Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ports R' Us

Remember the Dubai Ports deal? It is a faded, worn-out memory, to be sure, but not that faded that we would fail to note some news about it. Katherine at Cut to the Chase points us to the -- ahem -- "news" at Associated Content, which reports that Haliburton will likely acquire the contract from Dubai Ports World (DPW).

Now, anyone who had been following this meager outlet about the political feeding frenzy accompanying that gross episode would already know that there were two possible outcomes: one, that enough time would pass and DPW would simply keep the contract or, two, that Halliburton would acquire the contract from DPW, as it was reported back in March:
The White House is quietly pushing a Dubai company to "significantly restructure" and partner up with a U.S. outfit to keep the port deal from sinking.

One snag to such a deal may be that sources say the U.S. company best equipped to partner with DP World is Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Cheney.
Weeks before this notion had dawned upon anyone, I had already argued what the DPW contract announcement was really about:
With an incredibly low public approval rating -- lower than the White House -- and congressional GOP members being labelled a "rubberstamp" for the White House agenda, along comes a contract award that everyone can feel comfortable opposing and look good in doing so. Senators and congressman now have an "issue" upon which to hang strong statements about national security and look like the independent public servants they would like the American public to believe they are.

Of course, this is a phoney issue. The White House probably couldn't care less about backing the contract award. We will see an initial defense, as was half-heartedly offered up by Chertoff, more back and forth will ensue and, after a predetermined number of news cycles, I expect to see the White House appease the concerns of the sincere senators. If the fact that a White House lapdog like Frist feels comfortable about opposing this, there cannot possibly be anything serious in this issue.
Indeed, months after all the "outrage" expressed by various members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, CNN's Bill Tucker reported that, as late as June, DPW still owned the contract, which caused no one in Congress the slightest concern. The fusillade of congressional grief launched at the White House at the time of orginal aggrievance was exposed for what it really was when Congress itself had stripped out its own language from the ports bill, language that would have explicitly forbidden DPW from controlling operations of American ports. As expected, months after the huffy hypreventilating, Congress didn't find DPW contract ownership all that much of a concern.

And now Halliburton's name is crawling back into the picture. Though this has little to do with Congress forcing the issue, now that contracts in Iraq are drying up, Halliburton could do with some fresh taxpayer inputs. And, at $7 billion, the DPW ports contract is very likely going to be their next teat. As it was said those months ago:
And so it seems with the increasingly surreal Bush administration, that with every daily move they make, there is something lurking within, at scales not quite visible except by magnified examination. And when that examination proceeds, as it most assuredly will, something more sinister is revealed than what the everyday White House rhetoric would have us believe.
The question for all of us is, do we really want a company like Halliburton, with its terrible reputation for contract abuse, running the operations of American ports? Remember, this is same bunch who didn't think it much of a problem to feed raw sewage to American troops in Iraq.

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Blogger Arun Khurana said...

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