March 8, 2006
A Perfectly Engineered Scandal
It was just another business deal.
In the eyes of Bush administration
officials, in the eyes of the management of
P&O and Dubai Ports World, and in the eyes
of several senior Democratic party
politicians, it was just business as usual -
another minor event in the continuing
sell-off of American assets and the
continuing off-shoring of American jobs in
the name of advancing the share values of
major corporations. A minor event, really,
in the never ending forward march of the
merged corporation-state: The transfer of
terminal operations at several U.S. seaports
to a United Arab Emirates-owned firm,
accompanying the sale of one of the world's
largest shipping industry firms, P&O.
What was there to complain about? It was a
deal like any other in recent memory. When
major American automakers began harnessing
the power of semi-slave labor in South
American and Asian countries to make their
grommets, door jambs, ball bearings and
camshafts, resulting in the idling of tens
of thousands of U.S. autoworkers, the public
didn't care. When the American steel
industry was systematically dismantled for
the sake of cut-rate producers such as
India's Mittal, no one seemed to mind. And
when suddenly every other telemarketer or
customer service representative on the other
end of the telephone line seemed to be in
Bangalore while their displaced U.S.
counterpart filed for food stamps, there was
nary a whimper of popular discontent, apart
from some grumbling about the accents.
But hoo, boy: Announce that you're going to
let an Arabic company be your
baggage-handlers, and all of a sudden it's
meltdown time, Three Mile Island all over
again. What gives?
The attacks came thick and fast from all
points on the political spectrum.
"Security!", people screamed. For once the
likes of Bill Frist made common cause with
Hilary Clinton, bleating about this
perceived betrayal of America's trust, while
nightmare visions of shipping containers
packed with yellowcake uranium and suitcase
nukes danced through Americans' heads.
Meanwhile, Bush mounted the battlements in
solidarity with his corporate brethren to
announce that his mighty veto would thwart
all comers' attempts to nix this sacred
transaction, public opinion be damned.
Bush's "resolve" in standing up for the
rights of big business must have come as a
relief to Treasury Secretary John Snow,
former chairman of CSX Corporation, whose
own dealings with DPW might be called into
scrutiny should the agreement be scrapped.
CSX, you see, had quietly sold off one of
its divisions to DPW under his aegis, which
rather suggests a role for him in
fast-tracking the current approval process.
A successful transfer, on the other hand,
probably stands to fatten his wallet a tad,
as well as make him a hero of free-trade
globalists and secure his
post-administration board memberships. Doin'
a heckuva job, Snowy.
Of course, Bush is absolutely correct in his
assertion that the DPW deal won't compromise
U.S. port security at all, for the simple
reason that there isn't any to compromise.
Despite the post-9/11 fury and bluster,
nothing of substance has been done to ensure
that hazardous cargo or contraband won't
enjoy an easy free-market ride in and out of
New York, Newark, New Orleans and Long
Beach. The logistical hurdles in
establishing effective port security are
daunting and cost-prohibitive - particularly
when a nationalist, nativist Republican
administration is sure to scuttle any
attempt at developing the global
cargo security infrastructure, with global
benefits to all participating countries and
companies necessary for effectiveness.
Bush's answer has been to throw up his
hands, ignore the problem and make us all
take our shoes off at airport checkpoints
In point of fact, security at DPW terminals
will probably be considerably tighter than
at present - after all, the company will
have a $6 billion investment to protect. And
despite the sham 45-day "review" process,
the deal will go through - in fact,
effective control was transferred as of
March 2. Seen from hindsight (which it
already is), the DPW dustup appears to be a
Roveian masterstroke of a PR power-play:
Clinton and the Democrats' current bluster
will be seen as ineffective in thwarting
this "Arab takeover." Bush, who isn't
running for re-election anyway, will succeed
in shunting more money to his corporate
pals. And Republican sacrificial lambs such
as Frist, Dennis Hastert and Duncan Hunter
can rest assured that the electorate's short
attention span will enable them to win in a
walk next election day, once they've passed
the now-obligatory legislation preventing
future transfers of U.S. port facilities
to foreign ownership.
Which, by the by, leaves precious few firms
capable of buying in the next go-round. And
isn't that nice for Halliburton?
2006 North Star Writers Group. May not
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