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[The information referred to follows:] PREPARED STATEMENT OF DR. JOHN WASYLIK, NATIONAL COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF,
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES Mr. Chairman and Members of this Distinguished Committee : My name is Dr. John Wasylik, and my bome is in Sandusky, Ohio. As National Commander-inChief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, I am pleased and honored to appear before this distinguished body to share with you our views on the proposed Treaties affecting the Inter-Oceanic Canal and its framework, the U.S. Canal Zone on the Isthmus of Panama.
I am accompanied here today by two of my V.F.W. colleagues, Mr. Cooper. T. Holt, Executive Director of our Washington Office and Colonel Phelps Jones, USA (Ret.), my Director of National Security and Foreign Affairs.
As you may be aware, positions in the Veterans of Foreign Wars are arrived at democratically at our annual National Conventions.
Our 78th National Convention was held in Minneapolis, Minn., during the period August 20-26, 1977. Fourteen thousand delegates, representing more than 10,000 V.F.W. Posts and 1.8 million members were joined by delegates representing more than 600,000 members of the V.F.W.'s Ladies Auxiliary.
Our delegates gave respectful attention to arguments supporting the proposed treaty advanced by the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, General Bernard W. Rogers, USA, and arguments opposing the treaty as set forth by Senator Strom Thurmond (S.C.).
Following these two thoughful presentations by two patriotic and dedicated Americans, on Tuesday, August 23d, both the V.F.W. and the Ladies Auxiliary delegates were asked by the Chair for an expression of their views. Both groups of delegates voted unanimously to accept Resolution Number 402, “U.S. Sovereignty Over the United States Canal Located on the Isthmus of Panama."
Following this display of solidarity, the Chair gavelled the Convention into order and repeatedly asked if there was anyone there present who desired to speak in favor of the Treaty and assured the delegates that anyone who so desired would be given a courteous and respectful hearing.
No one rose to oppose the unanimous views of the delegates.
With the Chairman's permission, I would like to read the "Be It Resolved" portion of Resolution Number 402, with the request that the entire Resolution be included in the transcript of these bearings.
On the Canal Treaties issue, the heart of our mandate reads :
"Be It Resolved, by the 78th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, that:
“(a) U.S. operation, control and defense of the Canal are non-negotiable;
"o) tensions relating to the administration of the Canal Zone be resolved on the spot without disturbing present treaty arrangements;
"(c) U.S. citizens and employees in the Canal Zone continue to meet their responsibilities under U.S. sovereignty;
“(d) the foregoing position be again communicated to both the President (who in October, 1976 asserted that he would 'never give up complete or practical control of the Canal) and the Congress ;
"(e) the Panama Canal Zone send to the Congress of the United States a delelgate such as is done in Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands; and
“(f) the proposed treaty being put forward by the Carter Administration be defeated in the 95th Congress."
This is where we stand. Now why do we hold so resolutely to this view?
In the first instance we are totally unpersuaded both by the assumptions which led to the treaty negotiations and by the proposed treaties which emerged from these negotiations.
Since August, 1914, the United States Canal on the Isthmus of Panama has been responsibly operated and defended to the benefit of the United States, the International shipping community, Panama, Central America, and Latin America.
The "payaway treaty” clique has fallen back on (1) implied blackmail ("unless we give it to the Panamanians, they may blow it up"), (2) self-fulfilling prophecy (forecasts of Vietnam-like guerrila warfare, and, (3) self-inflicted descriptions of "colonialism."
The current ploy of much of the “prestige media" on the Canal question is, feigning more disdain than anger, to dismiss all who have stood in steadfast opposition to the proposed "payaway” (an accurate term, "sellout" would imply the Panamanians are seeking to buy our $7 billion Canal; they are not) as jingoistic non-readers of history who are carelessly calling for war,
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Long before the Canal and the Canal Zone turned into a political issue, the V.F.W. sought to inform the American public of the true nature of the issues involved.
There follows arguments advanced by the "payaway apologists" and the relevant V.F.W. response.
"Payaway" apologists. How can anyone in 1977 argue for a policy of “colonialism?"
V.F.W. response.-Colonialism is, definitively, an exploitative arrangement wherein a natural resource; i.e., cotton, rice, tin, etc., is farmed, harvested, or mined by an oppressed people for processing, manufacturing, packaging and sale of the finished product abroad.
Panama "oppressed ?" Clearly not! Panama (a) has the highest per capita income of any of the seven countries of Central America and stands 4th (of 20 nations) in all of Latin America ; (b) is dependent on the Canal and the Zone for 30 percent of her foreign currency earnings while 13 percent of her gross national product arises from the same source.
Panamanian per capita wealth is about twice that of Colombia who, until 1903, was the country of which pre-1903 Panama was a province.
Panama "oppressed ?" Tell that to Cambodia !
"Payaway” apologists.—What is needed is a modern arrangement to replace a treaty (Hay-Bunau Varilla) now 74 years old.
V.F.W. response.-Modernity, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder. Britain occupied the “Rock of Gibraltar” since the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. (Sensible people are thankful the British have been on the “Rock” for the past 264 years.) Unlike the Canal, Gibraltor has not played any significant role in Spanish economic growth. Like the Panamanians, the Spanish are unhappy about the status quo. Unlike our State Department, the British Foreign Office has kept a lid on the situation (to the benefit of us all) for 264 years, not 74.
Perhaps we should ask the British Foreign Office to conduct a "crash course" on how to protect vital national interests for our State Department.
“Payaway" apologists.—But the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty of 1903 gave the U.S. all rights, powers, and authority "as if it (the U.S.) were the sovereign of the territory." The words “as if" indicate that it is Panama, and not the United States, which holds either titular" or "residual” sovereignty.
V.F.W. response.—Those who so happily produce the "as if” clause conveniently forget to add what follows is this "in perpetuity" treaty; i.e., “to the entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of any such sovereign rights, power or authority."
The bulk of scholarship on the sovereignty issue supports the V.F.W. view. A family of treaties (a) with "New Granada" in 1846 ; (b) with Britain in 1901 ; and, (c) with Colombia, in 1922, all undergird and extend the sovereign preeminence of the U.S. as clearly recognized in the 1903 treaty with Panama; a treaty, incidentally, deliberately ratified after the signing by the Panamanian Senate.
"Payaway" apologists.-Secretary of State John Hay advised President Theodore Roosevelt that the 1903 Treaty was advantageous to the United States and disadvantageous to Panama.
V.F.W. response.—Is there some natural order that mandates that most or all of the treaties entered into by the U.S. must be disadvantageous to America ; the Paris Accords of 1973 bringing "peace" to Southeast Asia comes readily to mind.
Hay's view notwithstanding, as earlier indicated, the 1903 Treaty has been a success story for all concerned, most specifically including Panama,
“Payaway” apologists.—How would you like to see America divided in two by the Mississippi River as the Canal divides Panama ?
V.F.W. response.—Unlike the example of the Mississippi, the construction of the Canal and the birth and contained existence of a Panama, independent from Colombia, are inextricably linked. So while the U.S. Canal and the U.S. Zone, given human nature, may never be objects of popular admiration in Panama, nonetheless, the clear linkage between the U.S. presence and their national
existence is there and, we suspect, most Panamanians understand this unalterable fact of their nationhood.
“Payaway" apologists.--Who wants to fight another “Vietnam" over the Canal?
V.F.W. response, -No non-institutionalized person ever wants (a) any war, or, (b) most especially a Vietnam-type encounter in which we win the battle, but not the victory.
The warlike language about the Canal and the Zone arises from occasional flights of oratory by General Torrijos ("We will walk the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It is long and exerts a heavy toll in blood."), from various Panamanian student groups, from supportive revolutionary rhetoric from Castro, and most disturbingly, by U.S. officials who, I would judge, believed that even an allusion to our defeat in Vietnam would suffice to unnerve the American people in their natural desire to retain our preminence in the Canal. This latter tactic has backfired badly, and, if anything, has produced an opposite effect.
The real question is: apart from the 1964 student disorders, we've had 74 years of peace, stability and progress in the Canal. Can this record be sustained or improved upon by the transparent “partnership" with Panama being advocated by the State Department? Remember, once America is meeting her responsibility as a matter of Panamanian sufferance and not unequivocal C.S. rights, we can be asked to pull out overnight.
"Payaway" apologists.-But the Canal is especially vulnerable to sabotage.
V.F.W. response. It always has been, but it has only been in the last three years that this long standing vulnerability has been pointed out to us, often by our own negotiators. Again, how would the pullout of the U.S. garrison enhance the security of the Canal from any group or fraction seeking to make some irrational Third World "point" by blowing a lock or draining Gatun Lake?
If the Panamanian Government's reply is that they are unable to control their own citizens' actions in the face of a continued U.S. presence in the Canal, the question then looms: how reliable a "partner" would the Goevrnment of Panama be in any “partnership" with the United States in confronting any nonPanamanian; ie, Cuban pressure?
"Payaway" apologists.—But the Canal and the Canal Zone are Panama's most important "natural resource.”
V.F.W. response.—The Canal is not a "natural resource." It was built over a 10-year period by the Corps of Engineers. It is a quintessentially "artificial" man-made enterprise. Secondly, the weight of history, law, and logic demonstrates that it is “ours," not "theirs."
“Payaway“ apologists.-But whatever the merits of the case might have been in the past, aren't we “painted into a corner” by the February, 1974 "Statement of Principles" agreed to by Secretary Kissinger and Foreign Minister Tack and the recent Treaty signing extravaganza?
V.F.W. response.When you're “painted into a corner,” you have two basic choices: (a) keep on painting; or, (b) use whatever turpentine is on hand to "unpaint" and get out.
In 1967, Panama rejected an initialed draft of a new treaty. Our State De partment can well use this earlier Panamanian rebuff as a valid precedent for re-examining the validity of the 1974 "Statement of Principles" and the resultant proposed treaties.
“Payaway" apologists.-Have you ever seen the stark contrast between the "manicured" lawns of the U.S. Canal Zone and the poverty and squalor of Panama over the fence?
V.F.W. response.—Yes. A ridiculous bit of imagery insulting to both the Zonians and the Panamanians, who are placed in the nonsensical position of favoring litter and uncut grass.
The Canal Zone is not Grosse Point, Beverly Hills, Tuxedo Park or Chevy Chase. It is—and it should be-a typical American community adjusted for life in the tropics.
The best way to assure Americans in the Zone have a spokesman is to have the Canal Zone send a delegate to the U.S. Congress as does Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.
"Payaway" apologists. But the U.S. pays an annual "rent" to Panama. Doesn't this mean that Panama owns the Canal?
V.F.W. response.--It is not "rent" for land or the Canal (we bought the property four times; from Panama, from the individual land owners, from the failed French enterprise and from Colombia). It is an annuity paid to Panama
(as it was earlier to Colombia) for displacing the old trans-Isthmus railmad. Not even the U.S. government is so soft in the head that it pays "rent" on land that it owns four times over.
*Payaway" apologists.-What is the matter with the proposed Treaties' goals on this issue; is, "to assure that the Canal is operational, secure, etficient and open, on a nondiscriminatory basis to world shipping."
V.F.W. response.—The "goals” cited above are a precisely accurate description of the present arrangement. In short, why seek "goals” that have already been achieved?
"Payaway" apologists.-Do you mean break off negotiations and thereby incur the wrath of all of Latn America, bring an abuse of America in the UN, and incur, perhaps, the public opposition of even our NATO allies ?
V.F.W. response. If we retreat when we're clearly right, we will have surrendered, in advance, all our influence on other and more ambiguous international disagreements.
Three or four (of 20) Latin American countries, not, of course, including Panama, enjoy a significant degree of democratic freedoms. Democratic or authoritarian, many need the Canal operation even more than we do. I have neither seen nor heard of any hard intelligence that even suggests an international army drawn from Latin American states would either march on the Canal or seek to infiltrate the Zone in an international Vietnam-type operation. (Cuba, of course, having tasted a "revolutionary victory" in Angola is a separate matter.)
As for NATO, as the Arab-Israeli “Yom Kippur War of 1973" so clearly underscored, our allies do not have concerted policies apart from the defense of the NATO treaty area. I would expect a resolute U.S. stand on the Canal would gain the understanding and support of our major European friends.
As to the UN, we are in a classic “no win” posture with the General Assembly and its Third World plus communist majority. Former Ambassador "Pat" Moynihan's perception that many Third World countries in wanting to rip off the wealth of others are really calling for "duly sanctioned looting." His view has relevance here. To sum up our total opposition to the proposed treaties:
If we wrongfully “cave in" on the sovereignty issue, we are on the Isthmus at the sufferance of the volatile dictatorship of Brigadier General Torrijos. We could be asked to leave overnight. Do we then skulk out or do we stand our ground?
The Canal is much closer to Cuba than Angola. Soviet-inspired Cuban involvement on the Isthmus could well wear a "Panamanian Cloak." We would undoubtedly agonize, but we would probably acquiesce.
The proposed "Neutrality Treaty," which, we are told, would permit U.S. military action to defend the Canal, is “waffling" brought to an art form. The Panamanians have agreed to no such thing in writing or in their rhetoric. The Administration may kid itself. It should not be allowed to kid the American people.
Panama's wretched record in "human rights," as attested to by the Janu. ary 30, 1977 "Freedom House" study, needs no amplification here. The Administration seems unembarrassed by this manifest hypocrisy. Our President went so far as to embrace, literally, General Torrijos following the signing extravaganza.
I mean no disrespect to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but until late 1975 they were silent upon the Treaty negotiations. I will not comment upon their recent shift in view, but the unfettered military advice of four former Chiefs of Naval Operation calling for continued U.S. pre-eminence makes the
compelling military case. In reviewing the Panamanian Student riots of 1964, I note the following prominent Americans were then quoted as follows:
Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker: The assault on the Canal Zone had been led by “persons trained in communist countries for political action of the kind that took place" and that "the Government of Panama instead of attempting to restore order, was, through a controlled press, television, and radio, inciting the people to attack and to violence."
Former President (then Minority Leader) Gerald R. Ford: "With Cuba under the control of the Soviets through its puppet, Castro, and with increased communist Subversion in Latin America, a Communist threat to the Panama Canal
is clearly a grave danger. The American people will be shocked by the terms of this (Johnson Administration) treaty."
Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (Currently Secretary of HEW, then an Assistant to the Secretary of Defense): “We know that some of the leaders were known and identifiable Communists, members of the Communist Party of Panama, and people who belonged to the Vanguard of National Action, which is openly and proudly the Castro Communist Party in Panama."
Now, I realize that 13 years have passed and that people often change their minds over time.
My question is: What hard evidence, available to all of us in 1977, caused these three distinguished Americans to change their minds over recent years about the nature of the communist threat in Panama? We would all profit if they would share this new information with us.'
In conclusion: What the proposed Treaties embody is á slow motion act of strategic self-mutilation.
Only 13 of our warships cannot transit the Canal today. As Navy ships get smaller even this number will decrease.
The Canal and the Zone (a) sáve 8,000 miles and 15 to 30 days; (b) have the only ship repair facilities within 1,600 miles on the Atlantic side and 2.500 miles on the Pacific side; (c) have, in Howard Air Force Base, the only high performance air base within 1,000 miles; and, (d) is the only U.S. logistical base south of the Rio Grande.
As to the possibility of violence should the Treaties not be ratified, no one in America, especially including the V.F.W., is threatening anybody. We are being threatened by a Panamanian strong man who, seemingly on alternate days, either threatens violence or abhors it. And this is the man with whom we seek a "partnership?"
What, then, does the V.F.W. propose ?
(a) A revised U.S. position which would immediately disabuse Panama of any major territorial, defense, control or operational aspirations; i.e., America is not running the Canal on Panamanian sufferance.
(6) Generosity and imagination on real life human grievances (ranging from parking places to job opportunities) where a long term U.S. administration may have needlessly chafed Panamanian citizens; and
(c) A major modernization packet to ready the Canal for ships now too large for passage and other measures all of which would combine to give a major boost to Panama's diversifying, albeit debt-ridden, economy.
To conclude: An opinion research poll indicated that Americans favor, by 76 to 16 percent, continued U.S. sovereignty over the Canal and the adjacent Zone.
Change is an imperative when a given status quo is unworkable.
Change does not equal progress when current arrangements not only do a job, but do it superbly.
The Panamanians want very badly to have their way and far too many in the State Department see it their way; i.e., reciting "Panamanian Perceptions" ad nauseam.
Our people can, should and must be brought unapologetically to defend a 74-year record America and the world maritime community have unarguably benefitted from.
Thank you. RESOLUTION No. 402: U.S. SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE "UNITED STATES CAXAL"
LOCATED ON THE ISTHMUS OF PANAMA Whereas, Article II of the 1903 Convention between Panama and the United States, modified in part by the 1936 Treaty between the two Governments, states:
ARTICLE II The Republic of Panama grants to the United States in perpetuity the use, occupation and control of a zone of land under water for construction, mainte nance, operation, sanitation, and protection of said canal of the width of ten miles extending to the distance of five miles on each side of center line of the route of the Canal to be constructed ; the said zone beginning in the Carib bean Sea three miles from mean low water mark extending to and across the Isthmus of Panama into the Pacific Ocean to a distance of three marine