Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who has served America as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, Chief of Naval Operations, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a genuine American legend. As a young lieutenant commander at Pearl Harbor, Moorer was the only aviator able to scramble his plane, a PBY "flying boat," after the Japanese attack. He and his crew, who were then the sole eyes and ears of the U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, flew for 17 hours in search of the Japanese fleet and provided intelligence to U.S. commanders. Admiral Moorer serves as honorary chairman of U.S. Defense-American Victory, a private educational group dedicated to America’s defense and national security.
Rear Admiral C. A. "Mark" Hill began his naval career in World War II as a lieutenant on the U.S.S. Ray, one of the most decorated submarines of the war. From the submarine fleet he went into naval aviation, piloting both propeller and jet attack aircraft. During the Vietnam War he commanded the aircraft carrier Independence. Later he served as assistant chief of naval operations and as the Navy’s diplomatic representative to Brazil. He is the government affairs representative for the Naval Aviation Foundation and chairman of U.S. Defense-American Victory.
Admirals Moorer and Hill were interviewed by The New American senior editor William F. Jasper at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C., on February 10, as the U.S. Senate began final deliberations in the impeachment trial of President Clinton.
Q: Both of you gentlemen have been quite vocal in the past year on a wide variety of issues concerning America’s defense and national security. But I would like to start with the Panama Canal, since, in a matter of ten months, under the fraudulent 1978 Carter treaties, we are scheduled to turn over the Canal Zone to Panama. Aren’t there a number of very serious concerns involved with this matter that are being ignored by the Clinton administration, Congress, and the media?
Adm. Moorer: Yes, one of the issues which we have been addressing lately that has been completely ignored by just about everybody is the fact that the Red Chinese are poised to effectively take control of the Panama Canal. As your magazine pointed out very well in your issue on "Chinagate," the Clinton administration, in numerous ways, has been helping China build its military forces into a formidable, modern threat that can challenge our interests around the world. But the Panama Canal is very close to home and is one of our most vital commercial and military assets.
In 1996, while China was illegally pouring millions of dollars into Clinton’s reelection effort, it was also funneling huge amounts of cash to Panamanian politicians to ensure that one of its front companies, Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong, could move in when we vacate. In 1997, Panama secretly turned over the American-built port facility at Balboa, which controls shipping on the Pacific side, and at Cristobal, which controls shipping on the Atlantic side, to Hutchison. Over the next several months we are scheduled to turn over Rodman Naval Station, Howard Air Force Base, and other important military facilities to Panama, which has given Hutchison an option on these bases.
This means that very soon we could see Communist China in control of one of the world’s most strategic waterways in our own backyard. President Clinton may say that they are our friends and allies, but the Chinese military and Communist Party literature refer to the United States as "the main enemy." And despite what President Clinton, Henry Kissinger, and the media may tell you about "reform" in China, it is still run by a brutal, totalitarian, Communist regime that will do us harm if and when it thinks it can get the better of us.
Q: Yet almost no one, it seems, is aware of these developments in Panama and the impending transfer.
Adm. Hill: Let me give you a striking illustration of the near-total ignorance of this vital matter by otherwise well-informed leaders. I’m a director of a New York corporation, and I was up there two weeks ago for our annual meeting. At a breakfast before the meeting, I was sitting at a table with a dozen other directors when the chairman of our company asked me what I was working on currently. I told him I was working on this business of stopping the Red Chinese from taking over the Panama Canal in the year 2000. He said, "What?!" — very surprised. "How are they going to do that?" he asked. I said, "It’s something called Panama Law No. 5." He turned to the other directors, who are all successful businessmen and generally well-informed Americans, and asked, "Have any of you gentleman heard anything about this?" Not a single one of them had, and all were shocked and disturbed to find out what is happening.
Q: The only time it seems to rate mention is when some politician or commentator is dismissing the importance of the Panama Canal to the United States.
Adm. Moorer: It is astounding to me that reputedly intelligent politicians and supposed military experts are still able to get away with the perennial false arguments that have been so resoundingly refuted about the Panama Canal being obsolete and of no strategic value. That is simply not true. About 95 percent of our routine logistic support goes by sea, and most of that can transit the Canal. It saves about 13,000 miles and a couple weeks in time as compared to sailing around the Cape.
Adm. Hill: Admiral Moorer and I both testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 16, and, if you look at that testimony, you will see that it was followed up with a rebuttal by U.S. Ambassador to Panama William Hughes, the former New Jersey Democratic congressman. Ambassador Hughes, arguing for the administration, offered all of the standard clichés and fallacies about the canal. We then provided a 21-page, point-by-point refutation of Hughes’ rebuttal by Admiral Moorer and William Bright Marine, a businessman and Panamanian presidential candidate. The son of an American father and a Panamanian mother, Mr. Marine is a U.S.-Panamanian dual citizen. He was imprisoned and tortured by Manuel Noriega and has firsthand knowledge of Panama’s importance as a narcotics thoroughfare. This combination testimony by Admiral Moorer and Mr. Marine is very important because it specifically and factually refutes all of these false arguments that are constantly raised to justify our abandonment of the Canal.
Q: You wrote the foreword, Admiral Moorer, to Death Knell of the Panama Canal?, the recent book by Commander G. Russell Evans, which is an excellent and timely source on this subject. But what can be done to avert this looming disaster?
Adm. Moorer: Our organization, U.S. Defense-American Victory, is working to stop the Panama Canal transfer and render the treaties null and void. As you know, there was a great deal of skullduggery involved, both by the Carter State Department and the Torrijos regime in Panama, which involved, among other things, the ratification of very different and contradictory treaties by Panama and the United States. In fact, Panama never ratified its treaty as required by the Panamanian constitution. President Lacas assured me he never signed it, and it was not submitted to the Panamanian people for a plebiscite vote, as required. It was illegally strong-armed through by Omar Torrijos.
Many members of Congress know this but have not had the courage or integrity to challenge what is obviously a longstanding and dangerous fraud. We intend to mobilize a great many Americans to hold Congress and the administration to account. As Admiral Hill pointed out with his anecdote about the directors' breakfast, most people are completely in the dark about this, but once they learn of it they are appalled and demand that something be done. We are trying to inform and mobilize Americans to take concerted action to motivate Congress. The Canal giveaway is not a completely "done deal" — yet.
It is important to look at the Panama Canal situation in terms of China’s overall maritime strategy. China is working on the Malacca Straits down by Singapore. They have a station at the island of Tarawa and are establishing themselves throughout the Pacific. They’ve put an 8,000-foot runway on the Paracel Islands and are establishing a base on the Spratly Islands (between Singapore and the Philippines), which they are aggressively making claims on in spite of the Philippines’ claims to the islands. The United States was stupid enough to give up our Subic Bay Naval Base, which the Chinese also tried to get. Fortunately, the Philippine military was savvy enough to turn them down.
Adm. Hill: When we speak of a maritime strategy for the United States, too often people think there is a certain parochialism involved on the part of the Navy. But a maritime strategy is really a logistic strategy for our forward deployed forces. We are, in a sense, an island nation, and we cannot support our forward deployed forces without having control of the sea lanes. It is not just a matter of being able to do something with our fighting forces — the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines — it’s a fact that none of these forces can do anything if they don’t have the logistics.
Q: Americans, unfortunately, are woefully ignorant of world geography in general and of geo-strategic maritime choke points in particular. Why is an appreciation of this so vitally important?
Adm. Moorer: Admiral Hill put his finger on the key word: logistics, the critical factor in any military operation. You cannot unload a division of troops ashore without having a steady stream of food, ammunition, uniforms, fuel, medical supplies, etc. The Air Force, for example, has the bulky problem of fuel — massive quantities of fuel — if it is going to have sustained operations. The fuel demand is tremendous when you have bombers, fighters, transports, and helicopters. You can’t fly fuel into a foreign base in adequate amounts to fulfill their requirements. When you talk about moving logistic support by airlift you’re talking about ounces; when you talk about logistic support that actually takes place with ships, you’re dealing in tons. That’s why the flexibility of movement of the maritime forces from ocean to ocean has been vital to the success of our strategy. And that’s why it is vital to our survival to recognize when a hostile nation maneuvers to gain strategic dominance of these sea lanes. Unlike most other countries, we haven’t been invaded and destroyed, and haven’t had full-scale combat here on our own soil for over 100 years. One reason for this is that we are a maritime power.
Adm. Hill: There are many examples that illustrate the vital nature of logistics. One excellent example goes back to the Carter administration, during the oil crisis, when we needed to get a carrier group to the Persian Gulf area. At the time the Midway was stationed at Yokosuka, Japan. The easiest, quickest solution would have been to send the Midway. But Japan was totally dependent on Middle East oil. It’s never really come out, but the Japanese told us through diplomatic channels that we couldn’t use the Midway because the OPEC producers might retaliate and cut Japan’s energy lifeline. We had to send the Coral Sea carrier group from our West Coast, which was much more time-consuming and costly. It took every oiler we had in the Pacific fleet to get her there.
Another important point: We have never maintained our forces in any area for a substantial period of time in action more than 500 to 1,000 miles from a logistics stock point. We couldn’t have maintained our forces in Vietnam without Subic Bay. Politics often can come into play in many ways to deny us use of certain of our assets, which is why we have to have flexibility and multiple options.
Q: How do you view the escalation in the use of U.S. forces for UN-related operations throughout the world?
Adm. Moorer: Increasingly we have been deploying U.S. forces in so-called "peacekeeping" operations like Bosnia, Macedonia, Somalia, Haiti — and now, today, as we’re sitting here, the administration is proposing a new operation in Kosovo. These operations have been very costly, both in terms of dollars taken from the budget that should go toward defending our own country, and in terms of expended equipment and supplies that are not being adequately replaced. Even though we have had more of these "contingency operations" under President Clinton than under any previous administration, we have suffered 14 consecutive cuts in the defense budget, invalidating the longstanding policy of our country to be able to win in two major contingencies simultaneously. According to Representative Floyd Spence, the distinguished chairman of the House National Security Committee, it is doubtful that we could win even one major contingency at this point. The U.S. Marine Corps, by its own admission, is prepared and trained to fight one, not two, major contingencies at the present time. We are spending $2.5 billion yearly in Bosnia alone and are still heavily engaged in Iraq.
In my opinion, any deployment of forces has to be directly tied to our national security or it is an unwise and improper use of our military forces. We should not be using our forces to serve UN or other multilateral objectives. If you cannot relate military deployment concretely to our national security — that is, primarily, protecting the American people and their property — then I don’t think you have a case for deployment.
Now, the American people need to understand that sometimes protecting our national security interests does involve foreign deployment of our forces. The communist attempt to take over the Dominican Republic, for instance, justified the use of our forces. The Soviets already had a foothold in the Caribbean, in Cuba, and were backing the insurrection in the Dominican Republic. We quickly put together both sea-based amphibious forces and paratroopers, and we quelled the revolution and spoiled the Soviet plans to create a new base of operations there. I think it is important for the public to realize that if you’re serious about defending the nation you can’t just sit and wait until the enemy, or potential enemy, gets control of all the strategic positions and is capable of threatening our basic defense, which is forward deployed forces. We have forces in the Mediterranean, the Western Pacific, and elsewhere, and those have a national security purpose.
Q: You were at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. What are the potential Pearl Harbors that we face today?
Adm. Moorer: People frequently ask me to tell them about Pearl Harbor. I tell them I remember just one thing: Before the attack lots of people were writing articles and making speeches claiming we were spending too much money on defense. But as soon as the first bombs fell on Pearl the expression on everybody’s faces changed, and then the same people were asking, "Why didn’t you buy more defense?"
As far as anticipating another "Pearl Harbor" surprise attack, there are a number of possible scenarios. With Red China in control of the Panama Canal, for instance, we would have to face the possibility that China could launch a missile attack just 900 miles from our shores. On a lower threat level, but still very serious, China could deny us access to the Canal at a time when it is very critical for us to have use of it for military action. Then we would be faced with a whole new predicament over what action to take in response to this denial of access. Many people are also badly mistaken by counting Russia out of the picture as a continuing threat. That is certainly not the case.
Adm. Hill: Russia is still a very viable threat. In fact, just yesterday the deputy director of the CIA, General Gordon, pointed out in an unclassified talk that the ICBMs that had been located in the periphery states of the former Soviet Union have now gone back to Russia. So they are under Russian control, and it is Russia that still represents the major strategic threat to our country — whether it’s Boris Yeltsin who sits as president in the Kremlin or any number of possible replacements who may soon take his place. Russia is still launching new submarines and bringing new weapons systems on line. And it is providing weapons systems and technical advice to many of our potential enemies and terrorist states, such as Iraq and Iran. Very few people seem to take note of the revival of the Soviet-Chinese axis, which has been underway. They’ve signed agreements and treaties and are cooperating in a number of areas.
Q: This Sino-Soviet axis is of enormous significance, and yet most of our "experts" as well as most of the American public still talk in terms of a "Sino-Soviet Split," taking false comfort in the belief that these two communist powers are too much at odds with each other to combine against us.
Adm. Moorer: Yes, and Mr. Yeltsin, actually, has paid a visit to the president of Red China, and they allegedly discussed how they could replace the United States as the leading superpower.
Adm. Hill: Nevertheless, while all of this has been developing before our eyes, the Clinton administration has taken unprecedented and incredible steps to help this Sino-Soviet axis by actively providing China with military and technical assistance on an enormous scale. The cumulative impact to our national security of all of these disastrous transfers is only beginning to be felt and evaluated — and it seems that almost daily we discover some new treacherous deal or policy that this administration has carried out that has seriously compromised our nation’s defenses.
Adm. Moorer: Technology is our very strong asset, our edge that compensates for the fact that Russia and China have us beat in quantity, with their vast numbers of military personnel and equipment. It is worse than ridiculous — it is indefensible to be giving away this technology to our adversaries as we have been doing. President Clinton maneuvered around the law and national security imperatives to permit the Loral and Hughes corporations to transfer very vital missile technology and satellite information to the Red Chinese. These and other offenses certainly border on treason, I think. We have this Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard, locked up, with some people saying he should be shot, but what he did I think pales next to what Clinton has done.
Adm. Hill: Since Admiral Moorer has mentioned the Pollard case, and since there has been a substantial campaign underway for some time to whitewash this case and exonerate Pollard, I think it is important to mention that Vice Admiral Dave Richardson recently sent me a two-page summary of what four former chiefs of naval intelligence have said about the Pollard case. According to the authoritative evaluation of these retired rear admirals, Pollard is every bit as bad as Soviet spies John Walker or Aldrich Ames and his espionage has seriously compromised our nation’s security, regardless of the arguments of his defenders that he only gave this information to Israel. This is very important, but I agree with Admiral Moorer that President Clinton’s actions have been far more damaging than Pollard’s.
Q: Recently I was talking with a retired Navy commander in California who mentioned his concern over the fact that virtually all of our naval bases on the West Coast have been shut down between San Diego and Seattle.
Adm. Hill: I guess that it is true. Mare Island is gone. Hunters Point is gone. Alameda is gone. Long Beach is gone — and Clinton has been trying to give it to COSCO, the Red Chinese shipping giant, which is part of China’s military, apparently in return for illegal campaign contributions to his re-election effort.
Adm. Moorer: President Clinton boasts about "small government" and how he supposedly has reduced the numbers of government personnel, but frankly, all of the reductions have come at the expense of our men in uniform, not by reducing the number of federal bureaucrats. And even today in the Washington Post, Secretary of Defense William Cohen essentially admits that the so-called Clinton military buildup is a fiction, a shell game of moving dollars around to give the appearance of accomplishing something. When I was Chief of Naval Operations we had 1,000 ships; now we’re down to 350 and the ship building plans won’t even maintain that.
Adm. Hill: It has been moving down very rapidly, as ships go out of commission, and when you have a major brand new carrier like the USS Truman and they have to admit that they can’t man it to its full complement, you know that something is terribly wrong. And we see this in all of the services: Retention of personnel is a major problem. The actual reason for this is not what you usually hear: pay scale, marital separations, the need for more leave, etc. The real cause is poor morale, and what this President and his administration have done to undermine the morale of our Armed Forces.
Q: Are you encouraged that President Clinton appeared to be making a dramatic reversal this week, announcing that he now favors some sort of missile defense system?
Adm. Moorer: Yes and no. It is encouraging insofar as it indicates that President Clinton recognizes that there is strong public support for a ballistic missile defense system. Polls repeatedly show that Americans overwhelmingly support deployment of such a system. In fact, polls show most Americans think we already have some sort of system in place. But the fact is, we do not; we are presently defenseless. But I have no confidence that the president intends to deploy any system.
Q: Admiral Moorer, in your testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, and in your letters to Representatives Henry Hyde and Tom DeLay, you have made quite clear your opinion that President Clinton should be convicted by the Senate and removed from office. As we sit here, it does not look like that will happen. What significance does that have for our country?
Adm. Moorer: I am afraid that it will not bode well for our country. As you have pointed out so well in The New American, the primary charges on which President Clinton should have been impeached and convicted are the many demonstrable offenses in which he has broken the law and jeopardized national security, particularly in those matters generally known as Chinagate. Like Admiral Hill, a man who has spent his entire life dedicated to preserving the security of the United States, I am absolutely appalled that this president has been able to so effectively decimate our nation’s defenses and get away with it. The president’s defenders and champions incessantly cite opinion polls as evidence that he should remain in office, but such arguments are baseless on several counts. First, many of the polls are suspect because the questions are devised and polling samples skewed to obtain a preordained favorable result for Clinton. Second, most people simply do not know a fraction of the truth about the devastating effect of his policies. "But if the discretion of the people has not been informed," Thomas Jefferson said, "how can their will be determinative?" If the people knew of all of the other falsehoods that have been engaged in, would their opinion of Clinton be the same? I hardly think so. And third, we are a republic governed by the Constitution and laws, not by opinion polls.
Although I find it unfathomable that the House would ignore matters like Chinagate and restrict its inquiry solely to the perjury and obstruction charges, I do believe that those charges are serious enough to warrant removal of the president. More than 68 years ago I took an oath to defend the Constitution, an oath that every member of the Armed Forces takes. President Clinton took a similar oath. And he also took an oath when he testified before the grand jury and swore his depositions. It is perfectly clear that he lied in these instances and that he has repeatedly lied to and misled the American people. During my years of military service, instilling a concept of honor and truthfulness — precepts which are so crucial in battle where lives are so dependent upon them — was always my first priority. Here we see a spreading stain of dishonor which is infecting the entire body politic. How can we expect members of our Armed Forces who may soon be ordered into battle to abide by a rigid code of honor and truth when their Commander in Chief is free to view such precepts with disdain?
But we cannot allow ourselves to become discouraged. We must continue our efforts to awaken the public to these vitally important matters that concern our country’s very existence. As we have said, when moral, responsible people find out the truth they are indeed concerned. So we must push on with even more determination.