Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 5: The Post-Cold War Era Segment 12/15
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One case of "highly sophisticated weapons" did receive some attention. F-117A stealth fighters were used in combat for the first time, dropping 2000-lb. bombs with time-delay mechanisms in a large open field near an airstrip and barracks that housed an elite PDF battalion. The Air Force had kept this plane under close wraps, refusing to release cost or performance data about it. "There were conflicting reports as to the rationale for employing the sophisticated aircraft, which cost nearly $50 million apiece, to conduct what appeared to be a simple operation," Aviation Week & Space Technology reported. The Panamanian air force has no fighters and no military aircraft were stationed permanently at the base that was attacked. Its only known air defenses "were a pair of aging small caliber antiaircraft guns." An American aeronautical engineering consultant and charter operator in Panama said he was "astonished" to learn of the use of the F-117A, pointing out that the target attacked did not even have radar: "They could have bombed it with any other aircraft and not been noticed." The aerospace journal cites Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's claim that the aircraft were used "because of its great accuracy," then suggesting its own answer to the puzzle: "By demonstrating the F-117A's capability to operate in low-intensity conflicts, as well as its intended mission to attack heavily defended Soviet targets, the operation can be used by the Air Force to justify the huge investment made in stealth technology" to "an increasingly skeptical Congress."69

A similar conclusion was reached, more broadly, by Col. (Ret.) David Hackworth, a former combat commander who is one of the nation's most decorated soldiers. He described the Panama operation as technically efficient, though in his judgment "100 Special Forces guys" would have sufficed to capture Noriega, and "this big operation was a Pentagon attempt to impress Congress just when they're starting to cut back on the military." The National Security Strategy report of March 1990 lends credibility to these suggestions.70

If these were indeed among the motives for the exercise, they may have suffered a slight setback when it turned out that one of the stealth fighter-bombers had missed its undefended target by more than 300 yards, despite its "great accuracy." Defense Secretary Cheney ordered an inquiry.71

The nature of the U.S. victory became clearer, along familiar lines, in the following months. Its character is described by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald in June, under the heading "Panama Flirts with Economic Recovery" -- that is, recovery from the depths to which it was plunged by illegal U.S. economic warfare, then invasion and occupation. But there is a qualification: "Six months after the U.S. invasion, Panama is showing signs of growing prosperity -- at least for the largely white-skinned business class that has regained its influence after more than two decades of military rule." The luxury shops are again full of goods, and "Panama's nightlife is also perking up" as "foreign tourists, mostly U.S. businessmen, can be seen most evenings sipping martinis in the lobbies of the biggest hotels," which are sometimes "booked solid -- a contrast to the moribund atmosphere there before the invasion." Newspapers are filled with ads from department stores, banks, and insurance firms. "The upper class and the middle classes are doing great," a Western European diplomat observes: "They had the money in U.S. bank accounts and are bringing it back to the country. But the poor are in bad shape, because the government is bankrupt and can't help them." "The Catholic Church has begun to denounce what it sees as a lack of government concern for the poor," Oppenheimer continues. An editorial in a Church weekly "lashed out at authorities for devoting their energies to helping the private sector while breaking their original promises not to fire low-income public workers."72 In short, the important people are doing just fine.

On August 2, the Catholic bishops of Panama issued a pastoral letter condemning U.S. "interference in the country's internal affairs" and denouncing the December invasion as "a veritable tragedy in the annals of the country's history." The statement also condemned Washington's failure to provide aid to the people who continue to suffer from the invasion, and criticized the government for ignoring their plight. Their protest appears in the Guatemala City Central America Report under the heading "Church Raises Its Voice" -- though not loudly enough to be heard in Washington and New York.73

In August, a presidential commission proposed a plan for reconstructing the devastated economy. It called for an end to the "occupation of the State and its territory by U.S. troops" and the reestablishment of Panamanian sovereignty. Again, its voice did not reach the aggressors.74

The white-skinned sector, which owns most of the land and resources, is estimated at about 8% of the population. The "two decades of military rule" to which the Miami Herald refers had some other characteristics as well. The Torrijos dictatorship had a populist character, which largely ended after his death in 1981 in an airplane accident (with various charges about the cause), and the subsequent Noriega takeover. During this period, Black, Mestizo, and Indigenous Panamanians gained their first share of power, and economic and land reforms were undertaken. In these two decades, infant mortality declined from 40% to less than 20% and life expectancy increased by nine years. New hospitals, health centers, houses, schools and universities were built, and more doctors, nurses and teachers were trained. Indigenous communities were granted autonomy and protection for their traditional lands, to an extent unmatched in the hemisphere. For the first time, Panama moved to an independent foreign policy, still alive in the 1980s to an extent, as Panama participated in the Contadora peace efforts. The Canal Treaty was signed in 1977, theoretically awarding control over the canal to Panama by the year 2000, though the prospects are doubtful. The Reagan administration took the position that "when the Carter-Torrijos treaties are being renegotiated" -- an eventuality taken for granted -- "the prolongation of the US military presence in the Panama Canal area till well after the year 2000 should be brought up for discussion" (State Department).75

The post-invasion moves to place Panamanian military forces under U.S. control may be motivated by more than just the normal doctrine. It will probably be argued that Panama is not in a position to defend the Canal as the Treaty requires, so that U.S. bases must be retained.

Go to the next segment.

69 Aviation Week & Space Technology, Jan. 1, 1990.

70 John Morrocco, ibid.; Hackworth, interview with Bill Baskervill, AP, Feb. 25, 1990. March 1990 report, see chapter 1, section 2.

71 Michael Gordon, NYT, April 11, 1990.

72 Oppenheimer, MH, June 20, 1990.

73 CAR, Aug. 17, 1990.

74 Latinamerica press (Lima), Aug. 30, 1990.

75 Joy James, "US policy in Panama," Race & Class, July-September 1990; State Department letter to Jesse Helms, stating that the Department "shares your view" on the matter in question, March 26, 1987, cited by James. On these and other matters discussed here, see also Daphne Wysham, Labor Action, April-May 1990; Martha Gellhorn, "The Invasion of Panama," Granta, Spring 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.

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posted by u2r2h at 10:29 PM


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