Port Deal DOA

By Steve Adubato, Ph.D. So what is the deal with this proposed contract that the Bush administration plans on awarding to Dubai Ports World (DP World) to take over port container terminals in a variety of East Coast areas including New Jersey and Philadelphia? DP World, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, appears to have won the contract in a straightforward fashion. President Bush has argued that the United Arab Emirates has been an ally and a friend to the United States, particularly on our war against terrorism. The president also argues that we need to send the message around the world that the U.S. is willing to reach out to the Arab world. On many levels, much of this is true, but not much of it is relevant because it is clear that in port areas like New Jersey and Philadelphia, as well as others in New York and Baltimore, the post-9/11 world we live in has changed our perception of ourselves and the Arab world forever. Recently in the Star-Ledger, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, who headed up the 9/11 commission and extensively examined our ports and how vulnerable they were to terrorism attacks, made the following comments; “It [DP World] is a responsible company from everything I know. Should that make a difference? Yes. Will it? No, because of the symbolism and the political reality. This deal should have been killed when it was first suggested¦Politically, certain things are very hard to argue. You can make the case, in about 20 minutes perhaps, why the deal should be considered. You can make an argument in about 30 seconds why it shouldn„t, and people are going to buy that argument.” Here is the point. In the post-9/11 world residents in New Jersey, including those of us in the north who are close to New York, and in the south, bordering Philadelphia, have a very clear view of what we want from our governmental leaders when it comes to fighting terrorism. What we want is them to do everything humanly possible to protect us against what in some cases may be inevitable. We are even willing to have the civil and in some cases constitutional rights of certain ethnic groups be infringed upon. No one wants to talk about it. No one will admit it. But it is true. Think about it. The ports in New Jersey are laughably vulnerable. No more than 5 percent of all the containers that come in the port area are even inspected. What„s more, foreign companies have been in control of certain port activities for years. In fact, the port area in question has become news because of the federal government„s allowing a sale of a London-based company to DP Ports World. If an English-based company were running container port activity in New Jersey or Philadelphia, would everyone be up-in-arms? Obviously not. This whole thing is like racial profiling, but only against Arabs at our ports. In spite of all this, I agree the deal should be stopped. Not based on logic or what„s rational, but because 9/11 is still too emotionally close for too many of us in and around New Jersey. The attack and its aftermath are too fresh in our minds for us to be open-minded and fair about an Arab-based company taking control of a New Jersey or Philadelphia based port. It shouldn„t happen and it’s not going to happen. Maybe 10 years from now it will be possible. But not now. It’s amazing that the president and his advisors don„t understand that. But if they had talked to the Congressional delegation in New Jersey, they would have known that the deal was a non-starter. And when Republicans like former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean publicly blast the deal and say this deal was an avoidable “self-inflicted” wound, it sends a powerful message to their Republican friends in the White House. Hopefully the president will understand and we can move forward. If not, this debate will distract us from the more tangible and substantive actions that must be taken to truly protect our ports in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.

Port Deal DOA