The heated issue of turning operating control of six major U.S. ports over to a state-sponsored company based in the United Arab Emirates is splitting some of the biggest names in American broadcasting, including Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly who favor the transfer, and Sean Hannity and Michael Savage who oppose it.
“I have been a profile in courage on this story,” declared Limbaugh on his national radio show yesterday. “When it comes to the UAE or the Middle East: I do not believe that every Arab nation, government, sponsors terrorism. I don’t believe they all are for it. I don’t believe they secretly fund it. I think this story about the two or three of the 9-11 hijackers came out of the UAE, they may have.
“The London bomber was a British citizen. We have had homegrown criminals in this country try to blow up buildings and commit crime in this country. The idea that the United Arab Emirates government recruited those three hijackers, trained them and paid for them is not true. Just because they came out of there, I’m not willing to cast negative aspersions on a whole country.”
Limbaugh said he was hearing a lot of fear about control of the ports, but said “fear causes all kinds of distortions when it comes to reason.”
He also said economics is the driving force behind the deal, and the port operators, Dubai Ports World, would be the last ones seeking a terrorist-related incident at one of its locations.
“As far as the UAE is concerned, if this is really about compromising our security or really about finding a way to do another 9-11, there’s simpler ways of doing it and cheaper and then there are also ways of doing it to where the light of attention doesn’t shine back on them after the futuristic event. Why in the world would they want to do this as a way of perpetrating another act of mass terrorism, knowing full well that the world is going to blame them and we are going to blame them?”
While Fox News host and syndicated radio talker Bill O’Reilly calls himself independent and not conservative, he agrees with Limbaugh on this issue, noting this week on “The O’Reilly Factor” program:
“The bottom line is this. If America spits in the eye of the UAE, which is a huge help in the war on terror right now, if we tell these people to take a hike just because they’re Arabs, we’ll lose the help of all the rest of the Arab world.
“Now remember, countries like Jordan, Kuwait, and the UAE help us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and fighting al-Qaida. The Emirates, for example, captured al-Qaida big shot Al Nafiri, the guy who masterminded the USS Cole attack. They captured him and handed him over the CIA.
“Anyway, savvy Americans will get the picture here. If it’s OK for a British company to work in America’s ports, and then the British company is bought by an Arab company, and we throw the Arabs out without cause, that’s flat out racism. What say you, Hillary Clinton?”
Before the story of the deal hit the radar screens of most of the national news media, radio talk-show host Michael Savage, well-known for his theme of “borders, language, culture,” began educating his audience about the potential dangers of the plan for Arab control of port operations.
New York Times columnist David Brooks got into a discussion with Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour regarding Savage’s impact.
Brooks: … [T]his really started and really got the biggest push from Michael Savage, who is a genius for understanding what’s going to –
Jim Lehrer: He’s a very conservative radio host.
Brooks: Beyond conservative, reactionary.
Lehrer: Whatever. You use the word, I won’t use the word.
Brooks: And so he had a sense this is going to seem weird to people who don’t know about it. And it does, UAE, Arabs, ports, ports are insecure, people have a sense that’s true. And it’s exploded on left and right.
Sean Hannity, who hosts both a national radio and television show, has been in President Bush’s corner on most issues, but he’s breaking with him over Bush’s staunch support for the ports deal.
“I think this president’s been tough on the war on terror. I want to believe him,” Hannity said. “I don’t like the track record and the involvement of the UAE as it relates to money issues involving 9-11, transportation issues. They have a history of supporting terror that, frankly, is sketchy at best. …
“Their support of the Taliban concerns me. Their non-recognition of Israel concerns me. The UAE’s banking system filtered a lot of the money that was used operationally prior to 9-11. Their use of transportational assistance.
“Those specific things, they’re going to have access to one of the most sensitive, secure areas in this country. That history bothers me. The administration is saying they’re changing. What am I missing here?”
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