Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dubai/UAE ports deal: follow the money

The New York Sun sheds some new light on this UAE port "takeover" scrum by implementing an old rule: follow the money. The Sun looks at the most vociferous opponents to the deal and traces their opposition back to its source - the International Longshoremen's Association and its president, John Bowers. The ILA has cushy contracts with the British company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O), the current operator of ports in New York, Baltimore, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia. Now the ILA will have to negotiate with DP World, owned by the Dubai government (part of the UAE). One must recall that, in Britain, unions more or less help rule the country, kind of like they do in California. In Dubai, that is not the case.

Here is a list of the major anti-Dubai drum beaters and the amounts they have received in campaign contributions from John Bowers and the ILA:
Menendez - $39,500
Clinton - $4500
Lautenberg - $9000
Schumer - $4500
Dodd - $2500
Boxer - $6000

Peter King - $5500
Jerrold Nadler - $22,500

And Mr. Bowers, the president of the ILA?
He was charged with racketeering and named as an associate of the Gambino organized crime family in a July 2005 civil complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
by the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Roslynn Mauskopf. The FBI's assistant director in charge in New York at the time, Mark Mershon, said,
"The hard-working rank-and-file members of the ILA were denied the right to fair and honest representation when members of the Gambino and Genovese crime families conspired to fix the selection of certain union officers. Pension and health plans intended to benefit the union membership were pillaged for the unjust enrichment of those corrupt, self-dealing union officials and their mob associates."
The "hard-working rank-and-file members of the ILA", numbering some 59,000, pay their Genovese - Gambino associate Bowers an annual salary of $413,556 from the international union and $154,467 from the Atlantic coast district, for a total annual compensation of $568,023. Why are these noted Democratic politicians accepting money from an indicted organized crime figure?

Look, this port management fiasco is a tempest in a teapot:

First, the Dubai company DP World will not own nor will it control the ports. The ports are owned by the various cities and states in which they are located.

Second, the operations of the ports and port security are seperate entities. Port security is handled by The United States Coast Guard, the United States Customs Service and the Department of Homeland Security. Any complaints? Call the federal government.

Third, the operations of the ports are granted by the port owners (the cities and states) in lucrative contracts to port operations specialists, like the British company P&O. These contracts do not have to be granted to any one particular company and are granted after competitive and open bidding.

Fourth, the British company P&O which currently holds the contracts to operate ports in New York, Baltimore, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia has decided to sell its port operating business to the Dubai company. The various port authorities in the various cities and states do not have to sign over operating authority to the Dubai company if they do not wish to do so.

Fifth, if you do a little research into Dubai ad its long-term relationship with the United States, you will find that Dubai has been a very quiet and behind-the-scenes player on our side for a long time.

Sixth, fully 30% of all terminals operated in US ports are operated under leases signed with foreign companies. At the port of Los Angeles, 80% of the terminals are foreign operated and 50% of the terminals are operated by Chinese companies.

The Sun also rises to ask these questions about the sudden emergence of the anti-Dubai clic in Washington:
None of these politicians, so far as we recall, made a peep when the government of the United Arab Emirates donated $200,000 to fund a professorship in Middle East studies at Columbia University that was filled by a virulently anti-Israel and anti-Bush professor named Rashid Khalidi (selected and hired by Columbia, NOT by the UAE nor by Dubai).

Nor, so far as we can tell, did they protest when, after the death of the president and founder of the UAE, Shaykh Zayid bin Sultan Al Nahayan, Mr. Bush issued a statement on November 4, 2004, mourning the passing of "a great friend of our country," "a close ally," who built the Emirates "into a prosperous, tolerant, and well-governed state."

Nor do we recall any protest from Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Schumer or Ms. Boxer when President Clinton and Vice President Gore announced in May 1998 that America was selling 80 F-16 fighters to the UAE.

Nor did these politicians protest back in December 1996, when the Clinton administration's assistant state secretary, Robert Pelletreau, went on UAE television to announce: "On the international stage, the UAE is universally respected for its generosity and commitment to regional security and fair-dealing. These qualities reflect the exceptional character of Shaykh Zayid, who is truly the father of his country, and a respected statesman."
It is imperative for everyone to remember that the employees and managers who will be on site managing the various ports' operations are not going to be bejeweled, sword-brandishing ragheads in robes who will race to work everyday aboard camels. They'll be the same United States citizens that currently fill those positions.

Perhaps if everyone would do a bit a research into the facts surrounding this brouhaha and be little less hysterical, we could get on with some of the more pressing issues of the day, like why the drunken Vice President Cheney shot his best friend in the face from point blank range with a 4-gauge Holland & Holland Nitro Express without first checking with CBS's David Gregory.

Quick facts on DP International from the Washington Post.
Tampa Port Authority agrees to 40-year contract with P&O in spite of impending sale to DP.
DP has sent its chief operating officer Edward Bilkey (NOT Fadweed al-Bilkee) to Washington to calm things down.
Dick Meyer at CBS says the claims made by opponents are "horselips".
Never have I seen a bogus story explode so fast and so far. I thought I was a connoisseur of demagoguery and cheap shots, but the Dubai Ports World saga proves me a piker. With a stunning kinship of cravenness, politicians of all flavors risk trampling each other as they rush to the cameras and microphones to condemn the handover of massive U.S. strategic assets to an Islamic, Arab terrorist-loving enemy.
Kevin Drum can't find anything substantive - only political.
Vis Instapundit: Squiggler says there's less to the port deal than meets the eye; Jonah Goldberg sees the hysteria; Robert Ferrigno says,
Bush is going to take some ugly political flak for a better cause. The USA needs to strengthen ties with Arab nations. Period. The UAE is not Switzerland, but it's not Afghanistan either, and yes they recognized the Taliban government. They're politicians too. If we can do business with Pakistan, and we must, the UAE is as good an Islamic business partner as we're going to get.

To take away the deal from the UAE now, for no other reason than their religion, would rightly insult all Muslims, and do irreparable damage to our long term interests. This would not even be an issue if the ports were secure. That should be the focus of conservative attention, not who gets the deal to run the port.
John McCain is backing Bush as is Will Collier at VodkaPundit and A.J.Strata and Glenn Reynolds has a lot more in emails from some folks with experience with Dubai and the UAE and their efforts in support of the US government and our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There's lots, lots more. See Memeorandum.

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