(Sonnet # 30)
…. as we do at the end of the year, our memories for 2014 include, among other things, three historical anniversaries. One hundred years since World War I, six hundred years since the real First World War, fought at Bouvines, in France, by the forces of King Philip Augustus against the Coalition of the (then) Willing – that is England, Flanders and the German Emperor Otto. At the end of this article, there is a link to a related Historical Sketch video, dealing with this now forgotten but nevertheless important event.
But I now ask the reader to “season his admiration for a while with an attent ear”, while I refer to the third anniversary and attempt to condense the history of the Panama invasion – the 25th anniversary of which fell on Christmas Eve 2014.
Like the proverbial frog in the pot where the water temperature is gradually increased, we are now so inured to being lied to, that the magnitude of the lies is no longer even registered. Still, the Panama invasion is a remarkable example of massive mendacity, masked by the usual pathetic astuteness and cosmetic illusionism, and reinforced by the total collaboration of the US regime media.
Some refresher background. Panama had been for centuries part of Colombia. In 1903 the US decided to annex it. A journalist of the time asked President Woodrow Wilson which were the legal grounds for the annexation. With the candor of an honest thief, he replied, “I took it”.
The French had abandoned the building of the Canal and negotiated a settlement with the Americans, at which no Panamanian participated. The US would acquire sovereignty in perpetuity over a 10 mile strip of land on both sides of the canal.
The US then imported cheap labor by the thousands from the Caribbean, India and China. Thousands died during the construction, ended in 1913. Afterwards, the imported labor remained in Panama, living in conditions of strict apartheid – a racial underclass, much as in the American South. From then on, the US expanded and tightened its grip on Panama, besides, of course, the Canal.
In 1964, students demonstrated for the right to fly the Panamanian flag – 21 were gunned down.
In 1968 Colonel Omar Torrillo became the president of Panama, in one of the recurrent South American coups. Today we would call him a populist reformer. His programs in health, education and social welfare favored the indigenous, non-white population. For the first time, the underclass had access to universities. Understandably, Torrillo was immensely popular.
In 1978, US President Jimmy Carter and Torrillo established a new relation between the two countries. In a treaty, the US, by the year 2000, would relinquish control of the Canal to Panama. From then on, Panamanian personnel and military would patrol and defend the Canal. This, incidentally, was the birth of the local PDF (Panamanian Defense Force).
Conservatives in the US were furious. Here is Ronald Reagan, “The Panama Canal Zone is sovereign US territory, just as much Alaska is, as well as the state carved from the Louisiana purchase. We bought, we paid for it and General Torrillo should be told that we are going to keep it.” Clearly, Reagan had forgotten how Woodrow Wilson justified the “purchase.”
Eight months after Reagan’s election, Torrillo was killed in an air crash, officially accidental, though multiple witnesses testified that they saw the plane explode in flight.
This is when Noriega was catapulted on the scene. As documented by material from the archives, he had been a CIA “asset” since when Gerald Ford was president and George Bush I head of the CIA. During the Torrillo presidency, Noriega was no longer employed, but was re-instated by Bush I when he became vice-president. Why? Noriega was a critical “asset” in the covert war by the CIA-funded Contras against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
His involvement with the drug trafficking business was conveniently overlooked, as he arranged the air-shipment of arms from Panama to the North of Costa Rica and from there to the rebels. The same planes would then continue with their drug cargo to the US – a matter that surfaced during the so-called Iran-Contra scandal, now all but forgotten.
As a consequence of the scandal, Noriega’s two chief assets in the CIA were dismissed, while Director Casey retired, due to illness.
In the meantime, Noriega had developed an independent streak. For example, he hosted, against US bitter remonstrance, the Contadora meeting, a group of Latin American countries advocating an end to US intervention in their affairs. And, as a result of the Torrillo’s reforms, universities hosted independence-minded teachers (and students).
Bottom line. Noriega had to be taken out. He was indicted and tried in absentia in a US court. A first even for the US – that is, the trial of an absent foreign head of state. Based on this extraordinary legal procedure, Noriega now had to be arrested. Talk about “shame, where is thy blush?” We know that in the corrupted currents of this world the wicked prize itself buys out the law. But this is beyond buying. It’s re-packaging the law for wholesale delivery and distribution. The episode is rank, it smells to heaven and exudes the same stench surrounding the recent torture business. Where Bush 2 had a court pass a law stating that torture was legal, therefore he, Bush 2, was legally authorized to torture people.
Before resorting to invasion, the Administration tried the tactics of piloted elections, much as they have done in Ukraine in 2014 after the coup. The CIA and the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) poured millions of $ in an election campaign whose aim was to depose Noriega and install two puppets, dual American-Panamanian nationals, President Gullermo Endera and Vice President Gullermo Ford.
There were turmoils and the election scam did not succeed. Whereupon the CIA dispatched a “Delta Force” into Panama to create “incidents” to justify a military intervention “to protect American lives”. (Operations “Purple Storm” and “Sand Flea” – not an irony, but the actual official names. Even destructive stupidity must be serious)
Examples of the incidents were road-blocks by armored personnel carriers outside the Canal Zone, and brawls with the locals. With great fanfare Bush I announced on television that “if a US soldier is kicked and his wife sexually threatened I will go and save them.” (sic). Which prompted a Panamanian professor to ask if the only solution to an incident of that nature is the armed invasion and destruction of a country.
Still, the drum-beat and demonization of Noriega was now in full swing, just as it happened later for Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Saddam in Iraq, Gadhafi in Libya, Assad in Syria and now Putin in Russia.
All the while, the impression was given that the “limited intervention” in Panama was aimed at capturing Noriega. Which, as we will see, was not at all the case. But to reinforce the impression, the US even set up an 800 toll-free number, with a one million $ reward for “information leading to the capture of US court-indicted Manuel Noriega.”
Between Dec 10 and Dec 19, 1989, the US assembled a force of 24000 soldiers and equipment to launch an attack on a grossly under-armed Panamanian military, smaller in number than the police force of New York City. Endera and Gullermo were conveniently moved to the Canal Zone.
At midnight of Dec 20, 1989 began the bombardment of Panama City – not, however, the residential area housing the elite in their fancy homes, but the poorer areas where brown people lived – notably the barrio of El Chorrillo.
Present local journalists were strictly prohibited from taking pictures. US soldiers removed cameras and exposed the rolls. Still, in the scant photographic evidence that survived, the barrio of El Chorrillo is enveloped in a massive glow of fire. Survivors talk of hundreds of bombs exploded plus missiles. The aftermath showed what was essentially scorched earth.
With impudence defying description, the Pentagon said that the total number of victims were less than 500. The actual number was 4000 or more – the overwhelming majority civilians. An accurate number will never be known. Several mass graves have been uncovered since. Besides, the invasion was useful as a testing ground for the latest weapons and planes, like the “Stealth” fighters and – allegedly – the microwave gun that melts and burns the flesh of the victim, leaving only bones. Apparently, the weapon was also experimented in Iraq, as documented by a European journalist, conveniently killed at a US road block in Baghdad.
And while the microwave gun is supposition, the rest is unfortunately true. The few pictures that bypassed censure confirm the reports. As soon as the bombing started, the lights went out, the startled and frightened citizens flocked to the street, where many were run over – their bodies literally flattened by tanks and armored personnel. Universities were closed, professors thought unfavorable to the new regime sacked. Special US military personnel was charged with entering hospitals and removing and destroying any record of patients wounded during the bombardments.
20,000 people lost their home.
After the massacre, Bush I had the gall of standing up in front of Congress and say that “One year ago Panama lived in a dictatorship. Today we have a democracy.” His speech drenched in showers of applause, alleluias and standing ovations. Plus, of course, songs of praise, a holiday of flattery and Ciceronian eulogies by the regime media. He had shed the image of being a “wimp”. He knew how to deal with the “enemy” – in the recent style of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Ukraine (“Fuck the Europeans”).
Shortly later, Endara and Ford were installed as President and Vice-President of Panama. Guillermo Ford, conveniently sheltered in the Canal Zone, while the country was burning under US fire, had the gall of saying, “If I had to do it again, I would do it again! Because the cause was fine. There were men, women, civilians and military that gave their life, not for us. They gave their life for democracy, for liberty, for freedom. And I don’t mind to pay any price under the sun, to be free.”
Shakespeare would say of Guillermo Ford, that “you (would) find so much blood in his liver as will clog the foot of a flea.”
Description cannot suit itself in words to demonstrate the depth of such shamelessness. Except that, as we know, in the collective media-enforced value-set, shamelessness is a virtue.
Soon after Endera’s installation and unreported by the regime media, a law was passed whereby Panama could no longer have a military. The US military would maintain security, control the Canal in perpetuity and increase its presence with added military bases. Showing the Administration’s respect for its own treaties.
Given the complete subservience and connivance of the regime media, then and now, we can conclude that there is nothing either good or bad, but propaganda makes it so. As for the whole operation, criminal I call it, for to define true criminality, what is it but to be nothing else but criminal.
The country was left in ruin with thousands of Panamanians hosted in hastily arranged concentration camps.
Still, a few months later, the 54-year old and rotund President Gullermo Endara married a 23-year old college student he had been courting for a while. The local rich and famous remarked that he didn’t even wait a year to remarry after the death of his previous wife. What the wounded, the poor and the made-homeless thought, can be easily guessed.
PS. As of this day, an Oscar winning documentary called “The Panama Deception” cannot be shown in Panama. So much for Guillermo Ford’s ‘freedom’.