How 1989's Invasion Of Panama Set The Stage For 25 Years Of Endless War

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

By 1989, it had become apparent to all — everyone except the CIA, of course — that the Soviet economy, and thus the Soviet state was in very deep trouble. 

In November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down in the face of Soviet impotence. And, with the Cold-War corpse not even cold yet, the US used the newly apparent Soviet weakness as an opportunity to begin invading a variety of foreign countries. These included Iraq, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia. 

But first on the list was Panama in December 1989. At the time, the Panamanian state was an authoritarian regime that stayed in power largely due to US support, and functioned as an American puppet state in Central America where Communists were often successful in overthrowing right-wing dictatorships. The US regime's man in Panama was Manuel Noriega, who just died at 83 years of age. After years in US, French, and Panamanian prisons, Noriega has been forgotten by nearly everyone. But, after he stopped taking orders from Washington, Noriega became the first in a long line of foreign politicians who were held up as the next "Hitler" by the American propaganda machine. This was done in order to justify what would become an endless policy of invading tiny foreign countries that are no threat to the US — all done in the name of "humanitarian" intervention. 

Writing in April 1990, Murray Rothbard summed up the situation in Panama: 

The U.S. invasion of Panama was the first act of military intervention in the new post-Cold War world — the first act of war since 1945 where the United States has not used Communism or "Marxism-Leninism" as the effective all-purpose alibi. Coming so soon after the end of the Cold War, the invasion was confused and chaotic — a hallmark of Bushian policy in general. Bush's list of alleged reasons for the invasion were a grab-bag of haphazard and inconsistent arguments — none of which made much sense.


The positive vaunting was, of course, prominent: what was called, idiotically, the "restoration of democracy" in Panama. When in blazes did Panama ever have a democracy? Certainly not under Noriega's beloved predecessor and mentor, the U.S.'s Panama Treaty partner, General Omar Torrijos. The alleged victory of the unappetizing Guillermo Endara in the abortive Panamanian election was totally unproven. The "democracy" the U.S. imposed was peculiar, to say the least: swearing in Endara and his "cabinet" in secrecy on a US army base.


It was difficult for our rulers to lay on the Noriega "threat" very heavily: Since Noriega, whatever his other sins, is obviously no Marxist-Leninist, and since the Cold War is over anyway it would have been tricky; even embarrassing, to try to paint Noriega and his tiny country as a grave threat to big, powerful United States. And so the Bush administration laid on the "drug" menace with a trowel, braving the common knowledge that Noriega himself was a longtime CIA creature and employee whose drug trafficking was at the very least condoned by the U.S. for many years.


The administration therefore kept stressing that Noriega was simply a "common criminal" who had been indicted in the US (for actions outside the US — so why not indict every other head of state as well — all of whom have undoubtedly committed crimes galore?) so that the invasion was simply a police action to apprehend an alleged fugitive. But what real police action — that is, police action over a territory over which the government has a virtual monopoly of force —involves total destruction of an entire working-class neighborhood, the murder of hundreds of Panamanian civilians as well as American soldiers, and the destruction of a half-billion dollars of civilian property?


The invasion also contained many bizarre elements of low comedy: There was the U.S. government's attempt to justify the invasion retroactively by displaying Noriega's plundered effects: porno in the desk drawer (well, gee, that sure justifies mass killing and destruction of property), the obligatory picture of Hitler in the closet (Aha! the Nazi threat again!), the fact that Noriega was stocking a lot of Soviet-made arms (a Commie as well as a Nazi, and "paranoid" too — the deluded fool was actually expecting an American invasion!)

It's almost darkly comedic how easy it has been to convince the American people to go along with nearly any justification for invading a foreign country, no matter how flimsy. It may be hard for my younger readers to comprehend, but in the late 80s, the American public was so hysterical with fear over street drugs, that it struck many Americans as perfectly reasonable to invade a foreign country, burn down a neighborhood, and send the US Army to lay siege to Panama's presidential headquarters to catch a single drug kingpin. 

The US would perfect aspects of this routine as time went on. In 1991, Saddam Hussein was the next Hitler, with the media hinting that if left unchecked, Hussein would invade the entire Middle East. "He gassed his own people!" was the endless refrain. The other justification was that Saddam's government had invaded another country. Rothbard, of course, noted the irony of this "justification": 

But, "he invaded a small country." Yes, indeed he did. But, are we ungracious for bringing up the undoubted fact that none other than George Bush, not long ago, invaded a very small country: Panama? And to the unanimous huzzahs of the same U.S. media and politicians now denouncing Saddam?

By the Clinton years, Slobodan Miloševi? was the new next Hitler.

The downside of these new Hitlers, of course, was that any reasonable person could see that none of them were any threat whatsoever to the United States. 

Even the call for "humanitarian" action rung a little untrue for more astute observers. After all, it struck many people as curious as to why Serbia required bombing for its human rights violations while the genocide in Rwanda — which was occurring right around the same time — was steadfastly ignored by Washington. If human rights were such a major concern for the US state in the 90s, why was there no invasion of North Korea in response to the horrors of the death camps there? 

New life was breathed into the military-interventionist camp after 2001 by Osama bin Laden. But "humanitarian" missions and the search for the next Hitler continue to this day. 

In 2011, the usual tactics were employed to justify the invasion of Libya — which only made the country a breeding ground for ISIS and Al Qaeda. 

And today, of course, we hear the same things about Bashar Assad in Syria. Like Noriega, Hussein, Miloševi?, and Qaddafi before him, Assad is obviously no threat to the US or its residents. Indeed, Assad is fighting people who potentially are a threat to US residents. But, since the US military establishment wants Assad gone, some excuse must be manufactured for an invasion. 

Assad is simply the latest iteration of Noriega: a foreign strongman whose every vice and misdeed — as with every political leader, there are plenty of them — must be magnified in an attempt to justify yet another foreign invasion. 

Ultimately, Rothbard concluded that these methods can be employed against any regime on earth, and wrote sarcastically in 1994: "'we cannot stand idly by' while anyone anywhere starves, hits someone over the head, is undemocratic, or commits a Hate Crime.":

We must face the fact that there is not a single country in the world that measures up to the lofty moral and social standards that are the hallmark of the U.S.A.: even Canada is delinquent and deserves a whiff of grape. There is not a single country in the world which, like the U.S., reeks of democracy and "human rights," and is free of crime and murder and hate thoughts and undemocratic deeds. Very few other countries are as Politically Correct as the U.S., or have the wit to impose a massively statist program in the name of "freedom," "free trade," "multiculturalism," and "expanding democracy."


And so, since no other countries shape up to U.S. standards in a world of Sole Superpower they must be severely chastised by the U.S. I make a Modest Proposal for the only possible consistent and coherent foreign policy: the U.S. must, very soon, Invade the Entire World! Sanctions are peanuts; we must invade every country in the world, perhaps softening them up beforehand with a wonderful high-tech missile bombing show courtesy of CNN.

Thus the destruction of Manuel Noriega and his regime illustrated what was to come during the next 25 years of American foreign policy: target a foreign regime that poses no threat to the US, and manufacture a nice-sounding reason for doing so. The 1989 Panama invasion is a reminder of just how little has changed since the Cold War ended. The methods are the same, and only the names have changed.



boattrash ThaBigPerm Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:29 Permalink

OT, but in 2012 I got stuck in the shit-hole Denver airport for two days, which as it turns out, is long enough to get a "visit" from a Fed Spook.The fact that I was wearing a cap from the Panama Canal was what he used for an ice breaker to converse and check me out. The telling statement was when he said, "We've still got Noriega in a Maximum Security Prison here in Colorado".

In reply to by ThaBigPerm

RevIdahoSpud3 Implied Violins Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:35 Permalink

I'm almost 71. I think although I cannot tell you which, there are about 4 years in my lifetime that the US has not been at war. It would be interesting to know how many people, men, women, children, soldiers, young and old have died in total. I know the soviets were supposed to be responsible for about 120 million deaths in the 70 years of Bolshevik control in their own country and China under Mao was supposed to have killed 78 million Chinese. Quick searches do not reveal anciliary deaths in other countries due to military incidence from these two nations.The US, unlike the communist's was claiming its casualties due to the cause of spreading freedom, democracy and ending human rights abuse, which justifies itself. It does, doesn't it? 

In reply to by Implied Violins

DirtySanchez Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:05 Permalink

HW Bush is the architect of the Evil Empire.The Cold War ended and the USA needed new enemies.Former CIA assets, i.e., Noriega, Saddam Hussein, etc... were fertile ground for the USA to spend billions on our war industry.This Bush is ground zero for the White House instigating crimes against humanity for roughly 30 years. 

Jethro Dull DirtySanchez Thu, 06/01/2017 - 22:38 Permalink

Yes, there was always the story April Glaspie was instructed by James Baker too give Saddam a weak message luring him into the 91 Kuwait invasion. The Saudis and Kuwaitis had reneged on paying Saddam for fighting Iran, and, to boot had slant drilled Iraqi oil fields. So, Saddam was given an apparent green light.All the while, we had been planning. We had started building military infrastructure there immediately after Vietnam. I know folks who went straight from Vietnam to Saudi Arabia to build the airfields. If you go back and look at old issues of Foreign Policy they actually theorized Glaspie was told to give a weak message.It's more than a rumour.  And, we got the war we had planned for decades to secure our entry into controlling the oil fields.

In reply to by DirtySanchez

nmewn Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:23 Permalink

Sooo, while we're on the subject of wars of conquest & riches, when is Spain, Portugal, France, England and the Dutch going to sell off some their assets to compensate for the long suffering natives of their conquests?I'm thinkin Notre Dame cathedral or some of the fine historic buildings of Antwerp or London would fetch a pretty penny, for the suffering and all ;-)

HoyeruNew nmewn Thu, 06/01/2017 - 22:02 Permalink

when USA pays for the 500+ years of slavery to the decendets of the slaves it used to create riches.Oh, it aint gonna happen? SO why are you mentioning France instead of talkign about USA then, fucktard? Funny how you are SO knowgable about history but not about Ameircsan history.

In reply to by nmewn

Ina Handbasket Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:44 Permalink

Ryan probalbly thinks US nuclear attach on Japan was wrong, Japane was innocent. Bullshit coming from all angles. Can't wait till the Grand Solar minium clears out the unprepared.

Benito_Camela Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:47 Permalink


Bush's list of alleged reasons for the invasion were a grab-bag of haphazard and inconsistent arguments — none of which made much sense. Same shit with his son, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair. A grab-bag of bullshit and half-truths and the so-called liberal media ate that shit up and sold it to the rest of us. That's when I finally realized that there's nothing "left" about the media. They're corporate whores and war is good for business. 
Jethro Dull Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:49 Permalink

I worked Just 'Cause (Apostrophe inserted with hat tip to ThatBigPerm in above comments).We got ready, then, stood down for 6 weeks as things were hashed out behind the scenes. Noriega must have turned down that offer he couldn't refuse.Our end of the deal was air transport. We put in new fancy encrypted gizmos to keep them from intercepting our comms inbound.They didn't think that through very well because the Panamanians kind of noticed the hundreds of airplanes landing and dropping troops."Roachcoach" food truck workers on base notified ole Manuel, and, he ran to the Vatican Embassy and became the star of the world's longest rock concert.And as the article says, we've been fighting ever since --- the Soviet Union fell.

Posa Thu, 06/01/2017 - 22:09 Permalink

The history of post-War US has been one long seemngly pointless trail of mass genocide with millions killed and nations pulverized... SE Asia (5 million dead with chemical and biological WMDs); then Central America climaxing in the greatr victoiries in Panama and Grenada; leading then to massive murder in the Middle East resulting in 65 million war and economic refugees...A true Pox Americana... led by depraved members of the Predator Class...

Son of Captain Nemo Thu, 06/01/2017 - 22:26 Permalink

We did it long before 1989, but when you do it as many times as Uncle Sam has done it and "failed" 28 years serves as enough of a timeline to not go any further into our sordid past.

What makes the U.S. government so different is that it has failed at every "merger and occupation" since Panama with increasingly poorer results and nothing to show for it accumulating debt that none of it's predecessors could fathom...




Hey Sam... wash your "chocolate starfish" real good and gargle twice because if these are the "primer" (…), (…), (…) you're about to receive the bung holing that will make you wish it was The "Tet"!!!

East Indian Thu, 06/01/2017 - 22:26 Permalink

Soviet Union was, in 1989, economically not in a very bad shape; true, its industrial productivity had declined, and with it its military production, but it was not a death-bed case. It was, for example, able to produce its own food, unlike Khurushcheve's times when it imported wheat from America. Why it collapsed in such a manner - there was absolute chaos in 1992 - 94, when even basic agriculture was abandoned - is still a mystery to me. That is where I am inclined to believe the Patriots groups, which allege that, due to years of unmonitored communications between the Nomenklatura and the western top-floaters, a conspiracy shaped up, to carve the whole USSR into constituent units and privatize - read loot - the state-owned enterprises. Such an attempt would have been severely punished during the times of Brezhnev, but Gorbachev let the Nomenklatura a free hand; these Nomenklatura and the agents of Rothschild conspired to swallow the USSR wholesale. Something similar might have happened to the Western Roman Empire around 476 AD. The elites carved the empire into their personal fiefdoms rather than a functional state. The invasion was just a pretext. Here, the coup in 1991 August was the pretext to carve up the USSR. The oligarchs that rose out of this systemic lootings are still very powerful, and some of them are here for ever. 

GRDguy Fri, 06/02/2017 - 00:15 Permalink

That's excellent documentation on the steps the agents of The Great Red Dragon (published 1889) are slowly by surely taking "to own the earth in fee-simple."The US has been their wonderful tool so far.

MEFOBILLS Fri, 06/02/2017 - 03:20 Permalink

Mises Monks and their laughable world view.An Austrian complaining about miss-use of government power?  The irony is thick.  Austrian Hereditary Kings worked with Jews to control their society, in what was a two headed arrangement.  These hereditary idiot kings along with usurious jews were instrumental in taking down Hungary's constitutional kingdom.The very things that the Austrians say they want, was in Hungary.  A stable relative prosperous society for 1000 years.  Then these remaining Jewish elements move to America, suck up Rockefeller banking dollars to promote their wordview and indefensible economics (they really like being merchants with money power... that or controlling idiot hereditary kings.)   Basically, their worldview is the Jewish method.  Follow the money.

WallHoo MEFOBILLS Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:47 Permalink

Mefo,it is a little unrelated but i wanted to tell you that,i saw the princes of the yen,its been a long time since i saw anything that good in a documentary especially about econ.Although it wasn't something new from an econ perspective(real econ not the one that the mainstream serves) it was a good story and an analogy to what happened and is hapening in the eurozone especially  in my country,i can see the princes of the yen tactics been used everywhere,a nice insight for mainly politicoeconomic game that is been played on us. If you have any other good docs,im all ears.Hudson is one of my favourites and his MMT origins very eye opening,althought i think that there is a limit to theire keynsian style.Chartalism on the other hand is VERY REAL as you point out often.My most favourite is Silvio Gesel,i dont know if you know him,i would like to give me an opinion about his work if it is not a big deal for you!!

In reply to by MEFOBILLS

MEFOBILLS WallHoo Fri, 06/02/2017 - 15:24 Permalink

Walhoo,You are on the right path.  Gesel is good on money but weak on Credit theory.  It is book time for you now, unfortunately many documentaries will lead you astray.  The takehome you should get from Princes, is that credit can be channeled.  If it is channeled into productive modes, then it can be paid back with improved producivity.  Credit is always created with its mirror, a debt instrument.  Japan used credit guidance windows.  Manchrian railroad economists learned their methods from German American, Frederick List.  List in turn was a contemporary of  E. Peshine Smith.  MMT is a little confused on the whole government money thing, where they conflate private bank credit and government power.  This is obviously a false teaching.  See criticism of MMT by Huber at, or a American Monetary Institute   AMI.  So, Hudson is correct on most things, but he goes off the reservation when it comes to MMT theory.  The takehome that you get from Gesel, is that if you have MONEY  (not credit as money) in the supply, then it needs something to motivate it into velocity.  Gesel used the tax stamp.  The better way is to have a mixed money supply that is both money and credit.  Credit has a velocity vector on it already, due to claims by hypothecated debt instrument. Money in the supply can become savings, to then make future demand. Money is permanent, credit disappears when it enters the ledger.No economist addresses the different types of money and their behaviors, so this is a point that I want to emphasize for you.  The differening units matter.   For example, Gold in the Hanseatic league would be taken up in a head tax, and then re-melted.  The old coins would be made illegal, and this gave gold velocity, something that Gesel also was after.  Permanent money (gold) was made to have velocity, and savings were shaken loose by taxes.Creating Credit from nothing, say as a banker, or former goldsmiths paper, is seigniorage on the supply, and hence  usurious taking.  Government has to issue credit into channels, and in accordance with the requirements of this money unit (princes of yen experience).Study also Canadian experience when they had a sovereign crown bank from 1938 to 1974.  This bank would issue both loans (credit) and debt free money.Unfortunately I have to write a book or crate a website for people like yourself who are actively seeking out knowledge and the truth.  BUT, I'm trying to start a business at the moment, and don't have the time and focus.  In future, I will hire an economist and create a no bullshit web zone for people to go to.  That way you don't have to fight your way through all the crap that is out there.Werner is also good, but he is going off the reservation lately in his push for a sparkassen type banking system.   Germans with their discipline can do this type of credit banking, but lesser nations cannot.   See Werner on Youtube.  You will have to use your intelligence to sort through the wheat and chaff unfortunately.

In reply to by WallHoo