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was Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board. There was a blackout of this particular subject, not only in the media, but also, I felt, in the U.S. Government.
But I think of even greater importance is the strategic significance of these efforts by Gen. Omar Torrijos in deestablishing the entire Central American region. This is only one part, obviously important, of a strategic effort by the Soviets and their surrogates, the Cubans, to deny the United States access to the Caribe Basin.
I have watched this over 3 years experience as the Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, and the frustration of being unable to get this, though, to the American people, but also to the officials of the Federal Government. That is one reason why I retired from active military duty.
As the Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, I was made painfully aware of the efforts by Cuba to export subversion throughout the hemisphere. This problem has been the subject of repeated resolutions by the Board over the past 15 years.
The latest resolution occurred during my tour, and my term as the Chairman of the Board, when the Board made a very strong statement, and transmitted the statement to the member governments, when the Cubans became involved in Africa. The implications of what was going on in Africa, at that time, the reflection of that problem back into this hemisphere.
Almost all of the countries that have been under attack by the leftist terrorists have produced extensive white papers, documenting the Cuban/Soviet involvement, and it is a matter of daily discussion over at the Inter-American Defense Board.
As a matter of fact, yesterday the Chief of the Nicaraguan Delegation asked for, and there was a special session of the InterAmerican Defense Board, to discuss this very subject.
Less obvious, and less discussed, however, has been the Panamanian involvement in this effort. From the standpoint of the InterAmerican Defense Board, the matter has been, and I am sure it is today, one of acute embarrassment. As a member of the InterAmerican Defense Board, Panama was officially committed to the security of the hemisphere, not its subversion. They are the members of the Rio Treaty, and they have kept a delegation in Washington at the Inter-American Defense Board since its inception.
As a matter of fact, in my position as the Chairman of the Defense Board, Gen. Omar Torrijos was one of my bosses, as was President Somoza and President Carter. I was under their-under the terms of the treaty, under their control.
My personal knowledge of Panama's involvement came from a 2hour conversation with Gen. Omar Torrijos in November 1977. He told me then of his intention to support the Sandinistas, to support the insurrection in not only Nicaragua but also El Salvador, and during this 2-hour conversation, he expressed the opinions that the Sandinistas were his good friends. The Sandinistas were just a bunch of good old boys. This meeting followed our biannual meeting of the Conference of the American Armies in Managua, Nicaragua, I traveled to Panama where a meeting with Gen. Torrijos had been arranged by the Chief of Delegation, at that time, Major Dubrai; at the meeting, with just Omar Torrijos and myself and my aide, Major Dubrai, who was born in Panama, and is a native speaker in the language.
While I was in the conference at Managua, which lasted a week, I had several private conversations with President Somoza, during which time he outlined, in great detail, the problems he was having with the Sandinistas. He told me at that time that he felt they were not only receiving support from Havana, but that some of the support was being funneled through Panama, and of course, he was very disturbed about this, and in turn I became disturbed, because the fact that the Panamanians were involved in this was a potentially disruptive development for the Inter-American Defense Board.
The mission of the Board is to look out for the security of the hemisphere, and we normally do not get involved in bilateral issues. But obviously, the threat to the hemisphere from the Communists and from the subversion, and knowing what we did about what was going on throughout the entire hemisphere, this was really a very distressing development.
The Panama Canal negotiations were getting cranked up, and I saw at this time that this was really a bad development.
When I met with General Torrijos, I brought this up, and I expected him to give me a denial. Well, much to my surprise, he not only did not deny it, but as I say, he said he would continue the support, and defended the Sandinistas. He told me at that time, he said you people on the Board get too worried about these Communists. That is not really a problem. He said you know there is a lot going on, socialism is the way of the future, and you people are behind the power curve on this. He had quite a bit to say about this.
In 2 hours, Gen. Omar Torrijos can say quite a bit, and he did. I respectfully disagreed with the General at that time, and pointed out that the Inter-American Defense Board, as a corporate body, not only disagreed with his point of view, but they violently disagreed with his point of view, the Sandinistas, and the entire subversive efforts in the Caribbean in particular, in Central America, was just not homegrown politics.
One point he made which I did not really pick up on at the time, after talking about the Sandinistas, he turned to El Salvador and he said, you know, my classmate, General Romero, wants to use tanks rather than talking. He said he is wrong, and I am going to do something about that situation, too.
I thought it was just a bit of conversation at the time, but in light of the events, I see that he was quite serious about it. Well, as I have said, the entire session was most disturbing.
I was on my way down the continent. Upon my return to Washington, I reduced this conversation, the salient points of the conversation with General Torrijos, to a memorandum, which I forwarded to the late Gen. George Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I also reported on the meeting that we had in Managua, where I felt things went very badly for the United States.
I also made a point, out of talking to the other responsible officials, in both State and Defense.
In light of the indictment in Miami last month, of five persons closely connected with the Panamanian Intelligence, the people who were indicted for illegally smuggling arms from the United States to the Sandinistas via Air Panama, I found that General Torrijos lived up to his promises. At that time, I never doubted that he would. Moreover, we have other disturbing reports that tend to indicate this thrust of what he is doing.
My decision to testify against the Panama Canal treaties before the Senate Armed Services Committee was, in part, influenced by my experience both in Managua and Panama. It was quite clear that General Torrijos was expanding his horizons to include support for revolution in Central America, and I believed then, and I believe today, that he is under the influence of Communist/Marxists within Panama and Cuba, and particularly Colonel, or I believe it is General Noriega.
General Torrijos expressed to me great admiration for Fidel Castro at this meeting. The whole tone of the meeting was one, as far as I could determine, and I had not detected this degree earlier, that Omar Torrijos was moving very quickly to the left as he expressed, that he was getting out in front of the movement to lead it. I believe the unseemly haste of the group of people advising President Carter at that time to consummate these treaties was just one more piece in a plan which has been devised to polarize this hemisphere into left and right, and I think that from a strategic standpoint, that is a tragedy for this country.
We divided up all of Latin America into good guys and bad guys. They are being designated as “human righteous.” This is all being done by a very small group in the White House and State. The fact that these “Good guys,” the guys with the white hats, are supplying arms, which you see here, they are supplying the training, money, support, a lot of this is coming out of the U.S. taxpayers' pockets, perhaps indirectly, to murder and maim' as General Noriega did in Nicaragua, without discrimination. As far as I am concerned, that makes a mockery out of the President's human rights policy.
In summary, I would like to make the following points to this committee. One, the United States has a vital critical national security interest in the Caribe basin. It is a strategic area. If you want to call the Persian/Arabian Gulf the faucet of the oil, the nozzle for the United States, it is located up in the Caribe basin. We have not built a refinery in 7 years in this country, and mostnot most, but a lot of our refining is done in that basin.
I think also the fact that the Mexican oil reserves are limiting at this time makes this area a strategic objective as far as the Soviets are concerned. I do not think the United States can afford to watch this area be stabilized by Fidel Castro, by Gen. Omar Torrijos, or the Soviets or anyone.
We have a vital interest in this area and it is about time we realized it. I think Gen. Omar Torrijos is actively aiding and abetting Leftist subversion in the area. It is apparent to me that he has nothing but scorn and contempt for this country, and our apparent weakness, the fact that he would stir this one up at this time to set a critical juncture in the whole Panama Canal negotiations and the implications of these treaties is another indicator of this attitude. I think that the present administration policies are counterproductive and, indeed, are supporting instability and confusion in not only the Caribe Basin, but also in the entire continent.
I think the Panama Canal treaties should not be implemented under the present circumstances. Rather, we should be examining other options to bring balance and moderation back into the Panama Canal problem.
The simple fact of this matter is that this country negotiated in haste, with complete disregard for the strategic realities, and these realities are now being used to blackmail the U.S. Congress into paying money which will support subversion in this hemisphere. It is quite apparent to me that the entire world is watching this comic opera performance as General Torrijos exploits this situation. They are very interested to see what will be the reaction of the United States.
Mr. Chairman, that completes my statement. I am now prepared to answer any questions that you may have.
Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you very much, Gen. Gordon Sumner, for your testimony.
General, you were Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board during the period 1975 to 1978, according to your testimony. Would you please outline for the subcommittee just what the InterAmerican Defense Board does?
General SUMNER. Certainly. It is the Inter-American Defense Board, the IADB, was created, it is the organ of the Rio treaty and its mission is to plan and recommend those measures they deem necessary for the defense of this hemisphere. The Board sits over Casa del Sogada on 16th Street. They are in constant attendance over there. They are senior military representatives from the countries. They have actually no juridical connection with the OAS. They are part and separate.
The only real connection we have with the OAS is the funding. They do fund the Board for us. This Board, sitting constantly, is a funnel of information coming in from this hemisphere concerning the various threats. The threats obviously, since 1962, has been the efforts of the Soviets and their Cuban surrogates to raise hell in this hemisphere and destabilize the entire area. They are doing it very successfully.
Mr. HUBBARD. General Sumner, who are the members of this Inter-American Defense Board and where do they come from?
General SUMNER. The members are the 19 countries that are signatories of the treaty. Incidently, Costa Rica is a member but, inasmuch as they claim not to have standing military forces, they do not have a delegation sitting with the Inter-American Defense Board.
As the Chairman, however, I did make the trip to Costa Rica to talk to the Minister of Defense, Minister Cartenier, and we discussed this particular problem. This was, I believe, in 1976. Because the Leftist terrorist efforts in Central America did not happen yesterday, they have been going on for years, and they have just not been reported and they have not been recognized particularly by the U.S. Government.
Mr. HUBBARD. General Sumner, in your statement you refer to a 2-hour conversation with Gen. Omar Torrijos in November 1977.
General SUMNER. Yes. Mr. HUBBARD. Where did that conversation take place? General SUMNER. It took place in his home in Panama City. He has a small residence there in his private office.
Mr. HUBBARD. Did you state that General Torrijos at that time made candid admission against his own interests when he told you of-I will quote you—“his intention to support rebellion and insurrection in his neighbor republics."'?
General SUMNER. That is correct. I went over the allegations by President Somoza and the information, the Inter-American Defense Board had on this, and he made no attempt to deny it at all. He said, yes, that is what we are doing. We have our own plans, we have our own ideas. We have our own path and we are going to
Mr. HUBBARD. It was in November of 1977 that General Torrijos indicated to you "his intention to support rebellion and insurrection in his neighbor republics”?
General SUMNER. That is correct.
Mr. HUBBARD. Do you have any idea what prompted him to say that to you?
General SUMNER. I think it was part of the conversation. We were talking about the security of the hemisphere, which is something I normally did when I met-I tried to meet with each of the Chiefs of State and brief them on what the Board was doing, what our concerns were. And he said, oh, I know very well about your concerns, and he knew very well about the resolution concerning the Cuban involvement in the terrorist activities in the hemisphere. So it was the logical buildup on that particular part of the conversation.
Mr. HUBBARD. I believe you stated that General Torrijos also addressed with you the issue of support for the Sandinistas?
General SUMNER. Yes, sir, he did. He said they were his good friends. They were a bunch of good old boys and we should not be concerned about them. We, the Board. You see, when I talked to Gen. Omar Torrijos, I am talking to him as the Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, not as an American lieutenant general, although I am sure he has difficulty in separating the two, the two roles, the two positions.
Mr. HUBBARD. When was it that General Torrijos expressed the view of support for the Sandinistas?
General SUMNER. When was it? This is at this meeting.
Mr. HUBBARD. You refer in your statement to a memorandum which you forwarded to the late Gen. George Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
, discussing the points you have outlined before the subcommittee.
Can you provide a copy of that memorandum for our record?
General SUMNER. No, I do not have a copy of this memorandum, but I am sure a copy of the memorandum could be acquired.
Mr. HUBBARD. Would you please make an effort to obtain that copy?
General SUMNER. I may have provided a copy of that. I testified before the Inter-American Affairs Committee, subcommittee of the