President Eisenhower upon leaving his presidency warned the nation about the danger to its future in the gathering power and influence being amassed by the "Military-Industrial Complex". He wanted to add "Congress" to his admonition, but decided to drop it at the last moment.
Turning over our port terminals to Dubai Ports World (DPW) is perhaps the latest and among the most brazen examples of that influence which today could be modified to read the "Oiligopoly-Government Complex'. Oil money in all its manifestations is corrupting the good sense of our government.
The influence it brings to bear echoes and brings new meaning to Eisenhower's warning, that the democratic process risks losing its voice when lined up against the power of the interests prevailing.
Is it coincidence that according to a report on C-Span on February 22 that the Carlyle Group (an investment group known for its close links to Middle Eastern money) has a significant stake in Pacific and Oriental Steamship Navigation Company (P&O) and that ex-President George H.W. Bush is a director of The Carlyle Group? There is nothing improper nor nefarious in this. But it does point to a mindset and an amalgam of influence that is cause for concern. One might well assume that the principals of P.&O. and the principals of DPW all share a mutual trust and talk much the same language. But it is not so much the principals that are of concern, be it the Government of Dubai(owner of DPW) or the U.A.E. for that matter.
Rather it those within their societies who have received shelter and support, and have been nurtured and radicalized in these environments. Be it the two UAE citizens who were among the 9/11 perpetrators, the bankers who transferred funds to Al Queda operatives, the managers of Al-Arabiya television with its often virulently anti-American coverage of Iraq (see my blog "Oil Money Influence, Al-Arabyia And Our Port Security" 2/22/06), the port terminal operatives who permitted the transfer of Pakistani nuclear components to N.Korea and Iran. These are not issues for the deal makers, but they should be of grave concern to our Government charged with providing our security. And it is here where the "Oiligopoly Complex" manifests it grip, smoothing out concerns through highly placed lobbyists and "K Street" functionaries , persuading responsible government officials to either look the other way or assuaging their hesitations with mollifying arguments and well focused political contributions. Too often there is nobody on the other end asking really hard questions, nor as interested as the heavily endowed "K Street" crowd to stem the tide.
It is good for Nora Ephron in her blog or even Tom Friedman ("The American Antidote" NYT 2/24/06) to counsel a conciliatory posture toward the takeover of our port facilities in the name of setting a civil example of international tolerance and correctness. But it is also a step away from the realities of the current state of the world. It is not the governments of Dubai or the UAE that are of concern but rather it is the operatives within their midst. We are dealing with an implacable enemy who will try to exploit any of our weaknesses to attack. Our ports are recognized as being highly vulnerable and container cargo traffic is among our weakest links. To say that port security is the responsibility of the Coast Guard, and to let it go at that, is nonsense. The Coast Guard's vigilance, because of limitations on funding and manpower, extends to but a small fraction of the tonnages moved. The port terminal operators play a key role in establishing the essential work ethic motivating their personnel to be on the lookout for any discrepancies. And that can only come from the top down.
The downside of one mistake, one nuclear device detonating, in one of our ports is too horrible to contemplate. But that is the danger. This is not the time nor the place to set an example of misguided international correctness or to accede to Mr Chertoff's rationale "to support a robust world trading system". The potential downside disaster is just too great.
And for those too young to remember, Eisenhower was no "lefty".