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Our Navy trusts Dubai; why won’t Congress?

Posted by Richard on February 24, 2006

 The more I learn about the Dubai Ports World deal, the more convinced I am that I was right the other day to scoff at the national security concerns. I heard Gen. Tommy Franks on Hannity & Colmes Wednesday night, and he was downright irate over the criticisms of the UAE and DP World. Franks said something I’d heard elsewhere: Dubai is the favorite place in the Middle East among U.S. troops, sailors, and airmen. The UAE is progressive, Western, and welcoming, and the company is extremely modern and efficient. Franks noted just how much confidence the U.S. Navy has in DP World:

"We have more U.S. Navy ships using the port in Dubai, Jebel Ali, than any other port outside the United States," Franks told Fox News Channel’s "Hannity & Colmes."

The former Iraq war commander explained U.S. reliance on the Dubai port facility by saying, "We know [t]he difference between an enemy and a friend."

"The Emirates is a friend," Franks aid. "That is the best run port that I’ve ever seen."

Sean Hannity challenged Gen. Franks, trotting out all the criticisms you’ve heard in the past few days: the UAE was mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report, two hijackers came from there, money was funneled through UAE banks to al Qaeda, the UAE recognized the Taliban government. Franks would have none of it. He denied there were any links between the UAE government and terrorists and noted that some of the hijackers had lived and banked in Florida, too. He made an interesting comment regarding the UAE and the Taliban (emphasis added):

I personally believe that we have had no greater ally in seeking a resolution of problems in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue, the Israeli issue, than we have found in the United Arab Emirates.

With regard to maintaining contact with the Taliban, even before Sept. 11 — and I’ll exercise caution how I say this — but I’ll say that I believe we had every reason to be thankful for the relationship and the dialogue that existed between the United Arab Emirates and the Taliban, as it assisted us in our efforts to understand what was going on in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh, who started the week merely skeptical of what he termed the "tsunami" of ports deal criticism, declared that he’d studied every aspect of the case and now supports the decision to authorize the sale. Limbaugh also noted that, although agreeing with Carter bothered him, he didn’t care for the prospect of being on the same side as many of the opponents, either:

"I haven’t yet heard anybody who’s against this deal make me feel comfortable joining them. I’m hearing a bunch of panic, hysteria, jingoism, racism, profiling and fear — and I try to do as little as possible in my life out of fear."

Limbaugh, like Franks and unlike most of the critics, has been to Dubai. In response to a caller who spoke of trusting Bush on national security, Limbaugh said that trust wasn’t the reason for his decision. He does think Bush is solid on national security, but:

It’s not a matter of trust; it’s a matter of logic. I just don’t think he’s stupid, and I don’t think that he’s not paying attention, and I don’t think that he is all of a sudden less concerned about the threats that we face. If anything, I think this represents an understanding that the threat is real, and it’s very consistent with his foreign policy. He’s trying to spread democracy to the Middle East, everybody laughing at him. He’s trying to make people around the world who are living in tyranny and in oppression free, and the world is laughing at him. So here we have a modernized little country in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates. They want to be like us. It’s apparent to me. It’s obvious that’s who their role model is. Their role model is not bin Laden. They’re role model is not a bunch of sheiks and imams and mosques that want to take us back to the Twelfth Century.

Their role model is us. So it’s an ally in the region. Economic interdependence makes them far less likely to ever be an enemy, and far more likely to join us in the security efforts in this port deal and anywhere else around the world. To ensure their investment and to ensure our safety, we become partners in this — and I think it actually fits with Bush’s foreign policy in terms of modernization, freedom for individuals, economic opportunity and advancement. I think it’s totally consistent. Once against, it’s the Democrats who are on the wrong side of it. I want to stress this, because trust wasn’t enough to make me support Harriet Miers just because he nominated her.

[Note: The above Limbaugh quotes are from transcripts of Thursday’s show, which may become unavailable shortly. Apparently, only segments of the most recent show are available to the public. To see older stuff, you have to be a member of Rush 24/7, which I discovered when trying to retrieve a quote about Carter from the Wednesday show.]

To all the Republicans and conservatives out there who oppose the sale of P&O to DP World: Doesn’t it bother you to be on the same side as the utterly hypocritical Democrats who up until now have insisted that we’re not at war and that Bush is just trying to scare us with all this national security stuff? The Democrats who opposed profiling young Arab men in airports, but are eager to profile rich capitalist Arab businessmen? The Democrats whose opposition is probably fueled by longshoremen’s union contributions? (DP World has a history of modernizing and greatly improving the efficiency of container operations, something the union will fight tooth and nail to prevent.) The Democrats who are tickled pink that they can demagogue this issue to appear strong on national security without jeopardizing their support from the MoveOn, Deaniac, anti-war crowd?

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4 Responses to “Our Navy trusts Dubai; why won’t Congress?”

  1. linus said

    One objection that I have to trusting Dubai with our ports, is that it is a dictatorship with no checks and balances. If the Bush family wasn’t benefited allready by their financial ties, George would be trying to make a democracy out of the country of Saudi Arabia. Just like he tried in Iraq. And just like he will try to do in Iran, because of the upcoming Oil Bourse……Also

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Osama bin Laden’s operatives still use this freewheeling city as a logistical hub three years after more than half the Sept. 11 hijackers flew directly from Dubai to the United States in the final preparatory stages for the attack.

    The recent arrest of an alleged top al-Qaeda combat coach is the latest sign that suspected members of the terrorist organization are among those who take advantage of travel rules that allow easy entry. Citizens of neighboring Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia can come to Dubai without visas, which other nationalities can get at the country’s ports of entry.

    Once here, it’s easy to blend in to what has become a cosmopolitan crowd.

    The Emirates is home to an estimated 4 million people, and nearly 75% of them are foreigners. In Dubai, expatriates of all nationalities are catered to, from concerts by top Western musicians to cricket and rugby matches to a German-styled Oktoberfest.

    The expatriates, mostly from the Indian subcontinent and the Arab world, are employed in the real estate, insurance, tourism and banking sectors. Westerners, numbering in the tens of thousands, are employed as military advisers and oil specialists.

    While the Emirates has taken concrete steps to fight terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001 — including making high-profile arrests, passing an anti-money laundering law, and imposing close monitoring procedures on charity organizations — the characteristics that make it an ideal place for legitimate business also attract militants and others with suspect motives.

    In August, Pakistani Qari Saifullah Akhtar, suspected of training thousands of al-Qaeda fighters for combat, was arrested in the Emirates and turned over to officials in his homeland, authorities in Pakistan announced.

    Emirates authorities have refused to comment on Akhtar’s arrest. They were similarly tightlipped in 2002, when the United States announced the arrest of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

    It was a month before Emirates officials confirmed al-Nashiri had been arrested here. Then they said he had been planning to attack “vital economic targets” in the Emirates that were likely to inflict “the highest possible casualties among nationals and foreigners.”

    The Saudi-born al-Nashiri, one of six Cole defendants in an ongoing trial in Yemen, is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location. Besides the Cole attack, he is suspected of helping direct the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. officials say.

    With open borders, multiethnic society and freewheeling business rules, the Emirates remains vital to al-Qaeda operations, said Evan F. Kohlmann, a Washington-based terrorism researcher.

    Dubai still “plays a key role for al-Qaeda as a through-point and a money transfer location,” Kohlmann said, although he also noted the country could be working to combat such activity with “an aggressive but low-profile intelligence strategy.”

    al-Qaeda isn’t the only organization that has found Dubai useful. The father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has acknowledged heading a clandestine group that, with the help of a Dubai company, supplied Pakistani nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea….

    There you have it.

    And the Carlyle Group? Go ahead and Reynolds Wrap yourself for this part.

    Consider “Leaders in Dubai 2006” as exhibit A. Carlyle Chair Lou Gerstner was a featured speaker there just three months ago, along with Colin Powell, at a pricey meeting billed as “Two days of successful business, One opportunity to network.”

    What interest does the Carlyle Group have in Dubai?

  2. VRB said

    I have not heard of stong union oppostition in Pennsylvania. The port in Philadelphia that Dubai Ports would operate is already highly mechanized. I think that some people may think differently living at a probable ground zero than someone living where there is a low probability of sustaining a terrorist attack. It may not be rational, but an attack is always in the back of our minds.

  3. Wouter said

    Having lived in both Dubai and the USAI believe that i can give a reasonably objective view on their feeling towards the US, and it is by no means hostile. Neither I nor any of my friends were ever made uncomfortable because we were outsiders, it is just not an issue there. Thats more than can be said of the US. The idea that Dubai, its government or its people, have anything but the best of intentions toward the united states and would do anything but its best to maintain high security at US ports is ridiculous, what would they stand to gain?

  4. Anonymous said

    Linus: You’re arguing that I should be suspicious because the UAE is open, free, cosmopolitan, and Western? That it doesn’t have draconian police-state control over people’s movements? That it’s capitalistic? Sorry, you lose — I’m not persuaded.

    VRB: Interesting that Philly is already mechanized and doesn’t have strong union opposition — I think those two facts are probably closely related. πŸ™‚ As for the next attack, there are people not living on the coasts who still worry a bit. Maybe it’s paranoia, maybe it’s realization that they’re likely to do something unexpected next time.

    Wouter: Thanks for the first-person perspective. It helps to know that someone who’s actually been there doesn’t think that my admittedly narrow and limited perspective is totally off base. πŸ™‚

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