The low-key passing of Manuel Noriega


By the time Manuel Noriega died on May 29, 2017, the “ousted dictator” or “Panamanian strongman” had long since taken up residency in the proverbial dustbin of history. He hadn’t been useful or “trending” for decades and was thus relegated to virtual invisibility. Even those who vaguely remembered him may have already presumed him dead — a pre-Internet relic without a hashtag.

Let’s reflect back on yet another example of when America was still great… 

“To defend our interests and our people”
On December 20, 1989 — just two weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall — President George H.W. Bush ushered in the post-Cold War era with Operation Just Cause, a foray that would’ve been deemed a “sneak attack” if an official enemy nation had initiated it. 

Noriega was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989. An ally of the United States since the 1950s, he was literally on the CIA payroll — possibly as far back as 1971. Like so many others (Hussein, Suharto, Marcos, etc.), he outlived his usefulness. He was indicted in a U.S. federal court on drug-trafficking charges and later accused of rigging elections. By late 1989, all the Land of the Free™ needed was one of those classic “pretexts” to launch an invasion. 

Bush got his wish on Dec. 16, 1989. Panamanian troops shot and killed a U.S. soldier in Panama City. A second soldier was wounded and a third beaten and arrested. All of that was pushing peace loving America to the boiling point, but then Noriega’s henchmen really crossed the line. They threatened a U.S. soldier’s wife with sexual assault.

“That was enough,” declared an outraged Poppy Bush. 

(Of course, Bush and all Americans take sexual assault seriously and care deeply about the treatment of women across the globe.)

The next thing you know, an invasion of more than 27,000 U.S. troops was in the works. “That invasion, less than eight months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, was condemned by the UN General Assembly,” explains former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. “No action was taken, although the United States violated all the international laws later violated by Iraq when it invaded Kuwait, plus a number of Western Hemisphere conventions and the Panama Canal Treaties.” 

Utilizing a classic spin technique, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering defended the invasion by claiming that Article 51 of the UN Charter “provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people.” 

Pickering argued that Bush was compelled to invade because Panama was “being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States.” Since such durable disinformation tactics never seem to fail, the long reliable CIA asset General Manuel Noriega fell from grace in record time. 

He went into hiding at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City where the mercenaries of the Home of the Brave™ proceeded to blast “heavy metal” music (yes, including Van Halen’s “Panama”) to “torment” America’s former comrade. 

What happened next:

  • Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990
  • He was promptly flown to jail — in Florida
  • A new Panamanian president was sworn in — on an American military base

We interrupt this article for a brief Henry Kissinger break: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”

“Every human life is precious”
Poppy Bush’s feminist-inspired invasion was, of course, not bloodless. Twenty-three American service members were killed and more than 300 wounded. What about Panamanian civilians? Well, it gets a little dicey there with estimates ranging as high as 4,000 killed during the invasion and the fighting afterwards. 

Bush the Elder was later asked if getting Noriega was worth all those corpses. His reply: “Every human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it.”

And the beat went on… 

Mickey Z. is the founder of Helping Homeless Women – NYC, offering direct relief to women on the streets of New York City. To help him grow this project, CLICK HERE and make a donation right now. And please spread the word!

The low-key passing of Manuel Noriega by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News