Operation Just Cause: How to Stage a Regime Change
by Gar Smith / The-Edge
October 18, 2002

Thousands of civilians died in the midnight bombing and incineration of the El Chorrillo neighborhood. For short videoclip showing the extent of the damage to El Chorrillo, go to: www.webslingerz.com/eclauset/mediasouth/project/panama/elcho.mpg
Right-wing Republicans were livid in 1977 when President Carter and charismatic Panamanian President Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaties, promising to return control of the canal to Panama by 2000.

When the Republican’s regained the White House, President Ronald Reagan and CIA Director Bill Casey went to work to fulfill Reagan’s campaign promise to “take back” the Canal.

Torrijos was killed in a suspicious plane crash in July 1981 (the CIA was widely believed to have arranged the bombing of Torrijos’ plane), clearing the way for the rise of Gen. Manuel Noriega. In addition to being identified as one of the world’s top narco-traffickers, Noriega had also been the head of Panama’s intelligence service and, in this capacity, he had spent many years on the CIA’s payroll. Noriega and George H. W. Bush first met when they were both heads of their respective intelligence agencies.

After leaving his post as CIA director and becoming Reagan’s Vice President, George H. W. Bush personally intervened to keep Noriega on the CIA’s doll despite the Panamanian’s acknowledged role in smuggling cocaine into the US. In 1983, Bush and Noriega conspired to create a CIA-backed army of “Contra” mercenaries that directed illegal and bloody terrorist attacks against the people of Nicaragua.

Eventually Noriega grew impatient with Washington’s meddling and started delivering fiery speeches insisting on Panamanian — and regional — independence. By 1987, Noriega’s corruption and drug smuggling started to become public knowledge. When Noriega spurned invitations to “retire” from office, the Republican White House set about demonizing the general (in much the same fashion that it would later demonize Saddam Hussein).

By the time he became president in 1988, Bush also had turned on his old comrade. Bush now claimed that Noriega was a brutal dictator and that a regime change was needed to put an end to Noriega’s drug-running and to “restore democracy” (Notably, the government that replaced Noriega not only failed to restore a functioning democracy, it also allowed the narcotics trade to double.)

In April 1989, the US secretly supplied Noriega’s political opponents with $10 million to sway the presidential elections. Noriega canceled the balloting, violence broke out, and the US sent in 2,000 troops.

Noriega was not only a thug and a murderer, he was a crafty intelligence operative who “knew too much.” Noriega had obtained lists of all the telephones being tapped by the US National Security Agency throughout Latin America. Noriega had stockpiled incriminating evidence documenting the CIA’s involvement in the Iran-Contra affair — including involvement in smuggling cocaine into the US. Noriega had to be removed — one way of another.

The US had already spent millions on four covert operations to unseat Noriega but they had all failed. The CIA was given $3 million to arrange a coup to remove Noriega. As Buckley explained: “The operation’s permissible tactics included violence. There was a very good chance Noriega would be killed. But since his death was not the stated aim of the operation, it would not be a violation of US law.”

Assistant Attorney General William P. Barr was called upon to finesse US law to expedite Noriega’s removal. Barr claimed that federal law now permitted US law enforcement officers to arrest foreigners inside their own countries and deliver them to US courts for punishment. US law was also stretched to allow US soldiers to engage in covert operations targeting foreign politicians.

Some politicians objected that Barr’s ruling amounted to a “license to kidnap.” Rep. Don Edwards (D-CA) stated: “I can think of no law passed by the Congress or any provision of the Constitution that licenses the United States to be an international outlaw.”

The number of Panamanians killed in the US assault could range as high as 5,000. The death count remains a mystery since US forces buried
hundreds of bodies in at least 15 mass graves. Credit: The Panama Deception (www.theempowermentproject.org).
The men in charge of plotting Noriega’s demise were General Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. US law prevented the White House from ordering the assassination of a foreign leader but, as Kevin Buckley noted in his book Panama: The Whole Story, “If Noriega was killed in a military operation, no US law was broken.”

The US went to great lengths to stage a provocation to justify an invasion. Troops and weapons were secretly moved into the region. The US Army Special Operations Command sent a Delta Force team to Panama to stage faked “attacks” on US soldiers. After the Delta Force opened fire on US positions, the press reported that the US had been attacked by local “terrorists.”

The Pentagon repeatedly ordered US troops to stage provocations — setting up roadblocks in civilian neighborhoods, conducting offensive maneuvers outside US jurisdiction, and challenging Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) troops.

Finally on December 16, a group of US Marines (privately known as the “Hard Chargers” because they specialized in provocations) were fired on after they “got lost” in front of the PDF headquarters. A US Marine Intelligence Officer, Lt. Robert Bolivar Paz, was shot and killed. A US Navy officer and his wife who witnessed the shootings were detained and beaten.

George H. W. Bush now had his “justification” for the long-planned invasion. The US invited Noriega’s political opponents to “dinner” at a secure military base and informed them that Operation Just Cause was only hours away. And then, before the attack even began, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the country’s new president. Endara expressed some understandable concern that being sworn in inside a US military base might make him look like “a US puppet.”

The midnight attack on Panama City was massive. It involved B-1 bombers. Apache attack helicopters and Stealth aircraft loaded with 2,000-pound bombs. The merciless bombardment, which lasted until 6 a.m., killed between 3,000-4,000 innocent civilians — more than were killed in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center towers. (The exact number of dead was never revealed since US troops secretly buried hundreds of the bodies in hastily dug mass graves hidden in at least 15 sites around Panama City.)

The attack wasn’t really an “invasion” since most of the troops and weaponry were already parked at US bases inside Panama, but it certainly looked like an invasion to the terrified residents of El Chorillo, whose low-income neighborhood bore the brunt of the damage.

The US attack and subsequent “regime change” was condemned by the UN and the OAS as a violation of international and regional law. The massacre of civilians was called a war crime and a violation of the Geneva Accords.

As the Academy Award winning documentary The Panama Deception explains, there were two reasons behind the incredible civilian slaughter. First, the Pentagon wanted an opportunity to field-test a new range of weapons — the Stealth fighter, the B-1 bomber, the Apache attack helicopter. Also put to the test was a range of top-secret hardware ranging from poison darts fired from the air to exotic laser weapons that “melted” human bodies and sliced metal car frames in two.

The second goal was the destruction of the PDF as an effective military force. Rockets and bombs leveled the PDF headquarters. The surrounding neighborhoods were systematically set ablaze by US soldiers to prevent PDF members from escaping into them. Eyewitnesses testified that they saw many captured PDF soldiers tied up and summarily executed by US troops.

The reason the PDF was targeted for such wholesale destruction was not immediately apparent. The first clue came in March 1991 when Guillermo Endara, the country’s new US-backed leader, made a startling suggestion. Endara proposed amending the nation’s Constitution to abolish the Panamanian army. Within months, the US Congress passed a Republican-backed law calling for a renegotiating the Panama Treaties. Endara’s proposed constitutional amendment had opened the door for the US to “take back” the Panama Canal.

As the Congressional Republicans pointed out, the hated Carter-Torrijos Treaty said the canal was to be returned to Panamanian “control” in 2000 but, since Panama no longer had a functioning army to secure the canal, they argued, Panama would be unable to fulfill its obligations under the treaty. The solution? The US military would have to remain in Panama to fill the breach.

Behind the public demonizing of Gen. Manuel Noriega, there was a hidden agenda — regaining US control of the Panama Canal. The US now, once more, controls Panama and, through its Southern Command base, is able to project military power over 2,000 miles of South America.

Similarly, behind the public demonizing of Saddam Hussein, there is a not-so-hidden agenda — gaining US control of Iraq’s oil, the second largest known reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia.

Iraq: Americanized, Eliminated and Annexed
ISLAMABAD — A startling report publicized in Pakistan on October 4, revealed a US plan to merge Iraq and Jordan into a single kingdom ruled by King Abdullah of Jordan. The capital of the new pro-US superstate would be in Amman.

The plan, reportedly authored by Vice President Dick Cheney and produced by Stratfor, a strategic forecasting think tank based in the US argues that combining Jordan and Iraq in a pro-US Hashemite kingdom would assure "a stable post-war Iraq.”

"King Abdullah will vastly expand his role and prominence in the region with a joint Hashemite state, becoming the second-most important US ally after Israel. In addition to his huge territorial gains, he also will get a chunk of Iraqi oil.”

"[T]he creation of a new pro-US kingdom under the half-American Abdullah will shift the balance of forces in the region heavily in the US favor," the report says. "Current and potential US geopolitical foes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would be left isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-US forces," according to Stratfor.

"Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the US gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh."

The Cheney/Stratfor report envisions the new state becoming “a beacon for the Arab world to follow." The creation of a pro-US monarchy in the region would accomplish two goals. It would diminish the geopolitical influence of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt and, in the event of a future conflict with Saudi Arabia or Iran, “US forces would be in the ideal position to strike not only from sea but also from land by using new bases in the… region."

Israel would benefit since "Baghdad's end will deprive the Palestinians of much financial and other assistance, which can reduce the effectiveness of attacks against the Jewish State." Meanwhile, Palestinians, who now comprise half of Jordan's population, “will become a minority in the new state, with much less potential to stir up trouble."

The British press reports that the plan was discussed in July during a meeting between Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan and pro-US Iraqi Sunni opposition members in London.

When Provocation Fails, Invade Anyway
In an article written for Amnesty International, Prof. Noam Chomsky recounts how the government of former Irgun-terrorist-turned-Prime-Minister Menachem Begin sought a pretext for Israel’s planned invasion of Lebanon.

“At the time,” Chomsky writes, “with decisive US support, Israel was carrying out military operations in Lebanon in an effort to elicit some pretext for the planned 1982 invasion — carried out, as openly acknowledged, to deter the threat of an unwanted diplomatic settlement along the lines supported by virtually the entire world (apart from the US and its Israeli client).

“When provocation failed, Israel invaded anyway with US military and diplomatic support. killing some 18,000 people. It maintained its occupation of much of the country for almost 20 years in violation of Security Council orders, with regular terror.”

The latest Palestinian Intifada, which has cost so much bloodshed and instability, was intentionally ignited by Ariel Sharon who staged a provocation in the form of an armed incursion into the holy Temple Mount September 28, 2000.

Sharon knew that his provocation would unleash retaliation and he rode the resulting violence to victory as Israel’s new Prime Minister. Sharon promised to crack down on the terrorists and bring peace to Israel. Sharon’s promises proved to be hollow but he achieved his goal of seizing power.

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