The old alibi returns. "I don't think anybody expected planes to fly into buildings." "I don't think anybody could have anticipated the breach of the levees." "I don't think anybody saw Hamas winning the Palestinian elections." And now:
President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.
So who DID know about this? Yesterday we learned Rumsfeld didn't know about it either.
Is that really a good strategy for dealing with an unpopular decision? "Well, sure, we decided to let a country with ties to Osama bin Laden manage some ports, but you don't understand... we didn't KNOW about it until a couple days ago!" How does that burnish your national security credibility?
One interesting thing in this whole business is the degree to which the Republicans in Congress have pounced to demagogue this issue. It's turned into "you think YOU hate Muslims? Oh no, WE hate Muslims!" which is a perversion of the real issue. David Sirota has a nice piece out which tries to get to the bottom of the Dubai deal:
...almost no one is talking about what may have fueled the administration's decision to push forward with this deal: the desire to move forward Big Money's "free" trade agenda.
How much does "free" trade have to do with this? How about a lot. The Bush administration is in the middle of a two-year push to ink a corporate-backed "free" trade accord with the UAE. At the end of 2004, in fact, it was Bush Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who proudly boasted of his trip to the UAE to begin negotiating the trade accord. Rejecting this port security deal might have set back that trade pact. Accepting the port security deal - regardless of the security consequences - likely greases the wheels for the pact. That's probably why instead of backing off the deal, President Bush - supposedly Mr. Tough on National Secuirty - took the extraordinary step of threatening to use the first veto of his entire presidency to protect the UAE's interests. Because he knows protecting those interetsts - regardless of the security implications for America - is integral to the "free" trade agenda all of his corporate supporters are demanding.
Dubai is a proud member of the United States of Greenbacks along with a lot of other multinationals (you can say that they're one of the first purely corporate states). By turning this into a "the terrists are going to kill us" issue, Republicans in Congress are providing cover for the REAL system underneath. It also has the added benefit of distancing themselves from an unpopular President in an election year.