Last week, we learned that six major U.S. ports run by a private British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., are changing hands. Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, is buying P&O and will take over the six Eastern ports effective March 2. Allowing D.P. World to manage U.S. ports has run into bipartisan opposition in Congress, with numerous senators calling for a bill that would delay the switch in order to conduct a thorough investigation.

President Bush, however, says that he supports the move and will veto any bill that will delay it. In his exact words, “After careful review by our government, I believe this transaction ought to go forward.” He claims questioning of D.P. World is based on an unfair double standard toward Middle Eastern countries and that it will send mixed messages to the world if we don’t allow this deal to go through. But the attach for the U.A.E. said their country understands and respects the democratic process taking place and the questions that are being raised. It sounds like the U.A.E. isn’t too upset. So I ask, why not take a closer look?

The thought of our ports being controlled by foreign companies – private or state-owned – is somewhat disconcerting. Our ports play an important role in our economy and our security, and it seems logical to have our own people running the shows.

But hearing from the President that this specific business proposal has already undergone “careful review” just doesn’t cut it for me. This administration has a well-documented history of not-so-careful review – from Bush’s failure to address a pre-9/11 briefing concerning al-Qaeda terror plans to the weapons of mass destruction fiasco. They have also been known for dealing with important issues secretly and divulging information only when they are pressured. Remember, these are some of the same people who were involved in wiretapping without following standard procedures because it was more convenient for them.

This time around, the administration did not take input from Congress, nor did they give a report to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. I am tired of the hastiness and secrecy of this administration and have little reason to trust the words coming out of the President’s mouth.

I’m not in favor of absolutely refusing to hand over control to D.P. World, but where is the harm in taking some time to seriously review the matter at hand? If an inspection finds that D.P. World is perfectly fit to run our ports without a security risk, that’s great. If otherwise, the contract should then be rewritten to best protect our country.

It’s better to be safe than sorry, and it seems like the President, of all people, should know that by now.

Moeller can be reached

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