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The Victors I

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By: Noam Chomsky

Part I

Z Magazine, November, 1990

At any historical moment, we are likely to find a conventional interpretation of the state of the world and our role within it, often gaining the force of unchallenged doctrine. Another near truism is that reality tends to depart from established Truth. The present period is no exception.

That significant, even momentous, changes are underway in the world is clear enough, and has been so for many years. The conventional interpretation need not be elaborated at length; open an arbitrary journal, and it is laid out before you. The U.S. has won the Cold War. Righteousness has triumphed over evil with the victory of democracy, free market capitalism, justice and human rights. As standard bearer of the cause, the United States now leads the way to a New World Order of peace, economic development, and cooperation among those who have seen the light, virtually everyone except for some holdouts like Cuba which still complains irrationally that the Third World isn't getting its due -- or Saddam Hussein, despite our dedicated efforts to improve his behavior by the carrot rather than the stick, an error of judgment soon to be rectified by the sword of the righteous avenger.

There are various ways to assess the validity of this inspiring picture. One is to have a look at the traditional domains of the U.S. (and the West generally), and ask how their people fare at this historic moment, as they celebrate the victory of their side, a triumph of liberal capitalism and democracy so final and conclusive, some feel, that we have reached "the end of history," after which we sink into a sad state of boredom, relieved only by the occasional technical manipulations needed to deal with questions at the margin.

The concern that the fun might be over is not quite as novel as Francis Fukuyama and other devotees of the Hegelian Spirit suggest. At his first meeting with John F. Kennedy in 1958, Walt Rostow, later to become a top adviser of the Kennedy administration, warned -- perhaps a shade prematurely -- that after the astonishing domestic successes achieved by "the nation's creativeness and idealism over the past ninety years, ...we run the danger of becoming a bore to ourselves and the world." In Rostow's picture of the world (shared with Kennedy, according to his account), the basic problems of American society were then approaching full resolution. No real barriers stood in the way of economic progress without serious cyclic disorders, "social equity" for minorities, "the provision of equal educational opportunity," and "the equitable distribution of income." We knew what was needed, and agreed that it should be done. The consensus was so broad and the conclusions so well-founded as to signal "the end of ideology," it was widely held. Like Kennedy, Rostow felt that with the problems of domestic society largely behind us, "the great revolutionary transformations going forward in the underdeveloped world" should now absorb our energies and revitalize "those basic spiritual qualities which have been historically linked to the nation's sense of world mission."1

The Third World was soon to experience, once again, these "basic spiritual qualities," now with the special cast given them by the knights-errant of Camelot.

Not everyone feels confident that the nature and proper goals of human society are fully understood, and the problems at home so close to resolution that only some minor tinkering remains, just as not all share Tom Wolfe's appreciation of the past decade as "one of the great golden moments that humanity has ever experienced." One need hardly go as far as a Black teenager in Harlem to find a slightly different sense of current realities. And even the most cursory look beyond the borders will locate voices that are not raised in joy and acclaim for the triumph of their champions -- Central American human rights workers and priests, for example -- and do not join the meaningless game of comparing Eastern and Western Europe, or the USSR and the United States, but rather choose, more realistically and more honestly, to compare the current state of regions that were at similar levels of economic and sociopolitical development, with similar endowments and prospects, not many years ago. And despite much curious rhetoric in media and other circles, some perceive that the past years hardly illustrate the thesis that democracy and the free market are the decisive conditions for economic success -- in Japan and the Four Tigers in its periphery, to take the obvious (but not only) example.

Let us survey -- all too briefly -- some of the daily experience of those who should be savoring the fruits of victory. The reasonable course is to begin the inquiry close to home, in the domains where U.S. influence has been so overwhelming that the contours of the triumph must be shatteringly clear. In this first section, I will keep to that, turning in subsequent articles to a broader view, and to some comments on meaningful comparisons that would be made, and studies that would be pursued, if human concerns animated the odes to our virtue that accompany the triumph. I would also like to consider the shape of the New World Order and the U.S. role within it as seen from a perspective that departs from reigning conventions, attending to features of the contemporary world that suggest a rather different conception of where we are and where we are heading.

The Fruits of Victory

Few regions of the world have been so dominated by a great power as Central America, which emerged from its usual oblivion in the 1980s, moving to center stage as the traditional order faced an unexpected challenge with the growth of popular movements, inspired in part by the new orientation of the Church toward "a preferential option for the poor" (Puebla Conference of Bishops, 1979). After decades of brutal repression and the destructive impact of the U.S. aid programs of the 1960s -- an "economic miracle" by statistical measures, a disaster for most of the population -- the ground was prepared for meaningful democracy and social change. The mood in Washington darkened further with the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship and the defeat of his murderous National Guard despite the best efforts of the Carter administration, until the end, to ensure that it would retain effective power.

The reaction was vigorous and swift: violent repression, which decimated popular organizations. The ranks of the small guerrilla organizations swelled as state terror mounted. "The guerrilla groups, the revolutionary groups, almost without exception began as associations of teachers, associations of labor unions, campesino unions, or parish organizations...." with practical and reformist goals, ex-Ambassador Robert White testified before Congress in 1982. The same point has been made by the assassinated Salvadoran Jesuit intellectual Father Ignacio Martin-Baro, among many others.

A decade later, the United States and its local allies could claim substantial success. The challenge to the traditional order was effectively contained. The misery of the vast majority had deepened while the power of the military and the privileged sectors was enhanced behind a facade of democratic forms. Some 200,000 people had been killed, most of them slaughtered outright in a paroxysm of sadistic terror conducted by the forces armed, trained, and advised by the United States. Countless others were maimed, tortured, "disappeared," driven from their homes. The people, the communities, the environment were devastated, possibly beyond repair. It is truly a grand victory.

Elite reaction in the United States is one of gratification and relief. "For the first time, all five of the countries are led by presidents who were elected in contests widely considered free and fair," Washington Post Central America correspondent Lee Hockstader reports from Guatemala City, expressing the general satisfaction over the victory of "conservative politicians" in elections which, we are to understand, took place on a level playing field with no use of force and no foreign influence. It is true, he continues, that "conservative politicians in Central America traditionally represented the established order," defending the wealthy "despite their countries' grossly distorted income patterns." "But the wave of democracy that has swept the region in recent years appears to be shifting politicians' priorities," so the bad old days are gone forever.2

The student of American history and culture will recognize the familiar moves. Once again, we witness the miraculous change of course that occurs whenever some particularly brutal excesses of the state have been exposed. Hence all of history, and the reasons for its persistent character, may be dismissed as irrelevant, while we march forward, leading our flock to a new and better world.

The Post news report does not merely assert that the new conservatives are dedicated populists, unlike those whom the U.S. used to support in the days of its naivete and inadvertent error, now thankfully behind us. Serious journalistic standards require evidence for this central claim, and it is indeed provided. The shift of priorities to a welcome populism is demonstrated by the outcome of the conference of the five presidents in Antigua, Guatemala, just completed. The presidents, all "committed to free-market economics," have abandoned worthless goals of social reform, Hockstader explains. "Neither in the plan nor in the Declaration of Antigua' was there any mention of land reform or suggestion of new government social welfare programs to help the poor." Rather, they are adopting "a trickle-down approach to aid the poor." "The idea is to help the poor without threatening the basic power structure," a regional economist observes, contemplating these imaginative new ideas on how to pursue our vocation of serving the suffering masses.

The headline reads "Central Americans to use Trickle-down Strategy in War on Poverty." Quite properly, the headline captures the basic thrust of the news story and the assumption that frames it: aiding the poor is the highest priority of this new breed of populist conservatives, as it always has been for Washington and the political culture generally. The only question is how to achieve this noble aim. That this has always been our fervent commitment is a doctrine so obviously valid that it need not be supported with any evidence or argument, or even formulated explicitly. It is merely presupposed, and we go on from there. What is newsworthy, and so promising, is the populism of the conservatives we support, and their ingenious and startlingly innovative approach to our traditional commitment to help the poor and suffering: a trickle-down strategy of enriching the wealthy -- a "preferential option for the rich," overcoming the errors of the Puebla Conference of Bishops.

One participant in the meeting is quoted as saying that "These past 10 years have been gruesome for poor people, they've taken a beating." Putting aside the conventions, one might observe that the political outcomes hailed as a triumph of democracy are in no small measure a tribute to the efficacy of U.S. terror, and that the presidents who hold formal power, and their sponsors, might have had something other than a war on poverty in mind. There is also a history of trickle-down approaches to relieving poverty that might be explored. Such an inquiry might lead us to expect that the next 10 years will be no less gruesome for the poor. But that path is not pursued, here or elsewhere in the mainstream.

The Post story captures well the character and dimensions of the U.S. victory. The satisfaction among the important people is readily understandable.

While the three-day conference of populist conservatives was taking place in Antigua, 33 tortured, bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in Guatemala. They did not disturb the celebration over the triumph of freedom and democracy, or even make the news.

Nor did the rest of the 125 bodies, half with signs of torture, found throughout the country that month, according to the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission. The Commission identified 79 as victims of "extrajudicial execution" by the security forces. Another 29 were kidnapped and 49 injured in kidnap attempts. The report comes to us from Mexico, where the Commission is based so that human rights workers can survive now that the U.S. has succeeded in establishing democracy in Guatemala.3

In the Costa Rican journal Mesoamerica, a report on the Antigua meeting observes that "Now that the Sandinistas have been successfully booted out of office, the pervading attitude among regional and U.S. leaders with respect to the Esquipulas peace mission accomplished'." The core sections of the Central America accords that call for social justice and respect for human rights had been long been consigned to the ashcan, as intended by Oscar Arias and his U.S. sponsors in high places, who, along with the elite political culture generally, revealed by their actions their actual attitudes towards the savage atrocities conducted under the aegis of those with the right priorities.4

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) reports that the percentage of the Guatemalan population living in extreme poverty increased rapidly after the establishment of democracy in 1985, from 45% in that year to 76% in 1988. A study by the Nutritional Institute of Central America and Panama (INCAP) estimates that half the population live under conditions of extreme poverty, and that in rural areas, where the situation is worse, 13 out of every 100 children under five die of illnesses related to malnutrition. Other studies estimate that 20,000 Guatemalans die of hunger every year, that more than 1000 children died of measles alone in the first four months of 1990, and that "the majority of Guatemala's four million children receive no protection at all, not even for the most elemental rights." The Communique of the January 1990 Conference of Guatemalan Bishops reviews the steady deterioration of the critical situation of the mass of the population as "the economic crisis has degenerated into a social crisis" and human rights, even "the right to dignity," "do not exist."5

Throughout the region, the desperate situation of the poor majority has become still more grave with the progress of democracy, American-style. Three weeks before the Antigua conference, in his homily marking the completion of President Alfredo Cristiani's first year in office, Archbishop Rivera y Damas of San Salvador deplored the policies of his administration, which have worsened the already desperate plight of the poor; the conservative populist so admired in Washington and New York "is working to maintain the system," the Archbishop said, "favoring a market economy which is making the poor yet poorer."6

In the neighboring countries, the situation is much the same. A few days after the encouraging Washington Post report on the Antigua meeting, an editorial in a leading Honduran journal appeared under the headline "Misery is increasing in Honduras because of the economic adjustment," referring to the new trickle-down strategy that the Post found so promising -- actually the traditional strategy, its lethal features now more firmly entrenched. The main victims are "the usual neglected groups: children, women, and the aged," according to the conclusions of an academic seminar on "Social Policy in the Context of Crisis," confirmed by "the Catholic Church, the unions, several political parties, and noted economists and statisticians of the country." Two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line, over half of these below the level of "dire need." Unemployment, undernourishment, and severe malnutrition are increasing.7

The Pan American Health Organization estimates that of 850,000 children born every year in Central America, 100,000 will die before the age of five and two-thirds of those who survive will suffer from malnutrition, with attendant physical or mental development problems. The Inter-American Development Bank reports that per capita income has fallen to the level of 1971 in Guatemala, 1961 in El Salvador, 1973 in Honduras, 1960 in Nicaragua, 1974 in Costa Rica, and 1982 in Panama.8

Nicaragua was an exception to this trend of increasing misery, but the U.S. terrorist attack and economic warfare succeeded in reversing earlier gains. Nevertheless, infant mortality halved over the decade, from 128 to 62 deaths per thousand births; "Such a reduction is exceptional on the international level," a UNICEF official said in 1989, "especially when the country's war-ravaged economy is taken into account."9

Studies by CEPAL, the World Health Organization, and others "cast dramatic light on the situation," Mexico's leading daily reports.

They reveal that 15 million Central Americans, almost 60% of the population, live in poverty, of whom 9.7 million live in "extreme poverty." Severe malnutrition is rampant among children. 75% of the peasants in Guatemala, 60% in El Salvador, 40% in Nicaragua, and 35% in Honduras lack health care. To make matters worse, Washington has applied "stunning quotas on sugar, beef, cocoa, cheese, textiles, and limestone, as well as compensation laws and antidumping' policies in cement, flowers, and operations of cellulose and glass." The EEC and Japan have followed suit, also imposing harmful protectionist measures.10

The environment has shared the fate of those who people it. Deforestation, soil erosion, pesticide poisoning, and other forms of environmental destruction, increasing through the 1980s, are traceable in large measure to the development model imposed upon the region and U.S. militarization of it in recent years. Intense exploitation of resources by agribusiness and export-oriented production have enriched wealthy sectors and their foreign sponsors, and led to statistical growth, with a devastating impact on the land and the people. In El Salvador, large areas have become virtual wastelands as the military has sought to undermine the peasant base of the guerrillas by extensive bombardment, and by forest and crop destruction. There have been occasional efforts to stem the ongoing catastrophe. Like the Arbenz government overthrown in the CIA-run coup that restored the military regime in Guatemala, the Sandinistas initiated a series of environmental reforms and protections. These were desperately needed, both in the countryside and near Managua, where industrial plants had been permitted to dump waste freely. The most notorious case was the U.S. Penwalt corporation, which poured mercury into Lake Managua until 1981.11

As in Guatemala 30 years before, these efforts to depart from what the Washington Post approvingly calls "the Central American mode" were satisfactorily overcome by U.S. terror and economic warfare.

The foreign-imposed development model has emphasized "nontraditional exports" in recent years. Under the free market conditions approved for defenseless Third World countries, the search for survival and gain will naturally lead to products that maximize profit, whatever the consequences. Coca production has soared in the Andes and elsewhere for this reason, but there are other examples as well. After the discovery of clandestine "human farms" and "fattening houses" for children in Honduras and Guatemala, Dr. Luis Genaro Morales, president of the Guatemalan Pediatric Association, said that child trafficking "is becoming one of the principal nontraditional export products," generating $20 million of business a year. The International Human Rights Federation (IHRF), after an inquiry in Guatemala, gave a more conservative estimate, reporting that about 300 children are kidnapped every year, taken to secret nurseries, then sold for adoption at about $10,000 per child.

The IHRF investigators could not confirm reports that organs of babies were being sold to foreign buyers. This macabre belief is widely held in the region, however. A few weeks earlier, the Honduran journal Tiempo reported that the Paraguayan police rescued 7 Brazilian babies from a gang that "intended to sacrifice them to organ banks in the United States, according to a charge in the courts." The same journal reported shortly after that an Appeals Judge in Honduras ordered "a meticulous investigation into the sale of Honduran children for the purpose of using their organs for transplant operations." A year earlier, the Secretary General of the National Council of Social Services, which is in charge of adoptions, had reported that Honduran children "were being sold to the body traffic industry" for organ transplant. "Fattening houses" for children had been found in San Pedro Sula and elsewhere.12

A Resolution on the Trafficking of Central American Children, approved by the European Parliament two months later (November 1988), alleged that near a "human farm" in San Pedro Sula, infant corpses were found that "had been stripped of one or a number of organs." At another "human farm" in Guatemala, babies ranging from 11 days old to four months old had been found. The director of the farm, at the time of his arrest, declared that the children "were sold to American or Israeli families whose children needed organ transplants at the cost of $75,000 per child," the Resolution continues, expressing "its horror in the light of the facts" and calling for investigation and preventive measures.13

As the region sinks into further misery, these reports continue to appear. In July 1990, a right-wing Honduran daily, under the headline "Loathsome Sale of Human Flesh," reported that police in El Salvador had discovered a group, headed by a lawyer, that was buying children to resell in the United States. An estimated 20,000 children disappear every year in Mexico, the report continues, destined for this end or for use in criminal activities such as transport of drugs "inside their bodies." "The most gory fact, however, is that many little ones are used for transplant [of organs] to children in the U.S.," which may account for the fact that the highest rate of kidnapping of children from infants to 18-year-olds is in the Mexican regions bordering on the United States.14

The one exception to the Central America horror story has been Costa Rica, set firmly on a course of state-guided development by the Jose Figueres coup of 1948, with welfare measures combined with harsh repression of labor, and virtual elimination of the armed forces. The U.S. has always kept a wary eye on this deviation from the regional standards, despite the welcome suppression of labor and the favorable conditions for foreign investors. In the 1980s, U.S. pressures to dismantle the social democratic features and restore the army elicited bitter complaints from Figueres and others who shared his commitments. While Costa Rica continues to stand apart from the region in political and economic development, the signs of what the Central Americanization' of Costa Rica" are unmistakeable.15

Under the pressure of a huge debt, Costa Rica has been compelled to follow "the preferential option for the rich": the IMF model of free market capitalism designed for the Third World, with austerity for the poor, cutback in social programs, and benefits for domestic and foreign investors. The results are coming in. By statistical measures, the economy is relatively strong. But more than 25% of the population -- 715,000 people -- live in poverty, 100,000 in extreme poverty, according to a study published by the ultra-right journal La Nacion (one feature of Costa Rican democracy being a monopoly of the Spanish language media by the extreme right sectors of the business community). A study by the Gallup office in Costa Rica published in Prensa Libre gives even higher figures, concluding that "approximately one million people cannot afford a minimum diet, nor pay for clothing, education or health care."16

The neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s increased social discontent and labor tensions, Excelsior reports, evoking an "intense attack by unionists, popular organizations," and others against the Arias administration, which has implemented these measures in conformity with U.S. demands and the priorities of privileged sectors. Church sources report that "the belt-tightening measures of the 1980s, which included the elimination of subsidies, low interest credit, price supports and government assistance programs, have driven many campesinos and small farmers off their land," leading to many protests. The Bishop of Limon issued a pastoral letter deploring the social deterioration and "worsening of the problems" to which "banana workers, in great majority immigrants from rural settings where they were property owners, have been subject." He also deplored the harsh labor code and government policies that enabled the growers to purge union leaders and otherwise undermine workers' rights, and the deforestation and pollution the companies have caused, with government support.17

Environmental degradation is serious here as well, including rapid deforestation and sedimentation that has severely effected virtually every major hydroelectric project. Environmental studies reveal that 42% of Costa Rica's soil shows signs of severe erosion. "Top soil is Costa Rica's largest export," the Vice-Minister of Natural Resources commented. Expanding production for export and logging have destroyed forests, particularly the cattle boom of the 1960s and 1970s promoted by the government, international banks and corporations, and the U.S. aid program, which also undermined food production for domestic needs, as elsewhere in Central America. Environmentalists blame government and business for "ecological illiteracy" -- more accurately, pursuit of profit without regard for externalities, as prescribed in the capitalist model.18

Submissiveness to these demands has yet to meet the exacting standards of the international guardians of business rights. The IMF suspended assistance to Costa Rica in February 1990, cancelling credits. U.S. aid is also falling, now that there is no longer any need to buy Costa Rica's cooperation in the anti-Sandinista jihad.19

Economic constraints and foreign pressures have narrowed the political system in the approved manner. In the 1990 elections, the two candidates had virtually identical (pro-business) programs, in accord with "Central American mode" approved by U.S. liberal doctrine, and were highly supportive of U.S. policies in the region ("right on the mark," the eventual victor, Rafael Angel Calderon, declared in a debate sponsored by the business federation). The Central Americanization of Costa Rica is also revealed by the increasing repression through the 1980s. From 1985, the Costa Rican Human Rights Commission (CODEHU) reported torture, arbitrary arrest, harassment of campesinos and workers, and other abuses by the security forces, including a dramatic rise in illegal detentions and arrests. It links the growing wave of abuses to the increasing militarization of the police and security forces, some of whom have been trained in U.S. and Taiwanese military schools. These charges were supported further when an underground torture chamber was found in the building of the Costa Rican Special Police (OIJ), where prisoners were beaten and subjected to electric shock treatment, including torture of a pregnant woman who aborted and electric shock administered to a 13-year-old child to elicit a false confession. CODEHU alleges that 13 people have died in similar incidents since 1988. "Battered by charges of corruption and drug trafficking, the Arias administration receives another blow to its diminishing reputation as a bulwark of democracy" from these revelations, the Central America Report observed.20

Arias's image "is about to be tarnished" further, according to reports from San Jose that investigators of the Legislative Drug Commission discovered that he had received a check for $50,000 for his campaign fund from Ocean Hunter Seafood, but had put it in his personal bank account. This Miami-based company and its Costa Rican affiliate, Frigarificos de Puntarenas, were identified by U.S. Congressional investigators as a drug trafficking operation.21 I leave it to the reader to imagine Mark Uhlig's sardonic story in the New York Times if something similar were hinted about a minor Sandinista official, however flimsy the evidence.

According to official government figures, the security budget increased 15% in 1988 and 13% in 1989 (spending on education rose less than half that much). The press has reported training of security officers in Fort Benning, Georgia, and U.S. bases in Panama, and a Taiwanese military academy, as well as by Israeli secret police, the army of El Salvador, the Guatemalan army special forces, and others. Fifteen private paramilitary, vigilante, and security organizations have been identified, with extreme nationalist and right-wing agendas. A member of the special commission of the legislature set up to investigate these matters described the police as an "army in disguise...out of control." The executive secretary of Costa Rica's Human Rights Commission, Sylvia Porras, noted that "the psychological profile of the police has changed as a result of military training," adding that "we cannot talk any longer of a civilian police force. What we have now is a hidden army."22

Annual U.S. military aid in the 1980s shot up to about 18 times what it had been from 1946 through 1979. U.S. pressures to rebuild the security forces, reversing the Figueres reforms, have been widely regarded as a factor in the drift towards the Central American mode. The role of Oscar Arias has evoked particular ridicule South of the border. After an Arias article in the New York Times piously calling on Panama to follow the Costa Rican model and abolish the army, the well-known Mexican writer Gregorio Selser published a review of some Costa Rican realities, beginning with the violent repression of a peaceful demonstration of landless campesinos in September 1986 by Arias's Civil Guard, with many serious injuries. The absence of an army in Costa Rica, he alleges, has become largely a matter of semantics; different words for the same things. He cites an Arias decree of August 5, 1987 -- just at the moment of the signing of the Esquipulas accords that brought him a Nobel Peace prize -- establishing a professional army in all but name, with the full array of ranks and structure; and a 1989 CODEHU report on the training of hundreds of men in military academies of the U.S., Taiwan, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama.23

Little of this has ever reached the United States, except far from the mainstream. In the context of the Drug War, however, some notice has been taken. An editorial in the Miami Herald on "Costa Rica's anguish" cites the comments by Sylvia Porras quoted above on the effects of U.S. military training, which has changed the "psychological profile" of the civilian police, turning them to "a camouflaged army." The judgment is not "hyperbole," the editorial concludes, attributing the rapid growth of the army and the recent killing of civilians by the security forces to the Nicaraguan conflict and the drug war -- but with no mention of U.S. pressures, following the norms of the Free Press.24

Good Intentions Gone Awry

We may conclude this survey of the triumph of free market capitalism in Central America with a look at Panama, recently liberated by Operation Just Cause.

In the months following the liberation, the successful affair largely disappeared from view,25 the normal pattern. U.S. goals had been achieved, the triumph had been properly celebrated, and there was little more to say except to record subsequent progress towards freedom, democracy, and good fortune -- or, if that strains credulity, to produce occasional musings on how the best of intentions go awry when we have such poor human material to work with.

Central American sources continued to give considerable attention to the impact of the invasion on civilians, but they were ignored in the occasional reviews of the matter here. New York Times correspondent Larry Rohter devoted a column to casualty estimates on April 1, citing figures as high as 673 killed, and adding that higher figures, which he attributes only to Ramsey Clark, are "widely rejected" in Panama. He found Panamanian witnesses who described U.S. military actions as restrained, but none with less happy tales.26

Among the many readily accessible sources deemed unworthy of mention in the Times (and the media generally), we find such examples as the following.

The Mexican press reported that two Catholic Bishops estimated deaths at perhaps 3000. Hospitals and nongovernmental human rights groups estimated deaths at over 2000.27

A joint delegation of the Costa Rica-based Central American Human Rights Commission (CODEHUCA) and the Panamanian Human Rights Commission (CONADEHUPA) published the report of its January 20-30 inquiry, based on numerous interviews. It concluded that "the human costs of the invasion are substantially higher than the official U.S. figures" of 202 civilians killed, reaching 2-3000 according to "conservative estimates." Eyewitnesses interviewed in the urban slums report that U.S. helicopters aimed their fire at buildings with only civilian occupants, that a U.S. tank destroyed a public bus killing 26 passengers, that civilian residences were burned to the ground with many apartments destroyed and many killed, that U.S. troops shot at ambulances and killed wounded, some with bayonets, and denied access to the Red Cross. The Catholic and Episcopal Churches gave estimates of 3000 dead as "conservative." Civilians were illegally detained, particularly union leaders and those considered "in opposition to the invasion or nationalistic." "All the residences and offices of the political sectors that oppose the invasion have been searched and much of them have been destroyed and their valuables stolen." The U.S. imposed severe censorship. Human rights violations under Noriega had been "unacceptably high," the report continues, though of course "mild compared with the record of U.S.-supported regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador." But the U.S invasion "caused an unprecedented level of deaths, suffering, and human rights abuses in Panama." The title of the report is: "Panama: More than an invasion, ...a massacre."28

Since its topic is not Kuwait, the report passed without notice here.

Sources at the University of Panama estimated at least 5000 dead; the head of the School of Public Administration at the University condemned the U.S. army's "iron control [which] will not allow access to any Panamian institution to find out the correct number of casualties."29

Physicians for Human Rights, with the concurrence of Americas Watch, reached tentative casualty figures higher than those given by the Pentagon but well below those of COHUDECA-CONADEHUPA and others in Panama. Their estimate is about 300 civilians killed. Americas Watch also gives a "conservative estimate" of at least 3000 wounded, concluding further that civilian deaths were four times as great as military deaths in Panama, and over ten times as high as U.S. casualties (officially given as 23; the U.S. military estimated civilian deaths at 202). They ask: "How does `surgical operation' result in almost ten civilians killed (by official U.S. count) for every American military casualty?" By September, the count of bodies exhumed from several of the mass graves had passed 600.30

Excavation of mass graves meanwhile continues. By September, the count of bodies found in these graves alone had reached well over 600.31

The COHUDECA-CONADEHUPA report emphasizes that a great deal is uncertain, because of the violent circumstances, the incineration of bodies, and the lack of records for persons buried in common graves without having reached morgues or hospitals, according to eyewitnesses. note: See CODEHUCA letter to Americas Watch, June 5, 1990, commenting on the Americas Watch report.} Its reports, and the many others of which a few have been cited here, may or may not be accurate. A media decision to ignore them, however, reflects not professional standards but a commitment to power.

On September 30, some of this information finally broke into the mainstream media in a television report by CBS news ("60 minutes").32 Pictures of mass graves were shown, and a Panamanian woman who had worked for months to have a few of them opened and the remains identified, exhausting her own resources in the process, estimated civilian deaths at perhaps 4000. The CBS investigation also revealed new information: secret U.S. army reports estimating 1000 civilians killed -- not the 202 that were officially reported -- and urging that damage claims not be considered because the number might mount too high. There was also a (rare) report of thousands of Panamanians protesting against the U.S. invasion and occupation.

While Larry Rohter's visits to the slums destroyed by U.S. bombardment located only celebrants, or critics of U.S. "insensitivity" at worst, others found a rather different picture. Mexico's leading newspaper reported in April that Rafael Olivardia, refugee spokesman for the 15,000 refugees of the devastated El Chorrillo neighborhood, "said that the El bloodbath' during and after saw North American tanks roll over the dead' during the invasion that left a total of more than 2000 dead and thousands injured, according to unofficial figures." "You only live once," Olivardia said, "and if you must die fighting for an adequate home, then the U.S. soldiers should complete the task they began" on December 20.

The Spanish language press in the United States was less celebratory and deferential than its colleagues. Vicky Pelaez reports from Panama that "the entire world continues in ignorance about how the thousands of victims of the Northamerican invasion of Panama died and what kinds of weapons were used, because the Attorney-General of the country refuses to permit investigation of the bodies buried in the common graves." An accompanying photo shows workmen exhuming corpses from a grave containing "almost 200 victims of the invasion." Quoting a woman who found the body of her murdered father, Pelaez reports that "just like the woman vox populi' in Panama that the Northamericans used completely unknown armaments during the 20 December invasion." Olga Mejia, President of Panamanian Human Rights, informed the journal that "They converted Panama into a laboratory of horror. Here, they first experimented with methods of economic strangulation; then they successfully used a campaign of disinformation at the international level. But it was in the application of the most modern war technology that they demonstrated infernal mastery." The CODEHUCA-CONADEHUPA report also alleges that "the U.S. Army used highly sophisticated weapons -- some for the first time in combat -- against unarmed civilian populations," and "in many cases no distinction was made between civilian and military targets."33

One case of "highly sophisticated weapons" did receive some attention. F-117A stealth fighters were used in combat for the first time, dropping 2000-lb. bombs with time-delay mechanisms in a large open field near an airstrip and barracks that housed an elite PDF battalion. The Air Force had kept this plane under close wraps, refusing to release cost or performance data about it. "There were conflicting reports as to the rationale for employing the sophisticated aircraft, which cost nearly $50 million apiece, to conduct what appeared to be a simple operation," Aviation Week & Space Technology reported. The Panamanian air force has no fighters and no military aircraft were stationed permanently at the base that was attacked. Its only known air defenses "were a pair of aging small caliber antiaircraft guns." An American aeronautical engineering consultant and charter operator in Panama said he was "astonished" to learn of the use of the F-117A, pointing out that the target attacked did not even have radar: "They could have bombed it with any other aircraft and not been noticed." The aerospace journal cites Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's claim that the aircraft were used "because of its great accuracy," then suggesting its own answer to the puzzle: "By demonstrating the F-117A's capability to operate in low-intensity conflicts, as well as its intended mission to attack heavily defended Soviet targets, the operation can be used by the Air Force to justify the huge investment made in stealth technology" to "an increasingly skeptical Congress."34

A similar conclusion was reached, more broadly, by Col. (Ret.) David Hackworth, a former combat commander who is one of the nation's most decorated soldiers. He described the Panama operation as technically efficient, though in his judgment "100 Special Forces guys" would have sufficed to capture Noriega, and "this big operation was a Pentagon attempt to impress Congress just when they're starting to cut back on the military." Other evidence lends credibility to these suggestions, including the White House National Security Strategy report presented to Congress in March 1990.35

If these were indeed among the motives for the exercise, they may have suffered a slight setback when it turned out that one of the stealth fighter-bombers had missed its undefended target by more than 300 yards, despite its "great accuracy." Defense Secretary Cheney ordered an inquiry.36

The nature of the U.S. victory became clearer, along predictable lines, in the following months. Its character is described by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald in June, under the heading "Panama Flirts with Economic Recovery" -- that is, recovery from the depths to which it was plunged by illegal U.S. economic warfare, then invasion and occupation. But there is a qualification: "Six months after the U.S. invasion, Panama is showing signs of growing prosperity -- at least for the largely white-skinned business class that has regained its influence after more than two decades of military rule," the small minority of important people. The luxury shops are again full of goods, and "Panama's nightlife is also perking up" as "foreign tourists, mostly U.S. businessmen, can be seen most evenings sipping martinis in the lobbies of the biggest hotels," which are sometimes "booked solid -- a contrast to the moribund atmosphere there before the invasion." Newspapers are filled with ads from department stores, banks, and insurance firms. "The upper class and the middle classes are doing great," a Western European diplomat observes: "They had the money in U.S. bank accounts and are bringing it back to the country. But the poor are in bad shape, because the government is bankrupt and can't help them." "The Catholic Church has begun to denounce what it sees as a lack of government concern for the poor," Oppenheimer continues. An editorial in a Church weekly "lashed out at authorities for devoting their energies to helping the private sector while breaking their original promises not to fire low-income public workers."37

Chalk up another victory for capitalism and democracy.

On August 2, the Catholic bishops of Panama issued a pastoral letter condemning U.S. "interference in the country's internal affairs" and denouncing the December invasion as "a veritable tragedy in the annals of the country's history." The statement also condemned Washington's failure to provide aid to the people who continue to suffer from the invasion, and criticized the government for ignoring their plight. Their protest appears in the Guatemala City Central America Report under the heading "Church Raises Its Voice" -- though not loudly enough to be heard in Washington and New York. The same report quotes the Mexican daily Excelsior on U.S. military maneuvers in the mountains of Panama, and the high visibility of U.S. troops throughout the capital and other areas of the country.38

In April, President Endara had appointed a commission (the Panamanian Commission for National Reconstruction) to deal with the problem of reconstructing the economy that had been devastated by the U.S. economic sanctions, then the invasion and its aftermath. Its report, issued in August, proposed a three-point plan: a truce, political amnesty, and the end of "occupation of the State and its territory" by U.S. troops. Special emphasis was placed on the consequences of the U.S. invasion, and the demand for the end to the military occupation and reestablishment of Panamanian sovereignty.39

In the British journal Race and Class, Joy James reviews some relevant history. The White (European) sector, which owns most of the land and resources, is estimated at about 8% of the population. The "two decades of military rule" to which the Miami Herald refers had some other characteristics as well. The Torrijo dictatorship had a populist character, which largely ended after his death in 1981 in an airplane accident (with various charges about the cause), and the subsequent Noriega takeover. During this period, Blacks, Mestizo, and Indigenous Panamanians gained their first share of power, and economic and land reforms were undertaken. In these two decades, infant mortality declined from 40% to less than 20% and life expectancy increased by nine years. New hospitals, health centers, houses, schools and universities were built, and more doctors, nurses and teachers were trained. Indigenous communities were granted autonomy and protection for their traditional lands, to an extent unmatched in the hemisphere. For the first time, Panama moved to an independent foreign policy, still alive in the 1980s to an extent, as Panama participated in the Contadora peace efforts (one of the main reasons why Noriega was transmuted from good guy to devil). The Canal Treaty was signed in 1977, theoretically awarding control over the Canal to Panama by the year 2000, though the prospects are doubtful. The Reagan administration took the position that "when the Carter-Torrijos treaties are being renegotiated" -- an eventuality taken for granted -- "the prolongation of the US military presence in the Panama Canal area till well after the year 2000 should be brought up for discussion" (State Department).40

The post-invasion moves to place Panamanian military forces under U.S. control may be motivated by more than just the normal commitment to this doctrine. It will probably be argued that Panama is not in a position to defend the Canal as the Treaty requires, so that U.S. bases must be retained.

The U.S. sanctions largely dismantled the reforms of the Torrijo period. Poverty rose rapidly, and the unions virtually collapsed. The invasion and the U.S. post-invasion rule are likely to administer the coup de grace to these populist efforts.

In August, government economists warned that more than 300,000 Panamanians are unemployed or underemployed, some 40% of the population. One leading economist and former high government planning official reported that 44% of the population lives in poverty, 24% in "extreme poverty," and that 93,800 infants and pre-school children live "in misery," while 35% of infants are malnourished. To check rising unemployment, he estimates, 190,000 jobs new jobs will be needed this year alone.41

The problems faced by the usual victims are described out of the mainstream by labor journalist Daphne Wysham. She reports that the U.S. invasion virtually completed the destruction of the Panamanian trade unions. The general secretary of the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT), Luis Anderson, condemned the invading troops for arresting three top Panamanian labor leaders. "Many union offices have been raided and sacked. The journalists union has been banned." These steps by the occupying forces are part of a more general attack on independent politics. In an interview before the invasion, one Panamian labor leader later detained by U.S. troops reported that he and other union leaders were informed by the State Department that they were on a list of people who would be eliminated if they didn't "get their feet in support of the opposition" to Noriega. Union activists interviewed by Joy James report similar pre-invasion threats by the AFL-CIO, which, they say, is now working to create a new "parallel organization" that will be better-behaved, following its traditional union-busting policies..

Teresa Guttierez, a spokesperson for former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, who heads a Panamanian inquiry commission, reports that new labor laws disallow the right to hold union meetings, the right to protest, and the right to strike, and that trade unionists are rounded up on a regular basis and held without charges.42

The same picture emerges from the occasional reports in the mainstream media. Pamela Constable reports that "bankers and business owners" find that things are looking up, though "a mood of anger and desperation permeates the underclass" in "the blighted shantytowns." Vice-president Guillermo Ford says that "The stores have reopened 100 percent, and the private sector is very enthusiastic. I think we're on the road to a very solid future." Under his "proposed recovery program," public enterprises would be sold off, "the labor code would be revised to allow easier dismissal of workers and tax-free export factories would be set up to lure foreign capital."

Business leaders "are bullish on Ford's ideas," Constable continues. In contrast, "Labor unions are understandably wary of these proposals," but "their power has become almost negligible" with "massive dismissals of public workers who supported Noriega and the unprecedented jobless rate." The U.S. emergency aid package approved by Congress is intended largely "to make back payments on Panama's foreign debt and shore up its creditworthiness with foreign lending institutions"; in translation: it is a taxpayer subsidy to international banks, foreign investors, and the important people in Panama. The thousands of refugees from El Chorillo, now living in what some of them call "a concentration camp," will not be returning to the devastated slum. The original owners, who had long wanted "to transform this prime piece of real estate into a posher district," may now be able to do so. Noriega had stood in the way of these plans, allowing the poor to occupy housing there rent-free. But by bombing the neighborhood into rubble and then levelling the charred ruins with bulldozers, U.S. forces overcame "that ticklish legal and human obstacle" to these intentions, Constable reports.43

With unemployment skyrocketing, nearly half the population cannot meet essential food needs. Crime has quadrupled. Aid is designated for businesses and foreign banks (debt repayment). It could be called the "Central Americanization" of Panama, correspondent Brook Larmer aptly observes in the Christian Science Monitor.44

The U.S. occupying forces continue to leave little to chance. The Mexican journal Excelsior reports that the U.S. forces have established direct control over ministries and public institutions. According to an organization chart leaked to the journal by political and diplomatic sources, U.S. controls extend to all provinces, the Indian community, the Town Halls of the ten major cities, and the regional police offices. "Washington's objective is to have a strategic network in this country to permanently control all the actions and decisions of the government." With the establishment of this "parallel government" closely controlling all decision-making, "things have returned to the way they were before 1968 in Panama." The journal scheduled an interview with President Endara to discuss the matter, but it was cancelled without explanation.45

The report provides extensive details, including names of U.S. officials and the tasks assigned them in the organization chart. All of this could easily be checked by U.S. reporters, if home offices were interested. They are not. "The information that we reveal here," Excelsior reports, "is supposed to be known only to very restricted groups" -- not including the U.S. public.

The regime put in power is to be a well-behaved puppet, with no populist heresies or thoughts of independence. That is the firm policy goal. It might well have been the policy goal of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, had international sanctions not been applied in outrage over his nefarious aggression. The efficient way, after all, is to rule through locals who can be trusted, with ample force on the ready, just in case.

The occupying forces are not only dedicated to restoring the rule of the traditional European oligarchy and its foreign associates, but also to ensuring that the project is not troubled by such irritants as freedom of expression. Excelsior reports that "United States intelligence services exercise control not only over local information media but also over international news agencies," according to the president of the Journalist Union of Panama. He adds that the goal is to make the world believe that there is freedom and democracy, whereas in reality broadcast stations have been taken over and placed "in custody" and dozens of journalists have been fired. An opposition activist alleges that the first Panamanian publishing company, ERSA, with three daily papers, was occupied by U.S. tanks and security forces "in order to turn it over to a businessman who had lost it in a lawsuit," a member of an oligarchical family that "favors the interventionist line of the United States."46

According to Ramsey Clark's Independent Commission of Inquiry, the offices of the daily La Republica "were ransacked and looted by U.S. troops the day after the newspaper reported on the large number of deaths caused by the U.S. invasion." Its editor was arrested and held for six weeks by U.S. troops, then sent to a Panamanian prison without charges. The publisher of one of the few opposition voices was arrested in March on charges of alleged misconduct when he was a government minister, and the government closed a radio station for broadcasting editorials critical of the U.S. invasion and the government it established.47

Miguel Antonio Bernal, a leading Panamanian intellectual and anti-Noriega activist, writes that "freedom of press is again under siege in Panama." Vice-president Ricardo Arias Calderon has proposed a new law to restrict press criticism of the government, saying that "We will not tolerate criticism." He has also urged stockholders of Panama's largest newspaper, La Prensa, to fire its editor and founder Roberto Eisenman because of the journal's criticism of the government, and has called on members of his Christian Democratic Party to work for Eisenman's ouster. Describing such acts, the increasing terror, and the reconstruction of the military with Noriega associates who were implicated in drug running and corruption, Bernal asks why the U.S. is "turning the same blind eye" as in the past to these developments.48

Bernal's question is surely rhetorical. Latin Americans know the answer very well, though the question could hardly be addressed in the fanatically ideological intellectual culture to the North.

Not only the military, but the bankers and businessmen restored to power in the December invasion as well had close links to the drug trade. Justice Department and Senate inquiries had identified Panamanian banks as major conduits for drug money in the early 1980s, when Noriega was still a great friend, and high officials of the new government, including President Endara, were closely involved with banks charged with money laundering as directors or in other ways. In September, the U.S. Embassy "implicated President Endara in a money laundering scheme" (Central America Report, Guatemala). DEA officials accused 7 Panamanian banks of laundering drug money and protecting the accounts of drug-traffickers, including the Interbanco, directed by Endara until he took over the presidency in January 1990, which was charged with protecting millions of dollars belonging to Colombian druglord Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha (since killed). U.S. Ambassador Hinton charged further that the "Colombian mafia" continues to use Panama for drug shipment to Europe and the United States. At the heart of the controversy is a U.S. demand for access to information about bank depositors in Panama, which the financial community there claims would undermine the international banking sector by eliminating confidentiality (and might be used for the U.S. for its own purposes under a drug cover). The alleged U.S. concerns about drug trafficking might be a bit more credible if we were to witness raids by Delta Force on the executive headquarters of the U.S. corporations that supply the drug cartel with the chemicals they need for cocaine production -- or if the U.S. government were not applying strong pressures on Asian countries to remove barriers on advertising and marketing of lethal addictive drugs produced in the United States (tobacco, a far worse killer than cocaine).49

Those not restricted to the quality press here will also learn that President Endara's government received "one of its worst diplomatic setbacks" on March 30, when it was formally ousted from the Group of Eight (now Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela), what are considered the major Latin American democracies. Panama had been suspended from the group in 1988 in reaction to Noriega's repression, and with the further deterioration of the political climate under foreign occupation, Panama was ousted permanently at the March meeting of foreign ministers. The Group of Eight, now Seven, issued a resolution stating that "the process of democratic legitimation in Panama requires popular consideration without foreign interference, that guarantees the full right of the people to freely choose their governments." The resolution also indicated that the operations of the U.S. military are affecting Panama's sovereignty and independence as well as the legality of the Endara government. This decision extends the pattern of strong Latin American opposition to the earlier U.S. measures against Panama and the invasion, from the outset, when the Organization of American States condemned U.S. moves by a vote of 17-1 (U.S. opposed) in July 1987. As the media here barely noted, President Endara's inaugural address four weeks after the invasion was boycotted by virtually all Latin American ambassadors.50

The Washington-media position is that the Endara government is legitimate, having won the 1989 elections that were stolen by Noriega. Latin American opinion commonly takes a different view.

In 1989, Endara was running against Noriega, with extensive U.S. backing, open and covert. Furthermore, the elections were conducted under conditions caused by the illegal U.S. economic warfare that was demolishing the economy. The United States was therefore holding a whip over the electorate. For that reason alone the elections were far from free and uncoerced, by any sensible standards. Today, the political scene is quite different -- or would be, if the U.S. were to tolerate political activity and free expression. On these grounds, there would be every reason to organize a new election, contrary to the wishes of Endara and his U.S. sponsors. Polls in Panama show that over half the population would vote for a new party or new alliance if elections were to be permitted.51 The official position is offered by Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books. Reporting from Panama, he writes that Endara's willingness to "go along" with the U.S. request that he assume the presidency "has caused the leaders of some Latin American countries, such as Peru, to question his legitimacy." "The Panamanians themselves, however, have few such qualms," because his "clear victory" in the 1989 election "provided Endara with all the credentials he needs." Citation of Peru for dragging its feet is a deft move, since President Garcia was an official enemy of the U.S. who had been recalcitrant about Nicaragua, had restricted debt payment, and in general failed to observe proper standards; best to overlook the rest of the Group of Eight, however, among "some Latin American countries." As for the views of "the Panamanians themselves," no further indication is given as to how this information was obtained.52

Massing reports on the police raids in poor neighborhoods, the protests of homeless and hungry people demanding jobs and housing, the reconstruction of Noriega's PDF, the restoration of the oligarchy with a "successful corporate lawyer" at the head of a government "largely made up of businessmen," who receive U.S. corporate visitors sponsored by OPIC (which ensures U.S. investments abroad) "as if they were visiting heads of state." The business climate is again "attractive" in this "land ruled by merchants, marketers, and moneylenders." "The government is drafting plans to revive Panama's banking industry, relax its labor laws, expand the free trade zone, and attract foreign investors," and to privatize state enterprises and "radically cut public spending."

Drawn from the "tiny white elite" of under 10% of the population, the government has been accused of "wanting to turn the clock back to 1968, when a small rich group ruled the country" -- namely, exactly the group now restored to power. But "the charge is unfair," Massing comments -- much like the charge that the conservative populists swept into office in the democratic wave of free elections in Central America might have something on their minds other than helping the poor when they opt for a trickle-down strategy. The proof that the charge is unfair, Massing explains, is that when employees from Air Panama fearful of losing their jobs held a vigil outside his office, President Endara "sent them coffee and made a point of talking with them." What is more, while fasting in the Cathedral in an effort to expedite U.S. aid (or to lose weight, some unkind locals quipped), "he invited striking sanitation workers in for a chat and eventually negotiated a settlement." Furthermore, Vice-President Arias Calderon has said that he wants the government to correct disparities created by the market. True, no projects that might illustrate these plans "are in the works" and the Endara government "opposes the idea" of using U.S. aid for such purposes, "determined to leave virtually everything to the private sector." But that proves nothing, in the face of the powerful evidence showing that "the charge is unfair," just reviewed in its entirety.

Massing is not pleased with the outcome, particularly, the restoration of Noriega's PDF, "despite all the good intentions" of the United States (taken as given, in accordance with the norms of the intellectual culture), and its efforts "to atone for its past misbehavior." The problem does not lie in the U.S. military aid programs, which have trained security forces that "have been guilty of horrible excesses" in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Noriega's Panama (and other cases unmentioned). Rather, the problem lies in what the U.S. "had to work with." It's those folks who are bad, not us, please.

The consistent effects of our military training, the policies of which it is a part, the documentary record explaining the reasons -- all may be put aside, irrelevant, along with all of history. We are always willing to admit that there were aberrations in the past. But at every moment of time, we have changed course and put the errors of the past behind us.

We are Good, our intentions are Good. Period.

Go to Part II


1 Rostow, The Diffusion of Power (Macmillan, 1972). For sources not cited here, see my Deterring Democracy (Verso, forthcoming), from which much of this material is excerpted.

2 Hockstader, WP, June 20, 1990.

3 Mesoamerica (Costa Rica), July 1990. Detailed updates are circulated regularly from the Washington office of the Commission, 1359 Monroe St. NE, Washington DC 20017.

4 Ronna Montgomery, Mesoamerica, June 1990. On the demolition of the accords, and the role of Arias and U.S. doves, see my Culture of Terrorism (South End, 1987), chapter 7; Necessary Illusions (South End, 1989), chapter 4 and Appendix IV, sec. 5; regular articles in Z magazine, and Deterring Democracy.

5 Central America Report (CAR), Guatemala, Nov. 10, 1989; July 27; April 6; March 2, 1990.

6 AP, Boston Globe, June 4, 1990, a 75-word item, which is more than elsewhere.

7 Editorial, Tiempo, July 2, 1990.

8 Cesar Chelala, "Central America's Health Plight," Christian Science Monitor, March 22; CAR, March 2, 1990.

9 Latinamerica press (LP) (Peru), Nov. 16, 1989.

10 Excelsior, Oct. 18, 1989 (Latin America News Update (LANU), Dec. 1989).

11 For a review, see Joshua Karliner, "Central America's Other War," World Policy Journal, Fall 1989.

12 Anne Chemin, Le Monde, Sept. 21, 1988; Manchester Guardian Weekly, Oct. 2. Tiempo, Aug. 10, 17, Sept. 19, 1988. Dr. Morales, Report on Guatemala, July/August 1989.

13 Ibid.

14 La Prensa Dominical, Honduras, July 22, 1990.

15 CAR, April 28, 1989. For discussion of these matters, see Necessary Illusions.

16 CAR, Dec. 1, 1989.

17 Excelsior, March 24; LP, Feb. 15, 1990.

18 Karliner, op. cit.; CAR, March 16, 1990. See Douglas R. Shane, Hoofprints on the Forest: Cattle Ranching and the Destruction of Latin America's Tropical Forests (ISHI, 1986); Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, The Soft War (Grove, 1988); and for background, William H. Durham, Scarcity and Survival in Central America (Stanford, 1979).

19 CAR, March 16; Mesoamerica, March 1990.

20 Elections, CAR, Jan. 26, 1990. LP, Dec. 7; CAR, April 28, July 27; Excelsior, April 30; COHA Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Sept. 27, 1989. For several examples of repression in the late 1980s of the kind that aroused great fury when reported in Nicaragua, see Necessary Illusions, 249, 268; for a much worse case, see Culture of Terrorism, 243.

21 Mesoamerica, Sept. 1990.

22 "Costa Rica: Arming the country of peace," CAR, July 27, 1990.

23 Ibid. COHA, "News and Analysis," Aug. 18, 1988; Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Sept. 27, 1989. Selser, La Jornada (Mexico), Jan. 23, 1990, citing Arias's NYT Op-Ed on January 9.

24 Editorial, MH, July 31, 1990.

25 In the mainstream, that is. See, however, Alexander Cockburn, Nation, Jan. 29, 1990, and subsequent articles of his.

26 Rohter, "Panama and U.S. Strive to Settle on Death Toll," NYT, April 1, 1990.

27 Excelsior-AFP, Jan. 27 (LANU), March 1990; Mesoamerica (Costa Rica), May 1990; CAR, March 2, 1990.

28 Brecha, CODEHUCA, "Report of Joint CODEHUCA-CONADEHUPA delegation," Jan.-Feb. 1990, San Jose.

29 CODEHUCA, PEACENET, Feb. 5, 1990. Panamanian journalist Jose Montano, LP (Lima), Jan. 18, 1990.

30 See Physicians for Human Rights, "'Operation Just Cause': The Medical Cost of Military Action in Panama," Boston, March 15, 1990; Americas Watch, Laws of War and the Conduct of the Panama Invasion, 1990.

31 CAR, Sept. 7, 1990.

32 CBS TV, 7PM EST, Sept. 30, 1990.

33 Excelsior (Mexico City), April 14, 1990; Central America NewsPak, Austin Texas. Pelaez, El Diario-La Prensa, May 7, 1990.

34 Aviation Week & Space Technology, Jan. 1, 1990.

35 John Morrocco, ibid.; Hackworth, interview with Bill Baskervill, AP, Feb. 25, 1990. March 1990 report, see Deterring Democracy chapter 1.

36 Michael Gordon, NYT, April 11, 1990.

37 Oppenheimer, MH, June 20, 1990.

38 CAR, Aug. 17, 1990.

39 LP, Aug. 30, 1990.

40 James, "US policy in Panama," Race & Class, July-September 1990; State Department letter to Jesse Helms, stating that the Department "shares your view" on the matter in question, March 26, 1987, cited by James.

41 CAR, Aug. 31; Excelsior. Sept. 2, 1990.

42 Wysham, Labor Action, April-May 1990; James, op. cit. On these and other matters discussed here, see also Martha Gellhorn, "The Invasion of Panama," Granta, Spring 1990.

43 Constable, BG, July 11, 1990.

44 CSM, April 9, 1990.

45 Excelsior, Feb. 28, 1990; LANU.

46 Felicitas Pliego, Excelsior, April 29, 1990.

47 Commission of Inquiry release, Feb. 17; COHA News and Analysis, May 1, 1990.

48 Bernal, "Panama's fight for free expression," Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1990.

49 Excelsior, Aug. 24; CAR, Sept. 7, 1990. See my articles in Z magazine, November 1989, March 1990.

50 CAR, April 6; Andres Oppenheimer, MH, Jan. 19, 1990.

51 CAR, Aug. 30, 1990, citing a recent poll published in La Prensa.

52 Massing, NYRB, May 17, 1990.