I remember it like it was yesterday. I received a call from a friend. He was born in Panama of Panamanian parents like I was. We went to school together, and both came to America. He joined the military. I went to the University of Texas at Austin. We both became naturalized citizens. Most of us expats believe he is now was a “U.S. spy,” we think. After all, he never told us what he did for the government. But he was all over Latin America, and other places. That day he called me. It was just a few days before Christmas.
“Egberto, it is going down today,” my friend said. “You did not hear it from me.”
By then I had already known something was going down. Folks in Panama were calling their relatives in the U.S. asking if they knew anything. They said planes (likely C-5s and C-130s) were landing at the U.S. Air Force Bases in the Canal Zone in Panama every few minutes, one after another.
We knew it was coming. The United States military never allowed anything to get out of hand from its point of view in its “colony,” the Canal Zone in Colombia. Oops, I mean the US-instigated-country-to-build-a-canal, Panama. What we did not know is how ferocious it would be.
Sometime after 12:00 AM on December 20th, 1989 all hell broke loose in the cities of Colon, Panama City, and David. The American military targeted the three main Panamanian Cuarteles in the provinces of Colon, Panama, and Chiriqui respectively.
The Cuarteles in Colon and Panama City are in densely populated areas. Missiles from many understood-to-be the-test-run of the stealth fighter along with helicopters and C-130 gunships decimated the Cuarteles and the surrounding buildings and tenements. Thousands of poor people live nearby, and the bombing and missile attacks decimated them. There was no way to get an accurate count of the dead nor was there any interest in doing so. They were just hauled off and dumped like debris.
During the hours of hell, my dad, rest his soul, was running around in his house in Arc Iris scared to death, less than three miles from the concentrated bombings and missile attacks. Then there was one tall building, a 15 story building that the military claim had snipers aiming at their flying assets. They sent missiles into that building where civilians lived.
During the occupation portion of the invasion, the military blocked the movement of people from Arco Iris to Colon. Unable to speak Spanish they opened fire on a Panamanian attempting to go into Colon to get insulin to his wife. Many atrocities were committed throughout the country.
George Herbert Walker Bush did a few good things. He signed laws to assert the rights of the disabled. Bush signed environmental laws. He may have even been instrumental in managing the demise of the Soviet Union with his controlled non-gloating demeanor. But make no mistake, a saint Bush was not.
George Herbert Walker Bush is like every other U.S. President sans Trump who believes in the phrase, America first. The blood and life of Americans are more valuable to this sect than anyone else from anywhere else. When they invade rightfully or wrongfully, they do it to inflict maximum destruction even if it includes civilians to ensure their soldiers are protected, not for the sake of the soldiers, but to save face for the Commander-in-Chief.
Manuel Antonio Noriega, Panama’s dictator, was a CIA stooge for decades. When he became expedient and a potential embarrassment to America’s “war on drugs,” he was taken out. How could one justify that the Reagan and Bush administration were aware of Noriega's drug money laundering for years while doing nothing about it?
There are many figures out there about how many Panamanians died during the invasion, 500, 1,000, 3,000, 4,000, 10,000. Who knows what the real number is. Suffice it to say, George Herbert Walker Bush decided to kill hundreds if not thousands of Panamanians to capture a Panamanian capitalist. America had a strong demand for drugs, and he facilitated its delivery.
Instead of invading Panama, we would have been much better served to solve our problems at the source. Eliminate the demand in America then who cares what Noriega does. Should other countries invade us for selling their citizens American made cigarettes or pesticides that kill?
It does not go over well when one sees the canonization of a president that inflicted much harm on them. Worse is the fact that they all died in vain. The point is that nothing changed. America still has a drug problem.