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Thursday, September 19 2019 @ 08:31 am EDT

We Should "Never Forget" Operation Just Cause

History & Reference Hundreds of deaths, people missing and a neighborhood destroyed were some of the scenarios experienced on 20 December 1989, exactly 22 years ago, when U.S. troops invaded Panama in an operation called "Just Cause", to capture one man, Manuel Antonio Noriega, then the de facto ruler. The images of that date show the destruction and fire, and a town that was subject to the military might of a first world power. The residents of the neighborhood of El Chorrillo, the area that was destroyed more than any other point in Panama, since then and still today they say they are "prohibited to forget" - referring to wounds that never quite heal, while others are still wondering where are their missing relatives. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: I wish in Panama the people here would finally get around to blaming Noriega for the invasion. Noriega was given ample opportunities to step down in the months leading up to the Just Cause invasion. If he had gotten on a plane and left the country in the middle of the night, the end result would have been the same, a return to civilian rule and democracy in Panama. However because of his stubbornness and willingness to sacrifice the lives of others for his selfish ends, many people died unnecessarily. Even this article says the object of the invasion was to "capture one man" when that is not the truth. I love the idea that Panamanians should "never forget" the invasion. However it would be nice if the Panamanian media would "spin" the history a little more towards the truth, and less towards blaming the United States for everything that happened. And as far as the destruction by fire of the neighborhood of El Chorrillo - I saw with my own eyes video of neighborhood residents passing burning material from one house to another to spread the flames. At that time El Chorrillo was a slum of mostly wooden shacks. Some people apparently saw the invasion and fire as an opportunity to maybe get something better, but that would only happen if their current little wooden slum shack was burned to the ground. There's no doubt the fire was started due to the invasion and the fighting around the Commandancia, and there's also no doubt the flames were spread by the Panamanians themselves. The primary objectives of Operation Just Cause were;

  • Safeguarding the lives of U.S. citizens in Panama. In his statement, Bush claimed that Noriega had declared that a state of war existed between the United States and Panama and that he also threatened the lives of the approximately 35,000 US citizens living there. There had been numerous clashes between U.S. and Panamanian forces; one US Marine had been killed a few days earlier and several incidents of harassment of US citizens had taken place.

  • Defending democracy and human rights in Panama. In 1988 the Panamanian people voted and elected Guillermo Endara as their president. Noriega simply annulled the results of that election and remained in power. The invasion did, in fact, restore democracy to Panama and ended the 21 year military dictatorship.

  • Combating drug trafficking. Panama had become a center for drug money laundering and a transit point for drug trafficking to the United States and Europe. And what's worse, the drugs were being trafficked by none other than Manual Antonio Noriega himself. De facto military dictator, and a country being run by a drug trafficker, money launderer, and murderer. Yeah, time to put a stop to that crap.

  • Protecting the integrity of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties. Members of Congress and others in the U.S. political establishment claimed that Noriega threatened the neutrality of the Panama Canal and that the United States had the right under the treaties to intervene militarily to protect the Panama canal. Prior to the invasion Noriega had declared war on the United States. He was clearly a threat to the Panama Canal as well.

The following is a list of names of U.S. service members who were killed in Panama while participating in the U.S. military operation "Just Cause" in December 1989. Another 325 military personnel were wounded in action;

  • Staff Sgt. Larry Barnard - 3/75th Rangers Hallstead, Pa.
  • Pfc. Roy D. Brown Jr. - 3/75th Rangers Buena Park, Calif.
  • Pvt. Vance T. Coats - 82nd Airborne Division Great Falls, Mont.
  • Spec. Jerry S. Daves - 82nd Airborne. Division North Carolina
  • Sgt. Michael A. Deblois - 82nd Airborne Division Dubach, La.
  • Pfc. Martin D. Denson - 82nd Airborne Division Abilene, Texas
  • Pfc. William D. Gibbs - 7th Infantry Division. Marina, Calif.
  • Spec. Phillip S. Lear - 2/75th Rangers Westminster, S.C.
  • Spec. Alejandro Manriquelozano* - 82nd Airborne Division Lauderhill, Fla.
  • Pfc. James W. Markwell - 1/75th Rangers Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Cpl. Ivan M. Perez - 5th Infantry Division Pawtucket, R.I.
  • Pfc. John M. Price - 2/75th Rangers Conover, Wis.
  • Pfc. Scott L. Roth - 89th Military Police Brigade Killeen, Texas
  • Pvt. Kenneth D. Scott - 5th Infantry Division Princeton, W.Va.
  • 1st Lt. John R. Hunter - 160th Aviation Victor, Montana
  • CWO2 Wilson B. Owens - 160th Aviation Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  • CWO2 Andrew P. Porter - 7th Infantry Division Saint Clair, Mich.
  • Pvt. James A. Taber Jr. - 82nd Airborne Division Montrose, Colo.
  • Lt. j.g. John Connors - Special Warfare Group Arlington, Maine
  • BM1 Chris Tilghman - Special Warfare Group Kailua, Hawaii
  • ENC Donald McFaul - Special Warfare Group Deschutes, Ore.
  • TM2 Issac G. Rodriguez III - Special Warfare Group Missouri City, Texas
  • Cpl. Garreth C. Isaak - 2nd Marine Division Greenville, S.C.
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We Should "Never Forget" Operation Just Cause | 8 comments | Create New Account
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We Should \"Never Forget\" Operation Just Cause
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 20 2011 @ 12:53 pm EST

Phil Lear from South Carolina was a classmate of mine in Ranger School. He and I ended up in the 2nd Bat at the same time. Not everyone who went to the school got an assignment to a RGR Regt.We thought ourselves lucky.Phil was a hard charger, intelligent with a dry sense of humor and a willingness to go the extra mile. He was a soldiers soldier and a credit to the 75th. He gave his young life so that the people of Panama would no longer be subject to the whims of caricature military dictators. Phil, like the rest of us, watched the films of the PDF beatings of common everyday people on the streets of PTY and wondered like the rest of us when this kind of crap was going to end. Phil like the rest of us saw ourselves on a rescue mission that day nothing more and nothing less and because of the guys like Phil that mission was accomplished. Panama today is the way it is NOT because the invasion/restoration didn't happen. The shopworn mantra about those evil Yanquis is more about the Panamanian penchant for never accepting responsibility for an action than it is about historical geo-political realities. When you talk history in Panama...the truth hurts and it probably should. But when you look around and you see the skyline of PTY and the read the economic growth statistics, see where the best kids are going to college.. and it's not because Manuel Antonio and his surviving Noriegaistas have made it this way. It' s because a kid from South Carolina, and many more like him, Panamanian and American, got in the middle and made a difference. It's December 20th and Manuel Antonio is eating his dinner in prison in Panama. Buen provecho, asshole.
Me, I remember the plane ride down and I try and remember what stick Phil was on and it's been too long ago..the faces fade with time. His family must hurt this day and they must miss him. But I'm here and I see what Phil's ultimate sacrifice accomplished all around me...and I keep hearing the chaplain say later on the airfield when we sent him home..greater love hath no man...Rangers Lead the Way, Phil..they still do..Ranger On, me a seat.

We Should \"Never Forget\" Operation Just Cause
Authored by: Ivan Perez on Wednesday, December 21 2011 @ 03:52 am EST

Some days after Dec. 20 I personally heard over the radio an interview of the Chorrillo priest recounting the goings on on the morning of the 20th. He clearly stated that on that morning, arround 7AM, as he began preparing to say the daily mass someone came rushing up with the urgent warning that he should get out as the "CODEPADI" were burning the houses as a distraction to escape from the place... Afterward this news was never aired again and the only version was that "the Americans had bombed and/or torched El Chorrillo". As a telling data, no burned bodies of children or old persons were found nor photographed as that would be inescapable in a nightly burning scene. Anybody historically inclined should see into this. As I said, I personally heard this story, no one told me.

We Should \"Never Forget\" Operation Just Cause
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 21 2011 @ 09:06 am EST

In the news stories, reporters have been talking about short lived coup attempt in October that lead to the massacre / execution at a hangar in albrook.

From what I read so far, the US could have had Noriega at that point. I'm still learning about the event so I have no opinion on it's connection or non-connection to the events of December.

We Should \"Never Forget\" Operation Just Cause
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 21 2011 @ 10:32 am EST

For more than a decade, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was a highly paid CIA asset and collaborator, despite knowledge by U.S. drug authorities as early as 1971 that the general was heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. Noriega facilitated "guns-for-drugs" flights for the contras, providing protection and pilots, as well as safe havens for drug cartel officials, and discreet banking facilities. U.S. officials, including then-ClA Director William Webster and several DEA officers, sent Noriega letters of praise for efforts to thwart drug trafficking (albeit only against competitors of his Medellin Cartel patrons). The U.S. government only turned against Noriega, invading Panama in December 1989 and kidnapping the general, once they discovered he was providing intelligence and services to the Cubans and Sandinistas. Ironically drug trafficking through Panama increased after the US invasion.

We Should \"Never Forget\" Operation Just Cause
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 21 2011 @ 11:51 am EST

Thanks for this article and for mentioning the soldiers killed in action.....I still can't understand why some panamanians don't understand the truth. ra

We Should \"Never Forget\" Operation Just Cause
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 21 2011 @ 05:47 pm EST

I'm a U.S. Soldier who has been deployed for a total of 24 months in Iraq since the start of the war and has lost close friends there. I'm also the 1st born American in my family with my origins being Panamanian.
After some research I have become convinced that the invasion of Panama as was the Invasion and then occupation of Iraq was just another U.S. tactic that put U.S. lives at risk to make the top 1% of the riches Americans richer. Noriega as was Saddam was used by the American Government for it's own benefit and American lives were lost for the greed of a few of the wealthiest people on this planet. Reagan's unbelievable remark on the canal, “We bought it. We built it. We paid for it." showed his intent to keep the Panama Canal as U.S. property and I am convinced was the whole reason behind the invasion. They could care less about Noriega and his drug trafficking, which had been know about for years previous to the invasion. He worked for the CIA for crying out loud. If the U.S. was worried about American lives it should have put them on a plane and shipped their asses home. I'm in no way condoning the actions of any brutal dictator but seems like anyone who does't bend over for the U.S. and it's interest are part of (George Bush Jr voice) "The Axis Of Evil". Torrijos murder was orchestrated by the Americans because he pissed off some rich Americans and two administrations used overt and covert operations to help start popular uprisings and coups and also assisted the opposition in the 1989 Panamanian "elections". I would of done the same thing as Noriega maybe a bit smarter! This isn't the movies and we are NOT team America the world police. America Fuck Yea! Here is some facts I found about the reaction by the International community towards the invasion which coincidently was given a whole of 2 minutes of air time at the time when the American news media was totally dominated by the invasions "success" and invasions "precise" and "surgical" attack.

The invasion of Panama provoked international outrage. Some countries charged that the United States committed an act of aggression by invading Panama and was trying to conceal a new manifestation of its interventionist policy of force in Latin America. On 29 December, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted 75–20 with 40 abstentions to condemn the invasion as a flagrant violation of international law.
On 22 December, the Organization of American States passed a resolution deploring the invasion and calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops, in addition to a separate resolution condemning the violation of the diplomatic status of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Panama by US Special Forces who had entered the building. At the UN Security Council, after discussing the issue over several days, a draft resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of United States forces from Panama was vetoed on 23 December by three of the permanent members of the Security Council, France, United Kingdom, and the United States who cited its right of self-defense of 35,000 Americans present on the Panama Canal.
Peru recalled its ambassador from the United States to protest the invasion.
Some claim that the Panamanian people overwhelmingly supported the invasion. According to a CBS poll, 92% of Panamanian adults supported the U.S. incursion, and 76% wished that U.S. forces had invaded in October during the coup. However, others dispute this finding, asserting that the Panamanian surveys were completed in wealthy, English-speaking neighborhoods in Panama City, among Panamanians most likely to support US actions.
In 2006, one author opined "President Bush had not defended the hemisphere against European aggression under the guise of the Monroe Doctrine, or used the threat of Communist proliferation to take action, but instead he had used the US military to remove a hostile and problematic Latin American dictator from power because it was in the best interests of the United States to do so."
Eighteen years after the invasion, Panama's National Assembly unanimously declared 20 December 2007, as a day of national mourning. The resolution was vetoed by President Torrijos.
According to Robert Pastor, a former US national security advisor, 74% of Americans polled approved the action.[45] Studies by Jeff Cohen and others of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have attributed this support to mainstream media intentionally excluding critical viewpoints during television reporting preceding the invasion.
The Washington Post disclosed several rulings of the Office of Legal Counsel, issued shortly before the invasion, in regards to the U.S. armed forces being charged with making an arrest abroad. One ruling interpreted the Executive Order against Assassination of Foreign Leaders, which prohibits the intentional killing of foreign leaders as suggesting that accidental killings would be acceptable foreign policy. Another ruling concludes that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the armed forces from making arrests without Congressional authorization, is effective only within the boundaries of the US, such that the military could be used as a police force abroad — for example, in Panama, to enforce a federal court warrant against Noriega.