by Simon Tisdall
. . . Though he had no inkling of it that morning [in October 1989], Noriega's days in the sun were
numbered. Two months later, Bush sent the American army to finish what the
coup leaders began. After causing a large and still-disputed number of
civilian deaths in the El Chorrillo neighbourhood around the comandancia, US
forces hunted down Noriega, arrested him, put him on trial in Miami, and
sentenced him to 40 years.
. . . Noriega was a thug. But for many years, he was America's thug - until he
turned on his mentors. Trained in military and intelligence matters at the
School of the Americas, he became for a time a valued CIA "asset" working
for the agency and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Government
documents submitted to the Miami court in pre-trial hearings in 1991-92
confirmed that Noriega was paid (at least) $320,000 by the US government for
Simply put, Noriega knew too much. He acted as a cold war listening post for
the US during turbulent times in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras,
according to William [sic] Buckley's book, Panama: the Whole Story. He claimed to be an
intermediary between then vice-president Bush and Fidel Castro in the 1980s.
Noriega is also said to have met Bush, a former CIA director, personally on
two occasions in 1976 and 1983.
. . . Nor was the new Panamanian government's demand that Noriega be
returned there for trial accepted.
In Panama, Noriega would have been free to tell all he knew. And for many
powerful men in Washington, some of whom are still alive, that prospect was
potentially dangerous. The outcome of the Noriega case in Miami, like the
1989 invasion, was never in doubt from day one. It was a show trial, a
warning to others. It was pure vengeance. It was a cover-up of decades of
illicit regional meddling. But it was also a demonstration of raw American
power, of which the world was soon to have more frightening examples.
The U.S. invasion of Panama took 10 times as many lives as Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait. This Academy Award winning documentary, broadcast in more than 20
countries worldwide, Blue Ribbon winner at the American Film & Video
Festival in 1993, and recipient of several international film awards,
uncovers the true motivation for the invasion. It explains how and why the
mainstream media collaborated with the U.S. Government to censor and
selectively report information to deceive the American public just as they
did during the February 1998 "crisis" over Iraq's weapons of mass
VIDEO: "The Panama
Deception," The Empowerment Project