The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] I was listening to the radio on my way home from work today (public radio, you can't get anything but Pentagon misinformation on corporate radio here). There was a guy being interviewed who served in the US military during the late 80's. He said part of Carter's agreement to allow Panama to take control of the canal was the stipulation that they must have a military capable of defending it. Well, when the US invaded, even AFTER they gained air superiority, AND ground superiority (probably took all of 20 minutes), they set charges in all the planes, blew up all the military vehicles and destroyed their "Pentagon", ensuring US control over the Panama Canal for a long time to come. Kind of puts Bush Jr's actions into perspective... JUSTIFIED AND INEVITABLE? Many factors resulted in the US applying unilateral military force to end the rule of Noriega. They can be summarised into two sections. Those that related to the immediate necessities of US domestic politics and those which related to longer-term foreign relations. It was these factors which culminated and led to yet another US show of overt military force in the region by invading. Only six years earlier the US invaded another part of Central America, Grenada in 1983. Its covert actions in the region were more numerous. With his election Bush, though he had been Vice-President during the Reagan administration, had to prove his worth. It was felt he needed to cast himself as a strong leader willing to use force. Unlike the past the US was not able to cast Noriega as acting for the Soviets as a pretext for acting aggressively towards him. Where once the threat of communism had been used as a pretext for US military force, Bush said "Operation Just Cause was launched to defend [the US] from narcotraffickers seeking to destroy" them.(19) In the propaganda campaign that led up to the invasion the US focused on Noriega's drug dealing activities. Activities they had known about since 1983 when as a result it was believed "Noriega was losing his value to the CIA as an intelligence source."(20) It was extremely opportune to use the war on drugs as justification to invade Panama, but hollow if one considers the time the US had known about it. Even after the invasion the US failed to put a stop to the illicit drug trade. The propaganda war was extremely successful for Bush's administration. Images coming out of Panama of the bloody riots and chaos after the 1989 elections were used by "Bush in his justifications of the invasion."21 He told his inner-circle at the time that "television pictures of Americans being clubbed and fleeing with blood encrusted shirts [as seen of the Panamanian vice-president elect Guillermo Ford] would require immediate action."22 Later he would use this pretext of protecting US citizens as one of his key justifications for the invasion. There is little evidence to support the belief that US citizens were in danger of their lives as most of them lived in and around the US bases in Panama. If anything, the US' moves to escalate the conflict, including sending armed military convoys across Panamanian territory, had put their lives in danger. Indeed one US serviceman was shot dead by a PDF soldier in late 1989. The shooting occurred when a car carrying US military personnel panicked and attempted to run a PDF road block. Another incident involved the interrogation of a US officer and his wife by the PDF. It included physical threats against his wife before they were later released. This was held up by Bush in an emotional statement as a threat to US womanhood. However, noted media and political critic Noam Chomsky points out, that Bush chose to ignore an incident only weeks earlier of "an American nun, Diana Ortiz,....[who was] kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused by the Guatemalan police," among other "threats"(23) to US womanhood in Central America. Along a similar vein Noriega's record on human rights pales into insignificance when compared to the thousands killed by the right-wing governments of Panama's neighbours. Economically, Panama was of no importance to the US, its trade with Central America in 1986 amounting to "less than 1 percent of US trade."(24) Although it must be said that many countries on the west coast of South America used the canal to export to the US. The US sanctions, begun in 1987, only served to wreck Panama's national economy and did little to undermine Noriega's funding (drug-money) which was unsanctioned in any case in the international community. Politically, the US pretence of re-estabilishing democracy was also hypocritical after their reaction to the 1984 elections as well as their continued support for other oligarchies and dictatorships in the hemisphere. As the Panamanian Foreign Minister (after the invasion) said, "I am sure the US did not carry out its military action to liberate Panama, but for reasons related to its own interests."(25) In any case, the new government was shown to be corrupt and Panama remained a haven for drug-trafficking. Strategically Panama was the linchpin for the US in the region. SouthCom, it was believed, could not have had a better location. It gave the US great leverage in the region and allowed the US to protect the canal from outside threats. However, the naval importance of being able to use the canal had diminished considerably over the years as a result of having two separate navies and also aircraft carriers that were too large to fit. With complete US domination of the region growing smaller the need show its military capabilities was unnecessary. When the US announced it had invaded Panama it did so saying it was in response to the "state of war" issued a few days earlier by Noriega. Again, this attempt to justify the invasion has been refuted. Chomsky quotes international law professor Alfred Rubin who pointed out that the Panamanian National "Assembly had declared what amounts to a state of emergency for the duration of the aggression unleashed by the US government."(26) Legally, the US contravened international law and its treaty obligations to both the OAS and Panama itself. If a lesser country had attempted the same there can be no doubt that they would have undergone extremely harsh international condemnation. Ultimately the decision to invade was based on the need to establish a US-friendly Panamanian government. With the strategically important canal "scheduled to pass from the US to Panama's control at the end of the century and 12,000 American military personnel and many of their families living in Panama, the Bush administration wanted Noriega out."(27) With a pro-US government in place to facilitate the changes it could lead to treaty concessions. In the words of the US Commander in Chief of the Air Force "the choice for the US was either to get out of Panama entirely or get in all the way....there was no [other] (28)choice." The "gun-boat" diplomacy that gave birth to a nation also served to overcome it. It was inevitable that the US would invade Panama, however unjustified its actions were. Their macho stand-off and aggressive tactics served to remind the rest of the world that US military force is still an option where diplomatic or economic solutions fail. Panama was created to serve US interests living forever with its sovereignty under threat. With so much history of US intervention combined with the political timeliness for President Bush in the US, the 1989 invasion of Panama was a foregone conclusion. http://infotrain.magill.unisa.edu.au/epub/people/vincm/panama.htm --------------------------------- Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Mail Plus - Powerful. Affordable. Sign up now _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk