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Still waiting for that invasion

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Clinton administration's cavalier handover of the Panama Canal -- leaving an alleged front for the Chinese Red Army in control of the strategic passage -- despite the strong misgivings of some top foreign policy experts.

"If we do nothing, I can guarantee you that within a decade, a communist Chinese regime that hates democracy and sees America as its primary enemy will dominate the tiny country of Panama, and thus dominate the Panama Canal, one of the world's most important strategic points," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) told a House subcommittee on Dec. 7, 1999, as it debated the handover.

Retired Adm. Thomas Moorer warned that China could sneak missiles into Panama and use it as a launchpad for attacking the United States. And former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger wrote that fall that Panama's contract with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa to control ports at both ends of the passage was "the biggest threat to the canal."

Then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he was "alarmed" by the Chicom contract, which "could, in fact, be a threat to our national security." The Clintonites were "allowing a scenario to develop where U.S. national security interests could not be protected without confronting the Chinese Communists in the Americas," Lott said.

Loop spotters placed for the last decade at strategic locations in Panama, Nicaragua and other likely invasion routes say they have yet to see any Chinese troop movements north toward Texas and Mississippi.

But let's not get overly confident. Our spotters couldn't find Saddam Hussein's WMD, either.

Prize grab

Don't forget! It's the Loop Nobel Charities Contest to help President Obama figure out who deserves -- or at least could use -- a piece of the $1.45 million Nobel Peace Prize he's picking up in Oslo next week. Of course, there's ACORN, which needs some cash these days. Or maybe alleged gate-crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- a wonderful holiday diversion from the constantly grim news -- would like to set up a legal defense fund or a PR operation, or both, depending on how things go. And Democrats wavering on health-care reform might set up truly needy 501(c)(3)s that Obama could donate to.

Submit your suggestions for worthy -- or not-so-worthy -- recipients of Obama's donations (maximum two per entrant) to nobel@washpost.com or In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Deadline is midnight Monday, or whenever Obama announces his picks.

Remember, to be eligible for this contest, you must include a phone number -- work, home or cell -- so we can contact you. Good luck!

Otherwise occupied

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), hailed the election in Honduras of Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo as the new president, noting that the Obama administration said it would recognize the election as "free, fair, and legitimate." DeMint, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Hondurans "stood together and emphatically rejected attempts by Chavez, Noriega and the Castro brothers to prop up a dictator and subvert their constitution."

Noriega? Manuel Noriega? The ex-Panamanian dictator? The guy smoked out by U.S. troops with some ear-splitting rock 'n' roll 10 years ago, who was last seen in a federal pen?

Maybe Roger Noriega? The former Bush II assistant secretary of state for Latin America, who helped draft the Helms-Burton law tightening the Cuban embargo? Surely not.

Maybe Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega? The leftist Sandinista whom Washington overthrew and who's now back in power? Gotta be.

Thanks a bundle

Took a long time, but, as expected, the last primo embassy post in Europe -- Lisbon -- has gone to Tallahassee lawyer and former city commissioner Allan Katz, the White House announced Monday. Katz, a member of the Democratic National Committee and former Hill aide, bundled more than half a million dollars for Obama's presidential campaign.

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, "it's good to be a bundler."

Meanwhile, Raul Yzaguirre, former head of the National Council of La Raza for more than 30 years and more recently teaching at Arizona State University, was nominated to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic. It's not Portugal, but the baseball's much better, as are the beaches, particularly when you go east from Miches down to Sabana de Nisibón.

Also as expected, Ian C. Kelly, a career foreign service officer, has been nominated to be U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Watch the nomination

We've gotten calls about an item Monday noting that Broadcasting Board of Governors nominee Michael Meehan runs a PR firm with the husband of Kitty DiMartino, who is chief of staff to Undersecretary of State Judith McHale. (She also has a seat on the BBG as Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton's designated representative.) Callers remembered that it was President Bush who first nominated Meehan in 2008 for the post, but that the nomination stalled in the Senate, as the firm's e-mailed announcement on Monday reminded everyone.

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