United States invasion of Panama

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Invasion of Panama
Image:US Forces during Operation Just Cause.gif
Date December 20, 1989January 3, 1990
Location Panama
Result Decisive American victory,
Panamanian regime toppled
Image:Flag of the United States.svg
United States
<center>Image:Flag of Panama.svg
<center>Carl W. Stiner <center>Manuel Noriega
27,684+ 16,000+
24 Dead, 325 Wounded 450 Military, 2000-4,000 Civilian
Image:Operation Just Cause Rangers 3rd sqd la comadancia small.jpg
Rangers from Cco 3/75 RGT prepare to take La Comandancia in the El Chorrillo neighborhood of Panama City, December 1989.

The United States invasion of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause, was the invasion of Panama by armed forces of the United States that deposed general and de facto Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega in December 1989, during the administration of U.S. President George H. W. Bush.


[edit] Background

This action was preceded by more than a year of diplomatic tension between the United States and Panama, the highlights of which were allegations by the United States of Noriega's complicity with money launderers and drug traffickers and a nullified national election in 1989. Several months of U.S. troop buildup followed these events in military bases within the former Panama Canal Zone.

The official American justification for the invasion was put forward in a short statement issued by President George H. W. Bush on the morning of December 20, a few hours after the start of the operation. Bush listed four reasons for the invasion <ref>New York Times, December 21, 1989, A Transcript of President Bush's Address on the Decision to Use Force.</ref>:

  • Safeguarding the lives of U.S. citizens in Panama. In his statement, Bush claimed that Noriega had declared that a state of war existed between the United States and Panama and that he also threatened the lives of the approximately 35,000 Americans living there. There had been numerous clashes between U.S. and Panamanian forces; one American had been killed a few days earlier and several incidents of harassment of Americans had taken place.
  • Combating drug trafficking. Panama had become a center for drug money laundering and a transit point for drug trafficking to the United States and Europe. Noriega had been singled out for direct involvement in these drug trafficking operations.
  • Protecting the integrity of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Members of Congress and others in the U.S. political establishment claimed that Noriega threatened the neutrality of the Panama Canal and that the United States had the right under the treaties to intervene militarily to protect the canal.

In regard to one of the reasons set forth by the United States to justify the invasion, namely the declaration of a state of war between the United States and Panama, Noriega insists that his statement referred to a state of war directed by the U.S. against Panama, in the form of what he claimed were harsh economic sanctions and constant, provocative military maneuvers that were prohibited by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Relations between American and Panamanian civilians had traditionally been fairly cordial, and this state of affairs had not changed significantly prior to the invasion, a fact which had been widely reported in the international press.

In the December 16 incident that led to the killing of an American soldier, four U.S. soldiers were stopped at a roadblock outside PDF headquarters in the El Chorrillo neighborhood of Panama City. The United States Department of Defense claimed that the servicemen were unarmed and in a private vehicle and that they attempted to flee the scene only after their vehicle was surrounded by a crowd of civilians and PDF troops. The PDF claimed the Americans were armed and on a reconnaissance mission <ref> Facts On File World News Digest, December 22, 1989, U.S. Forces Invade Panama, Seize Wide Control; Noriega Eludes Capture. FACTS.com [1].</ref>. It was also reported by the Los Angeles Times <ref>Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1990, Some Blame Rogue Band of Marines for Picking Fight, Spurring Panama Invasion, Kenneth Freed.</ref> that "according to American military and civilian sources" the soldier killed was a member of the "Hard Chargers", a group whose goal was to agitate members of the PDF. It was also reported that the group's "tactics were well known by ranking U.S. officers" who were frustrated by "Panamanian provocations committed under dictator Manuel A. Noriega", although the group was not officially sanctioned by the military. The Pentagon later denied that such a group ever existed (see also <ref>[2]</ref>).

[edit] Invasion

U.S. Army forces supported by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, participated in Operation Just Cause - the invasion of Panama. Ground forces consisted of combat elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 7th Infantry Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, a Joint Special Operations Task Force and the U.S. Marines.

The military incursion into Panama began on December 20, 1989, at 0100 local time. The operation involved 27,684 U.S. troops and over 300 aircraft —including the AC-130 Spectre gunship, OA-37B Dragonfly observation and attack aircraft, and the F-117A Nighthawk stealth aircraft and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the AH-64 and the F-117A both seeing their first combat deployment. These were deployed against the 16,000 members of the Panama Defense Force (PDF)<ref>Estados Unidos invade Panamá Crónica de una invasión anunciada, Patricia Pizzurno and Celestino Andrés Araúz. According to this piece, the PDF had 16,000 troops of which only 3,000 were trained for combat. "Para entonces las Fuerzas de Defensa poseían 16.000 efectivos, de los cuales apenas 3.000 estaban entrenados para el combate."</ref>.

The operation began with an assault of strategic installations such as the civilian Punta Paitilla Airport in Panama City, a PDF garrison and airfield at Rio Hato, where Noriega also maintained a residence, and other military command centers throughout the country. The attack on the central headquarters of the PDF (referred to as La Comandancia) touched off several fires, one of which destroyed most of the adjoining and heavily populated El Chorrillo neighborhood in downtown Panama City<ref>The New York Times, Dec. 21, 1989, Fires and Helicopters Transforming Panama City. From the article: "Residents said that many of the wooden houses near the headquarters had been hit by gunfire and artillery fire"</ref>. During the firefight at the Comandancia, the PDF downed one AH-6 Little Bird helicopter <ref>[3]</ref>.

A few hours after the invasion began, Guillermo Endara was sworn in at a United States military base in the former Canal Zone. It is generally agreed that Endara would have been the victor in the presidential election which had been scheduled earlier that year <ref>Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1989, Combat in Panama, Operation Just Cause.</ref>.
Image:Operation Just Cause Rangers 2d plt La Comandancia secure small.jpg
Rangers from 2nd PLT, Cco 3/75 RGT secure La Comandancia in Panama during Operation Just Cause, December 1989.

Military operations continued for several days, mainly against paramilitary units of Noriega loyalists called "Batallones de la Dignidad". With the collapse of the Panamanian Defense Force, looting and other forms of vandalism quickly ensued in most urban areas, but despite the widespread lawlessness, the main focus of the American forces continued to be Noriega's capture and extradition. Noriega remained at large for several days, but realizing he had few options in the face of a massive manhunt, with a one million dollar reward for his capture, he obtained refuge in the Vatican diplomatic mission in Panama City. The American military's psychological pressure on him and diplomatic pressure on the Vatican mission, however, was relentless, including the playing of loud rock-and-roll music day and night in a densely populated area. As a result, Noriega finally surrendered to the U.S. military on January 3, 1990. He was immediately put on a military transport plane and extradited to the United States.

Corps elements began returning on January 12, 1990, while units of the 16th MP Brigade continued police patrols throughout the Panama City area to help restore and maintain law and order in support of the Panamanian people and their duty-elected government (under the moniker Operation Promote Liberty).

[edit] Casualties

The Americans lost 18 soldiers, 4 sailors and 2 Marines killed in action (KIA) and 325 wounded (WIA). The U.S. Southern Command, at that time based on Quarry Heights in Panama, estimated at fifty the number of Panamanian military casualties, lower than its original estimate of 314. There has been considerable controversy over the number of Panamanian civilian casualties resulting from the invasion. At the low end, the Southern Command estimated that number at two hundred. A U.S.-based independent Commission of Inquiry, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, estimated more than three thousand Panamanian civilian casualties. There is no known accounting as to how many civilian deaths were directly attributable to military actions on either side. According to GlobalSecurity.org, "More civilians almost certainly would have been killed or wounded had it not been for the discipline of the American forces and their stringent rules of engagement".<ref>globalsecurity.org</ref>

Physicians for Human Rights <ref>[4]</ref> in a report issued one year after the invasion <ref>[5]</ref>, estimated that "at least 300 Panamanian civilians died due to the invasion". The report also concluded that "neither Panamanian nor U.S. governments provided a careful accounting of non-lethal injuries" and that "relief efforts were inadequate to meet the basic needs of thousands of civilians made homeless by the invasion". The report estimated the number of displaced civilians to be over 15,000, whereas the U.S. military provided support for only 3,000 of these.

According to official Pentagon figures 516 Panamanians were killed during the invasion; an internal Army memo estimated the number at 1,000 <ref>John Lindsay-Poland (2003). Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3098-9, p. 118.</ref> and an Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama estimated Panamanian deaths at 1000-4000 <ref> Craige, Betty Jean (1996). American Patriotism in a Global Society. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-2959-8, p. 187</ref>. According to the documentary "The Panama Deception", some researchers put the death toll between 3,000 and 4,000 civilians <ref>[6]</ref>.

[edit] Origin of the name "Operation Just Cause"

Operation plans directed against Panama evolved from plans designed to defend the Canal. They became more aggressive as the situation between the two nations deteriorated. The Prayer Book series of plans included rehearsals for a possible clash (Operation Purple Storm) and missions to secure American sites (Operation Bushmaster). Eventually these plans became Operation Blue Spoon, which was renamed by President Bush as Just Cause.

The name "Just Cause" has been used primarily by the United States military for planning and historical purposes and by other U.S. entities such as the State Department. Panamanians usually refer to it simply as "The Invasion" (La Invasión). It has been reported that the invasion was derisively referred to as "Operation Just Because" by skeptics inside The Pentagon <ref>The Nation, Because We Could, Andrew Cockburn</ref>.

In recent years, the naming of U.S. military operations has been the source of some controversy, both internationally and domestically (see Operation Enduring Freedom). At the time operations to depose Noriega were being planned, U.S. military operations were given meaningless names. Just Cause was planned under the name Blue Spoon, and the invasion itself incorporated elements of the Operation Nifty Package and Operation Acid Gambit plans. The name Blue Spoon was later changed to Just Cause for aesthetic and public relations reasons. The post-invasion occupation and reconstruction was titled Operation Promote Liberty.

[edit] International reaction

On December 22 the Organization of American States passed a resolution deploring the invasion and calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops <ref> New York Times, December 21, 1989, U.S.Denounced by Nations Touchy About Intervention, James Brooke.</ref>. A similar resolution was passed on December 29 by the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier, a Security Council resolution condemning the invasion had been vetoed by the United States, United Kingdom and France<ref>Facts On File World News Digest, December 31, 1989, Noriega Seeks Refuge with Papal Envoy in Panama; Fighting Quelled; Other Developments. FACTS.com. [7].</ref>.

After the invasion, governments throughout Latin America — including the government of Chile under outgoing dictator Augusto Pinochet, which was generally supportive of United States policies — issued statements condemning the invasion and calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. One of the reasons Bush gave for the invasion, the reestablishment of democracy in Panama, was widely viewed with suspicion, since the United States was perceived throughout Latin America as serving its own strategic or economic interests, often at the expense of democratic principles. Noriega himself , who had worked for the CIA from the late 1950s to 1986[citation needed], was considered <ref> The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations. Documents from the National Security Archives at George Washington University. According to this source "North's notebook lists details of his meeting with Noriega, which took place in a London hotel on September 22. According to the notes, the two discussed developing a commando training program in Panama, with Israeli support, for the contras and Afghani rebels. They also spoke of sabotaging major economic targets in the Managua area, including an airport, an oil refinery, and electric and telephone systems. (These plans were apparently aborted when the Iran-Contra scandal broke in November 1986.)"</ref> to be a former collaborator of the United States who had cooperated with American efforts to destabilize the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua for which the United States was convicted at the International Court of Justice (cf. Nicaragua vs. United States). It had also been claimed that during that time the United States did little to curtail his involvement in drug trafficking <ref>Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1992, Noriega Transcripts Cite Campaign Ties Trial: Judge and lawyers secretly discussed CIA, Medellin cartel funding in the 1984 Panamanian presidential race. The article states that transcripts released during the trial show that "The CIA and the Medellin cocaine cartel helped finance the successful 1984 campaign of a former Panamanian president."</ref><ref> Newsday, February 4, 1992, Noriega Portrayed as Loyal U.S. Ally, Peter Eisner. According to the article, Noriega's lawyer claimed that "Noriega participated in periodic CIA briefings on Fidel Castro in the 1980s and routinely reported on his meetings with the Cuban leader to U.S. authorities" </ref>

The various reasons supplied by the United States to justify the invasion were widely regarded [citation needed] in Latin America as a thin veneer to disguise other intentions, such as the reestablishment of military bases in Panama or even the overturning of the Torrijos-Carter treaties themselves. According to the timetable stipulated by the Torrijos-Carter treaties, the United States was scheduled to hand over the administration of the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999. The Panamanian government under Noriega had said it intended to appoint Tomás Altamirano Duque, widely known as a Noriega loyalist to the top administrator post. This choice was unacceptable to the United States, which had expressed fears he would excessively politicize canal operation.

Despite opposition within the United States Congress to handing the canal over to Panama by the year 2000, the United States fulfilled its treaty obligations and turned over the canal and military bases to Panama in 1999.

[edit] Aftermath

After Noriega's ouster, Panama has had three presidential elections, with candidates from opposing parties succeeding each other in the Palacio de las Garzas. Panama also has an unforgiving, if not rowdy press. On 10 February 1990, the Endara government abolished Panama's military and reformed the security apparatus by creating the Panamanian Public Forces. In 1994, a constitutional amendment permanently abolished the military of Panama. While Panama's GDP recovered by 1993, very high unemployment remained a serious problem. This could be attributed to numerous other causes unrelated to its political environment post-Noriega, including the debt crisis of Mexico in 19941995, severe recession in Latin America throughout the 1990s, and the Asian financial crisis.

The Panamanian Guillermo Endara government designated the first anniversary of the U.S. invasion a "national day of reflection". On that day hundreds of Panamanians marked the day with a "black march" through the streets of this capital to denounce the U.S. invasion and Endara's economic policies. Protestors echoed claims that 3,000 people were killed as a result of U.S. military action.

One notorious after-effect of the invasion was nearly two weeks of widespread looting and lawlessness, a contingency which the United States military apparently had not anticipated. This looting inflicted catastrophic losses on many Panamanian businesses, some of which took several years to recover. On July 19, 1990 a group of 60 companies based in Panama filed a lawsuit against the United States Government in Federal District Court in New York City alleging that the U. S. action against Panama was "done in a tortious, careless and negligent manner with disregard for the property of innocent Panamanian residents". Most of the businesses had insurance, but the insurers either went bankrupt or refused to pay, claiming acts of war are not covered <ref>New York Times, July 21, 1990, Panama Companies Sue U.S. for Damages.</ref>.

About 2,700 families that were displaced by the Chorrillo fire were each given $6,500 by the United States to build a new house or apartment in selected areas in or near the city. However, numerous problems were reported with the new constructions just two years after the invasion<ref>Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 1991, El Chorrillo Two years after the U.S. invaded Panama, those displaced by the war have new homes..</ref>.

[edit] American units involved in the operation

[edit] Related operations

[edit] External links

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references


[edit] Further reading

es:Invasión estadounidense a Panamá de 1989 ko:미국 파나마 침공 id:Invasi Amerika Serikat ke Panama 1989 hu:„Igaz ügy” hadművelet nl:Operatie Just Cause ja:パナマ侵攻

sv:USA:s invasion av Panama

United States invasion of Panama

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