Mar 022006

President Bush frolicked into the White House promising to be a "uniter not a divider." Much like his other claims that his presidency would offer a "humble" foreign policy and that Iraqis would welcome American troops as "liberators," this promise fell short.

Since Bush has been in office, bipartisanship has been at an all-time low. Quibbling over taxes, the astronomical debt, an unwarranted war, domestic spying, the unearthing of corruption and even whether to rename French fries, has creased party lines. Tensions between the two parties were most recently exhibited during Bush's State of the Union Address, which provided a forum for cheers and jeers set strictly on party lines.

These last two weeks, however, have seen a revival in bipartisanship – all thanks to the same scare tactics Bush employed to con this country into going to war in Iraq. By scare tactics, I am referring to the notion that the Bush Administration has attempted to ingrain in the minds of every American, namely, that we should never feel too safe and that all Arabs are potential terrorists.

This flawed logic was used to construct imaginary ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, undermine civil liberties with the passing of the Patriot Act, keep the hub of human rights violations (Guantanamo Bay) up and running, and it ultimately resulted in another four years of Bush at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

So, what exactly emboldened the left wing to join hands with the right wing? The answer: ports – and the "scary" Arabs who are threatening to run them.

On Feb. 13, DP World, a ports operator run by the United Arab Emirates, purchased the British firm P&O, which coordinates a global network of maritime ports. Among the American ports under control of P&O are ones located in Miami, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, New Jersey and New York.

News of the $6.8 billion sale of P&O sent shockwaves through the hearts of every Arab-fearing politician in Washington. It also presented Democrats with the rare opportunity to flex their muscles in the realm of national security. Near unanimity was reached by both sides of the aisle to block the port deal. Of course, as the old proverb goes, "Where there is unanimity there is error or idiocy."

To his credit, Bush asserted that any legislation to block the port deal would meet his veto. Essentially, by taking the unpopular stance of defending DP World, Bush was cementing his role as an advocate of free trade.

Personally, I think that a country's ports should be operated by its respective national government. Neither foreign companies from Britain, nor foreign governments from the United Arab Emirates, should be enlisted to operate American ports. That responsibility should fall solely on the federal government.

However, if our government is disposed to allowing foreign actors to operate our ports, we should not discriminate between a British and Arab unit. In a globalized economy, it does not matter where the highest bidder comes from, so long as they can answer to "show me the money!"

Instead of waiting for DP World's acquisition to be concerned about America's port security, Congress should have addressed this problem earlier. Especially since, as The Economist reports, "only 5 percent of the containers that bring 2 billion tons of freight to the ports each year are inspected on arrival. That is up from 2 percent before Sept. 11, 2001, but this is still worryingly low."

While it is a breath of fresh air to see Republicans and Democrats finding common ground, it is troubling that this goodwill came about through a mutual distrust of Arabs. Ironically, Bush's opposition gives him a taste of his own medicine. After years of appealing to many Americans' fear of Arabs, which he helped manifest, he is now fighting to reverse that view in the name of free trade. It seems as though the tables have turned.

Luci Storelli – Castro is double majoring in political science and philosophy. Her columns run every Friday in the Collegian.






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