Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Treason and not-treason

When Al Gore said that there were "terrible abuses" against Arab visitors to this country after 9/11, that people were "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions, and said so in Jeddah ("not to be confused with Jihadist, though we're not sure why" says's Kathleen Parker), Saudi Arabia, he was accused variously of slander, treason and sedition, and "sucking up to the Saudis."

Much was made of the fact that the conference he addressed was funded by the Saudi Binladin Group, a company operated by Osama bin Laden's estranged family. The Freepers advocated having Dick Cheney shoot Gore.

The Saudi Binladin group is a major company in the MIddle East, so this is roughly equivalent to Israelis throwing a fit about a former Prime Minister speaking at an event funded by the Ford Motor Company, founded by noted anti-Semite Henry Ford.

Hardly treason.

Now, the 9/11 commission recommended that, rather than spending 90% of our money on aviation "to fight the last war," Congress should give attention to port security. "Opportunities to do harm are great… in maritime or surface transportation."

Now comes the news that a company based in the UAE, one of the few countries to recognize the Taliban will be exerting control over American ports. On the merits, I really don't know whether the UAE deal is good or bad. Not my field.

But the President of the United States is prepared to issue his first veto in 5 years to protect a foreign company's right to defend our ports. That's interesting. And the grudging shift in opinion on the right is equally interesting.

That the Secretary of Defense and the President didn't find out about the deal until after it was signed is interesting too, I guess.

I will say two things about this and then leave it be (until I revive it tomorrow and flog it to death, I suppose). First, the connections and implications of this deal to terrorism are tighter than anything Al Gore did (which isn't saying much). Anyone outraged by Al Gore saying mean things to Arabs about the mean things we did to Arabs should be furious that George Bush is giving our ports and the contract to load and unload military transports to a country with actual, you know, ties to terrorists.

Second, even if the deal went through the process perfectly and the laws were followed to a tee, that doesn't mean this debate isn't healthy. Port security needs to be improved, and if Congress is paying attention, it's to all our advantages. And if they change the rules based on concerns about foreign interests (Arab, Chinese, British, whatever) exerting control over our ports, that's certainly within Congress's power, and I don't see how it merits a veto (unless there's a photo somewhere of the President and someone in the UAE holding hands).