Highlights from Panama:
“An extraordinary account of a largely untold, dramatically underreported and often unbelievable story of how the United States wooed, befriended and become disenchanted with Manuel Antonio Noriega.”
- Panama is a detailed non-fiction account of the Noriega regime and Operation Just Cause written by journalist and long-time Newsweek correspondent, Kevin Buckley.
- Although American, Kevin presents the information like a true journalist—neutrally, factually and objectively.
- If you thought military actions were all well-planned and meticulously executed, this book will have you thinking again (and again).
- Very little in life is black and white—this definitely includes everything leading up to Operation Just Cause and the incident itself.
I first learned about Operation Just Cause on a walking tour of the El Chorrillo, the neighborhood that sustained massive damage in lives and property at the hands of the U.S. military on December 20, 1989. As a future Panama expat, I am committed to learning Panama’s history so I can have a deeper understanding of current day culture, opinions and politics. The icing on the cake of this particular story was insight into some U.S. history as well.
Similar to The Path Between the Seas and The Darien Disaster, this was a pretty dry read with many players and events leading up to the bombing. I really appreciated the neutrality with which the story was told—Kevin Buckley addressed the ineptitude and self service of all players involved in this tragedy regardless of which country they were from.
Any residual belief that my (U.S.) government is motivated by saving lives has been shattered. I am flabbergasted by the opportunities they squandered to oust Noriega in a way that preserved the rights and lives of those they claimed to be defending. The U.S. only cared about the U.S.
To make matters worse, most involved in Operation Just Cause were modern day Keystone Cops movie, including our president and his key advisors. The one woman who was clued in was completely dismissed.
On the Panamanian side, with only a few exceptions, those who were in a position to help their country and their people chose only to serve themselves.
I’m proud of Panama for rising up after Noriega and Operation Just Cause, doing an amazing job with the canal, and turning themselves into the kind of country that I, and many other aspiring expats, am excited to live in.
And, it’s gratifying to understand some of the graffiti that I’ve seen while walking around Casco Viejo and El Chorrillo in Panama City. With understanding comes empathy, which is something I strive for wherever I happen to be.
Here are some interesting articles if you’d like to learn more about Noriega and Operation Just Cause: