[Panama – John Dinges]

Part of the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection. Two sections: U.S. military intervention in Panama and a discussion with Panama expert John Dinges.

0:00Copy video clip URL Section 1: Report about military action in Panama in Spanish. Press and civilians are present as large concrete pipes are moved off a truck. Shot of U.S. armored personnel carriers moving in reverse as the crowd cheers.

1:05Copy video clip URL Voice over switches to English and starts to describe the U.S. military maneuvers taking place in Panama. The Panamanian chancellor wrote that he believes that if armed maneuvers take place, serenity will be threatened and the U.S. would have an excuse for armed intervention. Finally the Chancellor calls the attention of the international community of the imminent danger that these war actions will lead to: a more general aggression bringing mourn and sorrow. This communique was given in Panama City on the twenty first of November, 1989.

4:05Copy video clip URL Footage of troops and protesters and report from correspondent Nelson Otario. Intro to interview.

4:49Copy video clip URL Interview with Dr. Colemerco. He says that in an area under Panama’s sovereignty, known as the white area, the U.S. army has cocked their guns against unarmed civilians. “The only thing that we want is our sovereignty be respected.” U.S. tanks dropped heavy pipes in the area at 3am to “provoke an incident here but we are not going to fall into it. This is an abuse of the U.S. army.” Panamanian civilians are in the process of removing the pipes and placing them in the parking lot of the malaria office. The area now is placed under exclusive security.

6:38Copy video clip URL Shots of protesters and U.S. soldiers. Shouts of “Yankee go home” are heard.

7:06Copy video clip URL A U.S. major is presented a letter stating that U.S. soldiers are not allowed to go into white areas. He responds that the perimeter was established around the buildings at seventy five meters to protect them against a bomb threat.

7:45Copy video clip URL A lone woman yells at the soldiers, who then place bayonets on their rifles. More protesters and soldiers.

8:59Copy video clip URL Interview with the prime minister of Panama. He asks the people to be “calm and wise” and that demonstrations be peaceful. He states that the Panamanian people have been provoked since May of the previous year. He concludes by saying that at the ministries consul a communique will be presented this afternoon along with a plan of action to obtain a more coordinated answer to these provocations.

11:19Copy video clip URL A conversation between a woman working for the U.S. in Panama and a Panamanian citizen comes next. Soldiers begin to move and enter armored personnel carriers.

12:52Copy video clip URL High ranking Panamanian soldier informs the crowd that the pipes are being removed from where they are blocking and that security will be taken over by Panamanian military police. The doctor featured earlier explains the plans in more depth until the tape cuts out at 13:40.

13:47Copy video clip URL Segment 2. Eddie Becker interviews John Dinges, an expert on Panamanian history and government and author of an upcoming book.

15:18Copy video clip URL Manuel Noriega’s corruption explored. During the early 1970’s “rake operations” generated extra money to be given to the Panamanian armed forces. The estimated amount of money made from drugs by Noriega is ten million dollars. This was discovered through specific calculations and witnesses of bribes.

17:48Copy video clip URL Dinges insists that Noriega is a government official whom, similarly to many other countries, permits cocaine to move through his country. He was not directly involved in running a network of people selling cocaine in the U.S. He is not on the same level as cocaine kingpins such as Pablo Escobar. The amount of cocaine directly connected to Noriega is roughly two or two and a half tons.

19:03Copy video clip URL Why was Noriega and his government overthrown as opposed to other equally corrupt government officials from other countries? Noriega’s relationships with the U.S. explored.

20:30Copy video clip URL “He is not a monster.”

21:07Copy video clip URL “Why did the United States choose, for the first time in its history, to use an invasion and the sacrifice of five hundred lives, the grand majority of them Panamanians, in order to enforce an indictment against a man for some cocaine trafficking?

22:14Copy video clip URL U.S. government officials were willing to look the other way while Noriega was helping to enforce U.S. government foreign policy in Nicaragua and the government of El Salvador against leftist rebels. Evidence from multiple branches of law enforcement such as the D.E.A. slowly developed, and by the time it reached the president there was no denying it was solid evidence. Congress in 1986 also organized unanimously against Noriega.

25:10Copy video clip URL Reagan signed off on the removal and indictment of Noriega in January 1988. Opposition forces that the U.S. supported were too weak to overthrow him, and sanctions hurt our supporters and businessmen in the area more than Noriega.

27:30Copy video clip URL “During the course of 1989 Noriega became more and more violent, like a rat in a corner, barring its teeth.” Elections in May 1989 made Noriega’s regime “seem like one of the most brutal in the world.” Vice Presidential candidate Billy Ford was seen on T.V. being beaten up while trying to ward off his attackers.

29:05Copy video clip URL Dinges speculates in his book that early in 1989 Noriega could have stepped down and left a government controlled by strong armed forces who would have dealt with the U.S. in a less violent way, as opposed to the destruction caused by an invasion.

30:45Copy video clip URL Is this the return of democracy? The test will come once the U.S. army occupation forces abandon the country.

32:16Copy video clip URL “There is a great likelihood that the U.S. will run this government for years to come.” “The country already has a built in presence of ten to fifteen thousand U.S. troops. The main economic resource of the country is run by the United States”. (In reference to the Panama Canal)

33:16Copy video clip URL The economy will be entirely dependent on U.S aid for years; Panama is requesting over a billion dollars in immediate emergency aid.

34:40Copy video clip URL Dinges hasn’t visited since the invasion. He says Americans are typically welcomed by civilians with almost no expression of rejection for the invasion based on accounts from sources he has spoken with there.

36:36Copy video clip URL American press had great restrictions in the early days of the invasion. Press entirely dependent on the Pentagon’s version of events. Certain topics omitted from U.S. press but covered by world press, including the murder of a Spanish journalist by American soldiers.

38:01Copy video clip URL Press fell “hook line and sinker” for the propaganda campaign demonizing Noriega as the epitome of all evil.

39:23Copy video clip URL “Voodoo is no more an evil religion than Christianity or any other religion.”

41:30Copy video clip URL Many glaring inaccuracies in regards to Noriega. Dinges’ sense of accuracy was offended by representation of Noriega as a coward who never was in contact or directed his troops and was finally found cowering behind a priest’s robes.

44:18Copy video clip URL U.S relationship with Noriega began as a spy while he was still in high school. He reported activities of fellow socialist youth group members actions to spooks. While member of Panamanian Defense Forces and head of G2 (intelligence organization) provided information to U.S. military intelligence and the CIA.

45:46Copy video clip URL Paid on case-by-case basis early for a few hundred dollars. As head of Panamanian intelligence he had access to one hundred thousand dollars intended for joint operations.

47:09Copy video clip URL When Noriega is deepest into drug trafficking, he is also most essential to U.S. in Central America. Corporations taking part in Iran-Contra scandal allowed to set up shop in Panama.

49:26Copy video clip URL Provides explosives experts to carry out a terrorist action in Managua ordered by Oliver North. Noriega offered assassinations and sabotage to Oliver North to help clean up Noriega’s image within U.S. government. North and Noriega met in London to discuss U.S. approved sabotage operations and specific targets.

52:34Copy video clip URL If a cover-up existed it involved the same group of people who in late 1986 helped to clean up Noriega’s image.

54:30Copy video clip URL Dinges’ reads the single Freedom Of Information Act documents provided by the CIA. Displays other FOIA documents.

57:19Copy video clip URL “Panama has been a backwater in the U.S. diplomatic corps and a major U.S. military post overseas.”

58:17Copy video clip URL During 1980s U.S. diplomats and military concern was promoting U.S. interests in Central America.

59:03Copy video clip URL End of segment.



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