POSTED ON AUGUST 29, 2007:
Caught between the third world and the socialists
"Can you say today that this is not a prelude to a North American union, similar to a European Union? Are there plans to build some kind of superhighway connecting all three countries? And do you believe all of these theories about a possible erosion of national identity stem from a lack of transparency from this partnership?"
These questions were occasioned by a press conference following last week's North American Leaders Summit in Montebello, Canada between President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It was the third such meeting since the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was formed in 2005 between the executive branches of the three nations.
The questions represent suspicions that have surrounded the SPP since its inception, for many see the agreement as a behind-the-scenes threat to U.S. sovereignty (for details, see UTW June 7-13, Cover Story "Trans America," at www.urbantulsa.com).
The initial agreement led to the formation of numerous ministerial-led working groups comprised of private citizens and a few government officials from each country for the purpose of finding ways to foster cooperation in the areas of security, border control, economic development, environmental protection and responses to pandemics and natural disasters.
In anticipation of last week's summit, the Virginia-based GrassFire.org began a petition opposing the SPP, which has since been circulated by various other grassroots organizations throughout the United States, including the local Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE).
"There is a strong movement underway to create a new North American 'framework' that links the U.S., Mexico and Canada in ways that are a direct threat to the sovereignty of the United States. The centerpiece of current efforts is the SPP--a trilateral arrangement made without congressional approval to facilitate economic, legal and political integration in this new North American 'framework,'" the petition reads.
Originally, the goal of the petition was to rally 100,000 signatures in time for the Aug. 20-21 summit.
Grassfire spokesman Ron DeJong told UTW that 168,150 signatures had been collected by about that time, but an opportunity didn't present itself to get the document in the hands of the President.
He said the group's revised goal is to collect at least 200,000 by Labor Day and to deliver it to Capitol Hill.
At the time of this writing, 3,215 of the petition's signatures came from Oklahoma, "which is a pretty good representation," DeJong said.
At about the time DeJong and his group were beginning to circulate their signature, 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives also signed a petition of sorts--a letter dated Aug. 6, calling on Bush "not to pledge or agree to any further movement in connection with the SPP at the upcoming North American summit."
"Rather, in the interest of transparency and accountability, we urge you to bring to the Congress whatever provisions have already been agreed upon and those now being pursued or contemplated as part of this initiative, for the purpose of obtaining authorization through the normal legislative process," the document continued.
The lawmakers wrote that "the SPP process... is being conducted in a secretive manner with a view to 'harmonizing' U.S., Canadian and Mexican policies, regulations and practices in ways that may actually undermine our security and sovereignty.
"For instance, measures that would make it easier to move goods and people across borders could have the effect of further weakening this country's ability to secure its frontiers and prevent illegal immigration."
The congressmen and women also wrote that "such secretiveness seems not to be accidental," pointing to difficulty experienced by the watchdog group "Judicial Watch" in obtaining information about an SPP-related "North American Forum" conference, attended by U.S. government and corporate officials.
The group only managed to obtain information through vigorous use of the Freedom of Information Act.
According to notes obtained by Judicial Watch, the letter stated, "Conferees made reference to using a practice called 'evolution by stealth' to prevent significant opposition from developing to the desired end-state: a supranational North American association of some kind."
Twenty-one Republicans and one Democrat signed the letter.
Signers included Reps. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Virgil Goode (R-VA), John Boozman (R-AR) and Nancy Boyda (D-KS).
None of Oklahoma's congressional delegation signed it.
However, John Tidwell, communications director for Congressman John Sullivan, last week told a gathering of the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly that the lawmaker agrees with the concerns outlined in the letter and plans to join efforts already under way on Capitol Hill to oppose any movements toward a North American union.
"As I have traveled throughout the district during August, many of my constituents have indicated to me their concern over the proposed NASCO Highway. I have promised those constituents that I will take these concerns back to Congress and Washington," Sullivan later told UTW.
"While we need to consider our nation's transportation and trade needs, I will not do so at the expense of our nation's sovereignty. Border security, jobs and our nation's sovereignty are important issues that cannot be overlooked in any international partnership," he added.
Spokespeople for other members of northeastern Oklahoma's congressional delegation did not return UTW's telephone calls, with the exception of Democratic Congressman Dan Boren, whose representative said he was on vacation at the time and unavailable for comment.
While members of Congress have heeded protests raised by citizens in opposition to the SPP, the President himself has so far taken those concerns less seriously.
"I'm amused by some of the speculations, some of the old--you can call them political scare tactics," Bush said in answer to questions about the SPP's purported efforts to bring about a North American union, and its reputed lack of transparency.
"If you've been in politics as long as I have, you get used to that kind of technique where you lay out a conspiracy and then force people to try to prove it doesn't exist. That's just the way some people operate," Dubya jovially continued.
"So I appreciate the question. I'm amused by the difference between what actually takes place in the meetings and what some are trying to say takes place. It's quite comical, actually, when you realize the difference between reality and what some people are talking on TV about," the President concluded.
While Bush's Canadian and Mexican counterparts joined him in laughing off the inquiry, the questioners didn't see the humor.
"The President belittled those who ask those kinds of questions," said DeJong.
"He was dismissive of the issue, he didn't take the concerns expressed by the public seriously and he brushed aside the letter from members of Congress as 'political posturing,'" said OK-SAFE vice president and Broken Arrow resident Ken Sellers.
"It's all well and good to give the topside platitudes, but that doesn't tell us what's going on: the subjects they're working on, the agreements they're coming to and what regulations they're harmonizing--that's where the real substance is," he added. "If it's nothing, why doesn't he take it to Congress for their approval?"
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