“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, December 22, 2014

The U.S. overthrew 41 governments in Latin America between 1898 and 1994 - The road to Baghdad, in other words, ran through Panama City. It was George H.W. Bush’s invasion of that small, poor country 25 years ago that inaugurated the age of preemptive unilateralism, using “democracy” and “freedom” as both justifications for war and a branding opportunity.

How the Iraq Wars began with the Invasion of Panama

By Greg Grandin | ( 

As we end another year of endless war in Washington, it might be the perfect time to reflect on the War That Started All Wars — or at least the war that started all of Washington’s post-Cold War wars: the invasion of Panama.
Twenty-five years ago this month, early on the morning of December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, sending tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft into Panama to execute a warrant of arrest against its leader, Manuel Noriega, on charges of drug trafficking. Those troops quickly secured all important strategic installations, including the main airport in Panama City, various military bases, and ports. Noriega went into hiding before surrendering on January 3rd and was then officially extradited to the United States to stand trial. Soon after, most of the U.S. invaders withdrew from the country.
In and out. Fast and simple. An entrance plan and an exit strategy all wrapped in one. And it worked, making Operation Just Cause one of the most successful military actions in U.S. history. At least in tactical terms.
There were casualties. More than 20 U.S. soldiers were killed and 300-500 Panamanian combatants died as well.  Disagreement exists over how many civilians perished. Washington claimed that few died.  In the “low hundreds,” the Pentagon’s Southern Command said.  But others charged that U.S. officials didn’t bother to count the dead in El Chorrilloa poor Panama City barrio that U.S. planes indiscriminately bombed because it was thought to be a bastion of support for Noriega. Grassroots human-rights organizations claimed thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced.
As Human Rights Watch wrote, even conservative estimates of civilian fatalities suggested “that the rule of proportionality and the duty to minimize harm to civilians… were not faithfully observed by the invading U.S. forces.” That may have been putting it mildly when it came to the indiscriminant bombing of a civilian population, but the point at least was made. Civilians were given no notice. The Cobra and Apache helicopters that came over the ridge didn’t bother to announce their pending arrival by blasting Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” (as in Apocalypse Now). The University of Panama’s seismograph marked 442 major explosions in the first 12 hours of the invasion, about one major bomb blast every two minutes. Fires engulfed the mostly wooden homes, destroying about 4,000 residences. Some residents began to call El Chorrillo “Guernica” or “little Hiroshima.” Shortly after hostilities ended, bulldozers excavated mass graves and shoveled in the bodies. “Buried like dogs,” said the mother of one of the civilian dead.
Sandwiched between the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the commencement of the first Gulf War on January 17, 1991, Operation Just Cause might seem a curio from a nearly forgotten era, its anniversary hardly worth a mention. So many earth-shattering events have happened since. But the invasion of Panama should be remembered in a big way.  After all, it helps explain many of those events. In fact, you can’t begin to fully grasp the slippery slope of American militarism in the post-9/11 era — how unilateral, preemptory “regime change” became an acceptable foreign policy option, how “democracy promotion” became a staple of defense strategy, and how war became a branded public spectacle — without understanding Panama.
Our Man in Panama
Operation Just Cause was carried out unilaterally, sanctioned neither by the United Nations nor the Organization of American States (OAS).  In addition, the invasion was the first post-Cold War military operation justified in the name of democracy — “militant democracy,” as George Will approvingly called what the Pentagon would unilaterally install in Panama.
The campaign to capture Noriega, however, didn’t start with such grand ambitions. For years, as Saddam Hussein had been Washington’s man in Iraq, so Noriega was a CIA asset and Washington ally in Panama.  He was a key player in the shadowy network of anti-communists, tyrants, and drug runners that made up what would become Iran-Contra. That, in case you’ve forgotten, was a conspiracy involving President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council to sell high-tech missiles to the Ayatollahs in Iran and then divert their payments to support anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua in order to destabilize the Sandinista government there. Noriega’s usefulness to Washington came to an end in 1986, after journalist Seymour Hersh published an investigation in the New York Times linking him to drug trafficking. It turned out that the Panamanian autocrat had been working both sides. He was “our man,” but apparently was also passing on intelligence about us to Cuba.
Still, when George H.W. Bush was inaugurated president in January 1989, Panama was not high on his foreign policy agenda. Referring to the process by which Noriega, in less than a year, would become America’s most wanted autocrat, Bush’s National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said: “I can’t really describe the course of events that led us this way… Noriega, was he running drugs and stuff? Sure, but so were a lot of other people. Was he thumbing his nose at the United States? Yeah, yeah.”
The Keystone Kops… 
Domestic politics provided the tipping point to military action. For most of 1989, Bush administration officials had been half-heartedly calling for a coup against Noriega. Still, they were caught completely caught off guard when, in October, just such a coup started unfolding. The White House was, at that moment, remarkably in the dark. It had no clear intel about what was actually happening. ”All of us agreed at that point that we simply had very little to go on,” Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney later reported. “There was a lot of confusion at the time because there was a lot of confusion in Panama.”
“We were sort of the Keystone Kops,” was the way Scowcroft remembered it, not knowing what to do or whom to support. When Noriega regained the upper hand, Bush came under intense criticism in Congress and the media. This, in turn, spurred him to act. Scowcroft recalls the momentum that led to the invasion: “Maybe we were looking for an opportunity to show that we were not as messed up as the Congress kept saying we were, or as timid as a number of people said.” The administration had to find a way to respond, as Scowcroft put it, to the “whole wimp factor.”
Momentum built for action, and so did the pressure to find a suitable justification for action after the fact. Shortly after the failed coupCheney claimed on PBS’s Newshour that the only objectives the U.S. had in Panama were to “safeguard American lives” and “protect American interests” by defending that crucial passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal. “We are not there,” he emphasized, “to remake the Panamanian government.” He also noted that the White House had no plans to act unilaterally against the wishes of the Organization of American States to extract Noriega from the country. The “hue and cry and the outrage that we would hear from one end of the hemisphere to the other,” he said, “…raises serious doubts about the course of that action.”
That was mid-October. What a difference two months would make. By December 20th, the campaign against Noriega had gone from accidental — Keystone Kops bumbling in the dark — to transformative: the Bush administration would end up remaking the Panamanian government and, in the process, international law.
…Start a Wild Fire
Cheney wasn’t wrong about the “hue and cry.” Every single country other than the United States in the Organization of American States voted against the invasion of Panama, but by then it couldn’t have mattered less. Bush acted anyway.
What changed everything was the fall of the Berlin Wall just over a month before the invasion. Paradoxically, as the Soviet Union’s influence in its backyard (eastern Europe) unraveled, it left Washington with more room to maneuver in its backyard (Latin America). The collapse of Soviet-style Communism also gave the White House an opportunity to go on the ideological and moral offense. And at that moment, the invasion of Panama happened to stand at the head of the line.
As with most military actions, the invaders had a number of justifications to offer, but at that moment the goal of installing a “democratic” regime in power suddenly flipped to the top of the list. In adopting that rationale for making war, Washington was in effect radically revising the terms of international diplomacy. At the heart of its argument was the idea that democracy (as defined by the Bush administration) trumped the principle of national sovereignty.
Latin American nations immediately recognized the threat. After all, according to historian John Coatsworth, the U.S. overthrew 41 governments in Latin America between 1898 and 1994, and many of those regime changes were ostensibly carried out, as Woodrow Wilson once put it in reference to Mexico, to teach Latin Americans “to elect good men.” Their resistance only gave Bush’s ambassador to the OAS, Luigi Einaudi, a chance to up the ethical ante. He quickly and explicitly tied the assault on Panama to the wave of democracy movements then sweeping Eastern Europe. “Today we are… living in historic times,” he lectured his fellow OAS delegates, two days after the invasion, “a time when a great principle is spreading across the world like wildfire. That principle, as we all know, is the revolutionary idea that people, not governments, are sovereign.”
Einaudi’s remarks hit on all the points that would become so familiar early in the next century in George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda”: the idea that democracy, as defined by Washington, was a universal value; that “history” represented a movement toward the fulfillment of that value; and that any nation or person who stood in the path of such fulfillment would be swept away.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Einaudi said, democracy had acquired the “force of historical necessity.” It went without saying that the United States, within a year the official victor in the Cold War and the “sole superpower” left on Planet Earth, would be the executor of that necessity.  Bush’s ambassador reminded his fellow delegates that the “great democratic tide which is now sweeping the globe” had actually started in Latin America, with human rights movements working to end abuses by military juntas and dictators.  The fact that Latin American’s freedom fighters had largely been fighting against U.S.-backed anti-communist rightwing death-squad states was lost on the ambassador.
In the case of Panama, “democracy” quickly worked its way up the shortlist of casus belli.
In his December 20th address to the nation announcing the invasion, President Bush gave “democracy” as his second reason for going to war, just behind safeguarding American lives but ahead of combatting drug trafficking or protecting the Panama Canal. By the next day, at a press conference, democracy had leapt to the top of the list and so the president began his opening remarks this way: “Our efforts to support the democratic processes in Panama and to ensure continued safety of American citizens is now moving into its second day.”
George Will, the conservative pundit, was quick to realize the significance of this new post-Cold War rationale for military action. In a syndicated column headlined, “Drugs and Canal Are Secondary: Restoring Democracy Was Reason Enough to Act,” he praised the invasion for “stressing… the restoration of democracy,” adding that, by doing so, “the president put himself squarely in a tradition with a distinguished pedigree. It holds that America’s fundamental national interest is to be America, and the nation’s identity (its sense of its self, its peculiar purposefulness) is inseparable from a commitment to the spread — not the aggressive universalization, but the civilized advancement — of the proposition to which we, unique among nations, are, as the greatest American said, dedicated.”
That was fast. From Keystone Kops to Thomas Paine in just two months, as the White House seized the moment to radically revise the terms by which the U.S. engaged the world. In so doing, it overthrew not just Manuel Noriega but what, for half a century, had been the bedrock foundation of the liberal multilateral order: the ideal of national sovereignty.
Darkness Unto Light
The way the invasion was reported represented a qualitative leap in scale, intensity, and visibility when compared to past military actions. Think of the illegal bombing of Cambodia ordered by Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in 1969 and conducted for more than five years in complete secrecy, or of the time lag between actual fighting in South Vietnam and the moment, often a day later, when it was reported.
In contrast, the war in Panama was covered with a you-are-there immediacy, a remarkable burst of shock-and-awe journalism (before the phrase “shock and awe” was even invented) meant to capture and keep the public’s attention. Operation Just Cause was “one of the shortest armed conflicts in American military history,” writes Brigadier General John Brown, a historian at the United States Army Center of Military History. It was also “extraordinarily complex, involving the deployment of thousands of personnel and equipment from distant military installations and striking almost two-dozen objectives within a 24-hour period of time… Just Cause represented a bold new era in American military force projection: speed, mass, and precision, coupled with immediate public visibility.”
Well, a certain kind of visibility at least. The devastation of El Chorrillo was, of course, ignored by the U.S. media.
In this sense, the invasion of Panama was the forgotten warm-up for the first Gulf War, which took place a little over a year later.  That assault was specifically designed for all the world to see. “Smart bombs” lit up the sky over Baghdad as the TV cameras rolled. Featured were new night-vision equipment, real-time satellite communications, and cable TV (as well as former U.S. commanders ready to narrate the war in the style of football announcers, right down to instant replays). All of this allowed for public consumption of a techno-display of apparent omnipotence that, at least for a short time, helped consolidate mass approval and was meant as both a lesson and a warning for the rest of the world. “By God,” Bush said in triumph, “we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”
It was a heady form of triumphalism that would teach those in Washington exactly the wrong lessons about war and the world.
Justice Is Our Brand 
In the mythology of American militarism that has taken hold since George W. Bush’s disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his father, George H.W. Bush, is often held up as a paragon of prudence — especially when compared to the later reckless lunacy of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. After all, their agenda held that it was the messianic duty of the United States to rid the world not just of “evil-doers” but “evil” itself.  In contrast, Bush Senior, we are told, recognized the limits of American power.  He was a realist and his circumscribed Gulf War was a “war of necessity” where his son’s 2003 invasion of Iraq was a catastrophic “war of choice.” But it was H.W. who first rolled out a “freedom agenda” to legitimize the illegal invasion of Panama.
Likewise, the moderation of George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, has often been contrasted favorably with the rashness of the neocons in the post-9/11 years. As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989, however, Powell was hot for getting Noriega. In discussions leading up to the invasion, he advocated forcefully for military action, believing it offered an opportunity to try out what would later become known as “the Powell Doctrine.” Meant to ensure that there would never again be another Vietnam or any kind of American military defeat, that doctrine was to rely on a set of test questions for any potential operation involving ground troops that would limit military operations to defined objectives. Among them were: Is the action in response to a direct threat to national security? Do we have a clear goal? Is there an exit strategy?
It was Powell who first let the new style of American war go to his head and pushed for a more exalted name to brand the war with, one that undermined the very idea of those “limits” he was theoretically trying to establish. Following Pentagon practice, the operational plan to capture Noriega was to go by the meaningless name of “Blue Spoon.” That, Powell wrote in My American Journey, was “hardly a rousing call to arms… [So] we kicked around a number of ideas and finally settled on… Just Cause. Along with the inspirational ring, I liked something else about it. Even our severest critics would have to utter ‘Just Cause’ while denouncing us.”
Since the pursuit of justice is infinite, it’s hard to see what your exit strategy is once you claim it as your “cause.” Remember, George W. Bush’s original name for his Global War on Terror was to be the less-than-modest Operation Infinite Justice
Powell says he hesitated on the eve of the invasion, wondering if it really was the best course of action, but let out a “whoop and a holler” when he learned that Noriega had been found. A new Panamanian president had already been sworn in at Fort Clayton, a U.S. military base in the Canal Zone, hours before the invasion began.
Here’s the lesson Powell took from Panama: the invasion, he wrote, confirmed all his “convictions over the preceding twenty years, since the days of doubt over Vietnam. Have a clear political objective and stick to it. Use all the force necessary, and do not apologize for going in big if that is what it takes… As I write these words, almost six years after Just Cause, Mr. Noriega, convicted on the drug charges contained in the indictments, sits in an American prison cell. Panama has a new security force, and the country is still a democracy.”
That assessment was made in 1995. From a later vantage point, history’s judgment is not so sanguine. As George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering said about Operation Just Cause: “Having used force in Panama… there was a propensity in Washington to think that force could provide a result more rapidly, more effectively, more surgically than diplomacy.” The easy capture of Noriega meant “the notion that the international community had to be engaged… was ignored.”
“Iraq in 2003 was all of that shortsightedness in spades,” Pickering said. “We were going to do it all ourselves.” And we did.
The road to Baghdad, in other words, ran through Panama City.  It was George H.W. Bush’s invasion of that small, poor country 25 years ago that inaugurated the age of preemptive unilateralism, using “democracy” and “freedom” as both justifications for war and a branding opportunity. Later, after 9/11, when George W. insisted that the ideal of national sovereignty was a thing of the past, when he said nothing — certainly not the opinion of the international community — could stand in the way of the “great mission” of the United States to “extend the benefits of freedom across the globe,” all he was doing was throwing more fuel on the “wildfire” sparked by his father.  A wildfire some in Panama likened to a “little Hiroshima.”
Greg Grandin, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of a number of books including, most recently, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, which was a finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize, was anointed by Fresh Air’s Maureen Corrigan as the best book of the year, and was also on the “best of” lists of the Wall Street Journalthe Boston Globe, and the Financial TimesHe blogs for the Nation magazine and teaches at New York University. 
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2014 Greg Grandin
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Wow!  What a crew you are!  So many of you responded to my once-a-year email to TD subscribers asking for… what else in the holiday season? Money. You’re champs and your contributions really do ensure that this website will be sticking around for the grim surprises, expectable Washington-style wars, and even the hopeful moments of 2015.  I thank you all.  Those of you who meant to give but were swept away by seasonal distractions, rest assured that there’s always still time.  Just visit our donation page where, for $100 (or more), signed, personalized copies of my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single Superpower World, and various other books are available.  And again, many thanks to you all!  It’s genuinely great to feel supported when you work as hard as we do. Tom]
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  1. Meant to ensure that there would never again be another Vietnam or any kind of American military defeat, that doctrine was to rely on a set of test questions for any potential operation involving ground troops that would limit military operations to defined objectives. Among them were:
    Is the action in response to a direct threat to national security?
    Do we have a clear goal?
    Is there an exit strategy?

    But when US ground troops are not engaged, then those questions do not really apply, do they?

    It is the Iraqi's fight to manage.
    The problem in Syria, the only real opponent to Daesh is the Alawite, Christian and Kurdish coalition led by the government of Mr Assad. Providing those forces with effective close air support from the Coalition is politically problematic. Whether or not it remains that way ...

  2. Deuce, maybe you should renounce your US citizenship and move to Russia?

    Democracy in it's purest form is mob rule..

    And that's something you seem to cherish..

    I think the world is better for not allowing mob rule to flourish.

    PURE Democracy was given a chance in Germany, we got Hitler. In Gaza we got Hamas.

    Maybe its a good thing that the USA is doing what it has done.

    1. No, you move to Israel, your first love. There are more ex-military that feel the same way that I do who are sick of flag waving sideliners that love to see others do their dirty work. That includes almost every neocon and 90% of the right-wing talking heads.

      Real Americans are sick of having to pay the price for their dirty work and stupidity and perverted loyalties. They are the real enemies.

    2. In Zimbabwe they got Mugabe and 10 million % inflation, and starvation.

      Russia might be a good choice. There is The Russian Times to read. And Izvestia for balance.

      The Russians I've been reading are having a big Pro-Family Renaissance right now, too.

      The Russians don't fool around with the Chechnias , either.

      Russia, that's it !

      June 7, 2013

      “Inevitability” and the Pro-Family Russian Renewal

      !Moscow, Russia.jpgThe headlines have been blaring the news: “Majorities Say Same-Sex Marriage is inevitable.” People who opposed same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history,” they claim. I’ve heard claims of “inevitability” before; history is laced with them. But I can think of no other more profound rebuttal to the “inevitable” way of thinking than what we are seeing in today’s Russia.

      Those of you who grew up and lived through the “Cold War” era and carried around a deep-seated fear of Communist Russia and the devastation that they could and were raining down upon the world, may have a bit of a difficult time believing what I’m about to explain. I certainly have.

      Several years ago, we at United Families International began noticing in our UN work a marked shift of focus and involvement of the UN delegates from Russia. Formerly, the mostly quiet Russian delegates would speak out on economic and some foreign-policy related issues, but rarely on social issues.

      Boy, has that changed! The Russians have become some of our most articulate, consistent and passionate allies on issues related to protecting religion, traditional values, marriage and family and the unborn. The last few years, their delegation has been crucial to the success of the pro-family/pro-life effort at the UN. The anti-family forces have recognized the change too and now regularly target the Russian Delegation with their rhetoric and their wrath. So why this remarkable, and for some of us unbelievable, change?

      Let me state from the onset that the country of Russia continues to have many serious geo-political, economic and social problems. But when one considers the question of swings of history and the “inevitability” of time’s relentless march towards leftist public policies and anti-family ideology, Russia must surely give all who espouse conservative and traditional values a measure of profound hope.


      For 70 years the Soviet Union attempted to stamp out religion and replace it with universal atheism. The communist regime ridiculed religion, confiscated religious assets and property, harassed religious individuals, and promoted “science” and atheism in schools. Religion was tolerated as long as it was kept private or in designated areas, but any public display was strictly forbidden. The Soviet Union during those decades was arguably the least religious population on the planet.

      Yet today, Russia has emerged as Europe’s most God-believing nation with 82 percent of those polled responding that they were religious believers. Although the definition of a “religious believer” can be debated, the trend line continues toward more religiosity – not less. Earlier this year, Russian president, Vladimir Putin stated the Orthodox Church should be given more say over marriage and family life, education, social development and strengthening the patriotic spirit of the armed forces. We see the resurgence of a traditional religious perspective manifesting itself in both domestic and international Russian politics and policies – including at the UN.............

    3. Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Syria, Viet Nam, Cambodia, for what?

  3. My sympathies are with the poor bastards that come back broken, the wasted needless dead and wounded, all for what?

  4. >>>United States President Ronald Reagan began a series of sanctions against the military regime. The United States froze economic and military assistance to Panama in the summer of 1987 in response to the domestic political crisis in Panama and an attack on the U.S. Embassy. Yet these sanctions did little to overthrow Noriega but instead severely damaged Panama's economy. The sanctions hit the Panamanian population hard and caused the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to decline almost 25% between 1987–1989 (see Acosta n.p.).[20]

    On February 5, 1988, General Manuel Antonio Noriega was accused of drug trafficking by federal juries in Tampa and Miami.

    In April 1988, the U.S. President Ronald Reagan invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, freezing Panamanian government assets in all U.S. organizations. In May 1989 Panamanians voted overwhelmingly for the anti-Noriega candidates. The Noriega regime promptly annulled the election and embarked on a new round of repression.
    Aftermath of urban warfare during the U.S. invasion of Panama.
    U.S. Invasion

    The United States government justified Operation Just Cause, which commenced on December 20, 1989 as necessary to safeguard the lives of U.S. citizens in Panama, defend democracy and human rights, combat drug trafficking, and secure the neutrality of the Canal as required by the Torrijos–Carter Treaties (New York Times, A Transcript of President Bush's Address n.p.).[21] The intervention led to thousands of civilian and military deaths during the two weeks of armed activities.[22]

    The urban population, with many living below the poverty level, was greatly affected by the 1989 intervention. As pointed out in 1995 by a UN Technical Assistance Mission to Panama, the intervention caused the displacement of 5,000 people. The most heavily affected district was impoverished El Chorrillo, where several blocks of apartments were completely destroyed by a fire set by "Norieguistas" in order to cause chaos[citation needed]. The economic damage caused by the intervention has been estimated to be between 1.5 and 3 million dollars. n.p.).[20] However most Panamanians, by lack of knowledge on the true root of the cause, supported the intervention.[23][24][dubious – discuss]

    1. The invasion is covered in the Oscar-winning 1992 documentary film The Panama Deception. It counters the US administration's justifications of the invasion and points to the "wimp" criticism of President George Bush by the US media before the invasion[25] and the initiative in the US House of Representatives after the war to renegotiate the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.[26]
      Post-intervention success
      Skyline of Panama City, near Cinta Costera.

      Panama's Electoral Tribunal moved quickly to restore the civilian constitutional government, reinstated the results of the May 1989 election on December 27, 1989, and confirmed the victory of President Guillermo Endara and Vice Presidents Guillermo Ford and Ricardo Arias Calderon.

      During its five-year term, the often-fractious government struggled to meet the public's high expectations. Its new police force was a major improvement over its predecessor but was not fully able to deter crime. Ernesto Pérez Balladares was sworn in as President on September 1, 1994, after an internationally monitored election campaign.

      Perez Balladares ran as the candidate for a three-party coalition dominated by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), the erstwhile political arm of military dictatorships. Perez Balladares worked skillfully during the campaign to rehabilitate the PRD's image, emphasizing the party's populist Torrijos roots rather than its association with Noriega. He won the election with only 33% of the vote when the major non-PRD forces splintered into competing factions. His administration carried out economic reforms and often worked closely with the U.S. on implementation of the Canal treaties.

      On September 1, 1999, Mireya Moscoso, the widow of former President Arnulfo Arias Madrid, took office after defeating PRD candidate Martin Torrijos, son of Omar Torrijos, in a free and fair election. During her administration, Moscoso attempted to strengthen social programs, especially for child and youth development, protection, and general welfare. Moscoso's administration successfully handled the Panama Canal transfer and was effective in the administration of the Canal.

      The PRD's Martin Torrijos won the presidency and a legislative majority in the National Assembly in 2004. Torrijos ran his campaign on a platform of, among other pledges, a "zero tolerance" for corruption, a problem endemic to the Moscoso and Perez Balladares administrations. After taking office, Torrijos passed a number of laws which made the government more transparent. He formed a National Anti-Corruption Council whose members represented the highest levels of government, as well as civil society, labor organizations, and religious leadership. In addition, many of his closest Cabinet ministers were non-political technocrats known for their support for the Torrijos government's anti-corruption aims. Despite the Torrijos administration's public stance on corruption, many high-profile cases, particularly involving political or business elites, were never acted upon.

      Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli was elected to succeed Martin Torrijos with a landslide victory at the May 2009 presidential election. Mr. Martinelli's business credentials drew voters worried by slowing growth due to the world financial crisis.[27] Standing for the four-party opposition Alliance for Change, Mr. Martinelli gained 60% of the vote, against 37% for the candidate of the governing left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party.<<<

      Say what you will, today Panama seems a functioning democracy and an improvement over former days.

    2. You don’t know the first thing about Panama and precious little about the history of Latin America or the likes of William Walker or much about that entire period of US History.

  5. Greg Grandin’s article is worthy of an intelligent discussion.

  6. Those of you who grew up and lived through the “Cold War” era and carried around a deep-seated fear of Communist Russia and the devastation that they could and were raining down upon the world, may have a bit of a difficult time believing what I’m about to explain. I certainly have.

    How many millions were killed or injured during the Cold War? Who was doing the killing and injuring? Why and what was accomplished?

    1. Lots.

      The Russians had no business being in Central Europe.

      The Russians had no business fooling around in Africa, nor Cuba.

      You might point to Vietnam, but the Russians had a big hand there, too.

      Stalin killed millions, but that was before the 'Cold War'.

      But, you're in a Blame America First frame of mind these days. engineer went there. He said it was the shits, from his engineering point of view. And he was in Moscow, the capital, the showcase.

      In the Soviet days, they had to line up for food, and the stores were mostly empty.

    2. And the Gulag. Let's not forget the Gulag.

      We have never had anything remotely similar to that in the USA.

      Ask Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

      Didn't he finally make his way to the USA?

    3. The Gulag Archipelago
      Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  7. Nevertheless, Panama seems to me like something of a functioning democracy today. The politicians seem to be voted into and out of office. This is a beginning.

    We haven't had a coupe in the USA yet, I hope we never do. Lots of shady elections and election practices......Illinois, etc.

    Lyndon Johnson 1st Senate race was a wonderful example of a really shady election.

    Noriega had a wonderfully criminal looking face, did he not ?;_ylt=A0LEViWnCZlURb0AVVAPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTBsa3ZzMnBvBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw--?p=manuel+noriega&

    Today, President O'bozo is reaching out to the criminally lead, totalitarian, Slave Labor Prison Island of Cuba, where the only means of escape is the inner tube.

    Make it to the Evil USA on your inner tube, you got it made.

    Why spare O'bozo your wrath?

    Why do so many wish to come to the USA?

    Why would so many wish to come to such an evil country?

    1. The Panamanians had a functioning 'democracy' before the US invaded and arrested their President for conspiring with the US to smuggle drugs into the US.

      The Mossad was 'running' Panama.
      The actual fella doing the 'running' had a name, it was Michael Harari,


    I'm dreaming of a two buck/gal Christmas.....

    $2.26 here the other day.

  9. Deuce ☂Tue Dec 23, 12:52:00 AM EST
    No, you move to Israel, your first love. There are more ex-military that feel the same way that I do who are sick of flag waving sideliners that love to see others do their dirty work. That includes almost every neocon and 90% of the right-wing talking heads.

    Real Americans are sick of having to pay the price for their dirty work and stupidity and perverted loyalties. They are the real enemies.

    Interesting come back..

    Always the "dual loyalty" canard.

    No, Deuce, I am 100% American and I am 100% for the success of the Jewish Nation State called Israel.

    It's not an either or issue.

    But once again you deflect this issue. You hate America and all she has done..

    i do not.

    1. Sure you hate the US, "O"rdure, you think
      Or so you have written, with folks like you, it is all about the money ...

      What is "Occupation"Fri Oct 03, 10:16:00 AM EDT
      I have been turned down repeatedly for a REFI.
      The system is screwed.

      The 'System' functions quite well, just as it was designed to.
      We just have to tweek it, around the edges.

      For those of US that have not failed at a twenty year effort, things are good.

    2. To invest twenty years into a business, and then just walk a way ....

      That must be depressing, aye.
      To have "Your Community" turn its back on you ...



  10. December 22, 2014
    This is what an economy looks like in Free Fall
    By Rick Moran

    The Russian economy is in free fall as the ruble has lost half it's value during the dizzying slide in oil prices. Last Tuesday, the ruble tumbled 10% - a follow up to Monday's 10% slide.This precipitated panic buying in the stores as Russian consumers, fearing their rubles will only become less valuable in the near term, crowded retail stores to buy up everything in sight.


    Although this past week’s currency crisis marked the worst fall for the ruble since Russia defaulted on its debt in 1998, no one was waiting in bread lines or starting a run on the bank. Instead, anyone with any cash at all went on a buying spree. Long lines snaked through Ikea branches around Moscow into the early hours of Wednesday morning as people picked up furniture, bedding and other household goods at what had suddenly become bargain-basement prices. Crowds of eager buyers emptied shelves of computer monitors and snapped up flat-screen televisions at consumer electronics chains.

    People were purchasing refrigerators, washing machines, cameras—anything that was less likely to lose its value as fast as the plummeting ruble. Cars in some dealerships were being sold at 30 percent to 50 percent above the recommended retail price, yet “people run and bring their last money,” one social network user wrote.

    “Yesterday the line for the cash register was to the other end of the hall,” Ravil Daizrakhmanov, an employee of the consumer electronics store, said Wednesday. “They were buying very expensive tech products.”

    The ruble has lost over half its value this year as falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis hit Russia’s energy-dependent economy. But a drop of 10 percent on Monday and another 10 percent on what has come to be known as “Black Tuesday” further shook consumers, undermined investor confidence and revealed divisions among the country’s elite on how to react. Nonetheless, Russians’ approval for President Vladimir Putin has remained sky-high.

    Buying continued on Wednesday as major electronics chains had yet to raise their prices. “I apologize; I argued with them, but they sold every last one,” an employee informed a man who was trying to purchase a washing machine. “F—k your apologies,” the man yelled back as he stormed off to complain to a manager.

    Others were just out for a good deal. Even after the ruble came down to 67 to the dollar, an iPhone 5S at electronics retailers now cost $100 less than in the United States. even halted online sales on Tuesday “due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the ruble.”

    1. Inflation is getting worse. Prices went up 8.3% in October to 9.1% in November. Food prices are spiking and Russians are crowding grocery stores, buying thousands of dollars in food, hedging their bets against prices going even higher.

      With all of this catastrophic news, you would think Putin's approval ratings would be in the tank. In fact, 81% of the country supports him. The people blame the west and the sanctions imposed for Russia's takeover of Crimea for the rotten economy.

      Why shouldn't they? Despite the fact that currency speculators and the dive in oil prices are far more responsible for Russia's economic predicament, when the president of the United States brags that sanctions have brought Putin to his knees - and Putin himself deflects blame for his mismanagement by citing sanctions - the Russian people are only to glad to ignore reality and accept the myth.

      Some analysts are saying oil could fall to $40 bbl. That would be a cataclysm that could bring the Russian economy to its knees. In this worse case scenario, Putin wouldn't be the first leader to look abroad for an adventure to distract the people from their misery. Wars have begun over less, so the Russian meltdown bears watching.

      Read more:
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    2. It's not our 'sanctions', which don't amount to much, that are driving the Russian economy down.

      It's Saudi production, the slowdown of the Chinese economy, fracking, etc. that are lowering the cost of oil and driving the Russian economy down.

    3. It is all credited to Obama, the US runs the world.

      But Robert "Draft Dodger" Peterson, he only credits the US with the evils, with the failures, never with the triumphs.

      Quite comical that after all the years, Robert "Draft Dodger" Peterson cannot abandon his anti-US positions. He is still, mentally, at UoW, avoiding the drafted, dodging his responsibility to society..

  11. And you know things are bad for Hillary when even Quirk is threatening to vote Republican -

    December 22, 2014
    Earth crumbling beneath the feet of Hillary's presidential campaign
    By Thomas Lifson

    As Hillary Clinton continues to collect honoraria well into six figures for speeches and “conversations with…” public appearances, her presidential prospects are evaporating. The “inevitable” nominee is experiencing something like a bad acid trip flashback, as memories resurface of a fresh faced, first term senator once again attracting the support -- or carefully calibrated neutrality -- of people the Clinton Dynasty expected fealty from. Beneath the haughty exterior, the former secretary of state may be suspecting subconsciously that people don’t like her very much.

    Two new slights to the former first lady’s entitlement to the Oval Office have recently appeared.

    Jonathan Allen of Bloomberg writes:

    One of the leading candidates to manage Hillary Clinton’s expected campaign for U.S. president in 2016 has withdrawn from the running.

    “I’ve been a part of some great campaigns and worked for terrific people, but want to explore other ways I can be of service,” Guy Cecil said in an e-mailed statement.

    Cecil, the political director of Clinton’s losing 2008 presidential race, was the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the past two election cycles. Democrats gained two seats in the 2012 election but lost control of the Senate in last month’s midterms.

    Translation: I ain’t getting on this sinking ship.

    Then there is this, from the brightest bulb in the dimming Kennedy family chandelier. Joe Battenfeld of the Boston Herald writes:

    Hillary Clinton could suffer a serious case of Kennedy deja vu if she makes another presidential run.

    This time it’s U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III who may help derail Clinton’s White House path by endorsing her potential 2016 opponent, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, much the same way the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy backed Barack Obama in 2008.

    “Whatever (Warren) wants to do she’s going to excel at,” the 34-year-old Kennedy said in interview with Herald editors and reporters. “She has been adamant that she’s not running for president and I take her at her word for that. If things change, we’ll see.”

    The fact that Kennedy doesn’t dismiss a Warren run is significant and comes after his Massachusetts colleague, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, revealed to Boston Herald Radio that he told Warren he’d back her if she ran for president.

    Kennedy could be an ace in the hole for Warren, the freshman Democrat who has energized liberals around the country with her attacks on greedy banks, Wall Street and Washington’s cozy relationship with lobbyists. (snip)

    Kennedy refused to tell the Herald who he’d side with in a Clinton-Warren matchup, but he offered profuse praise for the Massachusetts senator, saying she’s “given voice” to middle-class families and that’s why her message has “been resonating so much.”

    With the Kennedys signaling alignment with Warren, and the Obamas’ subterranean war with the Clintons quietly burning away, Hillary’s roster of allies is thinning out. Allies like Cecil declaring themselves out of the game of support are a tell. Forward-looking Democrats already see Hillary in the rear view mirror. Elizabeth Warren declares she isn’t running, but coyly declines to state she will not run.

    Stay tuned. Even a candidate as pathologically power-hungry as Hillary may conclude that the struggle is likely to be futile. Or maybe not. Either way will be amusing.

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  12. Dow Tops 18000 for First Time on Upbeat GDP Report


    Plunging Oil Prices Hurt Iraqi Kurds' Bid for Independence
    As oil prices fall, so do Kurdish hopes for an independent state in northern Iraq.

    1. The 40 percent drop in oil prices since June appears, however, to have thrown a wrench into the economic plans of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Almost all (96 percent) of its revenues came from oil and gas in 2013, and as the KRG's financial calculus has gone awry, many politicians sound less bullish in their talk of immediate independence.

      "Their confidence had soared over the previous year. The numbers were starting to look pretty good, and it was enough to look forward to 2015, when there'd be some excess oil-exporting capacity. But then the price of oil fell, and just kept falling," said Patrick Osgood, Kurdistan bureau chief for the industry publication Iraq Oil Report.

      Changes in the KRG's rhetoric, he said, "could almost be plotted against an oil price graph."

    2. "I think what ISIS and the oil price demonstrated is that the KRG is not ready for independence. It doesn't have an economy, it has a distribution system. That's symptomatic of a failed state, not of a rising state,"
      said Bilal Wahab, an energy expert and lecturer at the American University in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

  14. It amuses me the dolts who allow their identity to be influenced by the temporary political leaders that make decisions based on their own careers, sexual peccadilloes, opinion polls, the next election, political supporters and paymasters and equate that with patriotism as they define it. The dopes that buy into that are certainly not among those that bled for the idiotic, the stupid and outright cynical decisions.

    Suspend your brains boys, raise the flag higher.