Thursday, March 26, 2009

US Invasion of Panama - Intro


On December 20, 1989, millions of working people throughout the Americas awoke to the news that United States military forces had invaded Panama during the night.

At 1:00AM, US officials held a secret ceremony at Fort Clayton, one of the thirteen US military bases in the canal zone. There Guillermo Endara was declared Panama’s new president. Moments later, massive bombing of Panama City began.

US troops then mounted a savage assault on military bases and working-class neighborhoods. Washington’s forces eventually reached 26,000, including the 12,000 troops stationed there prior to December 20.

Panama’s working people were the chief victims of Washington’s brutal assault. In the first days of the invasion, thousands of civilians were killed, wounded, and left homeless. Whole neighborhoods were bombing into rubble or burned to the ground. US troops prevented many of the wounded from receiving emergency medical care, and the lack of even the most basic medical supplies and facilities led to many deaths. Panamanian victims were poured by the truckload into common graves. Over 5,000 people were rounded up and held in detonation.

Resistance to the invasion was led by Panama’s working people, organized in the Dignity Battalions. Though vilified by Washington and the big-business media as “thugs” and “looters,” these battalions were in fact popular militias set up in 1988 to help prepare Panama’s workers and farmers to defend their country against exactly what occurred: a US invasion. Although most combat had ended by the second week of the invasion, the resistance led by the Dignity Battalions proved much stiffer than the Pentagon had bargained for.

Two weeks after the invasion, the US occupation force seized Gen. Manuel Noriega, Panama’s head of state, flew him to the United States against his will, and jailed him. Washington has announced its intention to put him on trial in Miami. This arrogant move is in gross violation of Panamanian sovereignty, as well as all norms of international law.

Washington used the invasion to escalate provocations against Cuba and Nicaragua as well. The embassies of these two countries in Panama City were surrounded by US troops. At one point several Cuban diplomats were illegally detained. On December 29, US forces raided and ransacked the residence of Nicaragua’s ambassador.

In the days and weeks following the invasion, actions protesting Washington’s assault took place in many US cities, as well as throughout Latin America and in dozens of other countries around the world. In particular, many anti-imperialist fighters in the Caribbean spoke out against the violation of their sister country.

Washington’s action was so flagrantly illegal that the overwhelming majority of world governments have felt compelled to state opposition to it. The Organization of American States, long a pliant tool of Washington’s foreign policy, condemned the invasion with only a single dissenting vote – that of the US delegate. The United Nations General Assembly went on record against the invasion by a wide margin.

Those governments that did back Washington themselves became targets of protest. The president of the Canadian Labour Congress, for example, protested the government of Canada’s support for the invasion, terming it “a simple-minded endorsation of vigilante justice.”

How did Bush justify this massive assault? The invasion, he claimed, was needed to safeguard US citizens, restore democracy, and protect the Panama Canal treaties.

Not so.

The truth is that after several years of trying to overthrow Panama’s government using everything from economic sanctions to coup attempts, Washington finally decided that only direct military intervention could accomplish what it wanted. Its aim was to install a client regime, smash the movement for national sovereignty and social justice that had developed in Panama over the previous twenty years, undermine the Panama Canal treaties, ensure the use of US military bases in the country, and strengthen US domination throughout the region

The purpose of this pamphlet is to tell the truth about panama’s fight for sovereignty. It seeks to help arm working people, students, political activists, and other fighters with facts needed to answer Washington’s lies.

The first article, “Why the Panamanian People Are Fighting for National Dignity” by Cindy Jaquith, was featured in a special issue of the New York socialist newsweekly, the Militant, published in response to the invasion. Jaquith is a leader of the Socialist Workers Party of the United States. She has visited Panama several times to report for the Militant, most recently in November 1989.

The second article, “Panama’s Fight for Sovereignty: A History” by Don Rojas, explains how the US rulers seized what is now the Panama canal zone, and the record of resistance by the Panamanian people up to the mid-1960s. The article appeared in two parts in August and September 1989 in the Militant. Rojas himself was a victim of Washington’s last direct military intervention in the region – the 1983 invasion of Grenada. He served as press secretary to Maurice Bishop, murdered prime minister of Grenada’s revolutionary government. Following the invasion, Rojas was arrested and deported by the occupation forces and has been barred from Grenada ever since. His articles appear frequently in the Militant and other newspapers in the United States and the Caribbean.

The third piece is a speech presented by Panamanian leader Nils Castro to the Third Assembly of the Anti-Imperialist Organizations of the Caribbean and Central America, held in Panama City in June 1988. Nils Castro represented Panama’s Democratic Revolutionary Party at that conference. This speech is reprinted from One People, One Destiny: The Caribbean and Central America Today (New York: Pathfinder, 1988), edited by Don Rojas.

The final item in the pamphlet is a speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro given in Havana December 21, 1989, the day after the invasion. The speech, translated from the December 22, 1989, issue of Granma, also appeared in the special issue of the Militant.

Susan LaMont

January 4, 1990

US Invasion of Panama

click image to enlarge

- pages 3-7

1 comment:

CwG said...

As a US citizen, I am deeply troubled as to what the US government has done over the past 40 years. Not only in Panama, but everywhere it has reached out its hand in violence. The slaughter of so many innocent beautiful lives taken around the world breaks my heart and I'm ashamed to call myself an "American."

I know I can't heal the broken lives from the evil my government spews around the world, but I can stand up and say, I know it is happening, and it is wrong as hell!

Please know that there are many good people in this country, we can't possibly understand the suffering people feel from the damage Washington has caused, but we acknowledge that our government is not placed in the center of freedom givers, but life takers.

My hope is that President Obama will stop the madness, and the people of Panama litigates a tort claim against the US. Our presidents need to be held accountable for their evil deeds!