By William R. Carr

The events of 9/11 and our subsequent global war on terrorism was somewhat of a wake-up call for our national security apparatus in Washington. Even some of our representatives are beginning to see the vague form of the bull at the china shop door. All at once, as if the handwriting hadn't been on the wall in bold letters all along, some people in Washington and elsewhere are waking up to the fact that we (through the good offices of our mis-representatives in Washington), have placed ourselves in a tremendously vulnerable security situation a situation that only draconian measures can now adequately address. In spite of the present war on terror, the Office of Homeland Security, and the USA Patriot Acts, we have not yet even begun to consider, much less seriously address, the fundamental root issues.
    There are many fine Congressmen and Senators in Washington, and there are even a few who have been friendly to the Merchant Marine. But overall, I cannot but use the term "mis-representatives" when referring to the whole political herd that has been responsible, over several decades, for placing the United States into our present economic and national security position. My apologies to those relatively few representatives who are true representatives, and have been "on our side" all along. Lamentably, there have been all too few of them, and never enough to come close to constitute even a sizable minority, much less majority. By "our side," I don't just mean on the side of American maritime interests, but on the side of the American people (the nation's consumer-producers), as a whole.
    Our mis-representatives in Washington (and this includes our various administrations, as well as Congress), have focused on globalism and international interdependence rather than representation of the American people and their national economic and political independence. True American nationalism hasn't appreciably manifested itself in the White House or the halls of Congress since President Reagan beheld the wonders of "a new international economic order" galloping over the horizon, and President Bush I announced a "New World Order." All nationalist thought gave way to a sovereignty destroying internationalism a literal rush to deconstruct everything that had once made our nation the most spectacular success story in the history of mankind. All, of course, in an ill-conceived, ill-planned, and ultimately impossible and illogical desire, on the part of people who don't represent Americans by any stretch of the imagination, to make the whole world just like us that is, like "we used to be," for nobody wants to be in the spot we're in today.
    We're still the world's only military superpower, but the rest of the nation, and its economy, is running on the shear momentum of stored social and industrial capital from our great industrial era that, and our ability to incur incredible mountains of debt.
    Congress shifted its allegiance from the people it was elected to serve (from defending the Constitution and national independence), to "Global Village" building all at the behest of the moguls of international capital and multi-national corporations under the tutelage of corporate funded schools of free-market economics and globalization. Our so-called representatives have allowed their thinking to be done for them by political and economic "think tanks" rather that by engaging their own thought processes governed by simple common sense. These so-called representatives have taken us so far down the wrong road that we are in an incredible fix in terms of national security. Our national future is threatened as it has never been threatened before. Our freedom and liberty are not only at stake, but already being undermined by emergency measures such as the institution of an Office of Homeland Security and passing the USA Patriot Acts. It wasn't the terrorists that did that to us it was our own stellar national leadership. This even as we sacrifice our troops on behalf of freedom and liberty in distant Iraq.
    War, of course, tends to wake people up. And many are slowly waking up to the fact that in spite of being in the possession of the world's most deadly and efficient military establishment, we're still so vulnerable to such an array of potential national security weaknesses that we can only hope that certain things that might happen, miraculously won't happen because we certainly don't have the means by which to stop them, try as we might.
    Our present national dependence on international trade and foreign capital to finance both our obscene trade and current accounts deficits, is a major security concern. One would have to conclude that apparently nobody in Washington ever thought about it in such terms. Undoubtedly, many of our military leaders must have been cognizant of the growing problem, but they don't have much say in national economic policy matters. They have to make their contingency plans under the constraints placed on them by the "wiser, more knowledgeable," national leadership. Our overall national policy has been, and remains, free trade and economic globalism, as if such things had no serious bearing on national security. Apparently our national leadership over a period of decades has been blind to the consideration that economic national suicide is also strategic national suicide. This is what happens when the representatives of "We the People" turn their representative allegiance from the people to the minions of Wall Street and international capital.
    The war on terror and potential terrorism is only the wake up call. As serious as it is, it is just a side-show compared to what could happen, either as a result of the war on terror, or other, more than just possible, scenarios. With 95 percent of our trade carried in foreign ships, and our still increasing dependence upon foreign made consumer goods (particularly from Asia), anything that would interrupt our Asia-Pacific trade would spell national economic and strategic calamity.
    Few American consumers have the slightest idea just how expensive our "cheap" Asian imports really are. Now with the security threat of potential terrorist acts, ship and port security, are about to make our trade with the rest of the world (and globalism itself), a great deal more expensive than it ever was before. But the prices won't show up on the consumer shelves of such stores as Wal Mart as they should. The taxpaying public will digest them without fully realizing what they are paying for and the national debt will soar to heights never before imagined. If people really had to pay the true costs of our cheap imports at the check-out counters, protectionism wouldn't have become such a bad word, and goods "Made in America" would never have become so rare on consumer shelves. Millions of jobs, and thousands of factories, would never have been exported.
    National security issues cannot be divorced from national economic and trade policy issues. But our trusty mis-representatives have consistently failed to see that, since they became the representative of international capital interests. Most still don't see it, and they will continue to attempt a remedy the symptoms of our national security problem without fully recognizing the size and scope of the integrated whole.
    The following are a few examples of what we've got to worry about now, thanks to short-sighted national trade and economic policy.

From the MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly - December 11, 2003 (emphasis added):


Terrorists ship a nuclear bomb into a US port and destroy an entire city. It is more than the plot of a Tom Clancy best seller. According to the Rueters News Service, it is the ultimate nightmare for many US security officials.
    Clancy's book "The Sum of All Fears" predated the Sept.11 attacks by roughly a decade, but federal officials and analysts say the vulnerability of US ports today is a clear and present danger.
    "I worry about a nuclear terrorist incident" at a port, said Graham Allison, a former assistant secretary of defense. "Even if it were a small nuclear weapon (which explodes) in New York, Washington or Boston, you'll end up with half a million dead. The whole world will change as much as it did on 9/11."

This potential was foreseeable, and in fact was foreseen even by fiction writers. But what was going on in Washington heads? More international interdependence.
    Some people are beginning to ring other warning bells...


While the US is now focusing attention on the "bomb in the box" possibility, US-based shipping executive Conrad Everhard said "the critical need for maritime security casts a new light on the seriousness of the demise of the American merchant marine."
    Everhard, in a recent speech before the Foreign Commerce Club of New York, said the US is more vulnerable "when the vast majority of officers and crew bringing ships into our ports are not US citizens. Many, in fact, are from areas where Al Qaeda is very active. Driving a containership into a support on New York's Verrazano Narrows Bridge or into an unloading supertanker in Bayonne, NJ could have an impact like 9/11 and is probably more foreseeable."
    Everhard explained that, although the US is now cognizant of the 'bomb in the box,' "we're relying on foreign carriers to assist us in efforts to extend our boundaries outward."
    "Isn't it rather strange that an administration that thumbed its nose at the rest of the world over Iraq is willing to rely almost exclusively on foreign carriers for our maritime transportation and for the security inextricably connected with that transportation?"
    He asked why the Federal Maritime Commission is lacking a role in maritime security. "The FMC's responsibilities include the regulation of all liner carriers, passenger vessels and NVOCCs, foreign and domestic, operating in US commerce, and all freight forwarders, ports and terminal operators located in the US," Everhard said.
    Everhard also spoke about what he sees as the declining state of the US as a maritime nation. "Our US-owned, US-flag merchant marine has disappeared, except for a few lines in the protected domestic offshore trades, and our shipyards have fared only a little better, those that remain being supported almost exclusively by Navy and Title XI work," Everhard said.
    "Less publicized, but equally disastrous, we've lost the maritime leadership that this great trading nation enjoyed for most of my long career in the industry."
    He said the decline has been gradual, but steady, since the end of World War II, and noted that the US ranks 12th among maritime nations behind such countries as Liberia, Panama, the Bahamas and the Marshall Islands in ranking maritime nations.
    "While there seems to be no limit on the amount Congress is willing to subsidize corporate farms," Everhard said, noting their $19 billion per year federal subsidy price tag, "there seems to be an attitude, formed with little or no debate, that a merchant fleet is not a priority for this country, and certainly not worth public support."

And don't forget that (aside from the "Flag of Convenience" states), China is among the nations that have surpassed us, and other (former) western maritime nations, in "maritime security assets" (i.e. a truly national merchant fleet with a full array of supporting industrial infrastructure).

And now for a little hint at the costs of maritime security...


US ports seeking federal grants for 1,065 security projects learned on Dec.10 that 442 of the plans will be funded. The news came as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which named which ports were the recipients of $179,025,900 in the third round of federal grants for maritime security.
    Applications totaling over $987 million had been submitted by ports across the country seeking funding assistance in order to comply with new USCG security regulations that take effect next year.
    The grants are a combination of $104 million in FY '03 funds and a portion of the $125 million in FY '04 appropriations for port security. While the latest round of funding is significant, it covers only about 18 percent of the costs ports identified as needed security enhancements.
    According to USCG estimates, ports will need to spend $5.4 billion on enhanced security measures over the next 10 years to comply with new regulations mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), with $1.125 billion of that to be invested in the first year alone.
    Since September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated three rounds of TSA port security grants totaling $513.2 million and one $75 million grant from the Office of Domestic Preparedness.
    With 95 percent of US international trade passing through US ports and trade projected to more than double by 2020, ports are finding it necessary to spend about $1.7 billion per year on operations and another $1.5 billion annually on capital improvements to support burgeoning trade growth.

The MM&P Wheelhouse Weekly is the official electronic newsletter of the Masters, Mates & Pilots, ILA, AFL-CIO. For more info contact John Peige at The Wheelhouse Weekly is Emailed to interested persons, broadcast worldwide via marine telex from WLO Radio at and is on

So, we know that 95 percent of US international trade passes through US ports, and 95 percent of the ships carrying that trade are foreign owned by, God only knows who-all!
    This disastrous situation didn't happen overnight. Most of our trade is (or once was), totally unnecessary. We have the natural resources and the population to be almost totally economically self-sufficient, as we were not too long ago. We even have the technological ability, but apparently not the will, to free ourselves from our need for foreign oil. But while our energy needs have soared, we've allowed ourselves to become not only dependent on foreign oil, but on such an array of manufactured consumer goods, including high tech communications and computer components, that the powers that be cannot even imagine America being economically independent again. If we cut our trade by 75%, the associated costs ($5.4 billion over ten years), for port and vessel security would be significantly lower. And the $3.2 billion annually that we are now looking at for port operations and expansion would be largely be unnecessary. It is only "necessary" now because we have become so unnecessarily dependent on foreign suppliers and manufacturers. In addition to this, we are actively "trying" to become even more dependent on on export activities as the "only viable solution" to our disastrous balance of trade problem.
    We have such a huge and growing volume of trade today only because we are ceasing to produce goods for ourselves. If our trade was cut by 50%, American factories and jobs would have to be reenergized, and we'd have to produce for ourselves again, which mere common sense would dictate that we should do. And if we had a merchant marine that could carry about half of the remaining 50% of the current trade, we'd have a world class fleet worthy of a great maritime power one as large as, or larger, than the one we once had before the era of free trade and national dependence cut it to the bone. Maritime security costs would plummet perhaps to reasonable and manageable levels, and potential terrorists would be deprived of about 75% of their present sea borne opportunities.
    Ships are far too large today, and far too undermanned to ever be secure. Far too many eggs, as it were, are being carried in one huge basket. Each ship is a major disaster waiting to happen, both in terms of the environment and national security. Containerization has made it impossible for cargo to be inspected once it is loaded aboard ship. What's in a container, and what's on the manifest, may be two different things. Crews are too small to provide effective ship security. Each modern container ship is like a huge, largely deserted floating platform, with thousands of large sealed boxes of cargo any one or several of which could contain illicit drugs, arms, illegal immigrants, or a timed biological, chemical, or nuclear bomb.
    Maritime security should mandate smaller ships, and larger crews, so that all containers may be inspected while on board. (Something that is physically impossible now, due to the way ships are designed and boxes are stowed.) The present notion that all containers will be ex-rayed before loading is a security pipe dream or nightmare. After all the huge costs of creating such a system are incurred, the system will eventually fail to function. Bombs can be small and undoubtedly disguised to thwart ex-ray detection. Palms will be greased to expedite the movement of cargo, and a false sense of security will result eventually to be capped by some unspeakable disaster. Safety is compromised at every step of the container liner trade, to accommodate unnecessary degrees of efficiency (eliminating crew, longshoremen, and other workers), and completely unnecessary volumes of trade.
    In the final analysis, containerization is not nearly as efficient as it was thought to be, and we are finding that out only after the world is irrevocably committed to it. The costs will ultimately be prohibitive, because those costs will almost inevitably include unacceptable levels national security costs and other risks perhaps including the ultimate night-mare, which would make the crumbling of the twin towers pale by comparison.
    Our basic problem has been that America has become an industrial and global follower rather than the global industrial leader. First, after America led the world in industrial innovation and maritime containerization, it led the world into globalization, repudiating the very system that had brought on its own spectacular success. The rest of the world could have our "dirty" industries, we seemed to say we're now above such things. Then we turned regulatory authority over to agencies of the United Nations (WTO, IMO, etc.), where we are so outvoted that we have lost all pretense of being the master of our own national destiny without incurring huge fines for violating our own free trade treaties. Under the banners of safety, efficiency, and globalization, we have lowered our standards and sold out our merchant marine, and other industries, to conform to globalized standards which, among other important things, failed to take our national security into consideration. In the name of efficiency and globalization we have compromised ship and port security, and now have to negate that efficiency, and violate global standards, in the name of national security, exponentially compounding all associated costs.
    Since the scale and intensity of international competition is so great, freight profit margins are such that it has become imperative that business costs be cut to the bone, and vessel schedules kept so tight that there is no time for real maritime security considerations. Thus the additional security measures must be implemented without hampering either vessel schedules or cargo volumes. Since the carriers cannot absorb the additional security costs, the taxpayers will have to absorb them. Thus the real costs of our trade policy will be hidden in defense budgets and Homeland Security costs.
    The god of globalism is just another definition of Mammon. Expansion of the volume of international trade, speed and size of ships, and the necessity for ever-tightening of sailing schedules, all made possible by modern technologies and capabilities, are all part of the package we foisted upon the world and ourselves as the economic panacea for the world's multi-tiered economic and political ills.
    Many Americans, awash in a literal sea of cheap imported consumer goods, have been convinced that globalism is good, and they automatically cast their votes for more of the same each time they pass through the checkout counters of stores like Wal Mart. They now hear that the economy is on the rebound. Even though it is admittedly a "jobless" economic recovery, they feel heartened even as their jobs continue to disappear and their prospects for the future become even more bleak. The global economy, at best, is an exceedingly fragile thing purchased at extraordinary cost.
    The requisite costs, however unintentional, have been ever-decreasing real standards of safety and security upon the high seas and ports of the world, with safety mandated globally through such an incredible array and volume of international law and regulations (in the form of the United Nation's IMO STCW and ISM, regimens, etc., which look good on paper, but are totally unmanageable), that a false sense of order and security had begun to lead to the belief that international maritime safety and security were finally under increasingly competent international control. That, until the 9-11 wake-up call, and a painfully slow awakening to the natures of the multifaceted dangers of the kind of globalism we have so frantically and relentlessly promoted for decades. What we have actively created is an international juggernaut that is functioning on autopilot under the "control" of the dangerous concept known as international free market forces. By promoting international regulatory solutions, and making ourselves subservient to their regulatory control, we have given up our own ability to fully manage our own strategic maritime assets. In fact, we have sacrificed those assets, on the altar of Mammon, to the principle of the runaway flag.
    Part of the solution would be to have a large national merchant fleet of our own, built, owned, and manned by loyal Americans. Of course, a viable merchant marine would require a large merchant marine subsidy. But the required subsidy would be only a fraction of what is now being spent (or going to be spent), on maritime security in large measure, because we presently don't have a domestic merchant marine of viable size. It would only be a fraction of what we are losing today in freight revenues paid to dozens of competing merchant fleets to deliver our goods. What's more, maritime subsidies would be returned to the national economy (something almost everybody seems to miss), since both the companies and the seamen would be Americans. And, of course, freight revenues would also be generated and returned to the American economy, rather than (as now), going directly to the competition. In addition to all of these advantages, a large and active American merchant fleet would provide the logistical backbone to support our troops anywhere in the world at any time of national emergency or large scale foreign war something our present fleet is incapable of doing.
    Today, even our port expansion infrastructure (such as container cranes, etc.), is largely "made in China" or elsewhere. This is not investing in ourselves by any stretch of the imagination. We're selling ourselves out and investing in China and other nations and they get the money, not us. It comes back to us as foreign credit and increased national debt and dependence. In the end, though we get what we pay for, we're sold down the river, both economically and strategically. When we invest in China, we are investing in the future superpower which will eventually, and inevitably, challenge our position in the Asia Pacific region, if not the world.
    The war on terrorism, including our incursion into Iraq, and the on-going terrorist threat, are causing some of our erstwhile mis-representatives to reassess their position with regard to maritime security, merchant marine subsidies, free trade, and globalism in general. The big question is, will they get their act together, and act, before the world's only remaining superpower is powerlessly dependent in an interdependent world of its own making?
    I'm not going to hold my breath. For years I predicted that things couldn't get any worse (vis--vis the merchant marine, which is part of our national security apparatus), only to be continually amazed at the machinations of our leaders in Washington. Things have only got worse, until they seem to be approaching a decisive turning point at which nobody in positions of power have the slightest idea which way to turn. Our trusty leaders have pursued national suicide for so long they wouldn't know what wise policy would be even if it knocked them in the head. We will continue to react to the unintended consequences of past policy decisions, both economic and strategic, and at ever-increasing costs until we have surpassed the amount of credit the rest of the world is willing to extend. Action will be called for, and something will have to be done. But, as in the past, I suspect that our great thinkers in Washington will make the wrong decisions and take the wrong action. Probably more, or expanded, war. War can be used to undo almost anything. Trouble is, in this day and age it can undo everything.

Today we are strategically and economically hamstrung. And, what's worse, we're the ones who have done it to ourselves and the world. We are the ones who promoted the kind of globalism that made the "runaway flag" not only the international maritime standard, but the international business and industrial standard. Now, in the wake of 9-11, we are beginning to pay the piper. (Dare I say that we are waking up? Unfortunately, I don't think so at least not in a meaningfully productive way.) The piper we have to pay is pretty hungry. The costs we have thus far paid, or envision paying, are only the tip of the iceberg.

The folly of our national trade policy fully dawned on this old sea dog back in 1985 when the ship I was on called at Japanese ports to load nice new yellow "American" Caterpillar machinery and high speed mass-transit train coaches for import to the United States. The Caterpillar machinery items were "American Products Produced Abroad" (APPA), so that American workers would be spared the trouble of producing them. The coaches were for the Atlanta, Georgia, Mass Transit Authority. It was incredible to me that a publicly owned mass transit system would (or legally could), totally bypass American labor for their needs. What had happened to the Pullman company? I wondered. It was then that the blatantly suicidal nature of our national economic and trade policies finally hit me with the impact of a thunderbolt. This suicidal perversity was already well established policy at that time it has been "perfected," and has expanded exponentially, since then.
    I was sailing on an American built merchant ship, owned by an old American shipping company, back in 1985. Since then, both the ship and company are gone internationalized into oblivion. In recent years, I no longer have the privilege of working on American owned, much less American built, ships. We just don't do that any more. Nor have I recently had the privilege of working for an American owned company, though some of their ships fly the American flag and use American seamen.
    In fact, the American flag itself has become a new kind of "flag of convenience" which (though no longer attractive to American ship owners) lends prestige, as well as the benefits of American taxpayer subsidies, to an increasing number of foreign ship owners. A few American seamen (such as myself), may nominally benefit from those subsidies to foreign companies, but the freight profits all go directly to the foreign competition. In other words, our own flag has been sold foreign. Ironically, while they have actively and enthusiastically betrayed the American flag and American sovereignty itself, Congress thought it becoming to officially mandate respect for that flag through a constitutional amendment. Talk about hypocrisy in the highest levels of government!
    What has happened is that American industrial labor, the American family farmer, and the merchant marine (thus, "We the People" as a whole), have been sold down the river sacrificed on the Alter of Mammon for the benefit of runaway flag industries. It has been national trade policy, and a perverse notion of subverting the nation to globalism, that has done this. Industry itself hasn't been to blame. Sending production facilities abroad, and the increase of the runaway flag phenomena, has been the result of official policy highly articulated and highly subsidized policy. And this policy has been given the most effective and professional hard sell government, aided by the media, could engineer. While many multi-national corporations lobbied for this policy, many otherwise "patriotic" national companies and industries were literally forced to internationalize and go offshore in response to them simply to survive in the "new international economic order" (New World Order), our leaders and policy makers have been diligently building. Building, it must also be observed, without the fully informed consent of the governed.
    What crazy national economic and maritime policy! Is there any wonder that we now face a security crises that threatens to finish the job of undermining "Freedom, justice, and the American Way?" Is there any wonder that I call our trusty leaders in Washington, "mis-representatives"?

12 December 2003

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