Friday, March 10, 2006


More reaction to the (non) port deal

Two weeks ago I lambasted a David Ignatius column for its simplistic views on foreign investments.  Maryland Conservatarian: Is America for Sale? Although overall critical of his analysis, I did give him credit for being one of the few commentators to correctly note the furor over the Dubai ports deal as the over hype it was. Well, he’s back with a full column on the ports deal just in time for it to be yesterday’s news.

In today’s column, Burning Allies -- and Ourselves, Mr. Ignatius expresses his worries about the impact of the forced withdrawal of the deal on our relations in the mideast:

“I suspect America will pay a steep price for Congress's rejection of this deal. It sent a message that for all the U.S. rhetoric about free trade and partnerships with allies, America is basically hostile to Arab investment.”

I don’t disagree but in handing out the blame, the press is conspicuously absent as one of his recipients:

“One could blame it all on craven members of Congress, if the opinion polls didn't show that Americans are overwhelmingly against the deal -- and suspicious of Muslims in general. …If anything, Iraq has deepened the country's anxiety, introspection and foreboding.”

Iraq? The ongoing attacks on the populace and our soldiers are surely factors but you must also throw into the mix some other recent events in the news such as the French riots, the Palestinian’s election of the terrorist group Hamas and, perhaps most graphically, the moronic worldwide riots over cartoons. When was the last time you read or heard a press report that opened, “Good news out of the mideast today…”?  Those “craven” Congress members were merely reflections of their constituencies who themselves were just reacting to what was being reported by the various factions of the media.

And, unfortunately, to a large extent what was being reported was wrong.  The ports weren’t being sold; the UAE-based company wasn’t going to run the ports; port security responsibility wasn’t changing hands; none of that was true but we all heard some version of them in the aftermath of the deal’s announcement. For example: this tidbit was filed in my hometown of Baltimore over a week after the deal was announced:

“….where several state lawmakers lashed out at the federal government after the approval of the sale of six major American ports, which included the Port of Baltimore, to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates--a country that was believed to be a base for September 11 operations.” State Lawmakers Outraged At 'Reckless' Port Deal

Mr. Ignatius, from the vantage point of actually being in Dubai, spends most of the rest of his column putting the UAE in a very positive light.

“The truth is, this is one of the few places in the Arab world where things have been going in the right direction -- away from terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism and toward an open, modern economy.”  

He had no way of knowing the deal would be scuttled during his travels but that he is just now in a position to report this is the perfect anecdote for a story in which the facts never quite caught up.

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