I learned at a young age that talk is cheap. U.S. President George W. Bush learned this sometime during his life as well, but Bush has made radically different use of this awareness.
The most prominent example of this is Bush's talk of hunting down Osama bin Laden. There's the saber-rattling directed at the United Nations and defiance of the Geneva Convention and various other treaties. Then, there's this War on Terrorism we keep hearing about.
This week, we got an unpleasant and under-reported example of how Bush and the people who pull his strings are the wrong people to be entrusted with this effort. You can read about it in the Feb. 17, 2006 issue of the New York Times: Despite Fears, a Dubai Company Will Help Run Ports in New York (You need to register to read this, but there's no cost.) The story is, there's a British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., that manages the Port Newark Container Terminal, and five other port facilities in Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. This company was recently bought out by another company called Dubai Ports World.
This arrangement got some scrutiny from the Commander in Chief of the War on Terrorism. Dubai Ports World is controlled by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, and they are not nice people. Their banks were used to transfer money to the hijackers of the 2001 World Trade Center attack. They did not cooperate with the U.S. Department of the Treasury's effort to track down bin Laden's bank accounts. They were one one of three governments in the world that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. You can read more about it on the Think Progress and Daily Kos sites.
Ports, especially container ports near large centres of population, are a very attractive terrorist target. Any objective person would conclude having such facilities under foreign administration is a bad idea, and having them administered by a company like Dubai Ports World is an extremely bad idea.
The Bush administration saw it otherwise. A committee of White House officials, including Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld approved this arrangement and asked few questions about it.
Appalling, yes, but not a surprise to those familiar with the Bush family history. Prescott Bush, George W.'s grandfather, was a shareholder of the Union Banking Company, which was seized by the U.S. government in 1942 for trading with the enemy. Prescott said that his involvement with the Union Banking Company was a “courtesy to a client”. Given the Bush family's involvement in the oil industry and their ties to various oil princes, I suspect that the approval of the Dubai Ports World deal is another example of the same sort of courtesy. Here's a sobering thought; suppose that someone like George W. Bush had been President of the U.S. during World War II?