Panama Invasion Week 3

A Senator critiques the Invasion?


Is there no compassion?

Dim Dune: “So where do we stand here in Mid-January 1990?”

Cynical Sally: “The United States has invaded Panama inflicting some billions of dollars worth of damage to their economy. Thousands of Panamanians are dead or missing (mainly the poor, of course, who don’t really count). Radio and TV stations have been shut down. Bank accounts have been confiscated. And almost 20,000 troops remain in Panama to control the social anarchy that has occurred since the invasion.”

Establishment Ed: “That’s your version. According official government sources we have liberated the poor, oppressed Panamanian people from an evil drug-running dictator – for which we are universally welcomed.”

Sally: “At least by the wealthy white classes – the rabi blancos – the only ones that really matter to the American politicians.”

Ed: “At least according to you and your left wing sources.”

Sally: “Actually I get my info from the main stream. I just read carefully and critically – trying to put the puzzle together.”

Ed: “So you think I should believe you over my government? No thank you. I still trust our free press. And it tells me that we have saved the Panamanians from oppression. What’s wrong with that?”

January 10, 1990 SBNP Headlines Page 3,

Aspin finds faults in political

planning of Panama invasion

Headline Harry: “See! We do have freedom of the press. Our local newspaper contains a Senator’s criticism of the invasion. What a great system we have that allows such dissent to be aired just weeks after the invasion. This is democracy at its finest.”

Dim Dune: “Really?”

Cynical Sally: “Why don’t you try reading the entire article?”

“Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wisconsin chairman of the House Armed Services Committee mentions three political mistakes. 1. Swearing Endara in at the US military base in Panama. 2. A letter from Endara to the OAS was sent on a FAX from the US military headquarters and labeled as such. 3. When American forces seized the major television stations in Panama City, they broadcast taped messages for two days showing the US Defense Department seal. Aspin suggested the legitimacy of the Endara government would have been strengthened if its representatives had been allowed to appear instead.”

Harry: “Not one, but 3 scathing criticisms of the government. Only in America.”

Sally: “Scathing? Senator Aspin only mentions the propaganda failings of the mission - nothing to do with the repercussions to Panamanian people. But I guess they don’t really matter anyway.”

Harry: “Oh they do. We risked our lives to liberate them.”

Dune: “You risked your life?”

Harry: “We Americans did. And I’m a true-blooded American. I suffer with the soldiers.”

Dune: “Just like the mothers of the dead soldiers?”

Harry: “Uh. You have to admit that Communist Russia would never have allowed criticism like that.”

Sally: “Let’s see. The 3 faults Senator Aspin cites are only trivial symbolic problems associated with the legitimacy of the Endara government. Do you really think the world or the Panamanians would have thought any different of the destructive invasion if Endara had been sworn in on Panamanian soil. Do you really believe that world opinion would have been much different if the announcement of Endara’s new government had been on a Panamanian letterhead. Would we have established any more credibility if we had remembered to take the Defense Department’s Seal off our broadcasts after our brutal military action?”

Harry: “You’re so negative. I’m just grateful that our free press allows dissent. All those countries that criticize our liberation of Panama are just jealous of our freedom.”

Sally: “Dissent? It seems that American tribalism has so pervaded our political consciousness that we can’t understand why the peoples of the world don’t thank and love us for demolishing this small country so that we could retain control of the Panama Canal. Our liberal Democratic Congressman is so nearsighted that all he can see is that the symbols we left behind were wrong – too many Defense Department letterheads and insignias. What we did was not reprehensible – only the way in which we did them. We left too many symbolic clues around to alert the people that this was truly a puppet government. He nowhere reflects that setting up a puppet government is wrong. Nowhere does he question the destructive nature of the American action. He only mentions that we left too many indications that we are really in control.”

Harry: “Just like Aspin said, we should have allowed Endara to speak on public television to show Panama that he was the legitimate head of Panama.”

Dune: “We should have allowed him? When Castro took over Cuba, when Mao took over China, when Washington took over the USA, none of these leaders had to ask permission of a foreign power to speak to the people. Aspin & most of the rest of us Americans are so wrapped up in our own ethnocentrism that we fail to see that Aspin is acknowledging that Endara is our puppet. Obviously Aspin doesn’t even care. He is only worried about the symbols surrounding the transactions. That we were controlling the whole facade is not even disguised.”

Harry: “This is because our military action was good, right and just, the American way. After all the Panamanians elected Endara as their president last May. But Noriega wouldn’t allow him to take charge.”

Dune: “Claiming the election was rigged by our government.”

Harry: “Just sour grapes. We Americans stepped in and rectified this awful situation. We’re the strong guy who is righting wrongs all over the world – protecting the peoples of the planet from bullies. Just like Superman we swooped down plucked Noriega out of Panama and replaced him with Endara, the duly elected leader. Hip, Hip, Hooray! No fuss. No muss. Wiping our hands after a job well-done - Shyly trying to find a telephone booth to change back into mild mannered Clark Kent - Taking no credit - Waiting patiently for the next big international crisis. Maybe Cuba. Waiting patiently until the time is right, then we’ll swoop down and pluck that Castro right out of Cuba - liberating them forever from that evil dictator.”

Dune: “Whoa! It seems that the concept of manifest destiny has been so integrated into the American psyche that there was no reason to be subtle about the invasion. The underlying assumption is that what is good for America is, of course, good for its citizens and the world. Accordingly it is acceptable to us that those 19 year old soldiers died so that Bush and his cronies could continue to control the Panama Canal Zone.”

Harry: “Just like in the D-Day invasion. Some lives must be lost in the process of liberating those Frenchmen from that evil Hitler. This is war.”

Dune: “Was there looting in the streets causing billions of dollars of damage immediately after the liberation of Paris? Did the Allies leave 15,000 troops in the city to maintain curfew at 6PM so that no one could get together to talk about what had happened? Did we close down the University of Paris to silence those radical students opposed to the liberation of Paris? Were radio stations closed down and assets seized for an indefinite time? Did we attack the city of Paris at all?”

Harry: “Well, not exactly.”

Dune: “The end of the article mentions that Aspin felt that perhaps the Army should have checked the looting which resulted in 1 billion dollars worth of damage. He also said that he was ‘troubled’ by the use of the Air Force’s $50 million-a-copy F-117s – wondering about their military justification.”

Redneck Ray: “Typical liberal drivel. So what if damage was done and innocent lives were lost? This is just the wages of liberation – the price of freedom – the cost of a canal. That damned Carter ruined everything – giving up our Canal to foreigners.”

Dune: “The Panamanians. But they live there.”

Ray: “So what if they live there? We built the Panama Canal. No one else could. It is rightfully ours. We should write it into the Constitution. Henceforth America shall have the God-given right to control the Panama Canal.”

Dim Dune: “For time-immemorial? After constructing it nearly 100 years ago?”

Ray: “Of course. & If anyone shall so object, we shall bomb them to smithereens, as we did the Panamanians.”

Dorothy liberates the Panamanians?

Dorothy: “Scarecrow, I’m so proud that we liberated those poor Panamanians from that Wicked Sorcerer Noriega, who bewitched them with his black magic called Nationalism – er … Communism, while we use the white magic of Imperialist Colonialism – er I mean … Capitalism & Democracy.”

Scarecrow: “Just like we freed the Winkies from the Wicked Witch of the West?”

Dorothy: “Exactly.”

Scarecrow: “What about Noriega’s supporters?”

Dorothy: “No worries. His supporters will simply melt away after the spell of his black magic wears off. Look at how easily it worked in Oz. The Wicked Witch was deposed and the Winkies immediately recognized the Tin Woodman as their King. After we capture Noriega the Panamanians will immediately recognized Bush, er … I mean Endara, as their King, uh … I mean President.”

Scarecrow: “Define immediately? We didn’t have to leave 15,000 soldiers in the land of the Winkies to maintain the Tin Woodsman in power after we left. We didn’t burn down the homes of 20,000 people to liberate the Winkies. They didn’t have to close down their important TV and radio stations to prevent the truth from getting out. There were no resistance fighters in the land of the Winkies. But it seems that Noriega’s supporters are putting up a big fight.”

Dorothy: “No problem. We’ll just kill them, imprison them, or perhaps take away their jobs. Then they’ll join our system. If they don’t want to play the game by our rules, we’ll just bash them over the head until they do. Anyway they are just a disgruntled minority.”

America Good – by definition

Dim Dune: “So Aspin regrets that our propaganda symbols were too obvious. He does not regret our massacre of Panamanian citizens; he does not regret the fact that Endara is a puppet; he doesn’t even try to hide the fact that Endara is controlled by the Bush administration. The American Media, the Congress, and Administration don’t even question this distortion. They assume that anyone who is cooperating with us must be good, because we are good. Any one who doesn’t cooperate with us must be bad because only the bad oppose the good. Anyone remaining in Panama who opposes our invasion must be a radical or Communist inspired. Because they are bad it justifies any means of eradicating the bad. Because the Wicked Witch is so obviously evil Dorothy can destroy her completely – as evil deserves to be exterminated like termites or fleas.”

Ike: “It sounds like you’re beginning to understand at last.”

Dune: “Yes I do. Our ethnocentrism is so completely self-absorbed that dissent is not even considered. We can’t believe that any good person would really stand up against us. We can’t believe that anyone in their right mind would oppose us. What is good for the US of A is good for the world. Anyone who opposes our international aims is obviously Communist inspired.”

Ike: “I’m glad you’re beginning to see the light.”

Dune: “Noriega is bad and Endara is good. The bad Panamanians side with Noriega and so therefore must be exterminated. The good Panamanians side with Endara, so we will do anything for them to remain on our side - pay them any amount of money - supply them with any amount of guns and soldiers, just as long as they obey us and play the game by our rules. This means cooperating with the American government and their Big Businesses in exploiting local resources and labor – making the rich richer and the poor, poorer. This is the American way.”

Ike: “Pretty good until you got to the end. America stands for the freedom to do business, not exploitation. And as long as those Communists and their sympathizers don’t get in the way of this freedom, everything will be all right.”

Dim Dune: “Everything is starting to make sense. America the beautiful made some big mistakes when it came to handling the Panamanian media. They accidentally gave the impression that Endara was our stooge, instead of giving Endara credibility in the minds of the Panamanians, in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the Americans. We want the world to believe that Endara is the popular leader of the Panamanians – who was restored to leadership by the good Americans – acting like Superman or Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.”

How many Panamanian Civilians actually died?

SB News Press January 12, 1990, Page 5

“Civilian casualty count in Panama still disputed

...The US Army asserts that its “disciplined fire” during the invasion of Panama kept civilian deaths to a minimum. But Panama’s top medical examiner said the toll was at least 202; others said it was far higher. ... Some church groups have said the number of Panamanian dead could be as high as 1,000. Former US Attorney Ramsey Clark suggested it could run as high as 7,000.... Most of the higher estimates were based on the destruction of the crowded neighborhood of El Chorrillo, which is next to the Defense Headquarters building, the main target of the US Army fire the night of the invasion. … El Chorrillo, a neighborhood of two- and three- story old wooden buildings that was home to more than 20,000 people, burned to the ground during the fire that broke out after fighting began. However, accounts from the night of the invasion indicate that many residents had fled El Chorrillo soon after the invasion began and escaped the destruction, so the death toll there was not as high as originally feared.”

I’ll believe anything Ike: “You see this talk about 1000’s of Panamanians killed is a gross exaggeration. The medical examiner only mentioned 202.”

Dim Dune: “You mean to tell me that a neighborhood of 20,000 people all fled simultaneously from their two and three-story wooden homes at 1AM in the morning. You’re telling me that our Army sharpshooters could tell the difference between Noriega’s forces and the rest of the Panamanians in the dead dark of the night. You’re arguing that if only 202 Panamanian civilians were killed that this is OK. Even though we’ve destroyed the neighborhood for 20,000 people it is OK because they are somehow still alive, although with no place to live. They’ve lost their family homes and everything in them. This is OK because it was in the poor section of town, not in the section of town where the rich, white Pro-American, rabi blancos, live.”

Ike: “You believe your sources. I’ll believe mine.”

Dune: “You’re telling me that medical examiners could make an exact body count in a neighborhood of 20,000 that was burned to the ground. What about these secret graveyards that these bodies are being dumped into on the outskirts of town.”

Ike: “What does the US Government need to hide, anyway?”

Dune: “A massacre as horrible as the Chinese massacre in Tiananmen Square, that’s what.”

Ike: “The comparison’s a bit extreme, don’t you think? The Chinese murdered pro-democracy demonstrators, while the dead Panamanians were friends of that drug dealer, Noriega.”

Dune: “All the families in the poor neighborhood of El Chorrillo?”

Ike: “Never can be too careful of who you hang out with.”

Dune: “Let’s take one of the conservative estimates of 1,000 civilians killed. Let’s pretend that 19,000 people escaped from their neighborhood on the dead of the night. Let’s also pretend that they have no place to go home to. Let’s just pretend that only 1000 of them died in a town of 400,000. Let’s see. Using simple arithmetic that means that only 1 out of every 400 people in the city was murdered savagely in their homes mid-Xmas season just a few days before Xmas Eve. Translated into Santa Barbara terms this means that in our county of 250,000 that about 600 people would have been killed in one night and that one out of 20 would have been made homeless – about 10,000. But don’t worry. The sections where the wealthy live – Hope Ranch, Montecito, and the Riviera – would have escaped the devastation. Only the poor side of town – East Haley or the lower East Side – where the minorities live – would have been destroyed.”

Ike: “They speak Spanish, have darker skin, and are Catholic. They are not really like us.”

Dune: “So don’t really matter?”

Ike: “They matter to me. I like poor people.”

Dune: “How about the poor Panamanians?”

Ike: “They’re different. They’re not Americans.”

Dune: “Santa Barbara has had only a few handfuls of murders in two decades. The murder of two people in one night is considered an outrage. Chris Eiler, a young person dying of cancer, brings tears to everyone’s eyes and trust funds are set up. Gathers, a California college basketball player, dies of a heart attack after not taking his medicine. His story lingers for weeks in the newspaper; memorial services are held everywhere; a moment of silence is observed in most college classrooms. So for we Santa Barbarans a local untimely death is a big thing. Ten is a huge amount of untimely deaths, 100 is unthinkable, 600 is just out of the range to be even conceivable.”

Ike: “But Panamanians are different than Americans. They’re used to that kind of thing.”

Dune: “Stealth bombers attacking in the middle of the night?”

Ike: “After all, they are a 3rd world country.”

Dune: “Whatever that means.”

From Doonesbury February 4, 1990

Doonesbury, the man, is presumably watching a television interview with George Bush.


Press: “Mr. President, You’ve said that the loss of life during the Panama invasion, reportedly over 1,000 men, women and children, was ‘worth it.’ This suggests you had a certain cost/benefit ratio in mind. Could you tell us how many lives in all would have been “worth it”?

Bush: “Well that’s hard to say exactly, because you’ve got your American lives, and then, frankly, you’ve got your Panamanian lives...”

Press: “How about 5,000 of both?”

Bush: “5,000 American lives? To catch a drug dealer? No, that...”

Press: “How about 3,000? 1,500 of Each?”

Bush: “Well, no. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with...”

Press: “How about 1,750 Panamanian, 250 American? a round 2,000! Going once, going twice...”

Bush: “Well, okay. But I don’t like committing myself to ...”

Press: “Sir? How about 2,001?”

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