November 3, 1999
While many Americans are making party plans to celebrate Y2K on
New Year's Eve, Panamanian officials are lobbying to get President
Clinton or Vice President Gore to attend their unique Y2K revelry.
That's the day when the U.S. flag over the Panama Canal will be lowered
for the last time as we abandon ownership of one of the most valuable
pieces of real estate in the world.
If Clinton and Gore are smart, they will stay as far away as
possible from the Panama Canal because the festivities will be a photo-
op reminder of the foolish legacy of the Jimmy Carter Administration.
It was the Carter-Torrijos Panama Treaties of 1978 that put December
31, 1999 in the history books as the date when the Panamanians take
over our Canal.
Maybe former President Jimmy Carter will attend. After all, he
was principally responsible for persuading the U.S. Senate, by one
vote, to give away this great strategic U.S.-built waterway.
Rumors have been floating that the Panamanians have also invited
Fidel Castro to attend. It would be fitting that he join the
merrymaking because it was Castro who thumbed his nose at the Monroe
Doctrine when he allowed Soviet missiles to be stationed in Cuba in
The Monroe Doctrine enunciated the U.S. policy that it is
"dangerous to our peace and safety" for any foreign power to extend its
system to the Western Hemisphere. In 1962 we were worried about
Communist Russia's nuclear missiles deployed to Cuba; in 1999 we face
the possibility that Communist China may put its nuclear missiles in
Panama for a possible blackmail threat about Taiwan.
This danger comes from the fact that Panama has granted a Chinese
Communist "front" 50-year leases to occupy the U.S.-built ports of
Cristobal on the Atlantic end of the canal and Balboa on the Pacific
Rather than addressing the real arguments, Clinton had his
spokesman Joe Lockhart call these concerns "silly stuff" and had an
unnamed White House official assert that the Chinese corporation
holding the leases "is a legitimate company." But, as the Cox Report
showed, the Chinese have totally integrated military and industrial
operations under policies established by the late Deng Xiaoping.
Immense pressures are working to close our eyes to the national
security danger from the Panama-China leases. Clinton doesn't dare to
upset the Chinese with whom he has suspect political and financial
ties, and too many senior Republicans are committed to the fantasy that
China is just a trading partner, not a potential enemy.
Contrary to what we are led to believe, the Panama Canal giveaway
is not a "done deal." Here are some constructive steps we can take.
1) Renounce or renegotiate the Panama Canal Treaties in light of
new evidence that the United States and Panama did not ratify the same
text. The DeConcini Reservation, which was added to get the treaty
through the Senate, gave us the unilateral right to intervene in Panama
if we believe the Canal is threatened.
Carter hid from the American people the fact that Panama ratified
the treaty without our reservation. Panama's version contains a three-
paragraph counter-reservation, never submitted to the U.S. Senate, that
requires Panama's "cooperation" before we try to defend the Canal.
Another reason to renounce the treaty is that Panama's Law No. 5
violated the Panama Canal treaties over and over again. The Panama
Canal treaties can also be declared void because of "changing
circumstances" as authorized by Art. 62 of the 1969 Vienna Convention
on the Law of Treaties.
2) Demand that Panama nullify the lease agreements granted to the
Chinese and initiate a new bidding process that is open and fair. No
one should be bound by the current agreements because the process was
corrupt and discriminatory against a U.S. company.
3) Exercise our rights under the 1978 Panama treaties to protect
and defend the Canal beyond the year 2000. Halt any more transfers of
U.S. military installations, including Howard Air Force Base, the most
important U.S. base south of the Rio Grande; Rodman Naval Station, a
deep-draft port capable of logistic support for any warship; and Fort
Sherman, the only base in the world specializing in jungle warfare and
Depending on Panama to defend the Canal against China's aggressive
acts, or against the Colombian drug cartel, is a bad joke. Panama has
no army, navy or air force, and the country's police are completely
unable to defend the canal against sabotage or terrorism by narcotics-
funded forces already coming in from Colombia.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Thomas Moorer told the
U.S. Senate that "we are on what I consider to be a collision course
with disaster in the very near future. . . . I truly can't remember a
time when I have been more concerned about the security of the
Panama has a new government and frequent polls show that a
majority of Panamanians support a continued U.S. military presence.
Time is running out to do something to stop Communist China from
establishing its threatening beachhead in the Western Hemisphere.