U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he has no problem with the U.S. government decision to allow a company from the United Arab Emirates to take over a contract to operate six major American sea ports. The decision has raised security concerns among some in Congress and the media, but Secretary Rumsfeld told a news conference Tuesday Americans should not be wary of Middle Eastern countries just because some of their citizens are involved in terrorism.
Many commentators and members of Congress, including many Republicans, have questioned the decision by an inter-agency committee, noting that two of the men who hijacked U.S. airliners on September 11, 2001 were from the United Arab Emirates. But Secretary Rumsfeld questioned the validity of that analysis.
"One ought not, in my view, hold a country of origin responsible for every citizen they may have at any given time, particularly when people have multiple passports," said Donald Rumsfeld.
The secretary noted that even Americans have been apprehended for involvement in terrorism. He also said the United States has an extensive defense relationship with the United Arab Emirates, which has helped in the war on terrorism.
"We all deal with the UAE on a regular basis," he said. "It's a country that has been involved in the global war on terror with us. It's a country that we have facilities that we use. And it's a country that was very responsive to assist in [Hurricane] Katrina, one of the early countries that did that. And [it's] a country that we have very close military-to-military relations [with], as well as political and economic relations."
At the same news conference, the top U.S. military officer, General Peter Pace, also praised the United Arab Emirates for its extensive military cooperation with the United States.
"The military-to-military relationship with the United Arab Emirates is superb," said General Pace. "They've got great seaports, capable of handling, and do, our aircraft carriers. They've got air fields that they allow us to use, and their airspace, their logistics support. They've got a world class air-to-air training facility that they let us use, and [we] cooperate with them in the training of our pilots. In everything that we have asked them and worked with them on, they have proven to be very, very solid partners."
Secretary Rumsfeld also said countries learn that dealing with the United States has "advantages and disadvantages." He said the open debate and public charges can be a disadvantage, but that usually, in his words, "the truth comes out."