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Any Storm in a Port

Unlikely allies on Dubai deal

It's a sure sign of the apocalypse. I agree with Sen. Rick Santorum. I agree with Congresswoman Melissa Hart. Adding fuel to my apocalyptic fire, Rick and Melissa agree with Hillary Clinton.

We all think Dubya is in search of his second oar, since he clearly isn't rowing with both in the water. It is the most delicious of ironies that the man who once claimed to be a uniter, not a divider, has now united us all against a common enemy. Him.

This is the weirdest political story to surface in years. It's weirder than Dick Cheney getting tanked up while quail hunting -- my theory is there was more than one beer -- and plugging his hunting buddy. When you spend five years scaring the bejeezus out of Americans about those dangerous Middle Easterners, how far out of your ever-lovin' mind do you have to be to propose turning over management of major U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirates?

Somebody's smoking too many Dubais.

OK, so you shoot yourself in the political foot (insert Cheney joke here) and then you try to recover. What's the first thing you do? Announce the President didn't know anything about it until the decision was made. It's somewhat satisfying to confirm that King Clueless is once again "out of the loop," to use one of his father's phrases. But who's the White House PR genius who thinks it's smart to reveal this to the public?

One TV talking head said the strategy is designed to give Dubya cover if he decides to kill the deal, allowing him to claim he investigated it and decided it wasn't a good idea. Maybe. But he sure looks dumb in the interim.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorialized that the ownership of the port-management firm probably doesn't matter; what really matters is that we inspect only about 5 percent of incoming cargo. I beg to differ -- and polls show that most of you don't want to hire this United Arab Emirates government-owned firm for this job.

Now maybe it's unfair to blame the government because some money for the 9/11 terrorist plot was funneled through financial institutions in the United Arab Emirates. And maybe we shouldn't be alarmed that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from the country. We have more than our share of bad apples from sea to shining sea.

But according to the Associated Press, "the United States raised concerns with the United Arab Emirates seven years ago about possible ties between officials in that country and Osama bin Laden, according to a section of the September 11 commission's report that details a possible missed opportunity to kill the al-Qaida leader."

Yes, it seems that members of the royal family that governs the UAE were having tea, or whatever you have with international terrorists, in the Afghan desert in February 1999. MSNBC reported that, according to testimony by former CIA director George Tenet, the CIA called off bombing this get-together over concerns that we'd blow up royal family members. And golly gosh, you wouldn't want to kill people who run the government of one of our "allies."

In March 1999, the AP reports "top White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke called a UAE official to express his concerns about possible associations between Emirati officials and bin Laden." So this isn't just some anti-Arab hysteria.

And then there are New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's cogent comments: "What kind of an empire are we if we have to outsource our coastline to a group of sheiks who don't recognize Israel, in a country where money was laundered for the September 11th attacks?"

The conspiracy theorist in me recognizes that this is a little too cute by half in one respect: Now Rick and Melissa have something they can disagree with Dubya about -- just in time to avoid looking like the rubber stamps they've both been. And I'm predicting a Republican retreat.

But the best thing ever would be if the GOP-controlled Congress overrode Dubya's threatened veto of a bill to scuttle the Dubai deal. Let the apocalypse begin!

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