Usaron lucha antiterrorista como excusa para atacar negociación sobre puertos

Because of the outcry in Congress over a Dubai-based company’s plans to take over operations at six major U.S. ports, it was only a matter of time before the deal collapsed. The question now is whether lawmakers are ready to do anything real to improve security at American ports.
Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, is planning to buy Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., a British firm that has operations at the Port of New Orleans and five other major ports. The Bush administration approved the deal Jan. 17 but failed to anticipate ferocious opposition to it in Congress — even among Republicans. On Thursday, Dubai Ports World announced it would sell off the British company’s U.S. operations to an American owner.
That decision gives President Bush a way out of a controversy that has become a significant political liability, and members of Congress can tell constituents that they’re aggressively protecting the nation’s ports from terrorists.
But in reality, they’ve done nothing of the sort. The Dubai company’s withdrawal from the U.S. port business does nothing to make Americans safer.
Since the 9/11 attacks, security experts have worried that extremist groups could hide a nuclear device or a so-called dirty bomb in a cargo container and smuggle it into the United States. And right now the nation lacks an efficient method of screening cargo containers. If Congress fears that terrorists could infiltrate American ports, the obvious step is to appropriate money to beef up security.
But fixing problems is hard. Grandstanding is easy. Some opponents of the Dubai Ports World deal presume that all Arab-owned companies are up to no good. Others seem ill-informed about what goes on at ports. Rep. Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, argues that because ports are so important, «whoever’s responsible» for them «should be American.» Never mind that 75 percent of shipping containers entering this nation already go through terminals operated by companies with foreign ownership.
Maybe the administration’s initial review of the Dubai Ports World transaction wasn’t thorough enough. But in this case, members of Congress seem obsessed with things that don’t matter and oblivious to things that do.
This is disappointing but not surprising. After all, the U.S. government has thousands of employees X-raying shoes and groping old ladies at security checkpoints in airports. But when a major American metro area goes underwater, help takes days to arrive. By fixating on Dubai Ports World and ignoring more substantive port security issues, Congress is repeating a dangerous pattern.
Instead of cultivating closer business ties, American politicians have annoyed the leaders of a major Middle Eastern financial and transportation center. Instead of helping in the fight against terrorism, opponents of the ports takeover may have made matters worse.

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