Close your eyes. Try to visualize a nation whose people are ruled by a despot, a tyrant allied with none other than the U.S. government. Keep your eyes closed and now imagine that same autocrat falling out of favor with his American patrons. Picture him demonized in the press. Envision his country invaded. In your mind's eye, you can see him arrested and forced to stand trial. Finally, conjure up an image of the man behind all this... a man named Bush.
Open your eyes. If you thought you were dreaming of Saddam and Iraq and Dubya, think again because we're coming up on the seventeenth anniversary of another American intervention in a little place David Lee Roth likes to call Panama.
On December 20, 1989 - just two weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall - President George H.W. Bush ushered in the post-Cold War era by sending 25,000 troops into Noriega's Panama. Called Operation Just Cause (sic), the foray would have been deemed a "surprise attack" if any other nation had initiated it.
"That invasion, less than eight months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, was condemned by the UN General Assembly," explains former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. "No action was taken, although the United States violated all the international laws later violated by Iraq when it invaded Kuwait, plus a number of Western Hemisphere conventions and the Panama Canal Treaties."
Utilizing a classic spin technique, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering defended the invasion by claiming that Article 51 of the UN Charter "provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people." Pickering argued that Bush was compelled to invade because Panama was "being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States." Since such durable disinformation tactics never seem to fail, the long reliable CIA asset General Manuel Noriega fell from grace in record time.
Estimates range from 500 to 3000 dead Panamanian civilians killed during the invasion and the fighting afterwards. Bush the Elder was later asked if getting Noriega was worth all those deaths. As if to confirm the unspoken tenet that some lives count more than others, the president replied: "Every human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it."
Can you visualize that?
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.