THE RESUMÉ OF MANUEL NORIEGA,
THE MOST FAMOUS GRADUATE OF THE SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS
(1) Noriega, considered "outstanding" at the SOA, is on the CIA payroll (to the tune of up to $100,000 a year) from the mid-’60s to the mid-’80s.
(2) His drug trafficking, though known, is no obstacle to his chumminess with George Bush (CIA director and "Vice" President) during the ’70s and early ’80s.
(3) His true crime is being an independent leader of Panama, just before the US is obliged to return the stolen Panama Canal Zone on January 1st, 1990.
(4) So after publicly demonizing his longtime friend and employee, Bush slaughters thousands of Panamanians and installs a puppet government, in the nick of time, on December 20th, 1989.
(5) Let’s not call any more presidents "wimps", ok? It just pisses ’em off.
The gory details…
50s-60s Spy for US, informing on colleagues in his socialist party, and on leftist students at his Peruvian military academy. — New York Times, 9/28/88
1967 Finishes courses at SOA including Infantry Officer, Combat Intelligence Officer, Military Intelligence (Counter-Intelligence Officer Course), and Jungle Operations. An instructor calls him "outstanding." — John Dinges, Our Man in Panama, 1991
1971 US has "hard evidence" of his heavy involvement in drug trafficking, "sufficient for indictment". Nixon sets in motion initial plans for his assassination. — Frontline (PBS), 1/30/90
1970-76 Meanwhile, Noriega is in the pay of the CIA and the Pentagon, reportedly receiving more than $100,000 per year. — Newsweek, 1/15/90
1976 CIA Director George Bush gives him a VIP tour of CIA headquarters in Washington; he resides with Bush's Deputy Director. — Dinges
1977 Carter officials reportedly remove him from the US payroll. — New York Times, 10/2/88
1979 Gives haven to the overthrown Shah of Iran, brutal US-installed dictator.
1981 Becomes part of a ruling military junta after 13-year dictator and SOA graduate General Omar Torrijos dies in a plane crash, later blamed on Noriega and the CIA by other junta members.
Reagan/Bush officials put him back on the US payroll, again reportedly at more than $100,000 per year. — San Francisco Chronicle, 6/11/87
1981-83 Extensive drug trafficking and money laundering involving the Medellin, Colombia cocaine cartel. — Dinges
8/83 Seizes command of the National Guard (to be renamed "Panama Defense Forces"). He is the effective chief of state.
11/83 Washington visits with White House, State Department and Pentagon, including CIA Director William Casey. — Newsweek, 1/15/90
1983-86 The US loves him for: spying on Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega; allowing the United States to set up listening posts in Panama, with which they monitor sensitive communications in all of Central America and beyond; aiding the American warfare against the rebels in El Salvador and the government of Nicaragua (facilitating the flow of money and arms to the contras, allowing the US to base spy planes in Panama in clear violation of the canal treaties, giving the US permission to train contras in Panama, and spying in support of American sabotage inside of Nicaragua). — Newsweek, 1/15/90
The American love/hate relationship …
1983-86 The US hates him for: suspected spying for Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega; helping Cuba circumvent the US economic embargo; helping to get weapons for the Sandinistas and for the guerrillas m El Salvador and Colombia; transferring high technology to Eastern Europe.
1984 The CIA and the Medellin cartel help finance the campaign of Noriega’s candidate for President, Nicolas Barletta. Barletta is declared the winner ten days after the election, while the US ambassador hides from the media information that Barletta had been defeated by at least four thousand votes. Political opposition parties demonstrate for weeks against the egregious fraud, to no avail. Reagan welcomes Barletta to the Oval Office, and Secretary of State George Schultz attends the inauguration.
1985 A few enthusiastic Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents and US Attorneys, keeping a low profile, begin investigations into his drug activities.
6/86 The New York Times carries a front-page story recounting many of his questionable activities, including his drug trafficking and money laundering operations, and the murder of a political opponent. It is the most detailed and damning report on him to appear in the US media. The Reagan administration reassures him that he need not be overly concerned about the story.
7/86 Oliver North arranges for an American public relations firm to work on improving Panama's and Noriega's image, in return for continued support of the Nicaraguan sabotage campaign. — Iran-Contra testimony of PR firm official
1987 Drug Enforcement Agency head John Lawn praises Noriega’s "personal commitment" in helping to solve a major money laundering case. High US law enforcement officials, including Lawn, work alongside Noriega at a meeting of Interpol, even advising him on how to achieve a better public image. — Los Angeles Times, 1/16/90
1988 Indictment on Federal drug charges. (His principal protectors in Washington are gone: North had been relieved of his duties in 1986, Casey had died in 1987.) All the charges relate to activities prior to June 1984 (except for one drugs/arms deal in 1986). The DEA is deeply divided between those who investigated him as a criminal and those who swore by the authenticity of his cooperation with their agency. — Dinges.
5/89 The CIA provides more than $10 million in aid to Noriega’s opposition. When the ballot counting indicated his candidate losing heavily, he stops the electoral process and allows violence against opposition candidates and their supporters. Unlike 1984, Washington expresses its moral indignation about the fraudulent election. — US News & World Report, 5/1/89
10/89 Elements of the Panamanian Defense Forces take custody of him for two hours and offer to turn him over to the US military, but are refused (Bush has never clearly explained this decision). They receive no US support, and pro-Noriega forces free him.— New York Times, 10/8/90
Another brutal American invasion…
12/89 The US invades Panama, ostensibly in order to capture Noriega, who is in a Florida prison serving a forty-year sentence for drug trafficking. The official body count is approximately 500 Panamanians (mainly civilians) dead, but nongovernmental sources with no less evidence count thousands more; there are also over 3,000 wounded, tens of thousands left homeless. Plus 23 American dead, 324 wounded. Reporter: "Was it really worth it to send people to their death for this? To get Noriega?" Bush: "[E]very human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it." — New York Times, 12/22/89
1990 The original post-invasion plans called for outright US military government, with the head of the US Army Southern command as Panama’s de facto ruler. At the last minute a decision is made to install Guillermo Endara as president, but his government is "merely a façade". — official Pentagon study of the Panama occupation, cited in The Nation, 10/3/94. Endara, one of the two vice presidents, and the attorney general, all have links to drug trafficking and money laundering. — EXTRA!, 1/90. The US confiscates thousands of boxes of Noriega government documents and refuses to hand over any of them to Panamanian investigators. "The United States is protecting robbers and thieves and obstructing justice. We are the owners of the documents. If I am to complete my work, I have to see the documents." — Panama’s chief prosecutor, Los Angeles Times, 6/23/90
1991 Colombian drug cartels and associates of Noriega once again turn Panama into a narcotics transshipment center; there are far more cocaine production facilities than ever existed under Noriega, and drug use in Panama is reportedly at a far higher level. — Los Angeles Times, 4/28/91
The Organization of American States approved a resolution "to deeply regret the military intervention in Panama" by a vote of 20 to 1 (the US).
"We are outraged … [the OAS] missed an historic opportunity to get beyond its traditional narrow concern with nonintervention." — Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman, Los Angeles Times, 12/23/89.
"This land is my land, that land is my land, there’s no land here that isn’t my land." — US soldiers singing near the Vatican Embassy, where Noriega had taken sanctuary during the invasion.