshotgate. When they finally did turn their attention to the deal, they gave skeletal reports on which they hung the only two bits of information they found newsworthy: The deal was hurting President Bush and Hillary Clinton was “on the right side of security issues.”

Huh. Sloppy and less-than-edifying, all the way around.


Badly played, America, badly played. The solution proposed may be exactly the “face-saving” solution needed, I think the harm that has been done will be difficult to fix. We have insulted and demeaned an ally for no good reason other than our “fear.”

And in the process, we’ve exposed our weakness. We have not shown ourselves to be tough, but to be trembling. Americans who enjoy reciting lofty words about judging other on “the content of their character” have revealed the shallowness behind their recitations. People should be judged not by the color of their skin (or the nation of their birth, or the shape of their genitals or upon their creed) unless they happen to be Arabs and Muslims, in which case, none are to be trusted, none.

This is SO not what I have envisioned my country to be. We have had young men and women fighting and dying in order to free Muslim people for decades. In Afghanistan, against the USSR, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan again, in Iraq…what do we say to the souls of our slain soldiers - that their deaths were a polite fiction? That we let them die for people we wouldn’t condescend to do business with? What about our Iraqi friends - the men and women we have been training to fight, to police, to lead, to govern? What are they thinking right now? That America has done all of this - liberated them from a tyrant, brought them to the first steps of a new, democratic era - not to engage them as eventual and equal players on the world-stage, but so that we may eventually spit in their faces, because they are “those people we are - in truth - so afraid of…”

Economically, this deal made sense. When your ally is heavily invested in your economy, he is not looking to destabalize that economy with terrorism. Politically this deal made sense. We need every Arab and Muslim ally we can get in a world which is intermittently set ablaze by the fires radical Islamofascism. In a war on terror which we know will last for decades, this deal made sense, because it was a signal to Arab nations that everything George W. Bush was telling them about liberty and freedom, and partnerships and markets and means were true - that America was going to lead the way in taking things to the next step in building relations with liberty/democracy/capitalist minded Arab nations.

And what did we do? We cringed and shuddered and wrung our hands, and emptied our bladders all over our allies, in fear. We forgot all about the Arab Springtime that was unfolding a year ago.
I'm somewhere between Rick and the Anchoress. On the one hand, I don't think the Anchoress is being completely fair to those Americans that opposed the Port Deal. The UAE had enabled and facilitated the Wahabbi extremism exported by Saudi Arabia right up to 9/11. Dubai's government, in particular, represents the kind of dictatorship whose usual MO was to suppress dissent at home and direct rage against the US--until the GWOT. Suddenly the Sheik is a vital partner in the fight against islamofascists? Perhaps. But are many of his subjects with him on this paradigm shift? If not, then Dubai--as the Middle East's banking capital--provides a financial crossroads for the disgruntled to support terrorists. That fact, combined with the rubber-stamp approach taken by the Administration, gave the American people genuine reasons to distrust the deal. It's not all about brush-stroking all Arabs as terrorists.

On the other hand, I'm not as willing as Rick to write this off as the stoogy bungling of an arrogant and politically tone-deaf Administration. The passions of Americans that can't forget 9/11 colored the public's reaction to the proposal from the beginning. Hell, one of the ports that in which DBW was going to control operations was New York City's! Plus, two of the 9/11 hijackers hailed from the UAE. Think that many Americans won't raise an eyebrow because of this? And let's face it: some of us just wouldn't stomach the fact that anyone associated with UAE would have any role in managing US ports. Some of us might not welcome any Arab--or any muslim, for that matter.

I'm not accusing anyone that opposed the ports deal of racist intentions. I'm simply observing that, fairly or not, people wrestling with the emotionally colored perspective of surviving 9/11 may unfairly engage in guilt by association. As Abdelrahman al-Rashid, the managing director of the satellite channel al-Arabiya, wrote: "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims."

I do agree with both of them about the Administration's inept handling of this deal. The president came across as arrogant, belligerent and completely out of touch--again. His administration did an absolutely horrendous job of communicating the deal to the public. The decision-makers that approved the deal demonstrated the worst case of Beltway bubble-living that I've seen since the president took office. They didn't even alert their superiors? The Secretary of Defense and the President find out after the fact? Are you kidding me?

The debacle is now in our wake. I only pray that we don't reap worse than we've sown.