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PANAMA CANAL, 1971
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1971
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 2 p.m. in room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Dante B. Fascell (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. FASCELL. The subcommittee will come to order.
We continue our hearings today on several pending resolutions concerning the Panama Canal. We had previous testimony on the matter both in closed session and in open session. Yesterday we heard from several of our distinguished colleagues and today we continue in open session to hear other Members of the Congress.
Our first witness today is the distinguished Representative from the State of Missouri who has had a long, deep, and abiding interest in the whole question of the Panama Canal and United States-Panama relations, Hon. Durward G. Hall.
STATEMENT OF HON. DURWARD G. HALL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI
Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
It has been some 4 years since I had the opportunity to appear before this distinguished subcommittee, and you may remember at that time the proposed 1967 Canal Zone treaties were making headlines in the papers, and there was a great deal of excitement and apprehension both here and in the Republic of Panama regarding the terms of this proposed treaty. You will also recall that over 150 Members of the House of Representatives introduced resolutions in 1967 expressing “the sense of the Congress,” that U.S. control and sovereignty be maintained over our Panama Canal Zone. As a result of resolutions coupled with public unrest and general public outcry, President Johnson's administration did not execute the treaties nor were they sent to the Senate for ratification.
Here today in another administration it seems that history is repeating itself, Mr. Chairman. I am sure that this subcommittee is keenly aware of the fact that treaty negotiations have once again resumed with the Republic of Panama over the status of the Canal Zone. I am also sure that this committee is aware that the chief negotiator is the same Robert Anderson who negotiated the abortive, unsuccessful and unsatisfactory proposed 1967 treaty.
Also, I am sure this committee is aware that there are now over 100 Members of the House of Representatives who have again introduced resolutions expressing "the sense of the House of Representatives” of the United States to maintain sovereignty and control over our Panama Canal Zone.
I think it goes without saying that the subcommittee is wise in holding these hearings, and I feel it is time for the House of Representatives to go on record expressing not only its sense, but the sense of the vast majority of American people that we maintain our control and our sovereignty over this strategic piece of American real estate.
You are aware, Mr. Chairman, that although the Senate has the power of advice and consent in the making of treaties, article IV, section 3, clause 2 of the Constitution vests the power to dispose of territory and other property of the United States in the Congress, which includes both the House and Senate. Thus the people of our country through their elected Representatives in the Congress have a controlling voice in the disposal of their territory and property regardless of what may be provided in any new treaty or treaties with Panama.
I do not wish to belabor this committee with a historical account of the events in Panama because I know you are well aware of these various facts. As a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, subjects of national security and hemispheric defense are paramount in my mind. The importance of the Canal Zone as a bastion of our "southern flank” and gateway from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean cannot be overrated or overstated. Without our control of the Canal Zone, the possibility of a potentially hostile regime in Panama denying access of the transferring of our naval forces from one ocean to the other, and of our men and material from one ocean to another, ever increases. The loss of this access could destroy a link in our defense chain and could produce military and national disaster. We can ill afford to break existing links or further defensive powers which our adversaries respect.
Also intertwined with this aspect of national security, Mr. Chairman, is the equally important area of hemispheric defense. The Canal Zone under our control and jurisdiction serves as an outpost warding off the perverted ambitions of Communist takeover in Latin America. Our presence serves as a constant reminder to the “Castros” of the world, that we are determined to stop subversion and revolution in Latin America. I think there is no doubt in one's mind that Panamanian control of the canal would certainly aid and abet the forces of communism, and especially of Fidel Castro in Latin America. All one has to do is to look at the makeup of the present Panamanian Government.
General Torrijos, the dictator of Panama, has been regarded by many as just another "leftwing idealist.” The truth of the matter is that since he took over the military coup in 1968 he has exiled a popular and freely elected president, installed a puppet president, suspended the constitution, discharged the Congress, and appointed a congress and judiciary composed of close friends and fellow revolutionaries. Beyond that Torrijos has been reported to be a friend and admirer of the late Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. He has been collaborating and conspiring with Castro, and Cuban guerrilla teams have been training native sabotage teams in Panamanian jungles adjacent to the canal.
Compounding the “felony,” Russian technicians have been reported lately to have been arriving in Panama, no doubt to train Panamians in the operation of the canal, as they trained Egyptians in the management of the Suez Canal. So win, lose, or draw in the negotiations this petty Panamanian dictator is readying himself for some type of eventual takeover of the canal. He will no doubt first try through the negotiating table method, but if that reaches an impasse or proves to no avail, I think it is safe to say that he will follow the Egyptian example in their Suez takeover.
Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, I think it is imperative and indeed more than timely for this subcommittee to favorably report out one of the Canal Zone "sense of the House of Representatives" resolutions that has been introduced in this session of the Congress. We owe it especially to the negotiators since they need to be armed with American public opinion via their elected Representatives in the House. Hopefully, it will give them the necessary backbone and stamina to stand firm and protect U.S. interests in the Canal Zone. Even more important it would show the American people that the House of Representatives is indeed responsive to their wishes as well as our responsibilities and that the representative process is properly functioning. It would show the American people that the House is concerned and is willing to take a strong and firm stand about maintaining our rights abroad. We owe nothing less to the negotiators and even more importantly we owe nothing less to our duty as the peoples' elected Representatives.
Mr. FASCELL. Thank you very much, Congressman Hall, for your direct and concise statement on this issue.
There are several things I would like to inquire about very briefly. One is the citation of article IV of the Constitution with respect to the need and the right of the Congress to act with respect to the ceding of territory which is sovereign territory of the United States. If that constitutional provision applies in the case of Panama, then I don't understand what the difficulty is. The Congress would have to act; there would be no ifs, ands, or buts, would there?
Mr. Hall. I think you are exactly right. I think the Congress does have to act, but how often have we recently seen the executive branch act and the Congress be put in the position of a veto in reverse after the fact, Mr. Chairman? I just don't want that to happen. I think your hearings will give the stamina to our negotiators to see that it does not happen.
Mr. FASCELL. Well, the point is that if an agreement is reached by the negotiators, it would have to be submitted to the Senate for ratification and then if it involved any ceding of sovereignty or land according to your interpretation, the Congress as a whole must legislate. We have had other testimony on this. Yesterday one of the witnesses pointed out several instances where indeed the Congress has acted. So I am frankly a little bit at a loss to understand, if that is the case, how the negotiators could do anything that this Congress and this administration would not have control over.
Mr. Hall. I hope in your exercise of oversight and surveillance and supervision of the other branches of our three legged Government built on a separation of powers that we just don't let it happen. I am sure the U.S. negotiators are aware of the fact that Congress must approve any disposal of U.S. property, however, I do not think they are aware of U.S. public opinion. Our resolutions would serve that purpose.
Mr. FASCELL. I see. Isn't the issue though really the fact that we are not giving anything away that is sovereign? Isn't that really the argument?
Mr. Hall. No. I think, Mr. Chairman, if I may submit, that all the research I have done as a man interested in the Panama Canal since I first bought my book in 1914 on the Panama Canal, and I still recall my Dad bringing it home to me and I still have that book, that this is the one case where regardless of any treaties, any conditions, any subsequent after the fact action the question of our sovereignty in the Canal Zone goes unquestioned, even by the Panamanians themselves.
Mr. FASCELL. I see. I thought that Panamanians today do not take that position. They do not admit that there is a sovereign right held by the United States. Isn't that what the dispute is about?
Mr. Hall. I am sure in your expertise and your long association with the Committee on Foreign Affairs you would know more about that than I do, even as a Member interested in the common defense of the Western Hemisphere from the Committee on Armed Services' point of view. We do have sovereignty that is as well written or that has been as often confirmed about our territorial sovereignty as in that of the Canal Zone.
Mr. FASCELL. One final question and then I will let my colleagues inquire.
Mr. Hall. Even our possessions in Cuba, as I understand it, would be subject to some international court for final decision as far as Guantanamo Bay is concerned perhaps, but this is not the case when it comes to the Panama Canal Zone.
Mr. FASCELL. Because of the gentleman's service on the Armed Services Committee and particularly since he has the opportunity to receive briefings on matters of this kind, I have been wondering about military concepts with respect to the canal. I understand its value, of course. But a lot of things have happened. We now have a two-ocean Navy. We have gone to missiles. We have increased our air capability. Some of our larger carriers can not even go through the canal. Submarines obviously can lie off both ends of the canal. It seems an obvious thing to me that no military commander today can afford to take into account in his military planning the use of the canal as a primary operational facility. It just would not be wise.
Mr. Hall. Mr. Chairman, in all of the contingency plans for the common defense, not only of the United States but particularly of the Southern Command, which is based in the Panama Canal Zone and has jurisdiction over any forces that we maintain in the Embassies in all of Latin America, there are plans for prepositioning prior to the outbreak of brush fire or holocaust. We do use that in all aircraft carriers of the Boxer class and below which are all but our supercarriers.
In fact, the canal was recently enlarged just for this purpose and I can only assure you and the members of your committee from one committee as to another and as colleagues that it is of vital importance to the defense, not only with the National Sealift Command, but from the point of view of oceanography, from the point of view of freedom of the seas, but from the point of view of using it to the maximum before it was interdicted in the event even of a major conflagration. Mr. FASCELL, Thank you.
Mr. MORSE. I want to thank you, Dr. Hall, for your help here on this very critical issue. You said categorically that in your view there is no doubt about the United States sovereignty of the area.
Mr. Hall. I would like to tell my colleague and classmate from Massachusetts that this is not only my opinion, he knows well that I am a ridge-runner surgeon and not a lawyer, but I have been assured by the highest authority and I posed this question years ago with the proper people in the Library of Congress, I am convinced there is no question of our control and sovereignty in this 50 mile by 10 mile strip in rough proportions.
Mr. MORSE. Let me read to you, Dr. Hall, because it may be helpful on the issue, article III of the treaty. I will read from a committee report of this subcommittee published on August 31, 1960:
The Republic of Panama grants to the United States all the rights, power, and authority within the zone mentioned and described in Article II of this agreement and within the limits of all auxilliary lands and waters mentioned and described in said Article II which the United States would possess and exercise if it were sovereign of the territory within which said lands and waters are located to the entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of any such sovereign rights, power, or authority.
Now reading from the committee report—that last was from the Treaty.
According to Minister Obaldia, U.S. jurisdiction is not full and complete, but a delegated and limited jurisdiction granted to the United States only in matters pertaining to "the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of said canal.” Moreover, Obaldia argued, the term “if it were sovereign” in Article III implies that the United States is not sovereign. He claimed that if Panama had had any intention of ceding sovereignty of the Canal Zone, only two articles would have been necessary in the treaty : "One specifying the thing sold and the other expressing the price of the sale."
Secretary of State Hay replied to the Minister's note as follows and this was back in 1903. If it could or should be admitted that the titular sovereign of the Canal Zone is the Republic of Panama, such sovereign is mediatized by its own act, solemnly declared and publicly proclaimed by treaty stipulations, induced by a desire to make possible the completion of a great work which will confer inestimable benefit upon the people of the Isthmus and the nations of the world. It is difficult to believe that a member of the family of nations seriously contemplates abandoning so high and honorable a position in order to engage in an even defense or to secure what at least is a barren scepter.
So it seems to me there is some ambivalence in that exchange and I wish I were as
Mr. Hall. I wish I could convince you, my colleague, because I think the time is upon us when we should deal not from the point of