Confused yet? Republicans like Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert say no way a company owned by the United Arab Emirates should take over administrative duties at six American ports from a British corporation. And Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer agree: No Arabs in charge of anything at U.S. ports!
Also, for the first time since the Paleolithic Age, The New York Post and The New York Times concur: No Arabs in charge of anything at U.S. ports!
But wait a minute. The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post also agree: Let the UAE do the job, and those papers are about as similar editorially as Rush Limbaugh and Al-Jazeera.
So what's going on here?
First, the United Arab Emirates is, along with Jordan and Kuwait, America's strongest Middle Eastern ally in the war on terror. The UAE allows the U.S. military to base on its soil and run combat operations into Iraq and Afghanistan. The Emirates also allows the Germans to train Iraqi police candidates on UAE land.
In addition, the UAE cooperates with the CIA and actually captured Al Qaeda big shot Abdul Raheem Al-Nashiri, who masterminded the attack on the USS Cole, and turned him over to the U.S.A. The Emirates has become a huge help in the war on terror, according to both the Pentagon and the State Department.
The downside is that the UAE is a conservative Muslim nation that does not recognize Israel, and has supported fascists like the Taliban in the past. Throughout the country, as in all Arab nations, there are jihadists who would kill Americans if they could.
But the key question in this controversy is simple: What is more dangerous for America--to spit in the eye of an Arab ally, or to allow that ally to work in some of America's ports?
I believe Osama bin Laden would love for the U.S.A. to humiliate the UAE by firing their company without cause. If Washington says to the Arab world, "Hey, it's fine for a British company to work in our ports, but you guys have to hit the road," how do you think that's going to play on Al Jazeera?
Talk about racial profiling!
So, the USA is caught between a Mosque and a hard place. What the Bush administration must do is honor the contract, but install strict oversight and accountability, as it should do on every foreign company doing business in the USA in this age of terror.
Finally, Congress should pass legislation that would, in the future, ban all foreign companies from controlling operations at U.S. ports of entry, so this kind of mess doesn't happen again. As Al Gore might say, we need to be the controlling authority.
But for now, the cold truth is that the U.S.A. will not win the war on terror without the help of nations like the United Arab Emirates. We simply cannot afford to fire that nation. If we lose these people, we'll lose the war.