China's growing influence in Panama
Geoff Metcalf interviews John McManus of the John Birch Society

By Geoff Metcalf
On Nov. 30, 1999, President Clinton told an assembly of reporters in the Oval Office that the communist Chinese would soon run the most important strategic and commercial waterway in the world.

"I think the Chinese will, in fact, be bending over backwards to make sure that they run it in a competent and able and fair manner," Clinton said, acknowledging the reality that a communist Chinese company would soon control the canal after the scheduled end-of-year pullout of U.S. forces.

"They'll want to demonstrate to a distant part of the world that they can be a responsible partner," the president said." And I would be very surprised if any adverse consequences flowed from the Chinese running the canal."

Within a day or two, the president retracted his explosive admission.

One month later, on Dec. 31, 1999, the United States relinquished control of the American-built multi-billion-dollar Panama Canal, fulfilling the controversial 1978 treaty signed by President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian dictator Omar Torrijos. Despite lawsuits, congressional challenges and dire warnings from the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Thomas Moorer, the canal was turned-over to the corrupt and militarily weak Panamanian government. As a result, much influence -- some even believe de facto control -- over the Canal Zone and its operations is believed to be China's due to its control over ports at both ends of the canal.

The question now is, what will really happen in Panama now that the U.S. troops are gone and how will it affect American security?

John F. McManus has a unique perspective on the military and on the economic issues involved. He is president of the John Birch Society -- a favorite target of liberals and conservatives alike. Indeed, for years the JBS has been scoffed at by many as a paranoid, conspiratorial, "sky-is-falling" hard-right organization.

Except that, very often, the John Birch Society has proven to be right on target. In "The 40-year gun grab," for instance, WorldNetDaily documented conclusively that the Birch Society's decades-old claims -- long ridiculed as ludicrous -- that the U.S. government's infamous "Document 7277" represented a "blueprint" for disarming Americans were actually true.

According to its website, the John Birch Society is primarily an educational organization, formed to "restore and preserve freedom under the United States Constitution, expose and rout those forces working to enslave mankind, and then to inspire others throughout the world to follow the example of America's newly recovered freedoms." WorldNetDaily reporter Geoff Metcalf talked to McManus about China's increasing influence -- not only in Panama but in other Western Hemisphere locations as well.

Question: How serious a threat is communist China, strategically, to the U.S. because of what has happened in Panama?

Answer: They are building up in Panama. They haven't yet brought in military people as far as we know. However, we know that Li Ka-Shing is the head of Hutchison Whampoa. They have control of the port cities at both ends of the canal and they are moving into the former military bases we had there. Recently, the Washington Times put out a report that said our own military had filed a report that the Chinese threat in Panama is growing and that Li Ka-Shing, the head of this corporation, is directly tied to the Beijing government, the People's Republic of China. So, all of this business that they are just a lot of people doing some stevedore work is a lot of hooey.

Q: What about that slip of the tongue the president made back in December when he said that the Chinese were going to do a good job of running the canal? His aides jumped through assorted hoops after that, saying he really didn't mean it.

A: That's right. Their jaws dropped right down to their knees. Within a few days, the president, too, said he had "misspoken." But, the fact is, what he said was correct. It's probably one of the most truthful things that Bill Clinton has ever said. He did say the Chinese would be running the canal.

Back in the '70s, we used to worry about the Soviet Union taking over the canal because Omar Torrijos was a communist and he was friendly with Castro and with the Soviets. But we don't have to worry about the Soviet Union now -- it's not there. Not that communism isn't still a problem, even in Russia.

But, now we have red China on the doorstep. These are the people who have called the United States their number one enemy. They have said that if they get into a flap with Taiwan and the U.S. tries to move to help Taiwan, they just might move to incinerate Los Angeles.

Q: How significant a strategic threat is Panama really? Once upon a time, it was considered to be monumentally significant. Now, we get a lot of naysayers saying, "Well, we don't really take the big, big ships through there anymore. The Navy doesn't depend on it. They have alternative plans and routes." How serious a threat is it?

A: The only ships that can't go through there are the big carriers. But Adm. Clarence Hill, who is a friend of mine and used to be a skipper of a carrier, points out that a carrier will run out of fuel for its aircraft in five and a half days, run out of ammunition in three and a half days and has to be constantly re-supplied. He said re-supplying carriers, when he was running one, used to come through the canal. What good is a carrier if it doesn't have fuel for its aircraft and ammunition for its aircraft? So, it is a military asset, even for the carriers that can't go through it.

Q: Rep. Helen Chenoweth is trying to do something in Congress. And although she may win the academic argument about the treaties being null and void, the reality is the Chinese are there. What is or isn't going to happen in Congress?

A: We don't know. The bill calls for a decree of nullity on the Carter-Torrijos Treaties of 1978 for good reason. The two countries signed different agreements, and, therefore, there is no agreement. There is something else -- termination of a treaty is a congressional act -- not a presidential act -- and there was no termination of the 1903 treaty that gives us the Panama zone in perpetuity to the entire exclusion of any claims by Panama. That treaty is still in effect, in a legal sense, and the 1978 treaties are not. They are null and void and there are plenty of constitutional authorities way beyond the John Birch Society, people who might not agree with us about a lot of other things, who certainly agree that when two nations sign a treaty and the wording is different, in fact, diametrically opposed, there is no treaty.

Q: You are right. Academically, we win the argument, but the fact is the United States is not there now, and the Chinese are.

A: If the Chinese entrench themselves even more, it is going be even harder to get it back. But should it be taken back? That is the question. The answer is: absolutely.

Will Congress do it? Based on performance in recent years, I'd say no. But, if they get enough pressure from back home, they might.

There is a lot of pressure on all those people back there. Some of them would never do the right thing; they are really enemies of our nation. But, I think most of them have the wet finger in the wind wondering which way the wind is blowing and which way they have to go to stay in office.

What we have tried to do throughout the history of the John Birch Society is to energize the people back home so that they get a hold of their congressmen and their senators and say, "Hey, it's about time you do the right thing, and if you don't, we'll get somebody else."

Q: I know your group puts out these TRIM reports periodically. We always say you have to hold these folks accountable for both what they do and what they don't do. Unfortunately, most people don't really know what they do and don't do unless something really big comes up.

A: That's right. But, where we have goodly numbers of people and wide distribution of those TRIM bulletins, they have a huge impact. There have been many congressmen who have looked at these things in terror and say, "Oh golly, I hope they're not going to spread these things around the district." Unfortunately, we don't have the numbers we would like to have. We are growing, though. We are on a bit of a roll.

Q: It is fascinating. Most people don't even know what the John Birch Society is. They just say it's bad. It has been so demonized and so marginalized. But the reality is, it is probably one of the best educational resources out there regarding constitutional issues. It is just recently that you guys have been kind of validated.

A: Yes, as Joe McCarthy is being kind of validated. When you get into the Venona papers and the archives out of Russia, Joe McCarthy is almost beginning to look good. If we had some of the money that these left-wing organizations have, it would be a whole new ballgame.

Q: What is the current status of the Panama Canal right now?

A: Li Ka-Shing and Hutchison Whampoa have the power to appoint the pilots to take the ships through. They have the power to decide which ships go through and which ships don't. I don't expect there will be anything dramatic in the near term.

But down the road, the potential for China to muscle the whole situation and make sure only their friends use the canal is there. The fact that the United States would allow a nation that considers us its number one enemy to take over property that belongs to the United States and in a facility that was built by our country with the people's money, it's just intolerable. The whole thing is just a perfect example of the terrible leadership we get and the fact that nobody wants to talk about it is evidence to me of conspiracy at high places in our government.

Q: Beyond even the capacity of the Chinese to open or close it and decide who goes through the canal or who doesn't, perhaps even more significant is their potential to establish a ground-based military presence.

A: Exactly. There is another aspect to this as well, and that's drugs -- from Colombia coming through Panama. China has been making war on us with drugs. Opium is a weapon that can be used to destroy a nation. Heroin can do it. They all can do it. Are we to sit here and say the Chinese are not interested in drugging the American people? Colombia's narco-terrorists have made it easier for the enemies of the United States to destroy us from within.

Q: How does Congress deal with the fact that the two versions of the 1978 treaty were different?

A: Most of the congressmen say, "Well, it's already a done deal and there is no sense in trying to stop it or do anything about it."

There is a great quote of Woodrow Wilson. He wrote a book in 1912 -- even before be became president -- "There is a power somewhere, so organized, so subtle, so pervasive, so complete ... that they better not speak above their breath if they speak in condemnation of it." He knew. And it is the same power that exists today, except it is much more powerful. Political correctness is what it is called. But when political correctness forces people to do things other than what they know is correct, it is evidence of conspiracy in our view.

Q: I've had posted to my website for years now a list from Cleon Skoussen's book "The Naked Communist" in which he lists a number of things that need to be accomplished in order for communism to win. If you run through that list, they have just about succeeded.

A: That's true. Things are getting darker and darker. However, I was in Washington, D.C., recently and I asked several congressmen, "Are you more encouraged or less encouraged than you were two years, three years, five years ago?"

Everyone I put that question to had the same response: "If I look around Washington, I'm less encouraged; I'm discouraged. But if I look around the country I see more people who are aware, more people who are getting involved, I am encouraged."

Q: What about that large container facility being built by the Chinese in the Bahamas?

A: They have already taken over the port facilities in the Bahamas.

Q: Does that mean the Devil's Triangle needs to be redrawn between the Bahamas, the Panama Canal and Long Beach, Calif.?

A: That's quite a triangle. The Bahamas are already in the hands of Hutchison Whampoa and that's right off the coast of Florida.

Q: Do people just not understand that with all these companies, Hutchison Whampoa and COSCO (the Chinese Ocean Shipping Company), for example, there is more than just a symbiotic relationship between the government in Beijing and these companies, that these are, in effect, really subsidiaries of the communist Chinese government?

A: Exactly. Anybody who thinks that Li Ka-Shing could do anything that the Chinese communists don't want -- or that he could fail do what they do want -- is living in a dream world. In April of 1998, our own military put out a report, recently covered by the Washington Times. In that report, it said that Li Ka-Shing has direct ties to the Chinese army and does the bidding of the Beijing government. Our own military admitted that 18 to 20 months before the deadline of turning over the canal.

People in government know. Bill Clinton knows. Madeleine Albright knows. Some of the senators know. Recently, I was at a Senate hearing and I sat next to Adm. Moorer for four and a half hours. The senators wouldn't let the admiral talk.

Q: Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and they wouldn't let him talk? That's amazing.

What's your take on the China / Taiwan situation? There are rumblings it could happen anytime within the next 10 years.

A: I don't think there is going to be a military confrontation between Taiwan and China.

I think China will work toward doing to Taiwan what they have just done to Hong Kong -- more or less absorb them. If I were in Taiwan, I would be figuring out what I should do to survive. If the nationalist Chinese in Taiwan just look back over history, over the last 50 years, they would realize that every time something happened, they were betrayed by Washington, D.C. If they rely on Washington, D.C. now, I believe they will be betrayed again.

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