Posted by: Steve Coplan | February 27, 2006

Any storm in a port

The brouhaha, grandstanding and general bandwagon jumping that has accompanied Dubai Ports World emerging victorious in its bidding war with Singapore’s port operator for shipping and ferries company P&O is a depressing display of the depths to which the US public discourse has sunk. For the sake of argument, let’s go along with the assumption that the employees of the company that manages one of the largest shipping container port in the world and that has just acquired another company for several billions of dollars are somehow transmogrified into raving Jihadist lunatics bent on the destruction of the Great Satan the moment they step on US soil. Also, let’s go along with supposition that the participation of two United Arab Emirates citizens (Emiratese?) in the September 11 attacks is sufficient grounds for a spate of national hysteria. Of course, let’s ignore for the moment the inconvenient fact that the majority of the attackers were from Saudi Arabia. Once we’ve managed to descend to the level of uninformed xenophobic claptrap at best, and more likely outright racism, shouldn’t we still be asking ourselves: why is the security of our ports still dependent on which private company owns the lease to manage them? If port security is such a priority, why is it left exposed to changes in corporate management in the first place?

I found myself uncharacteristically agreeing with Bush when he argued that we can’t cry foul just because a company is owned by a bunch of oil-rich sheikhs. That was before it became apparent that he had characteristically been asleep at the wheel. Or before it occurred to me that it was he and his minions who are ultimately responsible for this paranoia. As much as it heartens me to see a sycophantic partisan hack like Bill Frist breaking ranks, I would prefer if the popular support he is courting wasn’t based on irrational, racist fears.


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