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US commentators enter port fray

Miami port
The ports debate has gone right to the heart of US security fears
Commentators in the US have weighed into the row over a controversial proposed deal which would control of six US ports to a Dubai-based company.

Security fears among US congressmen prompted a stand-off with President George W Bush, who reassured Americans that they "don't need to worry" about security.

But security cuts to the heart of the matter, writes EJ Dionne Jr in the Washington Post.

"Until this fight broke out about a week ago, it was impossible to get anyone but the experts to pay attention to the huge holes in the security of our ports. Suddenly, everyone cares," Dionne writes.

Like a host of other commentators, the author points out that foreign companies already run or partially operate 15 US ports. China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Denmark already have a stake.

"This may be just fine the way the world works these days. But we've never really talked about it, have we?" Dionne adds.

'Un-American'

For US businessman Mansoor Ijaz, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, the "emotional eruption" by US politicians is a "big step backward for US national security".

"It is a uniquely un-American reaction that assumes the worst of an important Arab ally, pronounces its guilt, and seeks to paint its companies as enemies without one shred of evidence," Mr Ijaz writes.

To be sure, the matter of secure US ports trumps the hunting of quail as an affaire d'etat
The Wall Street Journal
"It is hypocritical for America to want democracy in the Middle East, to champion capitalism... and then turn protectionist when a Dubai-owned company turns up on our shores having played the capitalist takeover game responsibly and transparently."

To the conservative-inclined Wall Street Journal, the whole episode reflects badly on the US political class.

"After nearly seven days of elevating the [Dick] Cheney bird-hunting accident to the level of a national crisis, now comes this week's flap over managing the ports," writes Daniel Henninger.

"To be sure, the matter of secure US ports trumps the hunting of quail as an affaire d'etat. But it was the strikingly low quality of the politicians' commentary and behaviour that attracted notice."

White House gripes

Online, political blogger Hugh Hewitt cites a stream of conservative commentators who offer sound business and geo-political reasons for supporting the deal, while remaining unconvinced himself.

"The responsible critique is that penetration of this company by Islamists intending massive casualties and damage to the US on its own soil is easier that penetration of other foreign companies operating ports in the US, specifically the current British operator," he writes.

But when Congress did in fact question the deal, says the New York Times, the White House was forced to reap what it sowed.

"A White House that routinely brands anyone who disagrees with its position as soft on terrorism is now complaining that election-bound lawmakers are callously using the ports deal to frighten voters," the paper's editorial says.

"A White House that invaded Iraq as a substitute for defeating al-Qaeda is frustrated because Congress is using the company, Dubai Ports World, as a stand-in for all the intractable perils of the Middle East."

SEE ALSO
Arab firm to delay US ports deal
24 Feb 06 |  Americas
Bush threatens veto in ports row
22 Feb 06 |  Americas
US lawmakers criticise ports deal
21 Feb 06 |  Americas
P&O confident of Dubai takeover
20 Feb 06 |  Business
P&O shareholders back Dubai bid
13 Feb 06 |  Business
Dubai firm raises stake for P&O
26 Jan 06 |  Business
P&O agrees bid from Dubai Ports
29 Nov 05 |  Business

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