tv Reel America The Panama Deception - 1992 CSPAN December 28, 2019 10:00pm-11:33pm EST
>> 30 years ago, the u.s. launched operation just cause, the invasion of panama. the goal was to restore the democratically elected government and arrest the dictator manuel noriega on drug trafficking charges. next, a critical look at the invasion and the media's coverage in a 1993 independent documentary, "the panama deception." actor elizabeth montgomery and including interviews with government officials and critics, the film argues many more civilians were killed and the u.s. government acknowledged and the media generally accepted the pentagon's version of events.
>> [speaking foreign language] the shooting began at midnight. everyone ran toward their home. people started hollering. children began crying. operation, complex 20 seven targets were hit simultaneously. know nothing. i was frightened. not to level the place, but to minimize damage to property and casualties. that was accomplished. >> my daughter did not belong to any group. she had nothing to do with noriega. she was innocent. she had nothing to do with all of this. and they killed her.
approaching. they were close. the helicopters began to shoot. people were running left and right without direction, without knowing where they were going. it was not just machine-gun fire. there were bombs. the noise was frightening. you could hear gunfire from all directions. the strange noise we had never heard before. running,re frightened, wondering what was going on. this sky was completely read. there was a tremor you can feel throughout the city. >> the invasion was swift, intense and merciless. when it was over, thousands lay dead and wounded and the country
was in shambles. millions of u.s. tax dollars were swallowed up in three days of brutal violence. the strategy was considered a stunning success. in many ways, the invasion served as a testing ground for the persian gulf war one year later. it is also an indication of the kinds of intervention the united states may undertake in the years to come. but still, big questions remain. what exactly happened during the invasion of panama? and why? >> this is the pbs evening news.
more than 20,000 u.s. soldiers and marines launched their attack in the early morning darkness -- >> as the invasion unfolded, americans stayed glued to their tv's and newspapers for coverage. but how much of the real picture did the media give them? >> the performance of the mainstream news media in the coverage of panama, has been just about total collaboration with the administration. not a critical murmur, not a critical perspective, not a second thought. >> the story that the white house was pushing, was getting this so-called narco-terrorist in a net. and that was the thrust of all of the coverage. when are we going to get noriega? have they let noriega get away? >> by late today, they had taken control of much of the country but their chief target, general manuel noriega, escaped. manuel noriega belongs to that special fraternity of international villains.
men like qadaffi, idi amin, and the ayatollah khomeni, whom americans just love to hate. >> the white house announced a reward -- >> the justice department that up a hotline to take on tips on noriega's whereabouts. >> they focused on noriega to the exclusion of what was happening to the panamanian people, to the exclusion to the bodies in the street, to the exclusion of the number dead, to the exclusion of what happened to the women and children in that country, during this midnight invasion. >> in some ways, the invasion of panama was no surprise given the history of relations between the countries. the united states refused to recognize panama's independence throughout the 1800s. when the u.s. proposal to build a canal was turned down by
columbia, u.s. policy changed. in 1903, the united states provided military backup, enabling panama to secede from columbia. by doing so, the united states secure the rights to take over the canal project that had been abandoned by the french. in a treaty negotiated between the french canal investors and united states, the americans were granted sovereign control in perpetuity of a 10 mile wide strip of land they called the canal zone. not included in the negotiations and no panamanian signed the treaty. the united states plays to the canal zone under military control. asked byroosevelt was what right he acquired possession of the canal. at least in the honest words, he
said i took it. right.ves you no never has. hopefully never will. >> the canal project had an impact on panama. the u.s. imported cheap labor from the caribbean, india, and asia, changing the racial makeup of the country. thousands of these workers died and those who remained lived as part of a new racial underclass. they created an apartheid system based on racial segregation. black people could not even use the same water fountain. the jim crow law that was practice in the southern united states was implemented in panama by the united states government.
>> after the canal was completed, the united states continue to expand its military presence and tighten its grip on panamanian politics. violent confrontations between panamanians and the u.s. military grew in the decades that followed. peaked in 1964 when exercisetried to their right to fly the flag in the canal zone. andanamanians were killed hundreds were wounded in the confrontation. in 1968, the panama government was overthrown in a military coup. the colonel in the national guard emerged as the new leader of panama. although he used repressive
measures, he became immensely popular. he introduced social reform that benefited the majority .opulation of black, indians >> it created a populist reformist process. administrator at the state university of new york served as the panamanian diplomat to the united nations. he was educated in panama. >> for the first time we had nation,ation of the people like myself could go to university and get a degree. were deprived an opportunity for once in their life to play an important role. >> in 1970 eight, relations
between the united states and panama reached a high point. treatiester negotiated to abolish the 19 oh three treaty, establishing a new relationship between the treaty,s -- 1903 establishing a new relationship between the countries. treaty required the united states to vacate its military bases and withdraw its troops by the year 2000. full control of the canal would be turned over to panama. although these treaties were a source of pride for panamanians, many conservatives had opposed them. canal zone's sovereign united states territory as much as alaska as well as the louisiana purchase. we bought it, we paid for it. general torrijos should be told
we are going to keep it. >> in november 1980, ronald reagan defeated jimmy carter in a landslide election victory. eight months later, on the night torrijos was killedric in a fiery plane crash. the circumstances are unclear. authorities said his plane crashed into the side of a mountain. witnesses said the plane exploded in flight. although his death was declared an accident, many suspected he was assassinated. some think manuel noriega may have been involved. many are convinced it was the cia that was responsible. >> i am convinced the cia killed torrijos. this i know because i worked with torrijos. jose martinez was one of
his aides for many years. >> they had to kill him. he was having a big influence over central america. especially among the revolutionary movement. torrijos represented the political solution. wasaiting in the wings, manuel noriega, the cia's primary contact in panama. noriega was head of the military intelligence and had a long standing relationship with the united states. he had been on the cia payroll since the when george bush 1960's. became director of the cia in 1976, under president ford, he inherited noriega as a contact. despite evidence that noriega was involved in drug trafficking, bush kept noriega on the payroll.
in fact, he increased noriega's salary to more than $100,000 a year and eliminated a requirement that intelligence reports on panama include information on drug trafficking. >> over the last 20 years men well noriega was recruited to be an asset, he had provided many important pieces of information to u.s. intelligence. >> peter is an analyst at the national security archives. the archive has assembled hundreds of documents revealing the details of noriega's relationship to u.s. intelligence. >> they paid him an incredible amount of taxpayer money. then decided his value to them was so important that his drug smuggling and other activities could be ignored.
swear i willnly support and defend the constitution of the united states. i will support and defend -- >> after george bush became vice president under ronald reagan, he was named head of the anti-drug campaign and once again took responsibility for monitoring noriega's intelligence activities. >> he seems to have been to theental, according documented evidence made available, in seeing to it noriega was taking care of. and the former director of the cia under carter claims he cut noriega off. he removed him from the u.s. payroll. bush put him back on. and gave him a raise. and developed a closer relationship then existed before. >> with support from the cia,
noriega was able to outmaneuver his rivals and in august of 1983, he became commander of the panamanian military. as the reagan administration expanded its covert war against the sandinista government in nicaragua, noriega became increasingly helpful. working with the cia, and with israeli arms dealers, noriega helped coordinate an arms supply network to provide weapons to contra bases in northern costa rica. >> it is undeniable that the same planes carrying arms from panama into costa rica were also carrying drugs. in fact, the people who were the pilots flying those arms to the
indicted andeen are serving time. thehis gave noriega assurance they would turn a blind eye to his brokering of cocaine deals in return for using his network to get the arms to the contras in northern costa rica. >> noriega's involvement in the drug traffic really increased his importance as a source for the cia and as someone who was able to conduct dirty tricks in the region for the cia. so it's no accident that the cia became the most prominent defenders of noriega against the drug charges, because that's the sort of thing which cia clients tend to do. when weafter time
install a strong man the third world, because we want them to be strong, we want them involved with the strongest local economic forces which are the drug traffickers. >> despite noriega's collaboration with many u.s. covert operations, he was becoming increasingly uncooperative with u.s. objectives in central america. in 1984, he angered the reagan administration by hosting latin american leaders at the contadora peace talks. the talks called for an end to u.s. intervention in central american affairs. yes-manga was not the
the united states wanted him to be. he did not like to be pushed around. he did not people like john poindexter coming down to his villa and telling him what he should or should not do. 1986, the iran-contra scandal erected. were now contacts under scrutiny. was fired.orth william casing fell ill with a brain tumor. all three of noriega's major protectors were out of government and that led to a shift in u.s. policy. sentiments within panama were turning against noriega as well. for three years he worked with
the dea in a sting operation code-named operation pisces. arrestedhorities hundreds of suspects and froze millions of dollars in panama's banks, disrupting the money-laundering business. the financial community was outraged and noriega's opponents mobilized against him. in washington, noriega's opponents testified against him, accusing him of murder and drug running. the u.s. media quickly turned it into a major story. >> but relations with panama are under a new cloud tonight because of news reports alleging -- >> senator jesse helms charged today that the military strongmen of panama, manuel noriega, is the number one drug trafficker in the americas. he said depending on how the situation -- >> new investigations on capitol hill. >> faced with pressure, in the
u.s. and panama, noriega introduced a wave of brutal repression, attacking protesters and jailing hundreds of opponents. the reagan administration now openly called for his removal. >> we do want noriega out of there and a return to a civilian democratic government. >> behind the scenes, the administration was negotiating with noriega, promising not to indict him on drug charges, if you would cooperate. gabrielle, the director of the independent commission on the u.s. invasion of panama, spoke to noriega about his negotiations. >> general noriega told us there were a number of demands placed andim through poindexter other meetings where the state department pressured him to change the policy on several
issues. he said the most pressing was the demand that noriega and the panamanian government allow the militaryxpand their presence and keep control over the 14 military bases that exist in panama. >> noriega refused to agree to the demands or to relinquish power in panama. two grandy 1988, juries indicted noriega, accusing him of drug trafficking and racketeering. it was the first time a foreign head of state had been indicted in the united states. the u.s. now undertook a systematic effort to overthrow noriega. economic sanctions were stepped up and additional troops were dispatched to panama. >> the united states tonight declared in effect that panama's general manuel noriega is a threat to this country's national security.
>> mr. noriega, the drug indicted, drug-related, indicted dictator of panama. we want to bring him to justice. we want to get him out and we want to restore democracy to panama. when you read these charges by a discountted dictator, them. they are total lies. still noriega from power, the united states turn to influence the 1989 panamanian national elections. the bush administration, working through the cia and the national endowment for democracy, funneled more than $10 million , ao the opposition candidate
wealthy lawyer educated in the united states and his vice presidential running mate. >> if the same scenario had taken place in the united states, they would have been illegal. accepting money from a foreign government for the purpose of influencing a domestic collection is illegal. >> those elections were irregular from the beginning. how can you call it a fair election? everyere applied to government that disagreed. to starvesanctions the vote. because people vote to get bread when they are hungry. i don't think that is democracy. >> the election was held and it became clear that the prd would lose. point, and not for the
identified. a crystallized public opinion against noriega. good evening. the violence escalated sharply this evening when government goons and taxed candidates opposed to noriega. >> attacked and beaten up on the streets. >> one of the candidates was beaten and injured today. >> later the candidate was released from the hospital. he was attacked by goons. the following day, president bush ordered additional troops into panama. what is necessary to protect the lives of american citizens and we will not be intimidated by the bullying tactics, brutal though they may be, of the dictator noriega. >> after the election fiasco, national assembly
declared a state of emergency and appointed noriega head of state. george bush, now openly encouraged the panamanian military to revolt against noriega. >> we would like to see him out of there. support and encouragement from the united states, a group of officers from the panamanian defense forces began planning a military coup to overthrow noriega. timesecretly met several to coordinate support for the overthrow. >> the role to be played by the united states was to block certain roads and make sure certain airfields were not made available for use by elements loyal to general noriega. >> with these assurances, the troops launched a coup attempt.
capturedadquarters and noriega. the americans did not carry through on the promises. forces loyal to noriega crushed the rebellion, freeing general noriega. president bush later denied any u.s. involvement in the operation. >> i can tell you that is not true. we have noeat argument with the panamanian defense forces. we have good relations with the panamanian defense forces. >> one journalist in panama during the coup attempt disputes these claims. >> the idea on the american side was to leave these plotters along, to seduce them into
believing they had the support of the united states and abandon them so that the excuse could be made we had to smash the pdf completely. we could not rely on disgruntled officers inside the panamanian are made to rise up and we would have to do this ourselves. >> after the coup attempt, 1300 u.s. troops were flown into panama, and equipment was deployed. the u.s. military stepped up its campaign of intimidation and provocation, setting up conducting offensive maneuvers outside of u.s. jurisdiction. >> [speaking foreign language] have blocked passage here.
what security? people wouldn never threaten them. what is wrong with them? charged with bayonets to scare us. they said not to step onto that area. >> it came to an inch that day the killing did not start. because they were ready to kill the panamanian people. >> in the final months before the invasion, the army special operations command sent a secret team to panama.
>> there were numerous actions undertaken by the delta team in the united states press against the united states. infiltrations of the united states position, shots fired in the direction of the united states perimeter and position. roughing up of the united states citizens in the street. sabina virgo, a national labor organizer, was in panama just weeks before the invasion. >> provocations against the panamanian people by the united states military troops were very frequent in panama and they had several results and in my opinion probably a couple of different intents. one, i think, was to create an international incident, was to have united states troops just hassle the panamanian people until an incident resulted and from that incident the united states could then say that they were going into panama for the protection of american life,
which is in fact exactly what happened. >> a group of u.s. marines ran a military roadblock in front of pdf headquarters and were fired on by panamanian guards. one lieutenant, a u.s. marine intelligence officer, was killed. the marines were reported to be part of a group called the hard chargers, knowing confrontations with pdf forces. the pentagon claims they were lost. local witnesses said they were with and exchanged fire the pdf headquarters, wounding a soldier and civilians. >> an american serviceman has been killed. >> an example of general noriega 's cruelty. americanath of an
officer which president bush condemned today. >> a navy officer and his wife were detained. he beaten and threatened with death. servicemen, threatening that man's wife. strong support for a reprisal was all but guaranteed. four days later on december 20, u.s. troops invaded panama. the invasion was code-named operation just cause. shortly after midnight, u.s. troops simultaneously attacked 27 targets, many of which were in densely populated areas. one of the primary targets in panama city was the headquarters of the panamanian defense forces, located in the crowded
neighborhood of el chorillo. u.s. troops shelled the area for four hours before moving in and calling for surrender. >> we ask you to surrender. if you do not, we are prepared to level each and every building. surrender now. , we saw thes after helicopters. things like that. we hit the ground. >> it soon became clear that the objectives were not limited only to military targets. according to witnesses, many of the surrounding residential neighborhoods were deliberately attacked and destroyed. >> the helicopters firing
machine and rockets indiscriminately. they were not just looking for military targets. they were firing at many civilians. people were trying to escape. >> they shot at everything that moved, without mercy and without thinking whether there were children or women or people fighting. instead, everything that moved they shot. >> we thought they would take noriega. they said that is what they wanted. they would take him and respect everyone else. feween going on for a hours. the soldiers say tell everybody
to come out with their hands up. they direct us to the church. when we were in the church about 6:00 in the morning, all of a sudden, the building started to burn in front of the church. , they tried to run out to get water. the american soldiers told them to get out. some people are stubborn. the americans shot up in the air. the people got scared and ran back. the north americans were denying people access to their homes. they sent people back and threatened them with their machine guns and forbid anyone to get close to the houses. then they began to set the houses on fire. soldiers knowian
each ally, how to go in and come out. from one street to another street. the only way the american soldiers could get rid of that danger was to burn down the buildings. soldiersthe panamanian would have nowhere to hide. >> i am unaware of going through and burning down buildings. you get fires that are started by weapons. i've not seen any reports of military folks setting buildings on fire. >> [speaking foreign language] the north americans began burning down el chorillo at about 6:30 in the morning. they would throw a small device into a house and would catch on fire. they would burn a house and then
testing ground for newly developed high tech weapons such as the stealth fighter, the apache attack helicopter, and laser guided missiles. there were reports that can't be explained indicating the use of experimental weaponry. >> [speaking foreign language] we have testimony about combatants who died with their guns as a result of a laser. we know of automobiles that were cut in half by these lasers of atrocities committed by weapons that fire poison darts which produce massive bleeding. >> i think there is a probability there was a use of sophisticated weaponry to test it. has conductedk
research into the invasion. all, there was a use beyond any conceivable necessity of firepower. forcen excessive use of beyond any possible justification. >> president bush wanted to make certain that this was going to be a success. this was going to be his vindication, denial of the wimp factor in spades. so they sent down a force that wasn't going to encounter any effective resistance but simply overwhelm the opposition and the fact that it would cause tremendous peripheral damage, damage to innocent civilians on a wide scale, was not of concern in the planning. >> what we intended was to reduce collateral damage. that means if the target is right here, you are trying not to have damage to other places.
you are trying to have damage to a specific target. and they worked. >> my god, we were sending in artillery and air strikes against a very heavily populated urban area. there was absolutely no question that there were going to be immense numbers of civilian casualties. ande walked among the dead saw the tanks crush are dead. we saw a great number of civilian cars with families women, and a
driver torn to pieces and crushed by the tanks. >> the soldiers would go over the people's bodies. some of them wounded. of men well, alexander, and some others whose bodies were totally destroyed. during the days and weeks following the invasion, the u.s. policy of applying overwhelming deadly force continued. there were many reports of indiscriminate killings and executions of unarmed civilians. >> we have eye witness accounts on the part of a number of panamanians where soldiers took panamanians who had been captured after the invasion and executed them on the street. >> i have seen no reports of
u.s. soldiers executing anyone in panama. we have carefully checked every such report and if we think there is evidence the u.s. soldier murdered a panamanian, we will court-martial that soldier. that behavior would be unprofessional and unacceptable and illegal. was takennity leader to the balboa high school detention camp morning after the attack. >> [speaking foreign language] there were many panamanian troops at the elbow of concentration camp. they did not seem to know what was going on. they were sitting on the grass with their arms and feet tied with plastic bands. witnessed their execution right in front of us.
eight of the soldiers at the entrance were executed by u.s. troops. were many reports of unprovoked killings at roadblocks. one woman told investigators how her brother and friends were killed on december 23, three days after the initial attack. of the passengers were put facedown on the ground. they were riddled with bullets. they were going to visit family members when they were detained and killed in the street. homicidegh 19 cases of and executions were filed, all but two cases were reviewed and dismissed.
during the invasion, accessed by the news media was tightly controlled. the pentagon flew in a press pool from the major u.s. media. the pool did not reach panama until after the crucial first four hours of the attack and were restricted to u.s. military bases for the next day and a half. notur regret is we were able to use the media pool more effectively. the goal was to get reporters to see from themselves the operation. once they got there, we had a breakdown in our ability to move them around. helicopters had to be pulled off. we needed them for the operation. >> the press pool was managed from the day they arrived. they were only taken to see what the government wanted them to see. there has been continuous suppression and denial of the extent of damage inflicted
during that invasion. >> many journalists who tried to investigate were stopped by u.s. troops from entering areas that were attacked. one of the few journalists able to penetrate the military was a panamanian photographer. >> [speaking foreign language] graphs inady taken 40 the area. photographs in the area. i had taken photos of dead bodies in the street when a soldier told me i could not walk any further. they wanted to take my camera. i did not let them. they made me open the camera and expose the role of film with the shots of the dead bodies.
be takingould not films out of cameras. you get young guys, they are concerned, they do that sometimes. i don't think that was the norm. journalistpanamanian was covering the attack on the night of the invasion when he was stopped by u.s. troops. >> [speaking foreign language] ofwe almost got to the edge el chorrillo. as soon as we were able to, we started videotaping. the north american troops took us tapes and placed virtually under arrest until the bombing was over. a spanish news photographer who was able to get a picture of bodies lined up in the morgue was shot under strange circumstances. reports ofo the
colleagues, an american soldier took aim and shot him. >> the u.s. military also targeted the panamanian media. radio stations were taken over and destroyed. tv stationsoccupied and began transmitting their own signal. many journalists were arrested or fired. one of panama's largest ransacked,was rated, and closed down by american troops. the u.s. military's control over all of the media was so effective, there is almost no video footage of the first three days of the invasion other than what was shot by the militaries camera crews. >> the very tight press control you used to see in russia under
stalin which was finally ending under gorbachev, that we have seen the united states do the opposite. a new degree of press control, which we never had in vietnam. so the american people did not know what would happened until it was over and too late. >> during the week of the invasion, more than 18,000 people who fled from the areas of attack were forced into temporary detention centers created by the u.s. forces. >> [speaking foreign language] wh
>> [speaking foreign language] >> there was a battle. the weight get it over with you find the people who are most likely to shoot you and detain them. that was the goal of that operation. >> [speaking foreign language] concentrationthe camp of balboa, a school. it was surrounded by barbed wire and full of soldiers. when we arrived, they picked all the men between the ages of 15
and 55 and put us on an army truck. shouting.were they were pushing us around and we did not know where they were taking us. they took us to a secret place and we were submitted to an intense interrogation. a card in front of us and took our picture. men between 15 and 55 had this card with their id number and refugee number. >> as part of the invasion, the u.s. forces worked with panamanian officials to institute repressive measures that continue today. american forces took control of the public buildings, ministries, and universities. almost every organization
opposed to united states policy had its offices destroyed. thousands of individuals were arrested. >> endara and the attorney general wrote down the names of their political enemies, gave them to u.s. military personnel, who, going around like stormtroopers, would drag people out of their houses, take them to detention centers. only because their name was given by one of these officials. there was no legal case against these people whatsoever. >> i got it. >> get the door. opened the door. >> get down on the floor. u.s. marines. government officials had to
go underground, many of them, to not be arrested, including professors. there were former officials that were arrested and some of them prison. the list runs into the thousands. >> [speaking foreign language] >> why are they after him? he's the one that is killing people. why are they harassing a worker defending other workers? >> [speaking foreign language] 26 times the u.s. troops were
here searching my house. they would surround everything with tanks and would take books, personal documents. they would search it whenever they felt like it. mayor andrson was the a member of the national assembly. after the invasion, she was subjected to a campaign of slander and harassment. the southern command put up one poster with my photo. if you see her, call such and such a number at southern command. they interrogated my children, they would ask them where their mother was, where their father was. they would ask them for information about us. >> the editor of the newspaper had been openly critical of the new government and u.s. invasion. >> [speaking foreign language]
understand they've been holding me 30 days and no one has talked to me about my case. this is what we want a decision on. is there just is here? >> he was imprisoned for 18 months. no charges were ever filed against him. they arrested close to 7,000 panamanian individuals. they arrested almost every trade union leader, the leaders of the nationalist parties, of progressive parties, of left parties in panama. they arrested people who were cultural leaders. there are still hundreds of panamanians who remain in jail, with no due process, with no formal charges against them. >> as a result of the u.s. invasion, an estimated 20,000 panamanians lost their homes. hardest hit were residents in
♪ >> the survivors of the invasion received little assistance from the panamanian government or the united states. many moved into bombed out buildings and makeshift shelters. several thousand were moved to airfield. one, it is anumber where we hostle each of the families. in these cubicles we have as much as four camps and mattresses for the kids. waslthough the camp
administered by the panamanian red cross and the united states agency, u.s. military police would frequently enter the ground and restrict access to make arrests. permission, our camera crew enters to interview refugees about their experience. even though we had authorization, u.s. military police and the criminal investigation division of the u.s. army tried to stop our crew from videotaping. they said to detain anybody from filming. >> i don't think that is right. i think the world he has the right to know the truth. we are the victims. we lose everything. we lose our families. >> i cannot allow you.
>> we are the victims or. we want the world to know the truth. why are you against it? here.have the right to be we are notopping, slowing down. that is your business. >> why do they want to slow down the reporters? they want to know the truth. they won't let them interview us. why? why? >> hundreds of angry refugees surrounded the camera crews forcing the military to withdraw.
finally, the refugees could tell their story. >> we are tired of being stuck inside this hanger. many old people are sick. there is no medical attention. the children, what are they going to put an end to this? the victims of the presidency. why did it have to be us? why didn't they choose the rich neighborhood? was our street, they have forgotten about us. the people are in bad shape. they have no clothes, nothing to wear. i buy them clothes sometimes and sometimes food out of my own pocket. one cannot do that every day. there could be more shootings
and thefts because the people are very riled up. >> we want answers. this is not democracy. there are plenty worse because in noriega -- [indiscernible] panamanians are reported to have died. 60 panamanians were killed. we have had really only one report today so we don't know the extent. reports we are getting from the pentagon, all the information is with the
information we were getting out of panama city. >> how many people were killed and how many were there? these questions may never be answered. undertook states efforts to conceal the dead, how they died, and the location of their bodies. children died, pregnant women died, victims who had nothing to do with politics, the invasion of the noriega regime. >> what happened in panama is a hidden horror. many of the bodies were bulldozed into piles and put in the swamps where they were collected. other bodies were left in the garbage shoots at the poor projects, where they died from the shooting from the artillery
of the machine guns. others were said to have been pushed into the ocean. when we went down to el chorio, there were still dead bodies inside the cars. the people never thought they would see some many dead bodies. right on the beach they are being burned. many of the doctors and hospital personnel were detained and thousands of documents were confiscated. >> the truth of the matter is we don't know how many panamanians we have killed. we should have more information on what happened. how many civilians were killed?
human rightsal commission interviewed hundreds of people in an effort to determine how many died. what we have is different testimonies that help us arrive suree conclusion that for there were more than 4000 people who died. >> you have the u.n. human rights commission estimating because of two major human rights independent 2500,zations estimating 3000, 3500. estimating about 4000, that is an enormous human total. >> the u.s. military said 250 civilians were killed. there isn't a credible source in panama that believes that is true.
whether it is ambulance drivers, human rights monitors, doctors who worked in hospitals. neighbors of bombed out blocks, this is clearly false. be so easy told tell for any journalist. they are not telling it. reading thepoint of european press as well as the american press when the invasion occurred. asediately i could see that the american press was talking about a couple hundred civilian casualties, at the very beginning the european press was talking about thousands of civilians dead or too thousand civilians dead. american people didn't really know what had happened in panama. you would think from the video clips that we have seen -- thats whole thing the people of panama were jumping up and down with glee.
that all of us had just moved in livesr without taking any at all for liberty and freedom. [indiscernible] they came to save us, i thank them. when they interviewed people in panama about what they thought of it, they were interviewing white, middle-class people who could speak english. they didn't go into the poor neighborhoods where people had been bombed. seeing media going to the bombed areas and talking to the people who talk to families or lost everything they had, they focused on the invasion as a tactical event. was it effective? did it work well? will be losing many american lives? not all the news is good.
american casualties are now at 15 dead. they also announced one american civilian has been killed to make a total of 16. >> it was a schoolteacher apparently hit by stray gunfire. he is the 20th american to die. americanocus with lives. the only lives that were precious, the only lives they want to report on, the only lives they want to consider was an american life. >> tonight, as we have this program we hear from president bush on the high price these young men paid. we say goodbye to them. ♪ >> every human life is precious. yet i have to answer yes, it has been worth it.
>> in the month following the invasion, panamanians were shocked to discover mass graves where hundreds, perhaps thousands of bodies were dumped into pits and buried by u.s. troops. a report of what some were calling a mass grave, which i think is a term that is imprecise. i didn't say we had any mass burials. there was one case of some cannot prove to you that number.
[crying] >> today, there have been 50 mass graves throughout panama. the u.s. military was directly responsible for the killing of men, women, and children that are in these mass graves. these mass graves exist throughout panama and some are believed to be on u.s. military bases, which create the difficulty of access to these mass graves. corpses we found many young people, 15, 16, 18 years old.
people in their 60's and 70's. we found people killed from shock at the back of their head. dead with their hands tied. although the pentagon insists that no more than 516 panamanians were killed, they do conceive that over 75% of those killed were civilians. families continue to demand the full accounting of the missing and the dead. >> who has the right to how many people should be killed in an invasion? killed if one person got in an invasion that is illegal and violates principle of human rights, the number of people,
is clear that this was illegal. not debatable. >> the panama invasion violates the unit -- the u.n. charter which has specific prohibitions against an invasion of a sovereign country. these prohibitions are very strict and clear under international law. the violation of human rights violates the geneva convention which protects civilians from hadscriminate acts that occurred against civilian victims in panama. >> the biggest, most important papers in this country endorsed the panama invasion. the washington post, los angeles times, strong endorsements. the new york times, the wall street journal. everyone of them. a little body known as the united nations had a vote about this. they voted by an overwhelming
majority to condemn the invasion violation of in international law. i was interested to see that night on the nbc nightly news norville, no an mention of that vote. on cbs, the bastion of responsible broadcasting, i found a full 10 seconds lavished on that story. general assembly adopted a resolution deploring the u.s. in panama as a violation of international law. >> the media was so cooperative. the media are owned by the same interests being descended in central america by the government policy. the media are not close to corporate america. they are not favorable to
corporate america. they are corporate america. they are an integral part of corporate america. we are a country in which wealth controls. it is true of all countries more or less. of ournique because materialism and the concentration of wealth here. even our democratic processes, money demo -- dominates politics and we all know it. we need desperately to find new ways to hear independent voices. willis the only way we find the truth. the truth about the invasion of panama remains hidden from most americans. those who have studied the official accounts have discovered many contradictions and arrived at disturbing conclusions. i have studied everything the
president has said. none of those things single or collective makes any constitutional sense. >> one of the reasons for the take -- it had the renouncing to be the united states president to show his forcefulness. chance for the military to show what it could do. >> if they show an american marine, that is real bad. if they threaten and brutalized the wife of an american citizen, sexually threatening the lieutenants wife from kicking him in the groin over and over again, this president will do something about it. >> when he would say the loss of
american life was the last straw , there must be something we could have done. there must have been papers we could've filed. we could've gone to the world court. the organizations of the american state, in a country because of this, absolutely ridiculous. >> the excuse that the invasion ,as to protect american lives the fact is there are 35,000 american citizens. is simply no evidence. i don't think the administration has ever bothered to give any evidence to that. the united states has been to safeguard lives of americans to defend democracy in panama. bush said to restore democracy in panama. how in the world you restore
that of which has never existed. panama has never been a democracy since we created for our own purposes in 1903. all we did was go down to restore american control and dominance in panama. >> the new government installed by the invasion was headed by the u.s.-backed candidates from the aborted national election. hours before the invasion they were taken to a u.s. military base where they were sworn in as president and vice president. enjoyedgovernment has little popular support within panama. antigovernment demonstration occurs regularly and there have been numerous attempts from within the panamanian police force to seize military control from the government. u.s. troops were mobilized several times to crush these
insurrections. >> every time there is a crisis, the u.s. military takes over. , they don't trust the military force. the conflict is still there. if thegarchy knows that united states were not there, they could have ruined this country. it minimizes the significance of america's military occupation in panama. we are very normalized now. you don't see them.
there are a few here and there. >> of course he is not going to , he might nota is even call this an invasion. he lives in the nice area. interests are protected. he is not running panama. he is a puppet of the u.s. government. running all of the ministers in panama. he does only what he is told to do. bush administration another reason was to remove noriega to stem the flow of drugs into the united states. according to a u.s. general
accounting office report, cocaine traffic through panama may have doubled in the two years following the invasion. there is considerable evidence that key members of panama's new government including president dara were involved with companies that laundered money. >> the involvement of the ment as an govern whole in drug trafficking, arms trafficking, in fact involves most of the panamanian elite. it involves most of the people who now run this u.s. approved panamanian government. know -- panamanians no they are the real drug traffickers. they have had a history of the oligarchy being involved in drug
trafficking. >> in the years preceding and throughout the invasion, the u.s. government and the major media consistently portrayed manuel noriega as america's most hated and evil enemy. became a mythic figure. there was an attempt to personify noriega all that was evil. it is very interesting. when general noriega and his officers captured and they discovered the red pajamas, the voodoo equipment, and the alleged cocaine that he was using. the pornographic pictures in his desk. chileen to have been in with united nations at the time of the overthrow of the president. the sameeresting that desk appeared in chile with the pornographic pictures, red pajamas, and the cocaine. the propaganda was in order
to invade panama. i don't know how americans can be so stupid. how can you be so stupid? , they have noriega at gunpoint. what they really wanted is to destroy the panamanian army. which is what is happening now. >> although the u.s. governments reason make no mention of eliminating the panamanian forces, u.s. officials later admitted that destroying the pdf was a central part of the plan. >> it was not only mr. noriega but his accomplices and underlings. they stood for a reprehensible government.
he had to take down not only mr. noriega but take down the elements of his supporting entity to reduce the pdf to nothing. >> the objective invasion. it was to destroy the pdf. clearly the year 2000 panama will be responsible for the security of the canal. be responsible for the safety of a nation you need to have an army. it means the extension, the continuity of the united states military force. historically it is the united states position.
what they really want is to stay in panama after the year 2000. that is what they have achieved. to destroy the panamanian defense forces with u.s. interests to make in the control center for all of latin america. the invasion sets the stage for the war in the 21st century in south america. the invasion from washington to -- thecity took place southern command was to get another 2000 miles of intervention capabilities, which takes us right into the heart of the coca producing region. entirely likely to take place. ofpenalize another example destroying a life to save it.
it is a case of how airspace is for the doctrine among countries of the world. it has long been u.s. practice to invade these countries, get what we want, and leave the people that live there to rot. >> our country has been ruined, our hopes have been destroyed, and we still have no real answers. are willing to risk our lives fighting for our rights. hish, may children be spared what my daughters are being forced to live through. he should ask god for forgiveness for all the damage caused. >> one year ago the people of panama lived in fear under the
sum of a dictator, today democracy is restored. panama is free. [applause] >> in march, 1991, president ndara, -- later that year a lot was passed by the united states congress to renegotiate the panama canal continuedo ensure u.s. military presence in panama. on the grounds that panama was no longer capable of defending the canal. ♪
you can watch archival films on public affairs in their entirety on a weekly series real america. saturdays at 10:00 p.m. and sundays at 4:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv. american history tv products are available at the new c-span online store. go to c-span store.org to see what is new for american history tv and check out all of the c-span product. >> madame c.j. walker was thought to be the wealthiest african-american business woman of her time. we visit the madame c.j. walker, empowering women exhibit to learn about her impact in the early 20th century.