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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

Sale becomes political hot potato

By Derek Zobel
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 10, 2006

It is a rule of capitalist economies that businesses are bought and sold. Most of these transactions occur on such a small level that they do not merit national news.

However, in this post- Sept. 11 world, when news comes of an Arab company buying out the British company that controls six U.S. ports, it becomes an international issue involving much more than the economy.

Such was the case when Dubai Ports World (DP World), a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), purchased Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). The British government has approved the deal, but the United States remains undecided.

The question comes up: Should this sale be cause for concern? Britain’s view is clear, as reported on “Britain’s Department of Transport said it would not intervene in the deal as it was ‘a private market issue.’”

If only the United States would take a hint from its British friends. But, as with everything here, it had to become a political issue.

The Bush administration has approved the deal, but U.S. lawmakers are reluctant to follow its lead, believing that the sale will increase the risk of terrorism. This concern stems from the knowledge that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from the UAE.

So who is behind the opposition?

My first guess, which turned out to be correct, was Republicans. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, are attempting to introduce legislation that would allow the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to prohibit certain U.S. facilities from being foreign-owned.

Furthermore, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has called for an investigation into DP World. All of this is normal activity for Republicans. DP World was quick to agree to a 45-day delay of the deal so that they can work with the U.S. government in addressing security concerns. It sounds to me like the company has something to hide.

Some Democrats oppose the sale as well. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York expressed concern that the United States was outsourcing the responsibility for port security. Nice work, Senator Schumer, but maybe you should go learn about the purpose of the United States Coast Guard.

Reading more on the subject, I stumbled upon a senator who is not too hard to find in the news these days: Hillary Clinton.

It takes a heck of a woman to sit next to and support a man who had an affair everyone in the world knows about, but I have to say that this move surprised me.

Why would one of the most prominent Democratic senators object to an Arab company controlling six U.S. ports? Could not that be considered racist?

Oh, I am sorry, Hillary, I get it now – we can be suspicious of an Arab-based global business, but we cannot be suspicious of Arabs in our airports because racial profiling is wrong. Hey, when Arabs call the United States, let’s tap their phone line, because you never know what they could be planning.

This hypocrisy must have some kind of payoff, right? So what could it be? Then it hit me – national defense. National security.

Call it whatever you want, but it is been one of the weak points of Democrats over the last, oh, I don’t know, forever. Here, finally, is a chance for the Democrats to look strong on defense and, not surprisingly, the first to bite is the senator most people think will be the first woman candidate for the presidency.

I can see it now: 2008, Hillary Clinton addressing the public, “Hey America, I know you value your national security. Remember when I tried to stop those Arabs from controlling our ports?”

No ruling body is free from controversy, but what should have been a simple economic sale has ballooned into a big waste of all of our time.

I am tired of politicians in the United States, both Democrat and Republican, thinking and caring more about their own agendas than the well-being of the country and its citizens.

Please, Mrs. Clinton: You tried, we saw through it, now just let it go.

Staff writer Derek Zobel is a senior from Bloomington, Minn. He majors in English and in art history.

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