In video 8 we learned that former President Bush had declared Panama had been freed and that Democracy had been restored. Named Operation Just Cause, the United States military campaign was condemned throughout the region as a violation of Panama’s sovereignty and their right as a nation to determine who was legitimately in charge. This was one of the latest interventions by the United States in the Caribbean. This military action was an obvious threat to the self-government of Panama.
The US government had known that Noriega was involved in drug trafficking since at least 1972. It was then when the Nixon administration considered assassinating him. But he stayed on the CIA payroll. In 1983, a US Senate committee concluded that Panama was a major center for the laundering of drug funds and drug trafficking.
The US government continued to value Noriega’s services. In May 1986, the Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency praised Noriega for his “vigorous anti-drug trafficking policy.”” A year later, the Director “welcomed our close association- with Noriega, while Attorney-General Edwin Meese stopped a US Justice Department investigation of Noriega’s criminal activities. In August 1987, Elliott Abrams, the State Department official in charge of U.S. policy in Central America and Panama, opposed a Senate resolution condemning Noriega.
And yet, when Noriega was finally indicted in Miami in 1988, all the charges except one were related to activities that dated back before 1984, when he was our boy, helping with the U.S. war against Nicaragua. Helping to steal elections that the United States approved. He was serving U.S. interests more than satisfactorily. It had nothing to do with suddenly discovering that he was a gangster and a drug-peddler, we had known this all along.
Noriega made one mistake, instead of just robbing the poor; he began to interfere with the freedoms of the rich, which elicited opposition from business leaders. Many of who had ties to the United States economy.
By the mid 1980s, Noriega was in the wrong and considered a criminal. Among other things, he seems to have been dragging his feet about helping the U.S. in the contra war. His independence also threatened our interests in the Panama Canal. On January 1, 1990 most of the administration of the Canal was due to go over to Panama. In the year 2000 it goes entirely to them. We had to make sure that Panama was in the hands of people we could control before that date.
Since we could no longer trust Noriega to do our bidding it was time for him to go. Washington forced economic sanctions that practically destroyed the economy. Draining the poor nonwhite majority. They too came to hate Noriega, not least because he was responsible for the economic warfare that was causing their children to starve.
Next a military coup was tried and failed. Then in December 1989, the United States celebrated the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War by invading Panama outright. Thousands of civilians are have thought to have been killed. This restored power to the rich white elite that had been displaced by the Torrijos coup. This was just in time to make certain a compliant government for the administrative changeover of the Canal on January 1, 1990.
Throughout this process, the U.S. press followed Washington’s lead, selecting villains in terms of current needs. Actions we’d formerly condoned became crimes. For example, in 1984, Arnulfo Arias had won the Panamanian presidential election. Noriega stole the election, with considerable violence and fraud.
But Noriega hadn’t yet become disobedient. He was our man in Panama, and the Arias party was considered to have dangerous elements of “ultra nationalism.”” The Reagan administration consequently highly praised the violence and fraud, and sent Secretary of State George Shultz down to legitimate the stolen election and praise Noriega’s account of “democracy- as a mold for the errant Sandinistas.
The Washington-media coalition and the main magazines abstained from passing judgment on the falsified elections, but dismissed as utterly worthless the Sandinistas’ far more free and honest election in the same year. It could not be controlled.
Noriega stole an election in May 1989 again. This time it was from a representative of the business opposition Guillermo Endara. Noriega used less violence than in 1984. By now the Reagan administration had given the signal that it had turned against Noriega. Subsequently the media voiced indignation over his failure to meet our lofty democratic standards.
The press also began passionately denouncing human rights violations that previously didn’t reach the threshold of their attention. By the time we invaded Panama in December 1989, the press had demonized Noriega, turning him into the worst monster since Attila the Hun. Ted Koppel was orating, “Noriega belongs to that special fraternity of international villains, men like Qaddafi, Idi Amin and the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Americans just love to hate.”” Dan Rather placed him “at the top of the list of the world’s drug thieves and scum’s.”” In fact, Noriega remained a very minor thug ” exactly what he was when he was on the CIA payroll.
In 1988, for example, Americas Watch published a report on human rights in Panama, giving an unpleasant picture. But as their reports ” and other inquiries ” make clear, Noriega’s human rights record was nothing remotely like that of other US clients in the region, and no worse than in the days when Noriega was still a favorite, following orders.
Take Honduras, for example. Although it’s not a murderous terrorist state like El Salvador or Guatemala, human rights abuses were probably worse there than in Panama. In fact, there’s one CIA-trained battalion in Honduras that all by it had carried out more atrocities than Noriega did.
Or consider U.S. backed dictators like Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Somoza in Nicaragua, Marcos in the Philippines, Duvalier in Haiti and a host of Central American gangsters through the 1980s. They were all much more brutal than Noriega, but the United States supported them enthusiastically right through decades of horrifying atrocities. As long as the profits were flowing out of their countries and into the U.S. George Bush’s administration continued to honor Mobutu, Ceausescu and Saddam Hussein, among others, all far worse criminals than Noriega. Suharto of Indonesia, arguably the worst killer of them all, remains a Washington-media “moderate.””
The fact was that at exactly the moment it invaded Panama because of its outrage over Noriega’s abuses of human rights, the Bush administration announced new high-technology sales to China, noting that $300 million in business for US firms was at stake and that contacts had secretly resumed a few weeks after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
On the same day that Panama was invaded the White House also announced plans (and implemented them shortly afterwards) to lift a ban on loans to Iraq. The State Department explained with a straight face that this was to achieve the “goal of increasing US exports and put us in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record….””
The Department continued with the pose as Bush rebuffed the Iraqi democratic opposition (bankers, professionals, etc.) and blocked congressional efforts to condemn the atrocious crimes of his old friend Saddam Hussein. Compared to Bush’s buddies in Baghdad and Beijing, Noriega looked like Mother Teresa.
Which brings us to Iraq. Do I think there are similarities in the way we invaded Panama as with Iraq? You bet your sweet behind I do. I was in the military when we invaded Iraq in the 1990’s. Subsequently when that campaign was over I had lost all respect for the leaders of our government and those who made the decision to invade this country. As most soldiers, I questioned why we invaded to begin with. This appeared to be of circumstances similar to Panama. Suddenly we were pulling out, but Saddam was still in power. What agreement did the Bush administration finally reach with him?
Evidently this agreement was broken during the Clinton administration. It was imperative to the GOP to remove Saddam from power again. Just like Panama and Noriega, we accused a man, who we knew to be evil and atrocious, of crimes that would hit the souls of Americans. We accused him of being a terrorist.
Saddam Hussein may very well have the capabilities, but so does America. The U.S. military is in my opinion terrorizing Iraq now in the name of Human Rights. Is this working? NO, it is not. American soldiers are dying by the dozens almost daily. Propaganda is in full force. The media is once again only telling the American public a small scale of what is going on.
I suspect that one of the reasons that the media is not as involved in this campaign has as much to do with that they are aware of what lies our government is capable of and are ashamed that they participated in the previous campaigns involving the former President Reagan and former President Bush administrations. Could they have some sort of conscious? Did they somehow know that weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist?
Yes, I don’t doubt Saddam Hussein had the capability of producing WOMD, but did he actually have them? None seem to have surface. How will this administration explain this to the American public? Somehow my belief is that George Bush, Jr. doesn’t care. He is but a pawn guaranteed a prize in the end also. How else could a complete idiot become our President but if his father bought it for him?
After the invasion of Panama, Bush announced one billion dollars in aid to Panama. Of this, $400 million consisted of incentives for U.S. business to export products to Panama, $150 million was to pay off bank loans and $65 million went to private sector loans and guarantees to U.S. investors. In other words, about half the aid was a gift from the American taxpayer to American businesses. Isn’t this again what is happening in Iraq? Surely Halliburton will not lose any of its contracts. (By the way, where is our Vice President? HAS ANYONE seen him for the past 3 months? Maybe he’s back at work at Halliburton?)
The U.S. put the bankers back in power after the invasion of Panama. Noriega’s involvement in drug trafficking had been trivial compared to theirs. Primarily the banks have always conducted drug trafficking there since the banking system is virtually unregulated. It is a natural outlet for criminal money. This has been the basis for Panama’s highly artificial economy and remains so possibly at a higher level after the invasion. The Panamanian Defense Forces have also been reconstructed with basically the same officers.
So the question remains, how sovereign can a small nation in the Caribbean be in a world dominated by a bigger power? It was only in 1962 that Jamaica became independent of two centuries of British rule. The popular image of a Caribbean paradise is undercut by Jamaican reality. The island is the third largest island of the Greater Antilles, an island chain in the West Indies that encompasses the nations of Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It is a very small country with few resources. The census of 1991 recorded a total population of 2.3 million. Blacks accounted for 2.08 million a total of 90.5% of the total population. Whites accounted for 5,200
Manley first became Prime Minister in 1972. Manley envisioned a Jamaica that took it’s own sovereign path in social, political and economical quality. This was an ambitious program for a small and young nation. But Jamaica had something the world wanted, an industry that could possibly bring the country into the economy of the 20th century, bauxite.
Bauxite, the red gold of the Caribbean, is used to make aluminum. Under an old agreement, foreign company’s paid Jamaica a minimum tax to mine the bauxite. The island was the world’s biggest bauxite producer and many of the bauxite companies were richer than Jamaica itself; Manley demanded more money and many of the multinational companies protested. After some fruitless negotiations, the government of Jamaica took the bold step of unilaterally imposing new tariffs. The companies now had to pay Jamaica ten (10) times more than they used to.
The companies were truly upset and disturbed; there was in fact in existence an agreement in effect that covered the fiscal regime of the bauxite industry and the bauxite companies that had some 16 years to run. The fact is that when the companies started operation in Jamaica, the royalty that was being paid in the early 50’s was 1 shilling per ton of aluminum mined. The victory claimed by Manley over the multinationals was a focus for national pride. Bob Marley immortalized the mood of the country in a song.
The Bauxite levy established that Jamaica was a sovereign country. And sovereignty is important for a small third world country that had all along been along under the clutches of dependency. That one act establishes sovereignty.
Manley became a hero. He started schools and hospitals that would benefit the poor. The path would now be democratic socialism. The problem that resulted out of this newfound capitalism was that property is judged more than people.
The west eventually accepted his stand over bauxite, but he supported Castro and communism too much. It was clear that the United States did not look upon Jamaica and the Jamaican government as a friend anymore.
In 1980 Seaga defeated Manley. Seaga brought back tourism and investment to Jamaica, but the country’s affluent minority benefited the most from the new policies of deregulation and privatization. By now the world was in recession and Jamaica did not recover. The poor suffered the most as social programs were cut. This led to Manley being reelected in 1989.
Singing a new song, he now preached that competition was the key in creativity and efficiency in business was his new message. Manley’s newfound simplicity reassured western investors, but for most Jamaicans living in some of the biggest slums of the Caribbean little has changed.
In Columbia Beranardo Gutierrez is the Popular Liberation Army Leader, spoke to the cameramen, “In our country, guns have replaced the states ability to rule. Because the state was unable to govern, armed groups took over. In Columbia we have a 2 party system. But the two traditional parties have not represented the interests of the majority and guerilla groups have provided poor Columbians with an alternative.”” Army checkpoints now have soldiers are on the lookout for guerilla sympathizers.
Columbia is one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, but it also has a long and bloody history of political violence. Hundreds of thousands were killed in Las Violencia, a civil war that raged throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. The conflict was settled in a deal between the countries 2 traditional parties. But today’s violence is a bitter legacy of that period. Many felt so excluded from that power sharing arrangement that they took up arms.
The country has been locked in war between guerillas and the state for more than 30 years. Guerilla groups have originated all along the eastern Andes of Columbia. They also appear in the Magdalena medio and other parts of the country. But the area where they are the strongest is in the eastern Andes.
Several Guerilla groups are still active in Columbia. One of them the Population Liberation Army believes in Marxism and Leninism and are a combination of men, women. They collect their own taxes and administer their own laws. In the areas they control, they are a virtual state within a state and a clear internal threat to sovereignty. Guerilla groups continue to operate because the Columbian state has concentrated on the development of urban areas and areas of commercial agriculture. For many years it left many areas of the country abandoned. Years of neglect by the government meant that the majority of rural Columbians faced a daily struggle for survival.
Some poor farmers have managed to improve their lives by the illegal harvesting and processing of coca leaves for cocaine. Thousands of farmers in other Andean nations like Peru and Bolivia have also resorted to coca harvesting. Unwittingly they have become a base of an enterprise that has become another even greater threat to sovereignty. The people feel abandoned by the government and that they have no choice.
Medellin is the cocaine capital of the world. The insatiable demand of cocaine in the North America and Europe has made the illegal trafficking of drugs a hugely profitable enterprise. As the power of the drug traffickers grew, they developed their own system of law and order. They found a ready recruiting ground in northeastern Medellin; where ½ the youngsters are unemployed. Hundreds became killers in the service of this criminal empire. On average there are 18 murders a day in Medellin, not all drug related. Killing is now perceived as a solution to even minor conflicts.
It is very difficult to carry out justice and no one gives evidence. Judges have their hands tied behind their backs and crimes go unpunished. Many people feel that drug trafficking has replaced the state and that the government has lost control. Vigilantes have been formed to fight back, thinking that the state has abandoned them. They are fighting “kid- gangs. The U.S. gave the Columbians 65 million dollars in helicopters and guns to make this war; this threatened the sovereignty even more. It was left up to the judges to order traffickers to the U.S. for trial. They were murdered. More than 60 judges within months and the United States made them feel inferior.
Instead of helping, the U.S. had created a war. In 1990 President Garza offered amnesty to the drug traffickers with no extradition.
I am very much an American, and I love my country, however, I must say that I do not believe in this invasion of Iraq for the reasons our government gave us. I believe that they have had more than enough time to have found WOMD and that our President is once again using our military and contractors at the expense of the American public to fund his own personal interests. I am thoroughly confused as to how the American public does not see this. I also suspect that our government is quite capable of having performed or at the least, funded the atrocities that befell us on September 11, 2001. I know that some people will think that un-American, but even at the level I was in the military, I know what we are capable of. We all should know. It is amazing how no one has yet to be tried for that crime. Is it not possible that our own CIA did not pay the ones that committed this crime? I believe that it is possible. At the very least the current administration has taken very much advantage of the fear that propaganda can be made to do to put fear into the hearts of Americans. This justifies the illegal actions that I believe our government is performing. The Bush Administration will forever wear the shame they are performing on Human Rights in the world and America may never recover from this shame.