Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN (Ret.), a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in closed session last summer that the U.S. is heading toward a confrontation with China over the Panama Canal, according to testimony obtained by WorldNetDaily.
“I’m an old sailor now, but I know trouble when I see it, and Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of this committee, I see big trouble in Panama — trouble that could evolve quickly into a conflict in our own hemisphere with world-wide implications,” said Moorer. “Mr. Chairman, I speak of the transfer of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian government under the circumstances which now exist. There’s far more going on there than meets the eye.”
The June 16, 1998, hearing was titled “The Panama Canal and U.S. Interests,” with Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC, presiding. The hearing came three weeks after similar issues were raised in WorldNetDaily in a May 25 WorldNetDaily article, “The Panama-China connection.”
The admiral’s initial remarks demonstrated his alarm over the military’s state of readiness.
“Mr. Chairman, I maintain that the status of our military readiness is at an all-time low as regards our ability to defend our country, and at an all-time high as regards the threat to our national security, especially in our own hemisphere,” he said. “Despite the fact that we have engaged in more so-called ‘contingency’ military operations than under any previous administration in the history of our nation, our military forces have suffered 14 consecutive cuts in the defense budget, invalidating the long-standing policy of our country to be able to win two major contingencies simultaneously. According to the distinguished chairman of the House National Security Committee, the Honorable Floyd Spence of South Carolina, it is doubtful that we could win even one major contingency at this point. The United States Marine Corps, by its own admission, is prepared and trained to fight one — not two, but one — major contingency at present time.”
Admiral Moorer recited for the record statistics about defense expenditures and personnel levels, including the fact that in overall manpower, active duty military personnel suffered a 17.8 percent cut, down from 1,776,000 in ’93 to 1,459,000, despite the many so-called military contingencies and peace-keeping operations around the globe.
“As an example, we are spending $2.5 billion yearly in Bosnia alone, and are still presently heavily engaged in southwestern Iraq,” he said. “We are accepting military commitments, one after another, while simultaneously disarming America.”
Moorer revealed that Kosovo would be the next peace-keeping operation according to his Pentagon sources. Regarding Panama, Admiral Moorer reminded the committee of his military experience before delivering his grave estimate of the situation.
“Mr. Chairman, I have been honored to serve as this nation’s commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet; commander in chief, Atlantic and Atlantic Fleet; chief of naval operations, and chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said Moorer. “I truly can’t remember a time when I have been more concerned about the security of our country. …”
Moorer pointed out that Panama Ports Company (PPC) controls four of Panama’s major ports. He identified PPC’s principal owners as:
- Billionaire Li Ka-Shing (reportedly an ally “as close as lips and teeth” to Beijing, which offered Ka-Shing the governorship of Hong Kong ); Li Ka-Shing owns PPC’s parent company, Hutchinson-Whampoa Ltd.,
- China Resources Enterprise, an arm of the Chinese government identified as an “agent of espionage” by Sen. Fred Thompson. The entity is also a solid partner with the Lippo Group, owned by the Riady family of Indonesia, also identified as possible espionage agents for the People’s Liberation Army.
He also pointed out that the deal granting sweeping concessions to Hutchinson-Whampoa states that the company has the right to pilot all ships through the canal, raising the specter of the Chinese piloting U.S. Navy ships — or refusing to — after the U.S. hands over complete control next year.
Moorer attacked as illegal Panama’s “Law #5,” which permits other military forces, defense sites and installations in the canal zone and raised concerns about infiltration of Panama again by drug lords. In contrast to the indifference displayed by the State Department about Hutchinson’s grip on the canal ports, the admiral expressed grave concern before the committee.
“Hutchinson-Whampoa controls countless ports around the world,” he said. “My specific concern is that this company is controlled by the Communist Chinese. They have virtually accomplished, without a single shot being fired, a stronghold on the Panama Canal, something which took our country so many years to accomplish — the building and control of the Panama Canal, along with military and commercial access in our own hemisphere.
“True, Hutchinson-Whampoa Ltd. is listed on the London Stock Exchange. What does that mean? Not a thing. Many companies in the United States, in the past, were perfectly legitimate companies, although funded by the Mafia. A stock exchange listing is inconsequential and not a reliable reference.”
Moorer read from his eerily prophetic 1978 Senate Armed Services Committee testimony “… The defense and use of the Panama Canal is wrapped inextricably with the overall global strategy of the United States and the security of the free world. I submit that if the United states opts to turn over full responsibility for the maintenance and operation of such an important waterway to a very small, resource poor and unstable country as Panama and then withdraws all U.S. presence, a vacuum will be created which will quickly be filled by proxy or directly by the Soviet Union, as is their practice at every opportunity. Also noteworthy is the fact that in July of last year, a soviet commission visited Panama, seeking port and airport concessions and offering economic assistance.”
After reading the excerpt he added, “The Soviet Union’s thinking and conclusions about the canal, and their approach to gain control of this important strategically situated waterway, was not lost on the Chinese Communists. They have replicated the Soviet Union’s intent to the letter — quickly, silently, and successfully.”
On Hutchinson’s transferable “rights” under law # 5 to another company or nation, Moorer said: “This assignment, Mr. Chairman, could be given to Cuba, the actual Chinese government, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or any other stated opponent of the United States, including rogue states who sponsor terrorism and who have nuclear bombs aimed at this country right now. For instance, I believe the Communist Chinese have 13 such missiles aimed at our country presently. … I, for one, cannot understand why our government has passively permitted this ‘law #5’ to happen, thereby endangering our security interests in this hemisphere.”
Moorer identified the most important U.S. installation in Panama: “All ports in the Panama Canal are of strong strategic importance to this country, Mr. Chairman. But the most important U.S. military installation there is Howard Air Force Base, located on the Pacific side, which has the aircraft-capable airfield for conducting U.S. military or oversight operations. In 1994 alone, the U.S. military spent more than $4 billion in repairs and improvements at Howard.”
On the strategic importance of the Panama Canal to the U.S. he said: “The canal is the only viable way to transport oil to the East coast and Gulf of Mexico from the West. And in every military conflict — past, present, or future — control of the canal has been and will remain an absolutely essential factor. Additionally, in either the Pacific or the Atlantic, the United States must be able to utilize the canal freely and without constraint to transport heavy armor, food, supplies and troops.”
Moorer expressed frustration with the Clinton administration’s approach to national security as the date Dec.31, 1999, nears — the date the U.S. relinquishes the last vestiges of control over the canal.
“War is indeed Hell,” he said. “It’s bad enough when it’s fought on foreign soil, in another hemisphere, away from the uninterrupted lives of American citizens. But the American people would rightfully hold our government responsible if war comes to this hemisphere. Under the present conditions, it’s not a matter of if, but when, in my judgment. How long will it take for us to comprehend that a ‘politically correct’ military is no substitute for a lethal force, capable of handling two major contingencies at once, especially if one of those contingencies is in this hemisphere?”
He continued: “We are not talking here about an ill-funded Nicaraguan effort against the Communists in the late ’80s; we are talking about the control of a strategic part of the world in our hemisphere, shortly to be controlled by the largest country on earth, Communist China, financially flush and people-strong with a growing imbalance of men over women. … I can tell you honestly and truthfully, with strong conviction, that somebody needs to take a long, hard look at our vulnerability in the Panama Canal Zone.”
The admiral concluded with a call for action.
“I don’t like to offer constructive criticism without a proposed solution, and it is a simple one, in my view: Stop the process in Panama now. Don’t relinquish another square foot of American bases in Panama unless and until the neutrality agreement already in place is honored by the Panamanian government. The Congress should pressure the administration to get their act together in the Panama Canal Zone. … Demand that the Congress and this administration protect the American people and our strategic interest in the Panama Canal Zone before we reach that point of no return. … We have dropped the ball in the Canal Zone, and the game is almost over. Let us not go into overtime. Let’s act now.”