WASHINGTON -- If only Churchill were alive today, none of this would be happening. The proud imperialist would have taken care that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., chartered in 1840 by Victoria ("by the grace of God ... Queen defender of the faith'' on "this thirty first day of December in the fourth year of our reign''), would still be serving afternoon tea and crumpets on some immaculate Jewel-in-the-Crown cricket pitch in Ceylon.
The United Arab Emirates would still be a disunited bunch of subsistence Arab tribes grateful for the protection of the British Navy in the Persian Gulf.
And we hapless Americans -- already desperately trying to mediate, pacify and baby-sit the ruins of Churchill's Empire: Iraq, Palestine, India/Pakistan, Yemen, even (Anglo-Egyptian) Sudan -- would not be in the midst of a mini-firestorm over the sale of the venerable P&O, which manages six American ports, to the UAE.
This has raised the obvious question of whether we want our ports, through which a nuclear bomb could come, handled by a country two of whose nationals flew into the South Tower on 9/11 and which has a history of laundering money and nuclear secrets from bad guys to worse guys.
Congress is up in arms. The Democrats, in particular, are in full cry, gleeful to at last get to the right of George Bush on an issue of national security.
Gleeful, and shamelessly hypocritical. If a citizen of the UAE walked into an airport in full burnoose and flowing robes, speaking only Arabic, Democrats would be deeply offended, and might even sue, if the security people were to give him any more scrutiny than they would to my sweet 84-year-old mother.
Democrats loudly denounce any thought of racial profiling. But when that same Arab, attired in business suit and MBA, and with a good record running ports in 15 countries, buys P&O, Democrats howl at the very idea of allowing Arabs to run our ports. (Republicans are howling too, but they don't grandstand on the issue of racial profiling.)
On this, the Democrats are rank hypocrites. But even hypocrites can be right. There is a problem. And the problem is not just the obvious one that an Arab-run company, heavily staffed with Arab employees, is more likely to be infiltrated by terrorists who might want to smuggle an awful weapon into our ports. But that would probably require some cooperation from the operating company. And neither the company nor the government of the UAE, which has been pro-American and a reasonably good ally in the war on terror, has any such record.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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