Monday, March 29, 2004

The article is a few days old, but still much worth noting

Citing the risk of a catastrophic ship-borne terrorist attack on a US port, Congress passed a new law of the sea 16 months ago. The passage was all but unnoticed by the public, as was a new global code adopted by the UN's International Maritime Organization under US pressure.

At bottom, the law and code require all the world's ships and ports to install counterterrorist systems - computers, communications gear, surveillance cameras, security patrols, the whole schmeer - by July 1 of this year.
If a ship, or any one of the last 10 ports it visited, does not meet the new security standards, it can be turned away from American waters. If a port falls short, no ship leaving it can enter American harbors. That means ports, and their nations, can be barred from trading with the United States.
The cost of such security systems will reach to many billions of dollars, money which many poor nations don't have. (Indeed, many US ports can't afford the requirements, either - and Bush's budget for domestic port security is equal to less than 1% of the cost of compliance.) But spend it they must, without any help from us, at the risk of losing access to US ports.

And just in case the monumental selfish arrogance of this isn't clear, let me spell it out: The United States is using economic blackmail for force other nations, including impoverished ones, to spend huge amounts of money which many of them don't have - to protect us. Not them, us. It's all about us. Us, us, and more us.
"We want to protect our borders," said Kim Petersen, who runs one of the world's biggest maritime consultancies, SeaSecure. "But what happens when we cripple the economy of a developing country and create a breeding ground for the very problems we're trying to prevent?"
I'll go one better: Even if we don't wind up bashing some poor nation's economy by cutting off trade, what does this display of insufferable hubris tell the people of the world about how we see ourselves in comparison to them?

Footnote: The same article, citing the arguments in favor of the measures, says that
Al Qaeda has sought for seven years to use commercial ships to attack the United States at home and abroad, public records show.
Sorry, but doesn't that mean that current security measures are working pretty well?

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