At a birthday party last night, a friend of mine mentioned how strong Gen. Tommy Franks was on Fox arguing against the idea that allowing the UAE to own ports is a security risk. The show was "Hannity & Colmes" on Thursday night, and Franks began by explaining his overview to Hannity (from the Fox online transcript):
I personally believe that we have had no greater ally in seeking a resolution of problems in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue, the Israeli issue, than we have found in the United Arab Emirates.
With regard to maintaining contact with the Taliban, even before Sept. 11 — and I'll exercise caution how I say this — but I'll say that I believe we had every reason to be thankful for the relationship and the dialogue that existed between the United Arab Emirates and the Taliban, as it assisted us in our efforts to understand what was going on in Afghanistan.
Then Alan Colmes came on to throw a hardball or two, and Franks suggested it's "ludicrous" to hold the UAE responsible for something terrorists did on their territory, as ludicrous as suggesting Florida is untrustworthy in the war on terror:
COLMES: You know, we went and invaded a country that it was hinted had links to 9/11, that country being Iraq. We found out there were no WMDs, no links to 9/11. And now this country clearly did have links to 9/11, as an operational and financial base. Two of the terrorists came from there.
I don't get it. How could the president make that case against Iraq, and invade that country, and then want to have this other country, where there was a link, control our ports?
FRANKS: Well, Alan, in the first place, I'm not at all sure that there has been a suggestion by anyone that the UAE, Dubai in specific, was going to, quote, "control our ports," close quote.
COLMES: Own the company.
FRANKS: Own the company. Totally different issue. Security is a totally issue. I think that's been addressed. And I'll be glad to address it further.
I think, when you take a look at where the terrorists came from — look, I'm in Tampa, Florida, tonight. I'm a Floridian, and I'm very proud of it. I think, if you checked the file, you'll find that a great many terrorists lived in the state of Florida while they took flight training.
I suspect that they may have had money in financial institutions here. That does not make me like my state of Florida, any less.
I believe it's ludicrous and disingenuous for us to look at activities inside the United Arab Emirates and say that, just because one, two, or three hijackers, at some point in time, lived in the Emirates that we should hold that government responsible.
This interview was quite persuasive to my friend in easing his concerns on port security. I'm personally pleased this became an issue, in that it focuses the American public on possible holes in our defenses, and makes the nearly-pacifist left sound like hawks for a week, however ludicrous that sounds. There was one consistent thread in this slightly surprising turn of the press coverage: even though it mixed up all the party labels and ideological bases, the story still had for the media the intoxicating possibility of driving up Bush's negatives in the war on terror.