Urban legend of `North American Union' feeds
By Philip Dine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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
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
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
Not that he doesn't think cooperation - short
of a merger - is a good idea. He's testified
before Congress on improving coordination within
"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
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 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
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,"
"We don't want to be integrated with any
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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."