Panamanian Invasion: Operation Just Because?


            “America will never be forgiven for the killing of my innocent friends.”

Maria Chacon was walking home from school on December 20, 1989 when the first bomb hit the town of El Churillo. Her story seemed like the bombing just occurred yesterday, vividly remembering the sky getting really dark and mayhem breaking loose. She ran for cover in the nearest alleyway as soldiers sprayed the general public with shells of tech nines and AK-47’s. She saw mothers running after their children to make sure they were out the way of bullets while men were sacrificing their valuables and even lives to protect their family. Houses were on fire and helpless bodies covered the quiet street that she walked down a couple of minutes ago. When the bullets stopped and the soldiers disappeared, Jessica came out of hiding to find that her home country, Panama, was destroyed. She ran home as fast as she could until she spotted some familiar faces lying on the ground. Her friends from school still in their uniform lay dead on the street with two bullets each to their chest. She couldn’t help but cry but remembered that she had to find a safe place to go, in which her home was a couple blocks down. 


This account is a typical memory of the many people that experienced and witnessed the horrid invasion of Panama by United States troops. In a plan to capture their president, Manuel Noriega, US troops were ordered to attack the country with bombs and powerful weapons on innocent people in order for Noriega to surrender and be held in US custody. After the US took Noriega into custody and realized that thousands of bodies were left in streets and open places, they rounded up the dead bodies and build a “mass burial ground” where they dumped the bodies in and set them on fire until it was ashes.  After the invasion, nothing was said to reconcile or apologize for the deaths or conflict in the country.

How can an operation to capture a political leader end up leaving thousands of innocent people dead and injured? Was this act of violence justifiable to the citizens of Panama? Does America have some explaining to do?

According to the proposal of this invasion, which was called “Operation: Just Cause”, The U.S. felt that by capturing this evil “dictator”, Panamanian people will be saved from brutality, end the dangerous threat to Americans, freeing a country from a potential conflict, and restoring democracy to the country. This was in fact, not true and in order to understand how the US uses their power in order to go into different countries and stripped them for their personal interest. 


The Panama Canal is a huge business in order to import and export goods throughout the world. This canal is in between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, making it and easier shortcut to get through Central America instead of circling around South America. It would make sense for a big power structure to come and control an asset of a country so by doing that, the U.S decided to train a Panamanian civilian and let him take on the job by giving the U.S. a cut of money keeping money for himself.  When the U.S. finally took control over the canal and began using this to their advantage, they did not wan to have Noriega, who was now said to be dangerous and crazy, run the country. And just like any leader, giving up some of their reign and power was not going to happen to Noriega, so the U.S. decided to do it the hard way by bombings and killings.


What was America trying to prove by stampeding through Panama and killing thousands of people? It was quite obvious that Panama had no type of military force to try and stop a first world country with the top military technology and power. What was the point of killing thousands of people? Were the people showing any type of actions that can make these troops believe that they were dangerous and that needed to be killed? This was a prime example of America showing superiority to the helpless people of Panama and making sure they knew who was boss. 

The media did not make the invasion look like a troubled conflict between these two countries either. The invasion in the late 80’s was not even showed on television nor did people know what was going on in Central America at the time. This invasion solely took a couple of days but left the people and their land into shambles for the rest of their lives. An operation to invade a country to protect the lives of Americans should have been better publicized to the Americans to know that they were safe. Instead the U.S. did damage in a couple days without anyone really knowing. 

Many stories like Maria’s are commonly told to generations and generations of Panamanian children whom parents felt like this invasion was left with many unanswered questions and innocent loved ones dead and injured. Victims and family members of the invasion are entitled to truth and peace from this horrific attack. Just like every other conflict that occurred around the world, there was some sort of justice that was served for the perpetrators and victims. The United States owes Panama explanations to this tragic event that occurred, regardless of how small the country is. This well-thought out plan to kill thousands all for one dictator was just to show how powerful America can be in order to get the things they want, and in this case it left many broken homes, and general hatred to the US.


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