February 23, 2006
It’s shaping up to be a major political battle: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader John Boehner have all lined up against President Bush’s plan to turn over operation of six major American ports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates.
The President is threatening to veto any attempt to block the plan. Referring to the fact that the company in question, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, has been British-owned up to its impending sale to Dubai Ports World, he said Tuesday: “I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, ‘We’ll treat you fairly.’” This is staggeringly unrealistic, and reflects the dangers of the Administration’s continuing unwillingness or inability to come to grips with the full dimensions of the jihad threat. That Bush feels compelled to say “to the people of the world, ‘We’ll treat you fairly’” betrays a peculiar insecurity where he should display a robust and unapologetic self-confidence. He is trying to demonstrate to a world awash in anti-Americanism that America is not as bad as all that, but in doing so he only lends credence to the anti-American charges (for if there weren’t substance to them, after all, why would he feel the need for the gesture?) and manifests the mistaken belief that “they hate us” because of something we have done, which we can undo with the proper display of good will. In this he again shows complete unawareness of the jihad ideology which remains constant while the pretexts and grievances that fuel it shift. No amount of good will can possibly efface the jihad imperative to subjugate the world under the rule of Islamic law, which is the avowed program of jihadists everywhere.
The UAE may be the most reliable ally the United States has ever had (and of course it isn’t remotely that) and there would still be no way for it to ensure that Dubai Ports World hires no one with jihadist sentiments. The situation in the Islamic world makes it quite likely that Dubai Ports World will be sending at least a few mujahedin to work in these American ports, and that they will be able to work there unhindered. The 9/11 hijackers used the UAE as a base of operations and source of financial support; have Emirati authorities cleared the country of jihad sentiment since then? On what basis can this be assumed?
After all, no one even in Washington is yet even asking the right questions of self-proclaimed moderates about where they really stand on jihad and Sharia issues. Officials in Washington and Europe have shown no awareness of the fact that it isn’t enough to have no ties to terror groups; a Muslim who nonetheless believes in the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism and the subjugation of infidels is still susceptible to jihadist recruitment. Is it possible to determine whether such recruitment is likely or not in the case of any particular individual? No -- and that’s why turning over any ports to Dubai Ports World is ill-advised: the potential for jihadist infiltration is just too great. Why is a Middle Eastern company held to a standard different from that to which a British company is held? Obviously a British firm these days could employ a jihadist also, but the likelihood of this is smaller, as British Muslims still constitute a small minority of the population.
Some have argued that this deal has been blown way out of proportion, and that security for the ports will remain in American hands. Even if that is true, however, the arrangement with Dubai Ports World should be ended immediately, if only for its symbolic value. Rather than bend over backward to show the Muslim nations of the world that he trusts them, President Bush would do more for American national security by explaining why such trust would be misplaced at this time, and calling upon those nations to manifest their trustworthiness with forthright and unambiguous anti-jihad actions within their borders -- including an ending of all discrimination against non-Muslims and of the teaching of the idea that the Islamic social order must be imposed by force over Jews, Christians, and others. If the President were calling for the UAE to adopt such measures, he would be under no illusions about where that country really stands.
Frist, Hastert, and Boehner are right. Why would Bush want to be so obstinate on this? Doesn’t he realize that it does immense damage to his position as being tougher on Islamic terrorism than his opponents? On cue, Hillary Clinton has already spoken about introducing legislation to stop the deal. The President risks allowing the Democrats an opportunity to show that they are tougher on terrorism than he is – which, since it isn’t true, if a Democrat is actually elected in 2008, could lead to the destruction of the entire anti-terror resistance, as imperfect as it has been.
If this deal goes through, will the United States have the luxury of undoing it before it undoes us?
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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.