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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 10, 2006

Arabs can win by losing port deal

George Bush will never forget who his biggest political allies are.

By some measurement, it is his friends, the Arabs.

And he'll owe them big time for getting him out of one of the biggest political messes of his administration.

Officials from the United Arab Emirates were the gracious and magnanimous ones who ended Bush's port deal headache yesterday. They simply announced a pullout of the Bush-approved plan that would have granted the Arab-run DP World operational control of six U.S. ports.

The announcement came without a catch. The United Arab Emirates company promised full divestiture to a yet-unnamed U.S. entity that would, in turn, run the ports.

The new development spared Bush from making good on his threat to use his first veto to override all his Republican "friends," who joined Democrats to reject the deal in Congress earlier in the week.

That was the most embarrassing part of this whole episode. There was no good reason to reject the deal aside from outright xenophobia and bigotry. The Dubai-based company, DP World, would operate the port, but would not be in charge of security. That would still remain a U.S. responsibility, including agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.

Some critics even raised the issue that the UAE was home to several of the 9/11 hijackers. But since that time, the UAE has become a staunch ally. The deal was, in part, recognition of that fact.

So Bush was taking a principled stand in wanting the deal to go through. Congress, however, took the issue shamelessly into new arenas of demagoguery with both Democrats and Republicans trading on the public's fear and deep-seated anti-Arab sentiment.

The whole controversy ended only when the UAE apparently decided there was something far better than running U.S. ports being George Bush's political savior.