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PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROBERT CHARLES SMITH Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is a distinct pleasure for me to appear before you today representing The American Legion. Needless to say, | We are each aware of the thousands of inches of newsprint and the hours of television coverage which have been devoted to the proposed Panama Canal Treaty in the past month. My reason for appearing before you is twofold: first, to represent the viewpoint and position of The American Legion as adopted by our recently concluded 59th National Convention, and to spell out-objectively and dispassionately-what our concerns are and why we object to this specific treaty.
With me this morning is our Chairman of The American Legion's Foreign Relations Commission, Dr. Robert P. Foster, who for the past 14 years has served as President of Northwest Missouri State University located in Maryville. Dr. Foster has visited Panama and, along with Commission members, has examined the Panama situation for quite some time. During this time, he has discussed the matter with treaty proponents and opponents, including both U.S. and Panamanian negotiators. He will be available for questions from the Committee following my statement.
Today, I have come to speak for our four million members of The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary. We represent miners in West Vir. ginia ; grain growers in Illinois and Iowa; energy producers of Texas; machinery manufacturers in New York; and shipping industry of all states where rivers and harbors open to the sea ... altogether we represent a composite and microcosm of the United States. For most of us in The American Legion and all our citizens are either buyers or sellers of commodities passing through the Panama Canal.
Moreover, all of us are dependent on the protection of the U.S. Navy to control the seas surrounding our country in the center of the Western Hemisphere. Quite frankly, the main thrust from every Legion Post has been the same deep apprehension about the proposed Treaty with Panama. Not the least concerned were our Legion Posts in the U.S. Canal Zone. Did the United States really in. tend to abandon its citizens to a dictatorship? If so, what did the United States stand to gain from such a giveaway?
What our Legion people do not understand is why is it necessary to have a new treaty. Have we, the people of the United States, been unfair, unjust or dishon. orable with the Panamanians? I think not. We have lived up to our agreements of 1903, and subsequent revisions of that Treaty. No one has accused the U.S. Government with inefficiency. In fact, the contrary is true.
There are suggestions that the discovery of Alaskan oil by our space satellites in the early '60s brought about sudden realization by the oil industry that the U.S. Canal Zone, a U.S. Government reservation, was not the ideal type of property for the shipment of large tonnage of crude oil. Perhaps some type of commercial arrangement, even with a foreign country, was preferrable for a booming international business.
Witnesses before this Committee from the U.S. Canal Zone told our staff that one major oil company is already building a large oil pipeline across the Republic of Panama. The tree line is cut and the pipes are being unloaded. One of the Canal pilots told us he was on board the s.8. Pennsylvania Sun and S.S. Cove Trader when bargaining was going on inside the U.S. Canal Zone between Panamanian customs officials and the ships officers. The Canal pilot, Capt. Leonard E. Bell, heard the full story and it sounded like from the Barbary Pirates of another century.
There are suggestions that a few large international bankers saw the possibility for placing large loans with Torrijos, either because Torrijos offered high interest rates, improved Panamanian management with lower labor costs, or some of the profits from the crude oil flowing from the north slope. In any case, the bankers must have seen the possibility of profits. We know that numer. ous U.S. and international banks have loaned billions to the Torrijos government and to Panamanian addresses.
There have been suggestions that Communist subversion started in the mid-50s from Prague inciting people to oppose U.S. ownership in the Canal Zone. This may have had a profound effect. The Washington Evening Star ran a story from Bonn, Germany on September 13, 1956 that “International communism has opened an agitation campaign in Latin America against U.S. control of the Canal Zone." of one thing we can be sure. It was not U.S. national security interests that brought about these new treaties.
There are political considerations and military considerations to this treaty. There are economic and environmental problems of considerable magnitude for the United States, the Western Hemisphere and the entire world.
From a political standpoint, I think our firm consideration must be the beliefs and convictions of the people of the United States. Within the last two years, we have seen numerous polls to determine the attitude of U.S. citizens. Those polls have shown that from 50-90% of Americans oppose the proposed Treaties which were signed on September 7, 1977 by President Carter and Gen. Omar Torrijos.
We in The American Legion believe under our system of government that the will of the people is very important. The knowledge, the will and the dedication of our people provide the amperage to our national life.
At the Legion's National Convention in Denver, we heard the pros and cons of the proposed Treaty. We heard from Ambassador Sol Linowitz as pro-Treaty, and we heard anti-Treaty viewpoints from expert witnesses, including those of Senator Hatch. In our American Legion Magazine, we invited Panama's Foreign Minister Gonzalez Revilla's pro-Treaty and Congressman Daniel Flood's antiTreaty to give their positions.
When it came time to vote on our Foreign Policy resolution at the Convention, we deliberately set the Panama Resolution, No. 445, aside so we could offer each Department from each State the opportunity to vote. The pressure to vote was so strong from the thousands of convention delegates that we could not take a roll call vote by state. Support of The American Legion's Resolution 415 which opposes the Treaty was unanimous. The silence of pro-treaty support seemed even more persuasive than did the unanimous vote against the Treaty. (A copy of this resolution is attached for your perusal.)
I will now discuss the reservations and objections which we have to this proposed Treaty. The first is the strategic and military importance of continued U.S. control of the Canal and the Canal Zone. At the onset, we realize that the United States has a one-ocean Navy with a global responsibility.
Today all but 13 of the ships in the U.S. Navy—the exception being the large aircraft carriers-can pass through the Canal. Moreover, we, along with the Congress, must be "forward looking" and long-range prognosticators regarding the true effects now and in the future of the proposed Treaty. As each of you are aware, we have made a national commitment to the "mini-carrier" concept. And, when they come on line in 3-5 years, I have been assured by the Navy that they can transverse the Canal, making the Canal even more important in a military sense in the years ahead.
Hanson Baldwin has recently written: "It is ironic, indeed, that in an era when the U.S. Navy needs the Canal to a greater degree than at any time since the end of World War II, Washington is considering its abandonment. The Sary today is in the same strategic bind it was in prior to World War II: It is a oneocean Navy (in size and power) with two-ocean responsibilities. We are outnumbered in submarines and surface ships by the Soviet Union, and, more than at any period since 1945, the Navy must have a quick transfer capability between Atlantic and Pacifie in order to meet sudden crises.
"General V. H. Krulak, USMC (Ret.), writing in the summer 1975 issue of Strategic Review, summarized the Canal's naval importance: 'In truth the Panama Canal is an essential link between the naval forces of the United States deployed in the Atlantic and in the Pacific. It is only because of the waterway that we are able to risk having what amounts to a bare-bones, one-ocean Navy.'
"During the Vietnam War about 98 percent of all supplies for our forces were shipped by sea ; of this total, approximately 33 percent were loaded in East and Gulf Coast ports and transited the Canal. The volume of miiltary-sponsor cargo in the four years from 1964 to 1968 increased, for dry cargo, by some 640 percent and for petroleum products by about 430 percent. And the number of U.S. Government ressels (chiefly nayal) transiting the Canal increased from 284 in 1965 to more than 1,500 in 1968."
Within the military community, and among the retired and active military, there is great diversity of opinion. In addition to the letter of four distinguished Chiefs of Naval Operation, including the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, saying that the proposed Treaty is contrary to the security interests of the United States, we are hearing from many military leaders and the majority of these opinions, like the majority of our citizens, are opposed to the giveaway of the Zone and the Canal.
As you are aware, Admiral Moorer forcefully reaffirmed his views to this Committee earlier this week and clearly stated the indispensible strategic importance of the Canal.
Frin a military viewpoint, a commander never gives away strategic territory which he may have to fight to regain. The U.S. Canal Zone is strategic territory. All the military, both active and retired, agree on that point.
From an economic perspective, the Canal is vital to United States interests. In 1975, approximately 14,000 ships transited the Canal of which 45 percent originated in the United States and 23 percent were bound for the United States. No other nation even approaches the invaluable, economic stake which we have in the Canal. However, the Canal is important to all maritime commercial nations since 96 percent of the world's merchant fleet can transit it.
The Canal is just this year assuming an additional commercial importance to the United States as Alaskan oil begins to flow. When the Alaskan pipeline reaches its full capacity, it will yield 1.2 million barrels of oil a day. The west coast of the United States can accommodate only 700,000 barrels a day. This means that approximately 500,000 barrels a day cannot be used on the west coast, and must be transported to the east. No pipeline has yet been constructed across the United States, and the trip around the Horn, as has been demonstrated, is not economically feasible. Unhindered use of the Panama Canal is critical until an adequate pipeline can be constructed.
From an over-all economic perspective, should the tolls go up another 25–30 percent as projected by Ambassador Sol Linowitz, and the tolls since 1973, have already gone up about 50 percent, many of our exports will be priced out of the world market. The grain producers and dealers, for example, frequently depend on a fraction of 1 percent as their profit margin.
You may have read in the Journal of Commerce, September 20, 1977, where the New Orelans Port Director, Mr. Edward S. Reed stated: “Since grain exports are the United States' best source of balance of payments loans, I think it is incumbent upon the Federal Government to closely scrutinize the possible effects of canal toll increases on the farm commodities exported from the United States.” Mr. Reed's comments would pertain to all farmers, farm commodities, shippers and port facilities involved in our U.S. agricultural exports.
In the same Journal of Commerce article, the President of Lykes Brothers Steamship Company, Mr. W. J. Amoss, Jr., expressed his opposition to the Treaty because of its adverse impact on Canal users. Mr. Amoss, who had previously supported the Treaty, said the proposed Treaty spelled sheer disaster for operators east of the Canal and going westbound through the canal.
I stress the economic impact that United States commercial interests will suffer because this starts the day the Treaty is ratified, Ambassador Linowitz has stated the totals will immediately go up 25 to 30 percent. And just what are the economic facts for such port and shipping centers as Boston, New York, Baltimore, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Mobile, Houston and New Orleans?
I mentioned New Orleans last because Louisiana is my home state. People living along the bayou are genuinely concerned about the ramifications of this proposed Treaty on our trade, jobs and general economic conditions,
I do not wish to overstate the dangers we foresee for Louisiana and the Gulf States but 38 percent of all water-borne commerce, over $30.0 billion in world trade, move from the Gulf ports. Over one-half of all the grain exported from the United States moves from the Gulf ports and about one-third of these grains pass through the Panama Canal. The Port of New Orleans is the nation's number one importer of iron and steel products. Eighty-seven percent of these products arrive via the Panama Canal..
We could spotlight other ports and jobs threatened by toll increases. Hampton Roads for example is the world's largest coal port, Over half of the 32 million tons of coal leaving Hampton Roads goes through the Panama Canal. It is my understanding that over 300,000 jobs-in Virginia are either directly or indirectly affected by the Hampton Roads port complex,
I noticed in a letter to the Editor of the Washington Post on 7 October 1977 that the Port of Baltimore has a vital interest in the Panama Canal. Seventeen percent of all Baltimore's foreign commerce utilizes the Canal. The letter also stated that Maryland's State Senate and House of Delegates had by unanimous vote supported Resolution 34 calling for the United States to retain sovereignty over the U.S. Canal Zone and the Canal.
Moreover, at the present time, the United States has an over-all investment in Panama of $7 billion. By the year of our total evacuation under the terms of the Treaty, that interest will have grown to $9.3 billion. To add insult to injury, the Treaty proposes that we pay some $50.0 million per year, plus about $350.0 million in economic and military aid to have the Torrijos group take over the territory and property.
In short, all these elements of economic benefits which I have mentioned in structures, payments and loans for development will in 23 years amount to the sum of $2.262 billion. This is compared to what Panama would receive under the current Treaty during that same period, which would be the ridiculous amount of $52 million.
Contrary to popular argument, control of the Canal by the United States serves the best economic interests of the people of Panama. In 1976, U.S. agencies purchased over $29 million worth of goods in Panama, and we paid over $108 million in wages to non-U.S. citizens. United States private investments amount to 50 percent of the capital investment in Panama; and U.S. employees spent $39 million there.
In the Preamble to The American Legion Constitution, we pledge to "safeguard the principles of justice, freedom and democracy"-in 1977 terms this translates into human rights. As this Committee is aware, Panama is a dictatorship, or in the words of Ambassador Bunker before Congressman Murphy's committee, an "authoritarian" government.
The aspect of the Torrijos government which is most significant, is that it is a repressive dictatorship. Freedom House, the respected organization which ranks countries on the basis of human rights, gives Panama the lowest rating in Latin America. Panama received the same 1977 rating on political and civil liberties as the Soviet Union and was rated even lower than Cuba.
Gen. Torrijos came to power in Panama by a coup and is governing without the consent of the people. The truth is that since Gen. Torrijos participated in the overthrow of Panama's constitutional government by gunpoint in 1968, 1.6 million people have lost their human rights. There is no recognized party except the Communist Party, called the People's Party, El Partito del Pueblo. Furthermore, the monies from Panama Canal annuities do not go directly to the people, the money goes to the Torrijos power group.
As we are all aware, the Panamanian constitution requires a plebscite vote of the people for ratification of any new Treaty, which will beheld on October 23. The sad irony is that the controlled and censored Panama press—"guided" in the terms of our chief negotiator--will never give a full and objective account of the Treaty of the Panamanian people.
Another concern which we have is the political association and economie stability of the government in Panama. On the economic side; under Gen. Omar Torrijos, Panama's national debt has grown from $167 million to $1.5 billion. The debt service alone will consume 39 percent of that country's budget this year. Panama's Department of Planning indicates that to refinance loans coming doe. together with the $139 million deficit, a total of $323.6 million will be required. Obviously, Panama cannot financially afford to have the Treaties rejected either.
Politically, Torrijos has also busied himself with making closer political and commercial ties with the Soviet Union. Again, according to the U.S. Information Agency, top officials from the Soviet Politburo and Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party visited Panama last June. Almost immediately after the Soviet Politburo team left Panama, a Soviet commercial delegation headed by Nikolai Zinoviev arived and concluded a major Soviet-Panama commercial agreement with the Torrijos regime. This agreement, according to news reports in the Torrijos-controlled newspaper Critica, could result in the opening of a Soviet bank to run Soviet commercial activities throughout Latin America as well as a series of other multi-million-dollar-trade and construction projects with Panama.
Whether it was a treaty of intent or a pact of infinite promise, we don't know. The treaty was signed by Omar Torrijos' brother-in-law, Marcelino Jaen, and Soviet leader Nikolai Zinorier who is also listed as a KGB agent. After the signing, Panama's Jaen declared the Soviet treaty ". ... is an event of deep historic signing, not only for our country, but for the American continent as well, who are always facing strong forces that represent a philosophy that is contrary to the destiny of Latin America."
Of deepest concern is Torrijos' close ties with Fidel Castro and Cuba, Cuba under Castro continues to aggressively export and pursue communist domination and control of other nations. Several weeks ago, the New York Times re ported that 4,000 more Cubans were sent to Angola recently to "stabilize the nation's most serious crisis since the 1976 civil war." The 4,000 Cuban troops would increase Cuban troop strength in Angola to 19,000. This to me clearly indicates that Castro hasn't backed off one inch from his declared goal of communist domination of the Western Hemisphere and the world.
Also of concern is the reliability of the Panamanian dictator to live up to what he signs. Panama has violated the present Treaty at least 11 times during the past two years. These violations included such militant acts as the Panamanian National Guard taking up positions in December 1975 within the U.S. Zone; attempting to arrest and actually shooting a citizen in the U.S. Zone in January 1976; setting off bombs and explosions in the U.S. Zone in October 1976, and capturing a vessel, the Sea Wolf, which was operating inside Canal Zone waters and burning and desecrating the United States flag.
Our Ambassador, whose official car was shamelessly destroyed several days ago, has protested such lawless Treaty violations, but one must question the wisdom of appeasing and making further concessions to a government whose recent history is pockmarked with deliberate violations of the current Treaty. If our current Treaty with Panama is being violated on a routine basis, where is the logic that such attitudes and behavior will improve between 1977 and 1999, the magic year when Torrijos is supposed to get everything, lock, stock and barrel?
I would like to turn now to the question of United States sovereignty. Many of the arguments for the switch in sovereignty and much of the conscious or subconscious motivation for it stem, in part, from ignorance or distortion of the manner in which the Panama Canal territory was acquired by the United States and of the wording of the original Treaty of 1903.
Contrary to these assertions from public officials who should know better, we did not steal the Canal, nor does Panama have residual, titular, or any other kind of sovereignty over it. The United States bought the Canal terri. tory-a strip across the Isthmus of Panama some 50-miles long and 10-miles wide-at a cost to the American taxpayer that far exceeded the cost of the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican cession, the Florida Purchase, the purchase of Alaska, or any other territorial acquisition.
Despite current contentions by the State Department that the 1936 Treaty revisions recognized Panama's sovereignty over the Canal Zone, it is clear that in both wording and intent the Treaty actually re-emphasized the sovereignty, in perpetuit of the United States.
History and the law appear to indicate in no uncertain terms that there is no merit whatsoever to the concept that the Treaty of 1903 vested so-called titular sovereignty or residual sovereignty in Panama. The wording is clear and unequivocal: "The Republic of Panama grants to the United States in perpetuity the use, occupation and control" of the Canal Zone. "The Republic of Panama grants to the United States all the rights, power and authority within the zone mentioned ... which the United States would possess and exercise if it were the sovereign ... to the entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of any such sovereign rights, power or authority."
One cannot transfer sovereignty unless one has it. The United States has, and will retain until Congress decides otherwise, complete sovereignty and control over the Canal Zone in perpetuity.
Even Gen. Torrijos in his remarks following the formal signing acknowledged United States sovereignty and I quote: "What nourished the hopes of Panamanians for the recapture of their sovereignty was the feeling that the North American people fundamentally harbored no colonial aspirations,” (emphasis added).
I will now turn to the Treaties and the accompanying Annex and Protocol. This analysis is based upon the limited time in which these Treaties have been available to this layman and I urge each member of this Committee to scrutinize these documents.