Bush, Dubai and the Ties That Bind
I tend to agree with Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly that the Dubai port deal is not necessarily the grave and gathering security risk its opponents decry. (The shocking political tone-deafness is another matter altogether.) But it certainly smells bad, in no small part because of the cronyism and close ties the Bush White House - and family -have to Dubai Ports World and the government of the UAE.
As has been reported previously, the Bush team is intimately linked to Dubai Ports World. The warm relationships start with Treasury Secretary John Snow, who chaired the CFIUS panel that approved the $6.8 billion deal with DPW. Prior to joining the administration, Snow was president of CSX, which sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World in 2004. Even more incestuous, David Sanborn, President Bush's choice to run the U.S. Maritime Administration, runs DPW's European and Latin American operations.
The ties that bind President Bush to Dubai, however, reach close to home. In the 1990's, Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gave over $1 million to Bush Library Foundation, which established the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station. As Salon reports, family black sheep Neil Bush is a regular presence and dealmaker in Dubai and other Arab sheikdoms. Even more striking, the government of the UAE contributed $100 million to Hurricane Katrina relief only weeks before Dubai Ports World sought approval of the ports deal. The UAE gift accounted for roughly 75% of the total contributions of $126 million by governments worldwide.
There are no doubt many possible - and legitimate - explanations for the administration's OK of the Dubai deal. On the merits, DPW appears to be a proven, world-class provider of port operations and management. John Judis in the New Republic claims the President's steadfast support of the deal is tied to preserving aircraft sales at a critical time for Boeing.
But for the Bush White House, whose continued existence is based on fear-mongering and conflating threats from Arab villains real and imagined (that is, Bin Laden equals Saddam), the firestorm over the Dubai ports deal is comeuppance. Today's revelation that Dubai Ports World supports the Arab boycott of Israel only makes matters worse. The deal smells bad. Very bad.