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The Truth Behind the 1989 U.S. Invasion of Panama

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In this KJ Vid, we are going to educate you about the US Invasion of Panama in 1989 and the real reason why America launched “Operation Just Cause”

The raid into Panama was the largest US combat operation since the Vietnam War. At the time the US trotted out various “noble justifications.” The narrative was to overthrow the military dictator Manuel Noriega who was accused of drug trafficking and supressing democracy.

A key narrative was that Manuel endangered U.S nationals, similar to how Russia justified the invasion of Crimea and its intervention in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 – to “protect Russian speaking nationals”

But in an all too familiar fashion, this wasn’t the true story. Like Saddam, Noriega enjoyed US support and was actually recruited by the CIA before he turned into a wayward ally.

Noriega was recruited as a CIA informant while studying at a military academy in Peru. He received intelligence and counterintelligence training at the School of the Americas at Fort Gulick in Panama, in 1967. He remained on the CIA payroll until February 1988.

After a military coup in 1968, Noriega quickly rose through the ranks and became head of Panama’s military intelligence and a key figure under General Omar Torrijos, the military ruler who signed a treaty with the US to restore the Panama Canal zone to Panamanian sovereignty in 1977.

After Torrijos’s death in a mysterious plane crash in 1981, Noriega consolidated his power, becoming Panama’s de facto ruler, promoting himself to full general in 1983.

Noriega made himself valuable to the US during the Contra wars when he allowed the US to set up listening posts in Panama and by helping the US campaign against the leftist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, Noriega was able to manipulate US policy towards his country, while skilfully accumulating near-absolute power in Panama.

But Noriega’s increasing brutality turned him into a liability, especially after the assassination of Hugo Spadafora, a political opponent who was found beheaded in 1985.

By the late 1980s, the US turned against Noriega. He was charged of drug trafficking and the CIA took him off its payroll. The next year, Noriega’s image as a thuggish dictator was reinforced in the starkest terms.

Following a series of incidents that culminated in the death of an American soldier, President George Bush sent in US troops to overthrow Noriega, offering a $1m reward for information leading to his capture in December 1989.

The invasion ended in late January 1990, when Noriega surrendered to US troops after taking refuge in the Apostolic Nunciature in Panama. In one of the more bizarre episodes of the invasion, US forces played loud rock music – including I Fought the Law, by the Clash – to put pressure on Noriega to give himself up.

Losses on the US side were 24 troops, plus three civilian casualties. The number of Panamanian civilian deaths was put at about 500, although there are claims that the number is much higher.

But the real reasons why the US invaded Panama was to protect the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal has vital commercial and strategic importance. It was built to shorten the distance that ships had to travel to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

To put into perspective, Prior to the completion of the canal, a ship sailing between ports in New York and San Francisco had to sail around Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America.

This 12,000-mile trip took 67 days. After the canal was completed, approximately 8,000 miles were eliminated from the trip. Nearly 14,000 ships and other watercraft, some as long as three football fields, carry 280 million tons of cargo through the canal every day.

The Panama Canal rapidly became an increasingly significant international waterway, now seeing around 16% of US trade pass through it every year and one the country was willing to defend with arms, deposing the wayward dictator, Mario Noriega in 1989 with a swiftly executed military invasion.

So there you go guys, that was the truth behind why the US invaded Panama in 1989. Remember to always question the narratives when a nation goes to war. More often then not, they are only designed to shore up public opinion, but in reality have insidious motives that don’t benefit you and me, the ordinary people.

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