- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 1999

The same lunacy that influenced the Carter administration’s giveaway of the Panama Canal is again visible within the Clinton administration. Oblivious to the automatic uncertainty that this policy creates, Mr. Clinton is revealing either his total ignorance in the realm of foreign affairs or, worse, his growing adherence to the promotion of an international authority. This transfer of America’s most strategic waterway introduces international complications of such magnitude that its implications overshadow even the questionable loyalty of our White House occupant.

 Any quick glance at a map will better explain the dangers associated with this agreement, which is now more than 20 years old. However, what the map will not reveal is the cost to America, both in lives and dollars, associated with the Panama Canal’s construction. Also, the map will not inform the public of the 1903 Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty which conveyed to the United States, in perpetuity, the 51-mile-long, 10-mile-wide Canal Zone.

 Back when President Carter agreed to this giveaway, the recipient was supposed to be the Republic of Panama. However, this arrangement was drastically altered in 1997 when Panama leased the overall operation and control of the Panama Canal to none other than a front company for the government of Red China.

 Hutchison Whampoa Limited, a Communist Chinese-controlled company, has long been intertwined with enterprises that front for the military and intelligence branches of the People’s Republic of China. An offshoot to the Hutchison Whampoa operation is an entity known as the Panama Ports Company. Ten percent of this enterprise is owned by China Resources, the commercial arm of China’s Ministry of Trade and Economic Cooperation.

 In July 1997, Sen. Fred Thompson described China Resources as an agent of espionage economic, military and political for China. The penetration of Panama has been attained through the efforts of the Panama Ports Company.

 Assuming that our federal government still works with America’s best interests at heart, the introduction of Red China as the Panama Canal’s 25-year proprietor completely alters the original intent of handing responsibility for the Panama Canal over to Panama. The future presence of Red China should reverse our government’s position since an immediate justification to postpone the giveaway of American sovereignty now exists.

 Detailing the Panamanian legislature’s passage of Law No. 5 provides our government with a basic need to render this transfer null and void. If the average American citizen concurs, after this brief review of official Law No. 5, what is stopping our government from taking a similar stance?

 Law No. 5 states that Hutchison Whampoa will gain exclusive responsibility for hiring new Panama Canal pilots. Such positions include complete control of all ships passing through, and which ships may go through the Panama Canal.

 Hutchison Whampoa will control the Pacific port of Balboa and the Atlantic port of Cristobal, along with its takeover of Rodman Naval Base. This deep-water facility is capable of supplying, refueling and repairing just about any warship.

 Law No. 5 also assigns to the Chinese control of the order of ships utilizing the Panama Canal and even the authority to deny ships access on either side, if they are deemed to be interfering with Hutchison’s business. This just happens to be in violation of the Carter-signed treaty which guarantees unhindered passage for the United States Navy.

 Other American facilities that the Chinese intend to control and use include Howard Air Force Base, U.S. Air Station Albrook, and Fort Sherman.

 Thirty years ago, protestors of the Vietnam War questioned our fight against communism halfway around the world. This pending loss of vital American security is in our own backyard. If this travesty goes unchallenged by the American public, at best, we will be victims of future uncertainty.

 The worst-case scenario was already anticipated when the Carter administration added a precaution to the treaty. In order to gain Senate ratification, President Carter agreed to include the DeConcini Reservation, which guaranteed to the United States the right to use military force, with or without Panama’s consent, to keep the Panama Canal open. Obviously, this measure will take on a completely different commitment with the introduction of Red China.

 No less than the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, is adamantly opposed to this anti-American policy.

 The Panama Canal is America’s most strategic waterway, both commercially and militarily. Red China has publicly stated that America is its primary foe. There is not one reason for America to give away control of what we created and peacefully negotiated to own. Today, because of the economical advantages of the Panama Canal, along with the thousands of Americans that are stationed in and around the Canal Zone, Panama thrives with the highest living standard in Latin America.

 Contrary to all the Clinton administration warnings that a policy of isolationism will economically strangle our country, Mr. Clinton remains in favor of a policy that will produce the same result with respect to maintaining our competitive edge within the realm of international trade, along with our most essential asset for military maneuverability. Retreating from this national security requirement is isolationism at its most insidious level.

 Jim Bowman is a writer living in Pennsylvania.

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