article | posted August 9, 2007 (August 27, 2007 issue)
The NAFTA Superhighway
When completed, the highway will run from Mexico City to Toronto, slicing through the heartland like a dagger sunk into a heifer at the loins and pulled clean to the throat. It will be four football fields wide, an expansive gully of concrete, noise and exhaust, swelled with cars, trucks, trains and pipelines carrying water, wires and God knows what else. Through towns large and small it will run, plowing under family farms, subdevelopments, acres of wilderness. Equipped with high-tech electronic customs monitors, freight from China, offloaded into nonunionized Mexican ports, will travel north, crossing the border with nary a speed bump, bound for Kansas City, where the cheap goods manufactured in booming Far East factories will embark on the final leg of their journey into the nation's Wal-Marts.
And this NAFTA Superhighway, as it is called, is just the beginning, the first stage of a long, silent coup aimed at supplanting the sovereign United States with a multinational North American Union.
Even as this plot unfolds in slow motion, the mainstream media are silent; politicians are in denial. Yet word is getting out. Like samizdat, info about the highway has circulated in niche media platforms old and new, on right-wing websites like WorldNetDaily, in the pages of low-circulation magazines like the John Birch Society's The New American and increasingly on the letters to the editor page of local newspapers.
"Construction of the NAFTA highway from Laredo, Texas to Canada is now underway," read a letter in the February 13 San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "Spain will own most of the toll roads that connect to the superhighway. Mexico will own and operate the Kansas City Smart Port. And NAFTA tribunal, not the U.S. Supreme Court, will have the final word in trade disputes. Will the last person please take down the flag?" There are many more where that came from. "The superhighway has the potential to cripple the West Coast economy, as well as posing an enormous security breach at our border," read a letter from the January 7 San Francisco Chronicle. "So far, there has been no public participation or debate on this important issue. Public participation and debate must begin now."
In some senses it has. Prompted by angry phone calls and e-mail from their constituents, local legislators are beginning to take action. In February the Montana state legislature voted 95 to 5 for a resolution opposing "the North American Free Trade Agreement Superhighway System" as well as "any effort to implement a trinational political, government entity among the United States, Canada, and Mexico." Similar resolutions have been introduced in eighteen other states as well as the House of Representatives, where H. Con Res. 40 has attracted, as of this writing, twenty-seven co-sponsors. Republican presidential candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire now routinely face hostile questions about the highway at candidate forums. Citing a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, the Concord Monitor reports that "the road comes up at town meetings second only to immigration policy."
Grassroots movement exposes elite conspiracy and forces politicians to respond: It would be a heartening story but for one small detail.
There's no such thing as a proposed NAFTA Superhighway.
Though opposition to the nonexistent highway is the cause célèbre of many a paranoiac, the myth upon which it rests was not fabricated out of whole cloth. Rather, it has been sewn together from scraps of fact.
Take, for instance, North America's SuperCorridor Organization (NASCO), a trinational coalition of businesses and state and local transportation agencies that, in its own words, focuses "on maximizing the efficiency of our existing transportation infrastructure to support international trade." Headquartered in borrowed office space in a Dallas law firm, the organization, which has a full-time staff of three, advocates for increased public expenditure along the main north-south Interstate routes, including new high-tech freight-tracking technology and expedited border crossings. It has had some success, landing federal money to pilot cargo management technologies and winning praise from the Bush Administration. Speaking at a NASCO conference in Texas in 2004, then-Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta congratulated the organization for its efforts. "The people in this room have vision," Mineta said. "Thinking ahead, thinking long term, you began to make aggressive plans to develop...this vital artery in our national transportation system through which so much of the NAFTA traffic flows. It flows across our nation's busiest southern border crossing in Laredo; over North America's busiest commercial crossing, the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit; and through Duluth and Pembina, North Dakota, and all the places in between."
A few years ago NASCO put on its home page a map of the United States that more or less traced the flow that Mineta describes: Drawn in bright blue, the trade route begins in Monterrey, Mexico, runs up I-35 and branches out after Kansas City, along I-29 toward Winnipeg and I-94 toward Detroit and Toronto. The colorful, cartoonlike image seemed to show right out in the open just where NASCO and its confederates planned to build the NAFTA Superhighway. It began zipping around the Internet.
The organization soon found itself besieged with angry phone calls and letters. "I think the rumor going around was that this map was a blueprint and it was drawn to scale," says NASCO executive director Tiffany Melvin. (Given the size of the route markings, that would have heralded highways fifty miles wide.) Ever since the map went live, NASCO has spent a considerable amount of time attempting to refute charges like those made by right-wing nationalist Jerome Corsi, whose recent book The Late Great USA devotes several pages to excoriating NASCO for being part of the vanguard of the highway and the coming North American Union. Until recently, NASCO's website contained the following FAQs:
Is NASCO a part of a secret conspiracy?
Absolutely not... We welcome the opportunity to share information about our organization....
Will the NAFTA Superhighway be four football fields wide?
There is no new, proposed NAFTA Superhighway....
Is the map on the website an approved plan for the proposed NAFTA Superhighway?
There is no proposed NAFTA Superhighway.... The map is not a plan or blueprint of any kind.... They are EXISTING highways.
The Trans Texas Corridor is the first section of the proposed, new NAFTA Superhighway....
There is no proposed, new NAFTA Superhighway.