October 21, 2009

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(Manuel Noriega 1989 - The smuggled cocaine turned out to be Tamales)

Twenty years ago this December we were busy overthrowing yet another government whose defacto head just happened to be on our CIA payroll. Sound familiar? Well, Manuel Noriega ran afoul of the Bush(Sr.) administration and, amidst a flurry of propaganda, set-ups and allegations, we landed a good sized invasion force in Panama and promptly unseated our former "buddy" and installed a more sympathetic head.

Face The Nation ran a q&a between Leslie Stahl, Deputy Secretary of State Bernard Aronson and Les Aspin (D-Wisconsin) on the fallout of the invasion and what was next.

Leslie Stahl: “Have we created a situation where he’s no longer the issue, and we’re the issue? I guess the main question right now is why didn’t our government plan for the situation that did develop, which was chaos and anarchy, and why wasn’t more done to build support or to anticipate the problems the new government would have? Endara, the man we did . . helped install says that when we came to him the night before or the night of our invasion it was like a punch in the stomach, he didn’t expect it, he hadn’t formed a government, he hadn’t thought about forming a government . . . .

Aronson: “That’s actually not true. He had done an awful lot of work in trying to form a government and plan a government. And I think one indication of that is in five days he’s named a senior Minister. He’s named a new commander for the public forces and a new deputy commander. His White House . . . U.S. Ambassador has already arrived in Washington, taking control of the embassy. His U.N. Ambassador has been named and gone to New York. His OAS Ambassador has been named. And in fact their new Ambassador told me they had a new economic team they wanted to send to Washington. So I . . what he was saying he didn’t know in advance that this military operation was coming and he was taken by surprise, and obviously he didn’t know, we didn’t know, it happened as a dangerously deteriorating situation.”

At the time of this broadcast (Sunday morning December 24), Noriega hadn't given himself up yet, and there was speculation this would be a drawn out operation with no plan in sight.

However, that changed within a matter of hours as Noriega gave himself up, and for some bizarre reason was arrested on a Cocaine charge (which turned out to be a bag of tamales . . .so go figure).

All part of our somewhat baffling foreign policy the last hundred or so years.

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