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The Capture of Manuel Noriega: The Right of a Nation to Invade a Sovereign Country.

Latin American and Caribbean History Spring 2013 Tommy Connelly

On December 20th 1989 former president George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion on the Central American country of Panama, and its leader Manuel Noriega. Manuel Noriega was many things; he was a leader of a country, a CIA informant, and a suspected drug runner. The invasion of Panama was done for a multitude of reasons, the Panama Canal being a place of interest as well as a military training school located in Panama run by the US. The more important, or at least more notable reason being that the US government wanted Manuel Noriega out of the country for suspicion of drug trafficking. Most scholars believe the 1989 American invasion of Panama was justified by the capture of known drug runner and corrupt Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, although historians acknowledge US interests in reclaiming rights to the Panama Canal may have clouded the motive. The main invasion force of Operation Just Cause (the name given to the invasion) numbered over 26,000 men. It included troops from all branches of the military.1 Originally the plan was to gradually build up troop numbers in Panama, but it soon evolved into a full-blown takeover of the country to take Noriega out of power.2 The reason the plans changed so rapidly was because Noriega started trying to intimidate the US citizens in Panama.3 Noriega was harassing US citizens in the country because of the increased pressure being put on him by the US government to step down. The new goal of the mission turned into restoring an elected democratic government, protecting American lives, and making sure the

Schwaller, Shannon. " The Official Homepage of the United States Army." Operation Just Cause: The Invasion of Panama, December 1989. US Army, 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. 2 Schwaller 3 Ibid.

Panamanian civilian casualties were as low as they could be.4 The plan itself while vague, could have proven to be difficult had it not been for careful execution of procedure by troops. The United States had many advantages in the invasion, other than the superior military might possessed. Due to the already high volume of US troops in Panama the Panamanian soldiers were desensitized to the faster troop movements. This fact made the invasion all the more easier. The buildup and training of the troops required for the invasion was the most tedious part of the entire mission, as major military operations were over in a matter of five days. With an invasion taking place over such a short period of time with such upside its easy to understand North Western professor Anthony DAmatos stance on an invasion being necessary to restore democracy.5 After the initial invasion on December 20th 1989 Noriega surrendered on January 3rd 1990 , and Operation Just Cause was over on January 12th 1990.6 Although the actual invasion of Panama was a major event in US history, the reasoning behind the invasion is sometimes talked about more than the invasion itself. Originally Noriega had essentially trained to be an informant for the CIA. This was also why so much of what he was doing was being looked over, because despite whatever drugs he may have been helping move, the eradication of communism was more important. Communism today is a far away thought in most peoples mind, it is

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Schwaller D'Amato, Anthony, "The Invasion of Panama Was A Lawful Response to Tyranny" (1990).Faculty Working Papers.Paper 137. Page 4: 6 YAO, JULIO. "Legacies Of The U.S. Invasion Of Panama." NACLA Report On The Americas 45.1 (2012): 70. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

no longer the de facto enemy of the people of the United States, but that was not the case during the eighties. Essentially Noriega was to pass information to the CIA on communist activities in the countries of El Salvador and Nicaragua. It is at this point that you can connect the war on drugs with the invasion. The war on drugs was becoming an ever-increasing topic, and although it was not as important as finishing off communism, it certainly was not overlooked by any means. The CIA helped train and supply a man who ended up ruling a country with an iron fist, not only that but he helped get drugs into the US. With that in mind, putting together the rationale behind invading is not extremely difficult to do, not only was there the prize of Noriega (a criminal, who crossed the CIA), but also there was the chance to establish a working democracy in a country that desperately needed one. Between 1984-1985 the US figured out that much of the information that Noriega was feeding them was fraudulent.7 CIA officials had the right to be more than displeased with this fact, they were giving him money in exchange for what turned out to be bad information. It was also discovered at this point after much suspicion from the White House that Noriega was running drugs from Columbia into the US. Professor Eytan Gilboa of Bar Ilan University says that even with facts like that what is the point of removing someone of little importance? He goes onto say that even with the bad information he may have provided, he was still not procommunism, therefor not a threat to help grow that type of ideaology.8 The US
Head, William P. "Gunships And 'Ding-Bats': U.S. Military Operations During 'Just Cause'." Journal Of Third World Studies 28.2 (2011): 87. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. Page 90 8 Gilboa, Eytan. "The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold Warera." The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold Warera. Mount Holyoke, 1995. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
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initially tried to have Noriega reform his government, which was unfortunately unsuccessful. Things eventually got to the point where the US Senate called for an ouster or coup. When the new government was set up Noriega forcefully dissolved it with his own men. That was in 1987 two years before the invasion. It was at this point that things really started to heat up. By the time George H.W. Bush had gotten into office Reagan already had the invasion of Panama on the table. Meaning that it was being planned and prepared for before he entered office. It had been a long process mainly because there had been an election earlier that year that was not enforced, and the focus was not only on taking out Noriega, but also making sure all US citizens were safe. With the election being done, it gave Noriega more time because the US government thought Noriega would no longer be in power. With so many variables in the planning it would be easy to understand the tediousness that was necessary for the planning of the invasion. When a government gets to the point where they are about to invade a sovereign country many questions are asked. Some may ask is it in violation of international law? Mona Charen a published author and columnist wrote in the Chicago tribune in 1989 that There is no such thing as international law She goes on to ask who would enforce it even if it were a thing.9 Her article goes on into the less talked about, but in many scholars opinions more important subject of the morality of the entire affair. She states that in fact it was morally correct, as the

Charen, Mona. "Was The Panama Invasion Legal? That`s The Wrong Question." Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 25 Dec. 1989. Web. 27 Apr. 2013.
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Panamanians had voted 3:1 against Noriega in favor of his political opponent Guillermo Endara.10 This is still a hotly debated topic to this day. Although Eytan Gilboa of Mount Holyoke doesnt examine the other side of the argument morally one can make inferences due to some of the thoughts she has on the topic. She has made clear the fact that he was a very low level dictator in the sense that he wasnt anything to worry about. He wasnt communist so there was no worry there, and other than that he was wanted only for drug running.11 The fact of the matter is that yes drug trafficking is not a good thing, because clearly that is not a good thing. What does need to be brought to question though is, is it ok to invade a country because its dictator is being brought up on drug smuggling charges in Miami? Mr. Gilboa does not favor this idea. Which makes sense to a certain degree. The US invades a country, risks American, and Panamanian lives, and on the outside they say it is to take down a man wanted for drug running. Both sides make very meaningful arguments. Delving back to the legal side of it all, there are many arguments as to if the invasion was legal at all. As we have already heard from writer Mona Charen, there is no real international law that could stop it. With that in mind we can instead delve into the US governments own legal reaction to the invasion. After the invasion the Bush administration sent former Secretary of State Jim Baker into the briefing room of the white house loaded with a variety of documents.12 Of all the documents mentioned the one that seemed to have the most importance was the Panama Canal

Charen, Mona Gilboa, Eytan. 12 Charen, Mona.


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treaty. More specifically article 4 of the treaty. In Article 4 of the treaty of the Panama Canal it states that due to the United States having primary control of the protection of the Canal they can use as many troops as necessary.13 That still doesnt answer the question of the legality of actually invading a sovereign country. Or at least at first glance it doesnt. When you go deeper into the legal side you could say that the US felt that the Panama Canal was being threatened. Since the US has primary rights to protecting the Canal, they could by that argument feel as though it was necessary to invade to protect the Canal. The reason that could also be argued being that Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega was not agreeing to the US governments new terms for the control of the Canal. From Noriegas interview with esteemed director Oliver Stone, we know that the US wanted to keep control of the Canal, so this argument is very reasonable when looking back on the entire situation.14 Even with that point, you can still argue that there was no danger to the Canal, but to that you must ask would you really want a wanted drug trafficker controlling a major Canal? That is where the problem truly lies. The major problems that many people had with the invasion of Panama was that it seemed to be only for the interests of the US. The argument also being that even if it was more than that, why? Why invade a country? Why risk it? Mona Charen argues that as a major world power, it isnt exactly the USs right, but more

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"Appendix B: Texts of the Panama Canal Treaties with UnitedStates Senate Modifications -Panama." Library of Congress / Federal Research Division / Country Studies / Area Handbook Series / Panama / Appendix B. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. 14 "A Talk With Manuel Noriega." Nation 258.3 (1994): 80. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

so their obligation.15 Although this is a controversial idea, it can be argued that increasing the quality of life of the people of a country is important if you as a country possess the ability to do so. This idea is one that is generally fought over between different political groups rather than scholars themselves. For instance a more conservative person would agree with that type of rationale while a more democratic or liberal person would not. Although the fact that the US wanted to keep control of the Panama Canal is considered to be a huge factor in the invasion, capturing known drug runner and dictator Manuel Noriega cannot be overlooked when talking about the USs invasion of Panama. The invasion of Panama, helped many things in Panama after the fact. For instance the US was able to enforce the democratic election of Guillermo Endara which had previously been thrown out by Noriega. It also brought Panama into a new era, an era without a dictator, and with a democracy. The US invasion of Panama, was both legally and morally correct. The US was able to take a drug trafficker, Dictator, and faulty supplier of information out of a country that desperately needed change. The quickest way to get that change was by invasion. Although some believe that there were other ways to do this, less bloody ways. Those ways, can be just as costly in the long run as an invasion was though. It becomes long and drawn out causing more people to die along the way. It is due to facts like these that the US invasion of Panama needed to be done.

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Charen, Mona

Bibliography: Website:
Schwaller, Shannon. " The Official Homepage of the United States Army. "Operation` Just Cause: The Invasion of Panama, December 1989. US Army, 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Faculty Papers:
D'Amato, Anthony, "The Invasion of Panama Was A Lawful Response to Tyranny" (1990).Faculty Working Papers.Paper 137.

Periodical:
Head, William P. "Gunships And 'Ding-Bats': U.S. Military Operations During 'Just Cause'." Journal Of Third World Studies 28.2 (2011): 87. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 10 Apr. 2013 Gilboa, Eytan. "The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold Warera." The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold Warera. Mount Holyoke, 1995. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Column/ Article:
Charen, Mona. "Was The Panama Invasion Legal? That`s The Wrong Question."Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 25 Dec. 1989. Web. 27 Apr. 2013. Riccardelli, Richard F. "Waging Limited War On Drugs: New Strategy For The Nineties." Military Review 74.10 (1994): 25. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. YAO, JULIO. "Legacies Of The U.S. Invasion Of Panama." NACLA Report On The Americas 45.1 (2012): 70. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

Interview:
"A Talk With Manuel Noriega." Nation 258.3 (1994): 80. Advanced Placement. Source. Web. 11 Apr. 2013

Treaty Texts:
"Appendix B: Texts of the Panama Canal Treaties with UnitedStates Senate Modifications -- Panama." Library of Congress / Federal Research Division / Country Studies / Area Handbook Series / Panama / Appendix B. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.