Land, sea and air security upgrades needed
Until recently, most Americans were not aware the privately-owned and very British Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) was operating six major U.S. ports and 15 minor ones. Now, the British firm wants out and Dubai Ports World (DPW) Ė a wholly-owned subsidiary of the government of the United Arab Emirates -- wants to step into the shoes of the venerable P&O.
Those who support the DPW deal say it will not diminish the security status quo at these 21 ports. Those who oppose the DPW deal say it will be the end of western civilization as we know it. Strangely enough, there are Democrats and Republicans on both sides of this issue. But few of them are asking the right questions.
How come, five years after 9/11, only about five-percent of the 6 million containers that reach our shores each year via ships are inspected for explosives? How come about 11 million illegal aliens are roaming around inside the U.S. and, for the most part, we donít know who they are?
Government 101 tells us that one of the hallmarks of a sovereign nation is control of its borders when, in fact, control over our long borders with Mexico and Canada is pretty much a joke. An even greater joke is how we have shot ourselves in the foot (no Cheney jokes, please) with regard to coastal and port security.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter agreed to give the U.S-owned Canal Zone and the Canal itself to the Panamanians who, when they gained total control in 1999, promptly signed a contract with the Red Chinese-controlled Hutchinson-Whampoa Company to operate the Canal. Moreover, the Ports of Cristobal at one end and Balboa at the other end are also under the same Red Chinese Control. When the Red Chinese get ready to invade Taiwan, they simply order Hutchison-Whampoa to close the Canal, Cristobal and Balboa and our Atlantic Fleet will not be able to reinforce our Pacific Fleet in time to do any good.
Sixty-five miles east of Miami, Hutchinson-Whampoa controls the Grand Bahama Port. In 1997, President Clinton ordered the U.S. Navy to lease the Long Beach Naval Base to Red China. Fortunately, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) successfully inserted a provision into a Defense Appropriation Act that prevented Clinton giving the communist Chinese a West Coast operating base.
Going back to Carter and Clinton, the Sinistra Media didnít worry about a nuclear power like Red China having forward operating bases just off our East Coast and also in control of the Panama Canal. So, whatís the big deal about P&Oís U.S. port operations being taken over by a similar company owned by non-nuclear Dubai?
Well, they are all big deals. So, we need to ask: Why do we have to deal with non-U.S. port management companies to begin with? With booming global and U.S. economies, why arenít U.S. port management companies chomping at the bit to do what P&O has been doing and what DPW seeks to do?
Is there something about U.S. tax codes that discourage U.S.-owned companies from managing our port facilities? Do these foreign companies not have to deal with our labor unions? Donít they have to comply with OSHA, EPA and our maritime safety standards? Something is fishy here, and Congress needs to find out why U.S.-owned companies arenít the world leaders in the management of U.S. ports that handle over 7,500 container ships each year.
Thanks to our military, we have much better control over our air space than we do over our land borders, our coastlines and ports. Yet airport security is a non-funny joke. U.S. Transportation Secretary, Norman Mineta, wonít permit the profiling of young Arab males like the 9/11 killers, while obviously non-terrorist grandmothers are poked, prodded, herded around like cattle and their knitting needles confiscated. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, lots of poorly- or unscreened- service workers have unsupervised access to airliners.
Itís time to get serious.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described ďrecovering lawyer and philosopher,Ē is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy Ė two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2006. William Hamilton.