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The Memoirs of Manuel Noriega,

America's Prisoner

ISBN: 0-679-43227-2


American public opinion has a notoriously short attention span, so the saying goes in political circles, and in fact public memory regarding Manuel Antonio Noriega, has been fleeting.  He was for many years an ally of U.S. interests in the country of Panama, rose to become General and then President of that country, later to be described as a thug, and drug trafficker--as dictator, or as Colin Powell described him, "evil."                                


The Memoirs of Manuel Noriega, were written as the former General languished in a federal prison just 12 miles south of Miami, written with the assistance of an American journalist Peter Eisner of Newsday.  The book warrants attention, perhaps now more so than when it hit the bookstores in 1997. Why ?  What the book traces for us is a 'modus operandi' by Neoconservatives tied to CIA, the Pentagon, of creating conditions for facilitating outcomes advantageous to U.S. foreign policy.  Outcomes that use harsh measures, and harsh  people--dictators, assassins, hardly ever representative of democratic and humanitarian principles--to accomplish pre-conceived ends.  First, demonize, use methods of propaganda and lies, then unleash a barrage of violent action and subdue the target of aggression.  We see it here in Noriega's case, later in Iraq in the case of Saddam Hussein, and the lesson gained is the 'modus operandi' of those at the helm of power in the United States of America. What is interesting to note is that many of the people that today are at the helm  of American political power, were at work behind the scenes during the Reagan era, and subsequent George H. W. Bush administration.                                                                         


Noriega flatly denies the charges, which were levied against him; dictator, drug trafficker, or as thug, and Eisner during his investigation uncovers a plot hashed by the Justice and State Departments to frame Manuel Noriega.  Eisner contacts the witnesses at Noriega's trial, who recant their testimony, and provide the reasons for their testimony as a result of 'deals that they could not refuse.'                                                                                


"Rarely has a figure in this century been so universally vilified as Manuel Antonio Noriega.  By 1993 when I was asked by Random House to interview Noriega--the deposed General and former leader of Panama... his infamy had become a matter of history.  It had been four years since the United States had invaded his country, killed untold hundreds of Panamanians and brought him back to the United States in chains to face drug charges... In post-cold war America, Noriega was perhaps the first figure to be thus endowed with the inhuman qualities he is remembered for--pure 'evil'... 'a crazed dictator' in the words of Washington policy makers; 'just another crooked cop,' in the words of the U.S. prosecutors who later were found to have negotiated  a deal with the Cali cocaine cartel to obtain witnesses to testify against him...                                                         


...Neither international human rights organizations nor the U.S. State Department could identify more than a scattered handful of politically related deaths in Panama in twenty years of military rule, nor did they cite huge numbers of political prisoners, massive exiles avoiding persecution or any of the other conditions of an extreme police state."  (p. xiii-xv, Introduction )                                                                                       


Noriega's rule was in truth rather benign, compared to others whom the United States has supported--the likes of Pinochet, Somoza, even assassins like Roberto D'Aubuisson. 


George H. W. Bush pushed for Noriega's capture replete with a vicious military invasion in December 1989.  Mexican Catholic Bishop Mendez Arce said of it:  "The United States approved the unjust invasion and the consequent destruction, mistreatment and massacre of the Panamanian people.  For us it seems to be serious proof that systemic lies are capable of corrupting the American people.  What a detestable and shameful panorama it is to see that a government that considers itself to be a champion of democracy and justice can ignore international order and assume the roles of police, judge, jury, and executioner for everyone else."                                                                                      


Why read Noriega's Memoirs ?  Perhaps for no other reason than to get a glimpse of comparison into the propaganda Bush machine that builds a mantra of 'evil' around those it seeks to destroy. A shroud that it carefully builds for the benefit of public opinion, before venturing into its wars of aggression--be it in Panama, Iraq or in geopolitical 'hotspots' to come.  This is how the Neocon-Bush machine destroys its 'enemies.'  What does Noriega say then, was the rationale for U.S. aggression ?                                              


"I said no too many times, I refused to allow them to use Panama as a base [on behalf of the Contras]... The closing of the Panama School of the Americas [the U.S. Army School of Assassins] in 1982 was mandated as one of the first tangible changes under the Torrijos-Carter treaties of 1977-78.  The United States was well aware of the provision, but the Reagan administration just couldn't swallow it.  As determined and proud as we were to follow through with Torrijo's legacy, the United States didn't want any of this to happen.  They wanted an extension or a renegotiation for the installation, saying that with their growing war preparations in Central America, they still needed it.  But the School of the Americas was an embarrassment to us.  We didn't want a training ground for death squads and repressive right-wing militaries on our soil." (p.114)                                                      


Are these the words of an evil dictator, a thug ? Meanwhile the School of the Americas is currently based in Georgia, has changed names but continues to operate, training foreign armies as well as our own, in the 'fine' techniques of torture, death, and assassination. 

Wherein lies the evil ?



Posted  April 03, 2005

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