Chapter 5: The Post-Cold War Era Segment 6/15
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The Bush administration, in fact, took pains to make it clear that Noriega's crimes were not a factor in the invasion, with little notice. Just as the troops attacked Panama, the White House announced new high technology sales to China, noting that $300 million in business for U.S. firms was at stake and that contacts had secretly resumed a few weeks after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Washington also barred entry to two Chinese scholars invited by U.S. universities, in deference to the Chinese authorities. New subsidized agricultural sales to China were announced; a few weeks later, the Export-Import Bank announced a grant to China for the purchase of equipment for a Shanghai subway from U.S. companies. The White House also took the occasion of the invasion of Panama to announce plans to lift a ban on loans to Iraq.28
The plans to expedite loans for Iraq were implemented shortly after -- to achieve the "goal of increasing U.S. exports and put us in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record...," the State Department explained with a straight face. The first goal is the familiar one. According to the chairman of the House Banking Committee, Rep. Henry Gonzalez -- here, as often, a lone voice -- the scale of these U.S. credits was not insignificant, nor was their impact, a matter to which we return.29
U.S. plans to resume bank credits to Iraq had been reported on network television by ABC Middle East correspondent Charles Glass a few days before the Panama invasion. He reported further that "the U.S. has become Iraq's largest trading partner."30 For some time, Glass had been waging a lonely campaign in the mainstream media to expose Iraqi atrocities and the critically important U.S. backing for the regime, eliciting evasion or denials from Washington. The media generally were not interested until several months later, when the Iraqi threat was "discovered" in the context of the search for new enemies to justify the Pentagon budget, and in August, with Iraq's conquest of Kuwait.
Senate minority leader Robert Dole proclaimed that the capture of Noriega "proves America won't give up or cave in to anyone, no matter how powerful or corrupt."31 In comparison to Bush's friends in Beijing and Baghdad, Noriega could pass for a choir boy.
Some sensed a "lack of political and moral consistency" in the action against Noriega just as Washington "kisses the hands of the Chinese dictators" (A.M. Rosenthal).32 The apparent inconsistency vanishes as soon as doctrinal constraints are put aside. In all cases, the actions serve the needs of U.S. power and privilege; it was good for business, as White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater and the State Department explained in the case of Iraq and China. The media succeeded in overlooking these not-too-subtle points -- and even most of the facts.
Another refrain was that the Panamanian Assembly had declared war against the United States on December 15. In fact, international law professor Alfred Rubin pointed out, the Assembly had declared what amounts to a state of emergency "for the duration of the aggression unleashed" by the U.S. government, in the official wording.33
Still another pretext, regularly invoked, was that Noriega was involved in the drug racket -- as was known long before, while he was on the CIA payroll. John Dinges, author of a book on Noriega, reports that "in 1984, as Panama's de facto ruler and eager to become a major political player in Central America, General Noriega began to clean up his act." His criminal indictment after the U.S. government turned against him lists only one charge of alleged trafficking after 1984. DEA and narcotics agents describe his cooperation with U.S. authorities in drug interdiction activities as genuine. In a letter of May 1986, DEA administrator John Lawn expressed his "deep appreciation" to Noriega "for the vigorous anti-drug trafficking policy that you have adopted," and Attorney-General Edwin Meese added his praise in May 1987.34
As the whitewash proceeded in subsequent months, the official fairy tales took on the status of established fact. The convention in news reporting and commentary is to select one of the many pretexts floated by the Administration, and present it with unwavering confidence -- but without even a token gesture towards possible evidence. Correspondent Pamela Constable selected human rights as the motive for the U.S. disaffection with Noriega: "Domestic opponents were repressed with increasing harshness after 1987, leading the Reagan administration to sever the long US alliance with Noriega." In the New York Review, Michael Massing chose the drug racket, writing that "Washington was willing to accept Noriega's political usurpations, including the stealing of an election in 1984, but once his drug-trafficking involvement became widely known, American tolerance came to an end."35
In fact, internal affairs of Panama aside, it is hardly possible to suggest seriously that Noriega's repression offended the enthusiastic backers of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan military next door; the stealing of the 1984 election was not reluctantly "accepted," but greeted with open enthusiasm by the United States; Noriega's drug trafficking was well-known long before, but was widely publicized by the media only when government policy shifted, providing the signal. As hypotheses, these would be quickly dismissed. As confident assertions, they tell us only about the conventions of intellectual life. As a service to power, their merits are obvious.
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28 Andrew Rosenthal, "Bush Eliminates Some Restrictions on Beijing Trade," NYT, Dec. 20; Maureen Dowd, "2 U.S. Officials Went to Beijing Secretly in July," NYT, Dec. 19; Anthony Flint, "US blocks 2 Chinese scholars," BG, Dec. 21, 1989. AP, Dec. 20, 1989, Feb. 9, 1990. Iraq, AP, Dec. 22, 1989.
29 Official State Department response to an inquiry from Senator Daniel Inouye, Jan. 26, 1990. Gonzalez, AP, BG, Aug. 5, 1990.
30 Glass, ABC World News Tonight, Dec. 15, 1989.
31 David Shribman and James Perry, WSJ, Jan. 5, 1990.
32 NYT, Dec. 22, 1989.
33 Letter, NYT, Jan. 2, 1990, reviewing the alleged legal basis for the aggression. Quote is from the official declaration.
34 Dinges, NYT Op-Ed, Jan. 12, 1990; Lawn, U.S. Dept. of Justice, letter, May 8, 1986; John Weeks and Andrew Zimbalist, "The failure of intervention in Panama," Third World Quarterly, Jan. 1989.
35 Constable BG, July 9, 1990; Massing, NYRB, May 17, 1990. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.Stumble It!