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Deterring Democracy

By Noam Chomsky

V. The Post-Cold War Era

1. Creeping Colonialism

3. Operation Just Cause: the Pretexts

4. Operation Just Cause: the Reasons

5. Good Intentions Gone Awry

6. The War Goes On


From Z Magazine, March, November 1990.

The reactionary statist tendencies of the post-Vietnam period arose in response to a dual challenge: the decline of U.S. dominance of the international order, and the popular activism of the 1960s, which challenged the dominance of the same privileged sectors at home. Neither Kennedy's "Grand Design" nor the efforts of the Nixon administration succeeded in restricting Europe to its "regional interests" within the "overall framework of order" managed by the United States, as Kissinger urged. There was no alternative to the trilateralism embraced by the Carter neoliberals, who, like their predecessors, were no less troubled by the popular democratic thrust at home -- their "crisis of democracy" that threatened to bring the general population into the political arena in a meaningful way.

As already discussed, these challenges inspired a campaign to restore the population to apathy and obedience and thus overcome the "crisis of democracy," and to enhance business power generally. By 1978, UAW President Doug Fraser had seen the handwriting on the wall. Resigning from the Labor-Management Group, he denounced the "leaders of the business community" for having "chosen to wage a one-sided class war in this country -- a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society," and having "broken and discarded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a period of growth and progress." A year later, in another recognition of reality, Cleveland's populist mayor Dennis Kucinich told a UAW meeting that there is only one political party in the United States, the pro-business "Demipublicans." 1

The period of steady economic progress was over. The challenge of rival powers was real for the first time since World War II, and the fragile social compact could not be sustained. Programs designed through the 1970s were implemented, with an extra touch of crudity, during the Reagan years, with the general support of the other faction of the business party and the ideological apparatus.

The historical and planning record and underlying institutional factors provide good reason to expect the post-Cold War era to be much like the past as far as relations between the United States and the Third World are concerned, apart from tactics and propaganda. "Radical nationalism" and experiments with independent development geared to domestic needs will raise the danger flags, and call forth a reaction, varying with circumstances and the functions of the region. The same continuity is to be expected with regard to the concomitants of these policy goals, including the persistent support for human rights violations, the general hostility to social reform, and the principled antagonism to democracy.

Democratic forms can be tolerated, even admired, if only for propaganda purposes. But this stance can be adopted only when the distribution of effective power ensures that meaningful participation of the "popular classes" has been barred. When they organize and threaten the control of the political system by the business-landowner elite and the military, strong measures must be taken, with tactical variations depending on the ranking of the target population on the scale of importance. At the lowest rank, in the Third World, virtually no holds are barred.

If the security forces are under control, the death squads can be unleashed while we wring our hands over our painful inability to instill our passion for human rights in the hearts of our unworthy allies. Other means are required when control of the security forces has been lost. Nicaragua, the obsession of the 1980s, was one such case, a particularly dangerous one because it was feared that the government in power was one "that cares for its people," in the words of José Figueres, referring to the Sandinistas, who, he said, brought Nicaragua the first such government in its history, popularly elected in a free and fair election that he observed in 1984. It was for expressing such improper sentiments as these that the leading figure of Central American democracy had to be rigorously excluded from the U.S. media through the 1980s. 2

It is therefore not at all surprising that hostility to the Sandinistas was virtually uniform in media commentary and other elite circles. 3 The official reasons (human rights, democracy, the Soviet threat, etc.) are too far-fetched to take seriously, and were, in any event, thoroughly refuted so many times, with no effect, as to reveal the pointlessness of the exercise. The real issue is the one that Figueres identified. Throughout, the only debatable question has been tactical: how to restore Nicaragua to "the Central American mode" and impose "regional standards" -- those of the U.S. client states. Such matters as freedom of press and human rights aroused profound libertarian and moral passions in Nicaragua, as distinct from the death squad democracies next door, or other states with records vastly worse than Nicaragua but with the compensating merit that they too were properly respectful of U.S. priorities. 4 Similarly, elections in the terror states revealed heartening progress towards democracy, but not in Nicaragua, where radically different standards were applied. The elections of 1984 were intolerable to the United States because they could not be controlled. Therefore Washington did what it could to disrupt them, and they were dismissed and eliminated from history by the media, as required. In the case of the long-scheduled 1990 elections, the U.S. interfered massively from the outset to gain victory for its candidates, not only by the enormous financial aid that received some publicity, but, far more significant and considered quite uncontroversial, by White House announcements that only a victory by the U.S. candidate would bring an end to the illegal U.S. economic sanctions and restoration of aid.

In brief, Nicaraguan voters were informed that they had a free choice: Vote for our candidate, or watch your children starve. 5

These efforts to subvert the 1990 election in Nicaragua are highlighted by a comparison to the reaction at exactly the same time to elections in neighboring Honduras. Its November 1989 elections received scanty but generally favorable coverage in the U.S. media, which described them as "a milestone for the United States, which has used Honduras as evidence that the democratically elected governments it supports in Central America are taking hold." President Bush, meeting with Honduran President Rafael Callejas after his election, called the Honduran government "an inspiring example of the democratic promise that today is spreading throughout the Americas." 6

A closer look helps us understand what is meant by "democracy" in the political culture. The November elections were effectively restricted to the two traditional parties. One candidate was from a family of wealthy industrialists, the other from a family of large landowners. Their top advisers "acknowledge that there is little substantive difference between the two and the policies they would follow as president," we learn from the press report that hails this milestone in the progress of democracy. Both parties represent large landowners and industrialists and have close ties with the military, the effective rulers, who are independent of civilian authority under the Constitution but heavily dependent on the United States, as is the economy. The Guatemalan Central America Report adds that "in the absence of substantial debate, both candidates rely on insults and accusations to entertain the crowds at campaign rallies and political functions" -- if that sounds familiar to a U.S. audience, it is not mere coincidence. Popular participation was limited to ritual voting. The legal opposition parties (Christian Democratic and Social Democratic) charged massive electoral fraud.

Human rights abuses by the security forces escalated as the election approached. In the weeks before the election, there were attacks with bombs and rifle fire against independent political figures, journalists, and union leaders, condemned as a plan to repress popular organizations by the head of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations, ex-rector of the National University Juan Almendares. In preceding months, the armed forces conducted a campaign of political violence, including assassination of union leaders and other extrajudicial executions, leaving tortured and mutilated bodies by roadsides for the first time. The human rights organization CODEH reported at least 78 people killed by the security forces between January and July, while reported cases of torture and beatings more than tripled over the preceding year. But state terror remained at low enough levels so as not to disturb U.S. elite opinion.

Starvation and general misery are rampant, the extreme concentration of wealth increased during the decade of "democracy," and 70% of the population are malnourished. Despite substantial U.S. aid and no guerrilla conflict, the economy is collapsing, with capital flight and a sharp drop in foreign investment, and almost half of export earnings devoted to debt service. But there is no major threat to order, and profits flow. 7

In short, Honduras, like Colombia, is a praiseworthy democracy, and there is no concern over the "level playing field" for the elections, unlike Nicaragua.

Even El Salvador and Guatemala, murderous gangster states run by the U.S.-backed military, are considered democracies. Elite opinion expresses considerable pride in having established and maintained these charnel houses, with "free elections" permitted after a wave of slaughter, torture, disappearance, mutilation, and other effective devices of control. Physical destruction of the independent media and murder of editors and journalists by the security forces passed virtually without comment -- often literally without report -- among their U.S. colleagues, among many other atrocities.

Occasionally, one hears an honest comment. Joachim Maitre of Boston University, one of the leading academic supporters of Reagan administration policies in Central America, observes that the U.S. has "installed democracies of the style of Hitler Germany" in El Salvador and Guatemala. 8 But such candor is far from the norm.

Nicaragua, however, was different, because of the threat of independent nationalism and social reform, heightened by the loss of U.S. control of the security forces, a problem that has arisen elsewhere as well, and a serious one, because the standard device for repressing and eliminating undesirable tendencies is then no longer available. In the case of Guatemala and Chile, it was necessary to resort to economic strangulation, subversion, and military force to overthrow the democratic regimes and establish the preferred regional standards. In the case of the Dominican Republic in 1965, direct invasion was required to bar the restoration of a constitutional regime. The response to the Cuban problem was direct aggression at the Bay of Pigs, and when Soviet deterrence made further such attempts unfeasible, an unprecedented campaign of international terrorism along with unremitting economic and ideological warfare -- again, surely not motivated by the reasons advanced in the official government-media line, which are hardly credible. Other cases require different measures, including Panama, another long-term target of U.S. intervention, to which we turn directly.

  1. Creeping Colonialism

We may continue to think of the Third World in the terms used in early post-World War II planning, as the region that is to "fulfill its major function as a source of raw materials and a market" for the Western industrial societies. 9 One longstanding source of international conflict was the failure of the Soviet empire to fulfill its function in the required way. This problem, it is hoped, will now be remedied as Eastern Europe advances toward the conditions of Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines. The fear of "creeping Communism" can then be put to rest, as the modern forms of colonialism expand toward their natural borders.

The three major power groupings are eagerly swooping down upon the collapsing Soviet empire (as China, a few years earlier) in search of markets, resources, opportunities for investment and export of pollution, cheap labor, tax havens, and other familiar Third World amenities. These efforts to impose the preferred model of two-tiered societies open to exploitation and under business rule are accompanied by appropriate flourishes about the triumph of political pluralism and democracy. We can readily determine the seriousness of intent by a look at the reaction to popular movements that might actually implement democracy and pluralism in the traditional Third World countries, and to the "crisis of democracy" within the industrial societies themselves. The rhetoric need not detain us.

We may also take note of the broad if tacit understanding that the capitalist model has limited application; business leaders have long recognized that it is not for them. The successful industrial societies depart significantly from this model, as in the past -- one reason why they are successful industrial societies. In the United States, the sectors of the economy that remain competitive are those that feed from the public trough: high tech industry and capital-intensive agriculture, along with pharmaceuticals and others. Departures are still more radical in most of the other state capitalist systems, where planning is coordinated by state institutions and financial-industrial conglomerates, sometimes with democratic processes and a social contract of varying sorts, sometimes not. The glories of Free Enterprise provide a useful weapon against government policies that might benefit the general population, and of course, capitalism will do just fine for the former colonies and the Soviet empire. For those who are to "fulfill their functions" in service to the masters of the world order, the model is highly recommended; it facilitates their exploitation. But the rich and powerful at home have long appreciated the need to protect themselves from the destructive forces of free market capitalism, which may provide suitable themes for rousing oratory, but only so long as the public handout and the regulatory and protectionist apparatus are secure, and state power is on call when needed.

But not precisely the same. One problem is that some adjustments are needed in the propaganda framework. The U.S. invasion of Panama is a historic event in one respect. In a departure from the routine, it was not justified as a response to an imminent Soviet threat. When the U.S. invaded Grenada six years earlier, it was still possible to portray the act as a defensive reaction to the machinations of the Russian bear, seeking to strangle us in pursuit of its global designs. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could solemnly intone that in the event of a Soviet attack on Western Europe, Grenada might interdict the Caribbean sea lanes and prevent the U.S. from providing oil to its beleaguered allies, with the endorsement of a new category of scholars created for the purpose. 10 Through the 1980s, the attack against Nicaragua was justified by the danger that if we don't stop the Commies there, they'll be pouring across the border at Harlingen Texas, two days drive away. There are more sophisticated (and equally weighty) variants for the educated classes. But in the case of Panama, not even the imagination of the State Department and the editorial writers extended that far.

Fortunately, the problem had been foreseen. When the White House decided that its friend Noriega was getting too big for his britches and had to go, the media took their cue and launched a campaign to convert him into the most nefarious demon since Attila the Hun, a repeat of the Qaddafi project a few years earlier. The effort was enhanced by the "drug war," a government-media hoax launched in an effort to mobilize the population in fear now that it is becoming impossible to invoke the Kremlin design -- though for completeness, we should also take note of the official version, dutifully reported as fact in the New York Times: "the campaign against drugs has increasingly become a priority for the Administration as well as Congress as a diminishing Soviet threat has given Washington an opportunity to turn to domestic issues." 11

The propaganda operation was a smashing success. "Manuel Noriega belongs to that special fraternity of international villains, men like Qaddafi, Idi Amin, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Americans just love to hate," Ted Koppel orated, so "strong public support for a reprisal [sic] was all but guaranteed." 12 Why did Americans hate Noriega in 1989, but not in 1985? Why is it necessary to overthrow him now but not then? The questions that immediately come to mind were systematically evaded. With a fringe of exceptions, mostly well after the tasks had been accomplished, the media rallied around the flag with due piety and enthusiasm, funnelling the most absurd White House tales to the public13 while scrupulously refraining from asking the obvious questions, or seeing the most obvious facts.

There were some who found all this a bit too much. Commenting on the Panama coverage, David Nyhan of the Boston Globe described the media as "a docile, not to say boot-licking, lot, subsisting largely on occasional bones of access tossed into the press kennel," happy to respond to lies with "worshipful prose." The Wall Street Journal noted that the four TV networks gave "the home team's version of the story." There was a scattering of skepticism in reporting and commentary, but most toed the line in their enthusiasm for what George Will called an exercise of the "good-neighbor policy," an act of "hemispheric hygiene" expressing our "rights and responsibilities" in the hemisphere -- whatever the delinquents beyond our borders may think, as revealed by their near-universal condemnation. 14

The Bush administration was, naturally, overjoyed. A State Department official observed that "the Republican conservatives are happy because we were willing to show some muscle, and the Democratic liberals can't criticize because it's being so widely seen as a success" 15; the State Department follows standard conventions, contrasting "conservatives," who advocate a powerful and violent state, with "liberals," who sometimes disagree with the "conservatives" on tactical grounds, fearing that the cost to us may be too high. These salutary developments "can't help but gives us more clout," the same official continued.

As for the general population, many doubtless were also enthusiastic about the opportunity to "kick a little ass" in Panama -- to borrow some of the rhetoric designed by George Bush's handlers in their comical effort to shape an effete New England aristocrat into a Texas redneck. But it is interesting to read the letters to the editor in major newspapers, which tended to express hostility to the aggression, along with much shame and distress, and often provided information, analysis and insights that the professionals were careful to avoid.

A more professional reaction was given by the respected Washington Post correspondent David Broder. He notes that there has been some carping at "the prudence of Bush's action" from "the left" (meaning, presumably, the National Council of Churches and some centrist liberals, anything else being far beyond his horizons, as is the idea that there might be criticism on grounds other than prudence). But he dismisses "this static on the left" with scorn: "what nonsense." Rather, the invasion of Panama helped clarify "the circumstances in which military intervention makes sense." The "best single definition" of the "new national consensus," he goes on to explain, was given by Reagan's Defense Secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who outlined six "well-considered and well-phrased" criteria. Four of them state that intervention should be designed to succeed. The other two add that the action should be deemed "vital to our national interest" and a "last resort" to achieve it. 16

Oddly, Broder neglected to add the obvious remark about these impressive criteria: they could readily have been invoked by Hitler.

Broder believes that "Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, after floundering around on the question of military interventions, came up with a set of standards strikingly similar to Weinberger's" during the 1988 presidential campaign. These standards, as outlined by his senior foreign policy adviser, were that U.S. force could be used "to deter aggression against its territory, to protect American citizens, to honor our treaty obligations and take action against terrorists," after peaceful means had failed. "The Panama invasion met all of those tests," Broder concludes with satisfaction.

One can appreciate the joyful mood among State Department propagandists. Even they did not dare to claim to be deterring Panamanian aggression or taking action against terrorists. And while they did act out the usual routine about protecting American lives, it is unlikely that they anticipated more than polite smiles.

There was also the ritual gesture towards international law, but it too was hardly intended seriously. The nature of the endeavor was indicated by U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who informed the United Nations that Article 51 of the U.N. Charter (which restricts the use of force to self-defense against armed attack until the Security Council acts) "provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people." It was clarified further by the Justice Department theory that the same provision of the Charter entitles the U.S. to invade Panama to prevent its "territory from being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States" -- so that, a fortiori, Nicaragua would be entitled to invade and occupy Washington. 17

In fact, it is transparently impossible to reconcile the invasion with the supreme law of the land as codified in the U.N. Charter, the OAS treaty, or the Panama Canal treaty. Even the pre-invasion efforts to topple Noriega are manifestly in conflict with our solemn obligations as a law-abiding nation, including the economic warfare that destroyed the economy, "about as clear-cut an instance of direct or indirect intervention and `coercive measures of an economic character' as can be imagined," Charles Maechling observes, citing Articles 18 and 19 of the OAS Charter which explicitly bar such measures "for any reason whatever," and other equally clear proscriptions. The same obligations of course rule out the economic warfare against Nicaragua that was condemned by the World Court and the GATT Council, and supported across the U.S. political spectrum. U.S. measures against Panama were also condemned by the Latin American countries, routinely and irrelevantly. Thus, on July 1, 1987 the OAS condemned U.S. intervention in Panama by a vote of 17 to 1 (the U.S. alone in opposition, and several client states abstaining or absent). Commenting on this (typically ignored) event, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Mexican political commentator and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, observes that "We Latins believe that altruistic causes such as `democracy' and `freedom' and even economic assistance are often mere pretexts to hide illegitimate purposes," which is also why U.S. policies towards Nicaragua received no support in Latin America, even among "Latins who do not like the Sandinistas and would prefer to see them turned out of power." 18

Broder is pleased that "we have achieved a good deal of clarity in the nation on this question [of the right of intervention], which divided us so badly during and after the Vietnam war." And this "important achievement...should not be obscured by a few dissident voices on the left," with their qualms about the prudence of the action. His evaluation recalls a comment by one of the more significant figures in 20th century America, the radical pacifist A. J. Muste: "The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?"

Ever since the latter days of the Indochina wars, elite groups have been concerned over the erosion of popular support for force and subversion ("the Vietnam syndrome"). Intensive efforts have been made to cure the malady, but in vain. The Reaganites assumed that it had been overcome by the propaganda triumphs over the suffering and tragedies of the societies ravaged by U.S. terror in Indochina, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They learned differently when they tried to return to the traditional pattern of intervention in Central America, but were driven underground by the public reaction, forced to retreat to clandestine and indirect measures of terror and intimidation. Through the 1980s, hopes have been voiced that we have finally overcome "the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force" (Norman Podhoretz, referring to the grand triumph in Grenada). In the more nuanced tones of the liberal commentator, Broder too is expressing the hope that finally the population has been restored to health and will end its childish obsession with the rule of law and human rights.

His "new consensus," however, is largely illusory, restricted to those who have always recognized that U.S. global designs require the resort to state violence, terror, and subversion. The new consensus is more properly described as a heightened self-confidence on the part of those who shared the old consensus on the legitimacy of violence and the "salutary efficacy" of terror.

The elite reaction to the invasion did not pass unnoticed abroad. An editorial in Canada's leading journal condemned "the shallow, boosterish U.S. media" with their "chilling indifference to the fate of innocent Panamanians who have been victimized by this successful little military deployment." A columnist commented on "the mood of jingoism" fostered by the media, the "peculiar jingoism so evident to foreigners but almost invisible for most Americans." "Reporters seeking alternative comments on the invasion typically have to go to the fringe of U.S. society merely to gather opinions on the invasion that would be common in other countries," and the foreign consensus in opposition to this use of force was "given short shrift in the U.S. media." A typical example is the (null) reaction to the U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the ransacking of the residence of Nicaragua's ambassador to Panama by U.S. troops, voted 13 to 1 with only Britain abstaining. 19

As always, if the world is out of step, it's their problem, not ours.

  3. Operation Just Cause: the Pretexts

In this context, we may turn to the Panama invasion, inaugurating the "post-Cold War era." After floating various trial balloons, the White House settled on the need to "protect American lives" as the reason for the invasion. There had been "literally hundreds of cases of harassment and abuse of Americans" in recent months by Noriega's forces, the White House announced -- though, curiously, no warning to American travellers to stay away from Panama. A U.S. soldier was killed after his car had driven "through a military roadblock near a sensitive military area" (New York Times). Panamanian officials alleged that the U.S. officers had fired at a military headquarters, wounding a soldier and two civilians, including a 1-year-old girl; a wounded Panamanian soldier in a military hospital confirmed this account to U.S. reporters. 20

But what tipped the scales was the threat to the wife of an officer who had been arrested and beaten. Bush "often has difficulty in emotionally charged situations," the New York Times reported, "but his deep feelings clearly came through" when he spoke of this incident, proclaiming in his best Ollie North rendition that "this President" is not going to stand by while American womanhood is threatened. 21

The press did not explain why "this President" refused even to issue a protest when, a few weeks earlier, an American nun, Diana Ortiz, had been kidnapped, tortured, and sexually abused by the Guatemalan police -- or why the media did not find the story worth reporting when it appeared on the wires on November 6, and have ignored repeated calls for an investigation by religious leaders and congressional representatives. Nor were Bush's "deep feelings" contrasted with the response of "this president" to the treatment of American women and other religious and humanitarian workers in El Salvador a few weeks later, a small footnote to the brutal government actions praised by James Baker at a November 29 press conference as "absolutely appropriate" -- a comment given little notice, perhaps regarded as not too useful right after the assassination of the Jesuit priests. 22

The murder of Sisters Maureen Courtney (from Milwaukee) and Teresa Rosales by U.S.-organized terrorists in Nicaragua on January 1, a few days after Bush had impressed the media with his "deep feelings," also passed quietly, and no call for action to protect American womanhood. The same had been true when Sister Mary McKay was severely wounded by gunmen firing from a pickup truck in San Salvador four days after inflammatory condemnations of the political opposition by the U.S. Embassy. The murder of Ben Linder by contras in 1987 also aroused no call for the protection of American lives, even after the head of operations for the contras, Fermin Cardenas, stated in a deposition that contra commander Enrique Berm£dez had ordered Linder killed to sabotage a small dam project on which he was working in a remote village -- another fact that somehow escaped notice. 23

Another pretext offered was our commitment to democracy, deeply offended when Noriega stole the 1989 election that had been won by the U.S.-backed candidate, Guillermo Endara, now placed in office by the invasion. An obvious test comes to mind: what happened in the preceding election in 1984, when Noriega was still our thug? The answer is that Noriega stole the election with considerably more violence than in 1989, with two killed and forty wounded when troops fired at a protest demonstration. These actions successfully barred the victory of Arnulfo Arias in favor of Nicolas Ardito Barletta, since known as "fraudito" in Panama. Washington opposed Arias, who it feared "would bring an undesirable ultranationalist brand of politics to power" (State Department official), preferring Barletta, a former student of Secretary of State George Shultz whose campaign received U.S. government funds, according to U.S. Ambassador Everett Briggs. Shultz was sent down to legitimate the fraud, praising the election as "initiating the process of democracy"; U.S. approval was symbolized by President Reagan's congratulatory message to Barletta, seven hours before his victory had been certified. 24

The media looked the other way, uninterested in the report of fraud by ex-congressman Father Robert Drinan, speaking for foreign observers monitoring the election. There was no criticism of the election in leading journals (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and others), though they changed tune quickly and began to publish editorial attacks on Noriega's failure to meet our lofty democratic standards as soon as the Reagan administration gave the signal by turning against him. 25

The U.S.-backed candidate of 1989, Guillermo Endara, was close to Arias and remained his spokesman in Panama until his death in 1988 in self-imposed exile. Endara had served as Arias's Minister of Planning in 1968, and "used to speak, almost dreamily, of the day when Arias would return `as a sign of providence' to lead the country" (AP). The Washington Post now comments that Endara was chosen to run in 1989 "largely because of his close ties to the late legendary Panamanian politician Arnulfo Arias, who was ousted from the presidency by the military three times since the 1940s" -- accurate, but a bit selective. The media once again politely looked the other way when, during the invasion, Endara denounced the "fraud of 1984." And they do not ask why our "yearning for democracy" was awakened only after Noriega had become a nuisance to Washington rather than an asset. 26

Perhaps the reason for Noriega's fall from grace was his gangsterism and corruption. We can quickly dismiss this idea. Noriega was known to be a thug when he was a U.S. ally, and remained so with no relevant change as the government (hence the media) turned against him. Furthermore, he does not approach the criminality of people the U.S. cheerfully supports. The 1988 Americas Watch report on Human Rights in Panama details abuses, but nothing remotely comparable to the record of U.S. clients in the region, or elsewhere, even the lesser criminals such as Honduras. But facts did not disfigure the media crusade. Ted Koppel's version, quoted above, was standard fare. His ABC colleague Peter Jennings denounced Noriega as "one of the more odious creatures with whom the United States has had a relationship," while CBS's Dan Rather placed him "at the top of the list of the world's drug thieves and scums." Others followed suit. 27

The Bush administration, in fact, took pains to make it clear that Noriega's crimes were not a factor in the invasion, with little notice. Just as the troops attacked Panama, the White House announced new high technology sales to China, noting that $300 million in business for U.S. firms was at stake and that contacts had secretly resumed a few weeks after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Washington also barred entry to two Chinese scholars invited by U.S. universities, in deference to the Chinese authorities. New subsidized agricultural sales to China were announced; a few weeks later, the Export-Import Bank announced a grant to China for the purchase of equipment for a Shanghai subway from U.S. companies. The White House also took the occasion of the invasion of Panama to announce plans to lift a ban on loans to Iraq. 28

The plans to expedite loans for Iraq were implemented shortly after -- to achieve the "goal of increasing U.S. exports and put us in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record...," the State Department explained with a straight face. The first goal is the familiar one. According to the chairman of the House Banking Committee, Rep. Henry Gonzalez -- here, as often, a lone voice -- the scale of these U.S. credits was not insignificant, nor was their impact, a matter to which we return. 29

U.S. plans to resume bank credits to Iraq had been reported on network television by ABC Middle East correspondent Charles Glass a few days before the Panama invasion. He reported further that "the U.S. has become Iraq's largest trading partner." 30 For some time, Glass had been waging a lonely campaign in the mainstream media to expose Iraqi atrocities and the critically important U.S. backing for the regime, eliciting evasion or denials from Washington. The media generally were not interested until several months later, when the Iraqi threat was "discovered" in the context of the search for new enemies to justify the Pentagon budget, and in August, with Iraq's conquest of Kuwait.

Senate minority leader Robert Dole proclaimed that the capture of Noriega "proves America won't give up or cave in to anyone, no matter how powerful or corrupt." 31 In comparison to Bush's friends in Beijing and Baghdad, Noriega could pass for a choir boy.

Some sensed a "lack of political and moral consistency" in the action against Noriega just as Washington "kisses the hands of the Chinese dictators" (A.M. Rosenthal). 32 The apparent inconsistency vanishes as soon as doctrinal constraints are put aside. In all cases, the actions serve the needs of U.S. power and privilege; it was good for business, as White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater and the State Department explained in the case of Iraq and China. The media succeeded in overlooking these not-too-subtle points -- and even most of the facts.

Another refrain was that the Panamanian Assembly had declared war against the United States on December 15. In fact, international law professor Alfred Rubin pointed out, the Assembly had declared what amounts to a state of emergency "for the duration of the aggression unleashed" by the U.S. government, in the official wording. 33

Still another pretext, regularly invoked, was that Noriega was involved in the drug racket -- as was known long before, while he was on the CIA payroll. John Dinges, author of a book on Noriega, reports that "in 1984, as Panama's de facto ruler and eager to become a major political player in Central America, General Noriega began to clean up his act." His criminal indictment after the U.S. government turned against him lists only one charge of alleged trafficking after 1984. DEA and narcotics agents describe his cooperation with U.S. authorities in drug interdiction activities as genuine. In a letter of May 1986, DEA administrator John Lawn expressed his "deep appreciation" to Noriega "for the vigorous anti-drug trafficking policy that you have adopted," and Attorney-General Edwin Meese added his praise in May 1987. 34

As the whitewash proceeded in subsequent months, the official fairy tales took on the status of established fact. The convention in news reporting and commentary is to select one of the many pretexts floated by the Administration, and present it with unwavering confidence -- but without even a token gesture towards possible evidence. Correspondent Pamela Constable selected human rights as the motive for the U.S. disaffection with Noriega: "Domestic opponents were repressed with increasing harshness after 1987, leading the Reagan administration to sever the long US alliance with Noriega." In the New York Review, Michael Massing chose the drug racket, writing that "Washington was willing to accept Noriega's political usurpations, including the stealing of an election in 1984, but once his drug-trafficking involvement became widely known, American tolerance came to an end." 35

In fact, internal affairs of Panama aside, it is hardly possible to suggest seriously that Noriega's repression offended the enthusiastic backers of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan military next door; the stealing of the 1984 election was not reluctantly "accepted," but greeted with open enthusiasm by the United States; Noriega's drug trafficking was well-known long before, but was widely publicized by the media only when government policy shifted, providing the signal. As hypotheses, these would be quickly dismissed. As confident assertions, they tell us only about the conventions of intellectual life. As a service to power, their merits are obvious.

As for the drug connection, whatever Noriega's role may have been, he was surely not alone. Shortly after Noriega stole the 1984 elections by fraud and violence to U.S. applause, the Federal district attorney in Miami identified Panamanian banks as a major conduit for drug money. A year earlier, a Senate report on banking had described Panama as a center of criminal capital, and a key link in drug transshipment and drug money laundering. These practices largely ended when the U.S. sanctions in 1987 virtually closed the banks, the press reported after the invasion. 36

The bankers were returned to power in Panama with the invasion, as the media finally deigned to notice. The Attorney General and the Treasury Minister installed by the U.S. invasion (also, reportedly, the new president of the Supreme Court) are former directors of the First Interamericas Bank, owned by one of the leading Colombian drug bosses and used by the Colombian cocaine cartel to launder profits; it was shut down by Noriega in 1985 in a move considered by the DEA to be an important blow to the cartel. President Endara, a corporate lawyer, had for years been a director of one of the Panamanian banks discovered by the FBI to be involved in money laundering. The Miami Herald reports that Guillermo Ford, Vice President under Endara and president of the banking commission, along with his brother Henry, had close business ties to Ramón Milián Rodr¡guez, the cartel money launderer who is serving a 35-year prison sentence. They were co-directors of companies that were used to launder money, Milián Rodr¡guez testified. Another link to the Endara government was exposed in April 1989, when Carlos Eleta, a leading businessman and Noriega opponent, was arrested on charges of importing cocaine and money laundering. According to a high-ranking U.S. source, Eleta had been recruited by the CIA to help distribute $10 million in covert U.S. aid for Endara's election to the presidency a month later. 37

Queried on a report that banking practices would be modified to deter drug money laundering, President Endara said that any changes would be "not that profound" and that "the bankers want changes that are reasonable and will not duly change the banking environment." A month later, U.S. negotiators had "given up efforts to change Panama's bank-secrecy laws, which have made that nation the most notorious center for drug-money laundering in the hemisphere," Frank Greve reports, adding that at least 10 major Panamanian banks are "willingly involved" in drug money laundering according to U.S. authorities,

and experts believe billions of dollars in drug money have flowed through Panamanian banks in general in the last decade.... Asked why the United States yielded on bank secrecy, a State Department official replied, "We don't want to alienate the Panamanians just as we're sitting down to negotiate with them.... Rather than tell them whether their laws are sufficient, we'll let them decide."

They decided in the predictable way, with a few cosmetic changes: "I can't say now there's less money laundering," the Banking Association of Panama President Edgardo Lasso says, "But it may be happening without our knowledge." 38 The artificial Panamanian economy relies heavily on this "banking environment," and Washington is unlikely to interfere very seriously.

It all makes good sense. Milián Rodr¡guez himself had been invited to the Reagan inaugural, Leslie Cockburn reports, "in recognition of the $180,000 in campaign contributions from his clients" (the cocaine cartel, who regarded Reagan as "our kind of candidate," he said). 39 As Drug Czar in the early 1980s, George Bush cancelled the small Federal program aimed at banks engaged in laundering drug money, and this critical link in the trade was put to the side in the new phase of the "drug war." Ghetto kids who sell crack arouse our ire, but not the civilized folk in the plush offices.

After the U.S. government had determined to rid itself of Noriega, it continued to support the Panama Defense Force that he headed, though it was well known that the PDF was involved in the rackets at every level. When George Shultz produced an accolade to the PDF in March 1988, describing it as "a strong and honorable force that has a significant and proper role to play," the New York Times commented that "it is odd to hear Administration officials sing the military's praises when it is layered with General Noriega's cronies who have shared in the profits from drug-trafficking and other criminal activities." With the successful completion of Operation Just Cause, the PDF was reconstituted under essentially the same leadership, who, it is expected, will be more loyal to their U.S. commanders than the unpredictable Noriega. Noriega's successor was Colonel Eduardo Herrera Hassan, whose troops "most energetically shot, gassed, beat and tortured civilian protesters during the wave of demonstrations against General Noriega that erupted here in the summer of 1987," the New York Times observed while reporting that the Colonel, "a favorite of the American and diplomatic establishment here," is to be placed in command of the military with their new "human rights" orientation. In its May 1990 report on the Panama invasion, Americas Watch expressed considerable shock over the appointment of Col. Hassan, who "directed the most brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations in Panamanian history, on July 10, 1987, which Noriega's opponents called `Black Friday'." "By any reasonable standard, he himself should be on trial" -- as should George Bush, one might add. 40

Government-media doctrine holds that Bush "had few alternatives" to invasion, having failed to oust Noriega by other means (R. W. Apple). "Mr. Bush may have seen no alternative to invasion," Tom Wicker added, though as a dove, he regards Bush's arguments as not "conclusive." 41 The underlying assumption is that the U.S. has every right to achieve its aims, so that violence is legitimate if peaceful means fail. The principle has broad application. It could readily be invoked by the terrorists who destroyed Pan Am 103, an act bitterly denounced on its first anniversary just as the U.S. invaded Panama. They too could plead that they had exhausted peaceful means. But the doctrine has another crucial feature: the right to violence is reserved to the United States and its clients.

The fundamental doctrine is further clarified by the treatment of international law. That its precepts were violated by the invasion was sometimes noted, but dismissed, on the grounds that the "legalities are murky" (Wall Street Journal),42 or simply an irrelevance. Exactly ten years earlier, Vietnam invaded Cambodia after murderous attacks against Vietnamese villages with thousands of casualties, overthrowing the Pol Pot regime. By any standards, the justification for this invasion is far more plausible than anything that Washington could offer. But in that case, the legalities were neither murky nor irrelevant. Rather, Vietnam's violation of international law deeply offended our sensibilities, establishing Vietnam as "the Prussians of Southeast Asia" (New York Times) whom we must punish, along with the people of Cambodia, by economic warfare and tacit support for the Khmer Rouge. The radically different reactions are readily explained by the doctrine that only the U.S. and its clients enjoy the right of lawless violence. But the obvious questions remain unasked, and understanding of the real world is effectively suppressed.

Largely keeping to the government agenda, the press scarcely investigated such matters as civilian casualties. Some blamed the failure on Pentagon interference, but that excuse is hard to credit. Nothing prevented the press from visiting hospitals and interviewing their directors, who reported overflowing morgues from the first days and appealed to Latin America and Europe to send medical equipment because "the United States is only giving us bullets," or publishing the wire service stories reporting these facts. Linda Hossie of the Toronto Globe & Mail reported "open skepticism" about the official figures, quoting slum dwellers, church workers, and others who tell of many civilians "buried because there were no transports to take them to a morgue." "Virtually all the Panamanians interviewed," she writes, "agreed that the vast majority of the dead are civilians." The Argentine press was able to find government spokesmen who said "they have taken the necessary legal steps for the cremation of great quantities of dead bodies piled in the morgues of the central hospitals now overflowing with cadavers." One of the few to make the effort, J.D. Gannon, reported that hospitals, morgues and funeral homes recorded about 600 civilian deaths in Panama City, while diplomats and relief workers estimated 400 more in rural areas. 43

The media were much impressed with a CBS poll showing over 90% approval for the invasion, but did not ponder the fact that 10% of the population of 2.4 million said they had a good friend or relative killed (23%, killed or wounded). A few calculations on reasonable assumptions indicate that either the poll is totally meaningless, or that the numbers killed run to thousands on conservative estimates. The question did not arise. 44

The lack of interest in the civilian toll was shared by Congress. On February 1, the House passed a resolution, 389-26, "commending Bush for his handling of the invasion and expressing sadness over the loss of 23 American lives," AP reported. A possible omission comes to mind, but seems to have passed unnoticed. 45

This is a mere sample, but enough to illustrate "the kind of hard-hitting, no holds barred reporting that makes the press such an essential component of this country's democratic system," as Sanford Ungar writes, overcome with awe at the magnificence of his profession. 46

Only a step away, the veil lifts and elementary truths are easily perceived. Israel's leading military analyst, Ze'ev Schiff, comments that there is nothing remarkable about the U.S. invasion, "neither from a military standpoint -- in that the American forces are killing innocent Panamanian civilians... nor from a political standpoint, when a great power employs its military forces against a small neighbor, with pretexts that Washington would dismiss at once if they were offered by other states." Like the bombing of Libya and other military operations, this one reveals "that Washington permits itself what other powers, including the USSR, do not permit themselves, though they plainly have no less justification."

In another client state, the mainstream Honduran press took a harsher tone. An editorial in El Tiempo bitterly denounced the "international totalitarianism" of George Bush "in the guise of `democracy'"; Bush has "declared plainly to Latin America that for the North American government, there is no law -- only its will -- when imposing its designs on the hemisphere." A columnist calls "Just Cause" a

coarse grotesque euphemism, neither more nor less than an imperialist invasion of Panama.... We live in a climate of aggression and disrespect...hurt by our poverty, our weakness, our naked dependence, the absolute submission of our feeble nations to the service of an implacable superpower. Latin America is in pain

-- while Congress gives George Bush a rousing ovation for his triumph. 47

  4. Operation Just Cause: the Reasons

The reasons for the invasion were not difficult to discern. Manuel Noriega had been working happily with U.S. intelligence from the 1950s, right through the tenure of George Bush as CIA director and later Drug Czar for the Reagan administration. His relations with U.S. intelligence began when he reported on leftist tendencies among fellow students, officers, and instructors, at the Military Academy. These services became contractual in 1966 or 1967, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The spy network he organized "would serve two clients," Frederick Kempe reports: "the Panamian government, by monitoring political opponents in the region, and the U.S., by tracking the growing Communist influence in the unions organized at United Fruit Co.'s banana plantations..." (an appropriate concern for the U.S. government, it is assumed without comment). After various vicissitudes, he was recognized as a kindred spirit by the Reagan administration, and was put back on the U.S. payroll with payments from the CIA and DIA averaging nearly $200,000 a year. 48 His assistance in stealing the 1984 elections has already been noted. He also played a supportive role in the U.S. war against Nicaragua and was considered by the DEA to be a valuable asset in the war against drugs.

By 1985-6, however, the U.S. was beginning to reassess his role and finally decided to remove him. A largely upper and middle class "civic opposition" developed, leading to street protests that were brutally suppressed by the Panamanian military under the command of the U.S. favorite, Colonel Herrera Hassan. A program of economic warfare was undertaken, designed to minimize the impact on the U.S. business community, a GAO official testified before Congress. 49

One black mark against Noriega was his support for the Contadora peace process for Central America, to which the U.S. was strongly opposed. His commitment to the war against Nicaragua was in question, and when the Iran-contra affair broke, his usefulness was at an end. On New Year's Day 1990, administration of the Panama Canal was to pass largely into Panamanian hands, and a few years later the rest was to follow, according to the Canal Treaty. A major oil pipeline is 60% owned by Panama. Clearly, traditional U.S. clients had to be restored to power, and there was not much time to spare. With January 1 approaching, the London Economist noted, "the timing was vital" and a new government had to be installed. 50

Further gains from the invasion were to tighten the stranglehold on Nicaragua and Cuba, which, the government and media complain, had been making use of the free and open Panamanian economy to evade the illegal U.S. trade sanctions and embargo (yet another condemnation of the embargo by the U.N. while the U.S. invaded Panama, with only the U.S. and Israel voting against, was too insignificant a matter even to merit report). These intentions were signalled symbolically by the contemptuous violations of diplomatic immunity, including the break-in at the Nicaraguan Embassy and repeated detention of Cuban Embassy personnel -- all grossly illegal, but that arouses no concern in a lawless state apart from the danger of a precedent from which the U.S. might suffer; one never knows when the next Somoza or Marcos might seek shelter in a U.S. Embassy. Even the vulgar display by the U.S. military outside the Vatican Embassy, with rock music blaring and other childish antics, was generally considered good clean fun -- and by the military, "a very imaginative use of psychological operations" (Col. Ted Sahlin of the Kennedy Special Warfare Center). White House spokesman Fitzwater was "certainly glad to see the American sense of whimsy come forward in this situation" -- which, as conceded on all sides, was part of a pattern of gross violation of Federal and international law on diplomatic privilege. The press adhered to its fabled canons of objectivity, for example, when TV crews in a hotel overlooking the Vatican Embassy displayed a pineapple cut in half outside their room, or when National Public Radio amused its elite intellectual audience with an interview with a fruit and vegetable dealer who was asked whether Noriega's pock-marked face really did look like a pineapple. 51

Seven months later, Iraqi troops surrounded the U.S. and other Embassies in an effort to compel the countries participating in the blockade against Iraq to withdraw their missions. "They have not made any moves against the embassy or intruded in any fashion, but they are nonetheless present," the White House spokesman announced. The media were outraged. The Times editors wrote that "Saddam Hussein now lashes out against diplomacy itself." The editors proclaimed further, for the first time, that the Iraqi leaders are now "becoming war criminals in the classic Nuremberg sense," and should be tried under the Nuremberg Principles, which hold that "a crime against world law is liable to punishment," including heads of states and those who obey their orders. It would be too much to expect the editors to recall that the state they hail as "the symbol of human decency," on invading West Beirut in September 1982 in violation of a cease-fire and a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution, at once broke into the Soviet Embassy grounds, seizing the consulate building and holding it for two days, a gratuitous provocation (the Embassy had also been repeatedly shelled during Israel's bombardment of civilian targets in Beirut). 52 But they might, perhaps, have been able to dredge out of memory some events in Panama City a few months earlier.

The invasion restored to power the traditional White European elite that had been displaced by General Torrijos in his 1968 coup. Under the heading "Quayle Gets Warm Welcome in Panama," Times correspondent Robert Pear notes at the end of an upbeat report that "pro-American sentiment is expressed more forcefully by affluent and middle-class Panamanians than by those with lower income," the Black and Mestizo majority. He reports further that the Vice-President did not visit the poor neighborhoods. Rita Beamish reports for AP, however, that "before leaving Panama City, Quayle took a driving tour of the impoverished Chorrillo neighborhood... As his motorcade slowly drove by the area, onlookers gathered in groups and peered out windows, watching in stony silence. Their reaction was in stark contrast to the enthusiastic cheering Sunday from a well-dressed congregation at a Roman Catholic church Quayle attended in another neighborhood," prominently featured on TV. 53

The "stark contrast" remained unnoticed. Times reporter Larry Rohter and others found general support and approval for the U.S. ventures among those who had suffered from the economic warfare and were ruined by the invasion.

The few reporters who strayed from the beaten track discovered the expected pattern. Diego Ribadeneira reports a demonstration protesting the arrest of two leaders of the telecommunications union by U.S. soldiers. "Most political activists and labor leaders" are "on a list of several hundred people whom the Endara government seeks to detain," he continues. A senior official in the U.S. Embassy professed to have no knowledge of the reasons: "We weren't given any details, just that the Endara government wanted us to get them. They're bad guys of some sort, I guess." 54

So they are, like political activists and labor leaders throughout the region, and elsewhere, if they fail to toe the line.

Leaving nothing to chance, the U.S. military sent hundreds of psywar specialists into Panama to "spread pro-American propaganda messages throughout the country" in a campaign to "bolster the image of the United States" and "to stamp American influence on almost every phase of the new government," the press reports. "These guys are...very sophisticated in the psychological aspects of war," an Army official said, "They are engaged in propaganda." 55

Noriega's career fits a standard pattern. Typically, the thugs and gangsters that the U.S. backs reach a point in their careers when they become too independent and too grasping, outliving their usefulness. Instead of just robbing the poor and safeguarding the business climate, they begin to interfere with Washington's natural allies, the local business elite and oligarchy, or even U.S. interests directly. At that point, Washington begins to vacillate; we hear of human rights violations that were cheerfully ignored in the past, and sometimes the U.S. government acts to remove them, even to attempt to assassinate them, as in the case of Trujillo. By 1986-7, the only question was when and how Noriega should be removed, though there were hold-outs. As late as August 1987, Elliott Abrams, obsessed as always by the attraction of violence in Nicaragua, opposed a Senate resolution condemning Noriega. 56

Another indication of possible ambivalence in high places is the curious Israel-Panama relation. Apparently, as in the case of Somoza, Israel was not compelled to cancel arms shipments and other assistance to Noriega until virtually the end. According to the Israeli press, when Noriega stopped being Washington's "bosom friend" in 1986, "Israel was ordered to behave -- it was permitted to continue to sell weapons, but required to keep a lower profile in its relations with Noriega." About 20 percent of the half billion dollars of Israeli weapons sales to Panama in the past decade were from the past 3 years, in addition to other military equipment, Efraim Davidi reports in the Labor Party press. He believes that the Americans were following the usual plan of providing weapons to military elements which, they hoped, would eliminate their specific target -- much the same scenario as in Israel's sale of U.S. weapons to Iran from the early 1980s. 57

All in all, a successful operation. The U.S. can now proceed to foster democracy and successful economic development, as it has done with such success in the region for many years. The prospect is seriously put forth, in blissful disregard of the relevant history, and the reasons for its regular course. The cheery reports on these prospects did not raise even the most obvious questions: What were the consequences of the most recent invasions, conducted with the same promises?

It took real dedication to miss the point. On the day of the Panama invasion, the back pages carried obituary notices for Herbert Blaize, who presided over the triumph of democracy and reconstruction after the liberation of Grenada to much acclaim -- a perfect occasion for an analysis of the realization of the promise. Initially, the U.S. poured $110 million into the tiny island to stimulate U.S. investment and tourism, to little effect. The country is saddled with a foreign debt of close to $50 million and a trade deficit of $60 million. In early December of 1989, a strike of virtually all public employees demanded payment of wage increases promised from 1987; funds are unavailable, despite heavy borrowing to curb a growing budget deficit. The official unemployment figure is 20%, estimated at 40% among young workers. Alcoholism and drug addiction are said to have reached record levels, along with homicides and other signs of social dissolution. The health care system instituted under Maurice Bishop was dismantled after Blaize expelled the Cuban personnel who staffed it. Two percent of the population are estimated to have emigrated in 1986. In June 1987, President Blaize pushed through an Emergency Powers Act that gave the security forces extensive powers, including detention without trial, house arrest, deportation, and the right to declare a curfew, also establishing a board to censor "politically sensitive songs." There are no more appeals to "Reagan the Provider," who will build us homes, give us food and jobs, and lead us to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, as he promised. Instead, graffiti on walls read "Yankees Out" and "Yankees Go Home." "Recent wall scrawlings are more likely to say things like `Reagan is the world terrorist No. 1'," Gary Krist reports with incomprehension, and "the most flattering description of George Bush" that he heard on the island was that he's "just another Ronald Reagan, only not as aggressive"; that was before the re-run of the script in Panama. 58

Or we could look to the Dominican Republic, liberated by a U.S. invasion in 1965 and set on the road to democracy -- though only after years of death squad killings and torture, and the takeover by U.S. corporations of most of what they had not acquired during earlier occupations. This too is regarded as a triumph of democracy, with civilians elected and the military not taking power -- in fact, happy to leave the job of policing to the civilians and the IMF. But "on an island blessed like few others with varied mineral resources, fertile soils, lush forests, and plentiful fish and fowl," Latin America scholar Jan Knippers Black observes, "an ingenious and industrious people continues to struggle with little relief or progress against the ravages of hunger and disease," and the country remains "a virtual appendage of the United States," lacking even minimal independence, with no escape from misery for the general population. 59

While U.S. troops were "restoring order" in Panama in January, a boat filled with Dominican refugees fleeing to the U.S. sank, with dozens drowned; another had caught fire a few days earlier, with no survivors. As usual, these incidents were not reported. Unknown numbers of these illegal boat people sail on rickety boats to Puerto Rico each year, with many drowned, and thousands arrested and deported. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service expects to capture more than 10,000 of them in 1990, some 10-20% of those attempting illegal entry, double the number for 1989. Relative to population, a comparable flight from Vietnam would be in the range of 1/2 million to a million, a figure that would arouse vast international protest about the horrors of Communism. The Dominican Republic was not devastated by foreign invaders and economic warfare. But unlike the Vietnamese boat people, there is no political capital to be made from anguishing over the fate of those fleeing its shores, so they remain hidden from view, much like the thousands of boat people fleeing Haiti, some 20,000 returned forcefully during the Reagan years, while others escape to the neighboring Dominican Republic -- or are captured and brought there by force -- to work as virtual slaves on the sugar plantations. 60

No such thoughts interrupted the praise of Operation Just Cause and its rich promise -- which is not entirely empty. Bush's announcement of $1 billion in aid to reconstruct the society destroyed by U.S. economic warfare and military attack included $400 million to finance sales of U.S. products to Panama, another $150 million to pay off bank loans, and $65 million in private sector loans and guarantees for U.S. investors -- all gifts to the rich at home by the U.S. taxpayer. 61

  5. Good Intentions Gone Awry

In the months following the Panama invasion, the successful affair largely disappeared from view. 62 U.S. goals had been achieved, the triumph had been properly celebrated, and there was little more to say except to record subsequent progress towards freedom, democracy, and good fortune -- or, if that strains credulity, to produce occasional musings on how the best of intentions go awry when we have such poor human material to work with.

Central American sources continued to give considerable attention to the impact of the invasion on civilians, but they were ignored in the occasional reviews of the matter here. New York Times correspondent Larry Rohter devoted a column to casualty estimates on April 1, citing figures as high as 673 killed, and adding that higher figures, which he attributes only to Ramsey Clark, are "widely rejected" in Panama. He found Panamanian witnesses who described U.S. military actions as restrained, but none with less happy tales. 63

Among the many readily accessible sources deemed unworthy of mention we find such examples as the following.

The Mexican press reported that two Catholic Bishops estimated deaths at perhaps 3000. Hospitals and nongovernmental human rights groups estimated deaths at over 2000. 64

A joint delegation of the Costa Rica-based Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) and the Panamanian Human Rights Commission (CONADEHUPA) published the report of its January 20-30 inquiry, based on numerous interviews. It concluded that "the human costs of the invasion are substantially higher than the official U.S. figures" of 202 civilians killed, reaching 2-3000 according to "conservative estimates." Eyewitnesses interviewed in the urban slums report that U.S. helicopters aimed their fire at buildings with only civilian occupants, that a U.S. tank destroyed a public bus killing 26 passengers, that civilian residences were burned to the ground with many apartments destroyed and many killed, that U.S. troops shot at ambulances and killed wounded, some with bayonets, and denied access to the Red Cross. The Catholic and Episcopal Churches gave estimates of 3000 dead as "conservative." Civilians were illegally detained, particularly union leaders and those considered "in opposition to the invasion or nationalistic." "All the residences and offices of the political sectors that oppose the invasion have been searched and much of them have been destroyed and their valuables stolen." The U.S. imposed severe censorship. Human rights violations under Noriega had been "unacceptably high," the report continues, though of course "mild compared with the record of U.S.-supported regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador." But the U.S invasion "caused an unprecedented level of deaths, suffering, and human rights abuses in Panama." The title of the report is: "Panama: More than an invasion,... a massacre." 65

Physicians for Human Rights, with the concurrence of Americas Watch, reached tentative casualty figures higher than those given by the Pentagon but well below those of CODEHUCA and others in Panama. Their estimate is about 300 civilians killed. Americas Watch also gives a "conservative estimate" of at least 3000 wounded, concluding further that civilian deaths were four times as great as military deaths in Panama, and over ten times as high as U.S. casualties (officially given as 23). They ask: "How does a `surgical operation' result in almost ten civilians killed (by official U.S. count) for every American military casualty? By September, the count of bodies exhumed from several of the mass graves had passed 600. 66

The CODEHUCA report emphasizes that a great deal is uncertain, because of the violent circumstances, the incineration of bodies, and the lack of records for persons buried in common graves without having reached morgues or hospitals, according to eyewitnesses. 67 Its reports, and the many others of which a few have been cited here, may or may not be accurate. A media decision to ignore them, however, reflects not professional standards but a commitment to power.

While Larry Rohter's visits to the slums destroyed by U.S. bombardment located only celebrants, or critics of U.S. "insensitivity" at worst, others found a rather different picture. Mexico's leading newspaper reported in April that Rafael Olivardia, refugee spokesman for the 15,000 refugees of the devastated El Chorrillo neighborhood, "said that the El Chorillo refugees were victims of a `bloodbath' during and after the invasion." "He said that those victims `saw North American tanks roll over the dead' during the invasion that left a total of more than 2000 dead and thousands injured, according to unofficial figures." "You only live once," Olivardia said, "and if you must die fighting for an adequate home, then the U.S. soldiers should complete the task they began" on December 20.

The Spanish language press in the United States was less celebratory than its colleagues. Vicky Pelaez reports from Panama that "the entire world continues in ignorance about how the thousands of victims of the Northamerican invasion of Panama died and what kinds of weapons were used, because the Attorney-General of the country refuses to permit investigation of the bodies buried in the common graves." An accompanying photo shows workmen exhuming corpses from a grave containing "almost 200 victims of the invasion." Quoting a woman who found the body of her murdered father, Pelaez reports that "just like the woman at the cemetery, it is `vox populi' in Panama that the Northamericans used completely unknown armaments during the 20 December invasion." The head of a Panamanian human rights group informed the journal that:

They converted Panama into a laboratory of horror. Here, they first experimented with methods of economic strangulation; then they successfully used a campaign of disinformation at the international level. But it was in the application of the most modern war technology that they demonstrated infernal mastery.

The CODEHUCA report also alleges that "the U.S. Army used highly sophisticated weapons -- some for the first time in combat -- against unarmed civilian populations," and "in many cases no distinction was made between civilian and military targets." 68

One case of "highly sophisticated weapons" did receive some attention. F-117A stealth fighters were used in combat for the first time, dropping 2000-lb. bombs with time-delay mechanisms in a large open field near an airstrip and barracks that housed an elite PDF battalion. The Air Force had kept this plane under close wraps, refusing to release cost or performance data about it. "There were conflicting reports as to the rationale for employing the sophisticated aircraft, which cost nearly $50 million apiece, to conduct what appeared to be a simple operation," Aviation Week & Space Technology reported. The Panamanian air force has no fighters and no military aircraft were stationed permanently at the base that was attacked. Its only known air defenses "were a pair of aging small caliber antiaircraft guns." An American aeronautical engineering consultant and charter operator in Panama said he was "astonished" to learn of the use of the F-117A, pointing out that the target attacked did not even have radar: "They could have bombed it with any other aircraft and not been noticed." The aerospace journal cites Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's claim that the aircraft were used "because of its great accuracy," then suggesting its own answer to the puzzle: "By demonstrating the F-117A's capability to operate in low-intensity conflicts, as well as its intended mission to attack heavily defended Soviet targets, the operation can be used by the Air Force to justify the huge investment made in stealth technology" to "an increasingly skeptical Congress." 69

A similar conclusion was reached, more broadly, by Col. (Ret.) David Hackworth, a former combat commander who is one of the nation's most decorated soldiers. He described the Panama operation as technically efficient, though in his judgment "100 Special Forces guys" would have sufficed to capture Noriega, and "this big operation was a Pentagon attempt to impress Congress just when they're starting to cut back on the military." The National Security Strategy report of March 1990 lends credibility to these suggestions. 70

If these were indeed among the motives for the exercise, they may have suffered a slight setback when it turned out that one of the stealth fighter-bombers had missed its undefended target by more than 300 yards, despite its "great accuracy." Defense Secretary Cheney ordered an inquiry. 71

The nature of the U.S. victory became clearer, along familiar lines, in the following months. Its character is described by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald in June, under the heading "Panama Flirts with Economic Recovery" -- that is, recovery from the depths to which it was plunged by illegal U.S. economic warfare, then invasion and occupation. But there is a qualification: "Six months after the U.S. invasion, Panama is showing signs of growing prosperity -- at least for the largely white-skinned business class that has regained its influence after more than two decades of military rule." The luxury shops are again full of goods, and "Panama's nightlife is also perking up" as "foreign tourists, mostly U.S. businessmen, can be seen most evenings sipping martinis in the lobbies of the biggest hotels," which are sometimes "booked solid -- a contrast to the moribund atmosphere there before the invasion." Newspapers are filled with ads from department stores, banks, and insurance firms. "The upper class and the middle classes are doing great," a Western European diplomat observes: "They had the money in U.S. bank accounts and are bringing it back to the country. But the poor are in bad shape, because the government is bankrupt and can't help them." "The Catholic Church has begun to denounce what it sees as a lack of government concern for the poor," Oppenheimer continues. An editorial in a Church weekly "lashed out at authorities for devoting their energies to helping the private sector while breaking their original promises not to fire low-income public workers." 72 In short, the important people are doing just fine.

On August 2, the Catholic bishops of Panama issued a pastoral letter condemning U.S. "interference in the country's internal affairs" and denouncing the December invasion as "a veritable tragedy in the annals of the country's history." The statement also condemned Washington's failure to provide aid to the people who continue to suffer from the invasion, and criticized the government for ignoring their plight. Their protest appears in the Guatemala City Central America Report under the heading "Church Raises Its Voice" -- though not loudly enough to be heard in Washington and New York. 73

In August, a presidential commission proposed a plan for reconstructing the devastated economy. It called for an end to the "occupation of the State and its territory by U.S. troops" and the reestablishment of Panamanian sovereignty. Again, its voice did not reach the aggressors. 74

The white-skinned sector, which owns most of the land and resources, is estimated at about 8% of the population. The "two decades of military rule" to which the Miami Herald refers had some other characteristics as well. The Torrijos dictatorship had a populist character, which largely ended after his death in 1981 in an airplane accident (with various charges about the cause), and the subsequent Noriega takeover. During this period, Black, Mestizo, and Indigenous Panamanians gained their first share of power, and economic and land reforms were undertaken. In these two decades, infant mortality declined from 40% to less than 20% and life expectancy increased by nine years. New hospitals, health centers, houses, schools and universities were built, and more doctors, nurses and teachers were trained. Indigenous communities were granted autonomy and protection for their traditional lands, to an extent unmatched in the hemisphere. For the first time, Panama moved to an independent foreign policy, still alive in the 1980s to an extent, as Panama participated in the Contadora peace efforts. The Canal Treaty was signed in 1977, theoretically awarding control over the canal to Panama by the year 2000, though the prospects are doubtful. The Reagan administration took the position that "when the Carter-Torrijos treaties are being renegotiated" -- an eventuality taken for granted -- "the prolongation of the US military presence in the Panama Canal area till well after the year 2000 should be brought up for discussion" (State Department). 75

The post-invasion moves to place Panamanian military forces under U.S. control may be motivated by more than just the normal doctrine. It will probably be argued that Panama is not in a position to defend the Canal as the Treaty requires, so that U.S. bases must be retained.

Pamela Constable reports that "bankers and business owners" find that things are looking up, though "a mood of anger and desperation permeates the underclass" in "the blighted shantytowns." Vice-president Guillermo Ford says that "The stores have reopened 100 percent, and the private sector is very enthusiastic. I think we're on the road to a very solid future." Under his "proposed recovery program," public enterprises would be sold off, "the labor code would be revised to allow easier dismissal of workers and tax-free export factories would be set up to lure foreign capital."

Business leaders "are bullish on Ford's ideas," Constable continues. In contrast, "Labor unions are understandably wary of these proposals," but "their power has become almost negligible" with "massive dismissals of public workers who supported Noriega and the unprecedented jobless rate." The U.S. emergency aid package approved by Congress is intended largely "to make back payments on Panama's foreign debt and shore up its creditworthiness with foreign lending institutions"; in translation: it is a taxpayer subsidy to international banks, foreign investors, and the important people in Panama. The thousands of refugees from El Chorillo, now living in what some of them call "a concentration camp," will not be returning to the devastated slum. The original owners, who had long wanted "to transform this prime piece of real estate into a posher district," may now be able to do so. Noriega had stood in the way of these plans, allowing the poor to occupy housing there rent-free. But by bombing the neighborhood into rubble and then levelling the charred ruins with bulldozers, U.S. forces overcame "that ticklish legal and human obstacle" to these intentions, Constable reports. 76

With unemployment skyrocketing, nearly half the population cannot meet essential food needs. Crime has quadrupled. Aid is designated for businesses and foreign banks (debt repayment). It could be called the "Central Americanization" of Panama, correspondent Brook Larmer aptly observes. 77

The U.S. occupying forces continued to leave little to chance. The Mexican journal Excelsior reports that U.S. forces established direct control over ministries and public institutions. According to an organization chart leaked to the journal by political and diplomatic sources, U.S. controls extend to all provinces, the Indian community, the Town Halls of the ten major cities, and the regional police offices. "Washington's objective is to have a strategic network in this country to permanently control all the actions and decisions of the government." With the establishment of this "parallel government" closely controlling all decision-making, "things have returned to the way they were before 1968 in Panama." The journal scheduled an interview with President Endara to discuss the matter, but it was cancelled without explanation. 78

The report provides extensive details, including names of U.S. officials and the tasks assigned them in the organization chart. All of this could easily be checked by U.S. reporters, if home offices were interested. They are not. "The information that we reveal here," Excelsior reports, "is supposed to be known only to very restricted groups" -- not including the U.S. public.

The occupying forces also moved to limit such irritants as freedom of expression. Excelsior reports that "United States intelligence services exercise control not only over local information media but also over international news agencies," according to the president of the Journalist Union of Panama. An opposition activist alleges that the first Panamanian publishing company, ERSA, with three daily papers, was occupied by U.S. tanks and security forces "in order to turn it over to a businessman who had lost it in a lawsuit," a member of an oligarchical family that "favors the interventionist line of the United States." According to Ramsey Clark's Independent Commission of Inquiry, the offices of the daily La Republica "were ransacked and looted by U.S. troops the day after the newspaper reported on the large number of deaths caused by the U.S. invasion." Its editor was arrested and held for six weeks by U.S. troops, then sent to a Panamanian prison without charges. The publisher of one of the few opposition voices was arrested in March on charges of alleged misconduct when he was a government minister, and the government closed a radio station for broadcasting editorials critical of the U.S. invasion and the government it established. 79

Miguel Antonio Bernal, a leading Panamanian intellectual and anti-Noriega activist, writes that "freedom of press is again under siege in Panama." Vice-president Ricardo Arias Calderón proposed a new law to restrict press criticism of the government, saying that "We will not tolerate criticism." He also urged stockholders of Panama's largest newspaper, La Prensa, to fire its editor and founder Roberto Eisenman because of the journal's criticism of the government, and called on members of his Christian Democratic Party to work for Eisenman's ouster. Describing such acts, the increasing terror, and the reconstruction of the military with Noriega associates who were implicated in drug running and corruption, Bernal asks why the U.S. is "turning the same blind eye" as in the past to these developments. 80

Bernal's question is surely rhetorical. Latin Americans know the answer very well.

Those not restricted to the U.S. quality press could learn that President Endara's government received "one of its worst diplomatic setbacks" on March 30, when it was formally ousted from the Group of Eight, what are considered the major Latin American democracies. Panama had been suspended from the group in 1988 in reaction to Noriega's repression, and with the further deterioration of the political climate under foreign occupation, Panama was ousted permanently at the March meeting of foreign ministers. The Group issued a resolution stating that "the process of democratic legitimation in Panama requires popular consideration without foreign interference, that guarantees the full right of the people to freely choose their governments." The resolution also indicated that the operations of the U.S. military are affecting Panama's sovereignty and independence as well as the legality of the Endara government. This decision extends the pattern of strong Latin American opposition to the earlier U.S. measures against Panama and the invasion. As the media here barely noted, President Endara's inaugural address four weeks after the invasion was boycotted by virtually all Latin American ambassadors. 81

The Washington-media position is that the Endara government is legitimate, having won the 1989 elections that were stolen by Noriega. Latin American opinion commonly takes a different view. In 1989, Endara was running against Noriega, with extensive U.S. backing, open and covert. Furthermore, the elections were conducted under conditions caused by the illegal U.S. economic warfare that was demolishing the economy. The United States was therefore holding a whip over the electorate. For that reason alone the elections were far from free and uncoerced, by any sensible standards. Today, the political scene is quite different. On these grounds, there would be every reason to organize a new election, contrary to the wishes of Endara and his U.S. sponsors.

The official position is offered by Michael Massing in the New York Review. Reporting from Panama, he writes that Endara's willingness to "go along" with the U.S. request that he assume the presidency "has caused the leaders of some Latin American countries, such as Peru, to question his legitimacy." "The Panamanians themselves, however, have few such qualms," because his "clear victory" in the 1989 election "provided Endara with all the credentials he needs." Citation of Peru for dragging its feet is a deft move, since President Garc¡a was an official enemy of the U.S. who had been recalcitrant about Nicaragua, had restricted debt payment, and in general failed to observe proper standards; best to overlook the rest of the Group of Eight, however, among "some Latin American countries." As for the views of "the Panamanians themselves," no further indication is given as to how this information was obtained. 82

Massing reports on the police raids in poor neighborhoods, the protests of homeless and hungry people demanding jobs and housing, the reconstruction of Noriega's PDF, the restoration of the oligarchy with a "successful corporate lawyer" at the head of a government "largely made up of businessmen," who receive U.S. corporate visitors sponsored by OPIC (which ensures U.S. investments abroad) "as if they were visiting heads of state." The business climate is again "attractive" in this "land ruled by merchants, marketers, and moneylenders." "The government is drafting plans to revive Panama's banking industry, relax its labor laws, expand the free trade zone, and attract foreign investors," and to privatize state enterprises and "radically cut public spending."

Drawn from the "tiny white elite," the government has been accused of "wanting to turn the clock back to 1968, when a small rich group ruled the country" -- namely, exactly the group now restored to power. But "the charge is unfair," Massing comments. The proof is that when employees from Air Panama fearful of losing their jobs held a vigil outside his office, President Endara "sent them coffee and made a point of talking with them." What is more, while fasting in the Cathedral in an effort to expedite U.S. aid (or to lose weight, some unkind locals quipped), "he invited striking sanitation workers in for a chat and eventually negotiated a settlement." Furthermore, Vice-President Arias Calderón has said that he favors a "social market economy" in which the government seeks to correct disparities created by the market. True, no projects that might illustrate these plans "are in the works" and the Endara government "opposes the idea" of using U.S. aid for such purposes, "determined to leave virtually everything to the private sector." But that proves nothing, in the face of the powerful evidence showing that "the charge is unfair," just reviewed in its entirety.

Massing is not pleased with the outcome, particularly, the restoration of Noriega's PDF, "despite all the good intentions" of the United States (taken as given, in accordance with the norms of the intellectual culture), and its efforts "to atone for its past misbehavior." The problem does not lie in the U.S. military aid programs, which have trained security forces that "have been guilty of horrible excesses" in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Noriega's Panama (and other cases unmentioned). Rather, the problem lies in what the U.S. "had to work with." It's those folks who are bad, not us, please.

The consistent effects of our military training, the policies of which it is a part, the documentary record explaining the reasons, in fact, all of history is irrelevant. We are always willing to admit that there were aberrations in the past. But at every moment of time, we have changed course and put the errors of the past behind us.

We are Good, our intentions are Good. Period.

  6. The War Goes On

In its essentials, the invasion of Panama is so familiar an exercise of U.S. power as to be no more than a footnote to history. Rhetoric aside, it remains a high priority to block independent nationalism. Arguably, it is more important than before as the U.S. seeks to shore up its own domains in the developing conflict with the other two major world power centers.

The capacity for intervention, however, is undergoing changes. In one significant respect, it is increasing. The decline of the Soviet deterrent and of Soviet willingness to sustain targets of U.S. attack grants Washington greater freedom to crush anything in its path, as Elliott Abrams and others perceive. But in other respects the intervention capacity is declining. The major factor is the tenacity and courage of indigenous resistance. A second impediment is the diversification of the world scene. Though Europe and Japan are now entranced by the opportunities for exploitation of the new Third World in the East, they may not readily allow the U.S. to have its way in its traditional domains. The world is out of control, as well as out of step.

For the countries of the region, this possibility offers some advantages. Doug Henwood observes that the Japanese (and Europe as well) "are well aware that the state is the friend of economic growth, not its enemy," which is "good news for Latin elites interested in more national sovereignty," and their involvement "offers an alternative to dependency on the U.S." 83 It is not that the intentions of Europe and Japan are any more benign. But, arguably, it is better to have three robbers with their hands in your pocket than only one, since they may fall out over how to divide up the loot and thereby offer some room for maneuver. And constructive initiatives are not unthinkable, particularly under the influence of domestic solidarity movements.

Another factor is dissidence within the United States. The popular movements have had significant success in education and raising consciousness, and in imposing constraints on state violence, thus enlarging the scope for freedom and justice. It is that factor, whatever its weight, that will be the primary concern for people who regard themselves as moral agents.


1 Kim Moody, An Injury to All (Verso, 1988), 147-50.

2 See references of note 58, chapter 12.

3 See Necessary Illusions for extensive evidence.

4 Editorial, Washington Post weekly, March 1, 1986. See chapter 12, pp. 00f.

5 On the reaction to the success of this strategy, see chapter 10. For a comparative study of media treatment of the 1984 elections in Nicaragua and those in El Salvador, see Manufacturing Consent, chapter 3. The same model was used by Lex Rietman in a very careful study of the European press. The range was much wider than in the U.S. media. Thus, the London Guardian, keeping to professional standards, applied the same criteria in both cases, unlike the U.S. media, which shaped their criteria to the requirements of the state. At the other extreme, the allegedly independent leftist Libération in Paris dutifully marched to Reaganite commands. The study is revealing with regard to the cultural colonization of Europe in the past decades, particularly France. Rietman, Over objectiviteit, betonrot en de pijlers van de democratie: De Westeuropese pers en het nieuws over Midden-Amerika, Instituut voor massacommunicatie, Universiteit Nijmegen, 1988. On the comparative treatment of the 1989-1990 Salvadoran and Nicaraguan elections in the New York Times, see Patricia Goudvis, "Making Propaganda and Mobilizing Support" (Institute of Latin American Studies, U. of Texas), demonstrating the same pattern of subordination to shifting U.S. government agendas rather than any concern for democratic values or professional standards. Thus, in the case of El Salvador, there was no mention of freedom of speech, assembly, or the press, and scarcely a comment on army harassment and death threats against opposition candidates, or the general climate of terror and fear. In the case of Nicaragua, where conditions were far more benign, the agenda was reversed. No mention was made of contra disruption of elections, which was severe, while FMLN rebels in El Salvador were regularly discussed in these terms. And so on, in the well-documented pattern.

6 Wilson Ring, Boston Globe, Nov. 24, 1989. Also NYT, Nov. 27. Bush, AP, April 17, 1990.  

7 Central America Bulletin (CARIN), Aug. 1989; Council on Hemispheric Affairs, News and Analysis, Nov. 24; Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Nov. 22; Central America Report (Guatemala; CAR), Nov. 17, 24; Latinamerica press (Peru), Aug. 24, 1989.

8 Discussion after "Chronicle," ABC TV, Boston, Dec. 20, 1989; quoted with his authorization.

9 See chapter 1, p. 5.  

10 See chapter 3, p. 102, and note 24.

11 Andrew Rosenthal, NYT, Jan. 26, 1990.

12 Quoted from ABC TV in The Progressive, February 1990.

13 An example is the tale of Noriega's stores of cocaine, which turned out to be tamales, as noted a few weeks after the proper effect had been obtained. Susanne Schafer, BG, Jan. 24, 1990.

14 BG, Jan. 4, 1990. José de Cordoba, WSJ, Dec. 22; Will, WP weekly, Dec. 25, 1989.

15 Stephen Kurkjian and Adam Pertman, BG, Jan. 5, 1990.

16 Broder, "When US intervention makes sense," WP Weekly, Jan. 22, 1990. National Council of Churches condemnation, James Franklin, BG, Dec. 21, 1989.  

17 AP, Dec. 20, 1989, my emphasis; Richard Cole, AP, BG, Feb. 3, 1990.

18 Maechling, a former senior State Department official and professor of international law, "Washington's Illegal Invasion," Foreign Policy, Summer 1990. Aguilar Zinser, "In Latin America, `Good' U.S. Intervention Is Still No Intervention," WP, Aug. 5, 1987. See also Alfred P. Rubin, professor of international law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, "Is Noriega Worth Subverting US Law?," Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 1990, discussing the blatantly illegal actions against Noriega personally.

19 Editorial, Toronto Globe & Mail, Jan. 3, 1990; Martin Mittelstaedt, G&M, Dec. 22, 1989. NYT, Jan. 18, 1990.  

20 Marlin Fitzwater, cited by John Mashek, BG, Dec. 20, 1989; Elaine Sciolino, NYT, Jan. 4, 1990; Ian Ball, Daily Telegraph (London), Dec. 21; Eloy Aguilar, AP, Dec. 18; Lindsey Gruson, NYT, Dec. 20, 1989.

21 Andrew Rosenthal, NYT, Dec. 22, 1989.

22 AP, Nov. 6, Dec. 2, 1989; Jan. 6, 1980. AP, Miami Herald, Nov. 7, 1989. Patti McSherry, In These Times, Dec. 20, 1989. Rita Beamish, AP, Nov. 29, 1989.

23 AP, NYT, Jan. 3; Mark Uhlig, NYT, Jan. 4, Oswaldo Bonilla, BG, Jan. 4. AP, Jan. 3, 4, and Miami Herald, Jan. 6, citing the testimony of two peasants who had been kidnapped by the contras and witnessed the ambush. Reuters, BG, Jan. 24; Don Podesta, WP weekly, Jan. 22; Mark Uhlig, NYT, Jan. 28, 1990. The last three finally report the evidence that had been available at once about the witnesses, along with other information implicating the contras. Links, Fall, 1989. AP, Feb. 1, 1990, reporting the Linder family's court suit in Miami.

24 CAR, 1984, vol. XI, no. 33; Seymour Hersh, NYT, June 22, 1986; Alfonso Chardy, Miami Herald, Feb. 29, March 3, 1988; Edward Cody, WP weekly, Jan. 8, 1990. John Weeks, "Panama: The roots of current political instability," Third World Quarterly, July 1987; COHA "News and Analysis," April 5, 1988.

25 Ken Silverstein, Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 1988.

26 Julia Preston, WP weekly, Dec. 25; AP, Dec. 20, BG, Dec. 21, 1989.

27 Cited in "Talk of the Town," New Yorker, Jan. 8, 1990.  

28 Andrew Rosenthal, "Bush Eliminates Some Restrictions on Beijing Trade," NYT, Dec. 20; Maureen Dowd, "2 U.S. Officials Went to Beijing Secretly in July," NYT, Dec. 19; Anthony Flint, "US blocks 2 Chinese scholars," BG, Dec. 21, 1989. AP, Dec. 20, 1989, Feb. 9, 1990. Iraq, AP, Dec. 22, 1989.

29 Official State Department response to an inquiry from Senator Daniel Inouye, Jan. 26, 1990. Gonzalez, AP, BG, Aug. 5, 1990.

30 Glass, ABC World News Tonight, Dec. 15, 1989.

31 David Shribman and James Perry, WSJ, Jan. 5, 1990.

32 NYT, Dec. 22, 1989.

33 Letter, NYT, Jan. 2, 1990, reviewing the alleged legal basis for the aggression. Quote is from the official declaration.

34 Dinges, NYT Op-Ed, Jan. 12, 1990; Lawn, U.S. Dept. of Justice, letter, May 8, 1986; John Weeks and Andrew Zimbalist, "The failure of intervention in Panama," Third World Quarterly, Jan. 1989.

35 Constable BG, July 9, 1990; Massing, NYRB, May 17, 1990.  

36 CAR, vol. XI, no. 31, 1984, citing Miami Herald. Staff Study, "Crime and Secrecy: The Use of Offshore Banks and Companies," Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, 1983. Michael Kranish, BG, Jan. 1, 1990.

37 Philip Bennett, BG, Feb. 5; Stephen Labaton, NYT, Feb. 6, 1990.

38 AP, Jan. 20; Greve, Phila. Inquirer, Feb. 22; Lasso, CSM, Aug. 15, 1990, an upbeat report on Panamian recovery -- for the rich.

39 Cockburn, Out of Control, 154.

40 NYT, March 22, 27, 1988, cited by Weeks and Zimbalist, op. cit.; Larry Rohter, NYT, Jan. 2, 1990; Americas Watch, The Laws of War and the Conduct of the Panama Invasion, May 1990. Constable, BG, July 10, 1990; Massing, op. cit. In August, Herrera was replaced as head of the national police force by Colonel Fernando Quezada; AP, BG, Aug. 23, 1990.  

41 NYT, Dec. 21, 22, 1989.

42 Headline, WSJ, Dec. 26.

43 Walter Robinson, "Journalists constrained by Pentagon," Dec. 25; Eloy Aguilar, AP, Dec. 22, 1989, citing Dr. Elmer Miranda, deputy director of San Tomás Hospital in Panama City. Hossie, G&M, Jan. 8; La Nación (Buenos Aires), cited by historian Thomas Boylston Adams, BG, Feb. 3, 1990. Gannon, CSM, Dec. 29, 1989.

44 Michael Kagay, "Panamanians Strongly Back U.S. Move," NYT, Jan. 6; Gary Langer, AP, Jan. 6, 1990. Alexander Cockburn cites a statistician's analysis showing that if Panamanians average 100 relatives or close friends, the death toll would have been over 2500; considerably more, on realistic assumptions. Nation, Feb. 26, 1990.

45 Joan Mower, AP, BG, Feb. 2, 1990.

46 Foreign Policy, Winter 89/90.

47 Ha'aretz, Dec. 21, 1989; El Tiempo, Jan. 5, 1990.  

48 Frederick Kempe, WSJ, Oct. 18, 1989.

49 Paul Blustein and Steven Mufson, WP weekly, Dec. 25, 1989. Also Steve Ropp, Current History, Jan. 1990.

50 Martha Hamilton, WP Weekly, Dec. 25; Economist, Dec. 23, 1989.

51 Mark Uhlig, "Managua Economy Hinges on Panama," NYT, Dec. 28, 1989; Gerald Seib and John Fialka, WSJ, Jan. 4, 1990; NYT, Dec. 30; Diego Ribadeneira, BG, Dec. 30, 1989; NPR, reported by Blase Bonpane, referring to Linda Wertheimer on "All Things Considered." U.N. vote condemning the trade embargo, passed 82 to 2 (U.S. and Israel), Dec. 22, 1989, not reported in the New York Times; noted in Mesoamerica (Costa Rica), Jan. 1990.

52 See Fateful Triangle, 362, 450.

53 Robert Pear, NYT, Jan. 29; Rita Beamish, AP, Jan. 29, 1990.

54 "Resentment of US spreads in Panama City," BG, Jan. 1, 1990.  

55 WP-BG, Dec. 30, 1989.

56 Elaine Sciolino, NYT, Aug. 14, 1987.

57 Davidi, Davar, Dec. 22, 1990, translated by Israel Shahak. The figures on weapons sales are attributed to "foreign publications," but, Shahak notes, this is probably a device to pass censorship with information from reliable Israeli sources. On the arms sales to Iran, see references of chapter 1, note 86.

58 Glenn Fowler, NYT, Dec. 20; Reuter, BG, Dec. 20; Caribbean Development Bank, cited in AP, Dec. 9; Robert Glass, AP, Dec. 22; Grenadan intellectual Gus John, p.c.; Alexander Cockburn, In These Times, Dec. 21, 1989; William Steif, Progressive, January 1990; Krist, New Republic, April 24, 1989. See NACLA's Report on the Americas, Feb. 1990, for more details on Grenada's decline, including discussion of the harmful effects of the U.S. AID program.

59 Black, "The Dominican Military's Conditional Retreat," in Constantine Danopoulos, ed., Military Intervention and Withdrawal (Routledge, 1990). See also chapter 8, below.

60 AP, Jan. 7, 1990. Economist, Dec. 23, 1989; Aug. 25, 1990. Haiti, AP, Nov. 4, 1989, citing Americas Watch. On the selective concern for refugees, see Political Economy of Human Rights, vol. II, chap. 3.

61 Robert Pear, NYT, Jan. 26; AP, Jan. 25, 1990.  

62 In the mainstream, that is. See, however, Alexander Cockburn, Nation, Jan. 29, 1990, and subsequent articles of his.

63 Rohter, "Panama and U.S. Strive to Settle on Death Toll," NYT, April 1, 1990.

64 Excelsior-AFP, Jan. 27, cited in Latin America News Update (LANU), March 1990; Mesoamerica (Costa Rica), May 1990; CAR, March 2, 1990.

65 Brecha, CODEHUCA, "Report of Joint CODEHUCA-CONADEHUPA delegation," Jan.-Feb. 1990, San José.

66 See Physicians for Human Rights, "`Operation Just Cause': The Medical Cost of Military Action in Panama," Boston, March 15, 1990; Americas Watch, Laws of War and the Conduct of the Panama Invasion. CAR, Sept. 7, 1990.

67 See CODEHUCA letter to Americas Watch, June 5, 1990, commenting on the Americas Watch report.

68 Excelsior (Mexico City), April 14, 1990; Central America NewsPak, Austin Texas. Pelaez, El Diario-La Prensa, May 7, 1990.  

69 Aviation Week & Space Technology, Jan. 1, 1990.

70 John Morrocco, ibid.; Hackworth, interview with Bill Baskervill, AP, Feb. 25, 1990. March 1990 report, see chapter 1, section 2.

71 Michael Gordon, NYT, April 11, 1990.

72 Oppenheimer, MH, June 20, 1990.

73 CAR, Aug. 17, 1990.

74 Latinamerica press (Lima), Aug. 30, 1990.

75 Joy James, "US policy in Panama," Race & Class, July-September 1990; State Department letter to Jesse Helms, stating that the Department "shares your view" on the matter in question, March 26, 1987, cited by James. On these and other matters discussed here, see also Daphne Wysham, Labor Action, April-May 1990; Martha Gellhorn, "The Invasion of Panama," Granta, Spring 1990.  

76 Constable, BG, July 11, 1990.

77 Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 1990.

78 Excelsior, Feb. 28, 1990; LANU.

79 Felicitas Pliego, Excelsior, April 29, 1990; Commission of Inquiry release, Feb. 17; COHA News and Analysis, May 1, 1990.

80 Bernal, "Panama's fight for free expression," Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1990.  

81 CAR, April 6; Andres Oppenheimer, MH, Jan. 19, 1990.

82 Massing, op. cit. 

83 See chapter 1, note 94

Table of Contents ] Introduction ] I. Cold War: Fact and Fancy ] II. The Home Front ] III. The Global System ] IV. Problems of Population Control ] [ V. The Post-Cold War Era ] VI. Nefarious Aggression ] VII. The Victors ] VIII. The Agenda of the Doves: 1988 ] IX. The Mortal Sin of Self-Defense ] X. The Decline of the Democratic Ideal ] XI. Democracy in the Industrial Societies ] XII. Force and Opinion ] Afterword ]

 ] Deterring Democracy ] Necessary Illusions ] The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many ] Keeping the Rabble in Line ] Rethinking Camelot ] Powers and Prospects ] Year 501 ] Secrets, Lies and Democracy ] What Uncle Sam Really Wants ] Interviews, Debates and Talks ] About Noam Chomsky ]


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