Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Rep Mike Krusee says that he knows of no plans to build a superhighway through Texas and that those who think otherwise are 'a bunch of nuts.' "

Urban legend of `North American Union' feeds on fears

May. 16, 2007

By Philip Dine
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Copyright 2007

WASHINGTON - Forget the conspiracy theories about JFK's assassination, the black helicopters, Sept. 11 or any others. This is the big one - as big, in fact, as the entire continent.

We're talking about the secret plan to build a superhighway, a giant 10- to 12-lane production, from the Yucatan to the Yukon, with an immigration and trade center in Missouri. This "SuperCorridor" is to allow the really big part of the plan to take place: the merging of the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico. Say goodbye to the dollar, and maybe even the English language.

The rumor is sweeping the Internet, radio and magazines, spread by bloggers, broadcasters and writers who cite the "proof" in the writings of a respected American University professor, in a task force put together by the ultra-establishment Council on Foreign Relations and in the workings of the U.S. Commerce Department.

As do many modern rumors, the fears of a North American Union begin with a few grains of truth and leap to an unsubstantiated conclusion.

"Nobody is proposing a North American Union," says Robert A. Pastor, a professor at American University to whom conspiracy theorists point as "the father of the NAU." They cite his 2001 book, "Towards a North American Community: Lessons from the Old World for the New," as the basic text for the plan. They also point to his co-chairmanship of a Council on Foreign Relations task force that produced a report in 2005 on cooperation among the three countries.

This is no backwoods rumor, no small-time concern. Google "North American Union" on the Internet and you'll find 85,600,000 references (as of Tuesday evening). When a Commerce Department official appeared on a C-SPAN show a few weeks ago, most callers asked about the North American Union.

On one recent day alone, Pastor says, he got 100 e-mails on the topic. "They get turned on by (CNN's) Lou Dobbs and (Fox's) Bill O'Reilly, who are fearful that Mexicans and Canadians are about to take over our country," Pastor says, adding that such claims are a product of "the xenophobic or frightened right wing of America that is afraid of immigration and globalization."

Not that he doesn't think cooperation - short of a merger - is a good idea. He's testified before Congress on improving coordination within North America.

"The three governments are trying to grope toward a better way to relate to one another, but they are trying to do it under the radar screen, because they know any initiative would be both controversial and difficult to get approval of," he says. "But precisely because they're doing it so quietly, the conservative crowd is concerned that they're really doing something important. But they're not. The real problem is that the three governments are asleep on the issue."

Missouri is a key element of the rumor. The state allegedly is to serve as a customs inspection station, described as "a huge hub of immigration and trade where Interstate 35 meets Kansas City."

The supposed superhighway is to be a monster, with high-speed passenger and freight rail lines attached to the many lanes, plus fuel pipelines, water, fiber optics and electric power, with gasoline and food concessions, stores, hotels and emergency services in the median. The whole thing would be as wide as four football fields and would carve up a number of states in the central United States.

Writing in the current edition of Range magazine, author Tom Findley explains: "Under the plan, more than 500 million people are meant to be literally incorporated into the North American Union as early as 2010. They are expected to share natural resources, military defense and a universal system of education that will alter long-held values, customs and traditions and even change their languages. Law enforcement, health care and cultural activities as well as virtually all trade will be financed with the new currency of the North Americans: the `Amero.'"

The evidence? The article doesn't say.

Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan writes that under the North American plan, "the illegal alien invasion would be solved by eliminating America's borders and legalizing the invasion."

Phyllis Schlafly, president of the conservative Eagle Forum, shares those concerns. "It looks like what (President George W.) Bush and his friends want is economic integration of the three North American countries, which is the only explanation I can see for his failure to close the border and obey the immigration laws," she said.

"We don't want to be integrated with any other country."

Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that promotes accountability in government and that gained fame for going after then-President Bill Clinton. He said that his group was "investigating" the rumors and that although it hadn't uncovered proof positive, the Bush administration was fueling suspicion by the way it was handling the issue.

"You've got all these ministries in the three countries working trilaterally on transportation, energy, food safety, health, pandemics and border security," Fitton says. "The concern from some on the right is that the process is not as transparent as it ought to be, and that it is a threat to sovereignty in the sense that they're talking about integration instead of just cooperation."

Fitton says much of the activity dates to the establishment on March 23, 2005, of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America by Bush, then-Mexican President Vicente Fox and then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Notes obtained from the U.S. government after a meeting in Canada in September 2006 contained the phrase "evolution by stealth," Fitton says, which he called "not exactly a phrase that inspires confidence coming from a government official. You see that kind of thing and you think the critics are right, or have reason to be concerned."

Chappell Lawson, an MIT political science professor with expertise in Mexico and political communications, said the efforts to coordinate among the three countries had merit - and problems.

"I think the three governments are going about this without a lot of input from civil groups and the general public, and I think there's not sufficient transparency in the process," he said. "The agenda isn't arrived at through a public and deliberative process. I think what they're doing is net beneficial, but it's probably going to have a pro-business bias to it."

Matt Englehart, spokesman for the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration, said the North American partnership "is absolutely not a precursor" to a loss of American sovereignty.

"It's about smart and secure borders, promoting the safe and efficient movement of legitimate people and goods," Englehart said.

He described the work being done among the three governments as "standard intergovernmental diplomacy and coordination that occurs all the time on various issues."

What about that highway?

The federal government has no plans for a superhighway, Englehart said, but "there are private and state-level interests" pushing something similar. "They describe themselves as NAFTA corridors, but they're not federally driven initiatives, and they're not part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership."

Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Texas, who is chairman of the state's House Transportation Committee, says that he knows of no plans to build a superhighway through Texas and that those who think otherwise are "a bunch of nuts."

He alleges that commentators who talk of a NAFTA highway or the like are exploiting people's fears.

"It's jingoistic pandering," Krusee said. "Pat Buchanan can try to sell some newspapers and Lou Dobbs can try to get more people to watch his little shows, but I've never heard of it. Certainly, it has never been discussed at any level of government in Texas."

Michael Barkun, a political scientist at Syracuse University who specializes in conspiracy theories, says a major theme has long been "that schemes are being hatched to destroy American sovereignty."

"The only thing that's new here is that it appears in the guise of a North American Union," Barkun says. "Previously it appeared in the guise of U.N. domination. I think whatever appeal this has may derive from the fact that there are pre-existing concerns about trade that have been around since the creation of NAFTA, and even more strongly the immigration issue in the sense of border security. So in a way it becomes an issue onto which all kinds of anxieties and concerns can be projected."

Doug Thomas, professor of communications, technology and culture at the University of Southern California, says the advent of the Internet has made conspiracy theories widely available, helping those who believe in such things "validate their beliefs."

"It's the speed and the distribution. "People are able to join in and flush them out a little quicker, so everybody can add a piece to the puzzle," he says.

After a few columns were posted on the Human Events Web site raising concerns about the North American Union, others were posted that ridiculed the notion.

"There's a much wider dissemination of counter information because of the Internet," Thomas says, "so while urban myths spread faster, they also get debunked sooner."


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