On December 20th 1989 American troops invaded Panama. The invasion was to free the people of there drug dealing dictator and restore democracy to the country. The mainstream media wanted the American people to think that the invasion was well executed and with good reason. Alternative Medias wanted you to hear the other half of the story which may or may not be the truth. When you watch the news on TV you get a story that you may not be sure is the truth. For most of the population they do not even realize that the mainstream media is portraying only part of the story.
Alternative media although is much tougher to find seems to be a better source for information. The invasion of Panama was portrayed differently by both the mainstream and alternative Medias this will be shown in this essay. The Mainstream Model Of course as we all know, or should know, in the mainstream media you really only get one side of the story. And because we live so close to the United States and get all their television channels the one side of the story that is portrayed is the pro American side.
The United States claimed that the reason for the invasion was to restore democracy and protect American lives. White house spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that Bush ordered U.S. military forces into action to restore democracy to Panama and to protect American lives. This seems like a fair reason to demolish a small, poor Central American country. "American lives were clearly in danger and our ability to honor obligations under the Panama Canal Treaty was threatened by the violent actions", he said. President Bush also justified the attack on the grounds that any country has the right to protect its citizens from life-threatening situations. And that provisions in the charters entitle the U.S. "to defend our military personnel, United States nationals and U.S. installations", he said.
Of course the President of the United States tried his best to avoid any bloodshed but Noriega just would not accept any rational efforts from the States". The President has made every effort to resolve the situation peacefully... General Noriega has rejected all of these efforts", Fitzwater said. The triggering of the invasion was an apparent unprovoked attack on defenseless American officers. The troops moved in after several days of tension triggered by the shooting death in Panama on Saturday night of a U.S. military officer.
The States were very stern on saying that the death of the American soldier was unprovoked. The United States said the killing and beating were unprovoked. On the other side of the story the Panama claimed that the killing was clearly not unprovoked. Panama claimed the Americans were driving through checkpoints surrounding Noriega's headquarters.
At first the killing of the American officer seemed to go unattended to by the American government but as the Toronto Star has it the Monday after the killing there was a new light on the event. At first, Bush administration officials downplayed the killing, saying it was an isolated incident. By Monday, they were describing it as a major threat to the United States. It seems that after thinking about the death over the weekend someone in the Bush administration must have figured that the event could be as good cover up for invading Panama. On that unfortunate night in December 1989 Panama City was under attack by the United States. In an operation codenamed "Just Cause", thousands of U.S. troops invaded Panama early yesterday to end the Panamanian dictator's "dark chapter of dictatorship" and took control of much of the country.
There was no doubt that the Americans would avoid residential areas at all costs and focus their attack on the military headquarters. But the major brunt of the fighting was near the military headquarters, where an area encompassing several city blocks appeared to be on fire, spending plumes of black and orange smoke billowing into the sky. The invasion of course was not for the benefit of the United States but was for the small country of Panama. It was aimed at crushing remaining pockets of opposition, freeing civilians taken hostage and restoring order in a nation plunged suddenly into confusion and disorder. When we flipped on our televisions in the days after the invasion on Panama of course our first concern was the amount of causalities. To be even more specific we all wanted to know how many faithful American soldiers were killed so that we could focus our mourning.
In the first couple days of the invasion, TV journalists had one nagging question: "How many American soldiers have died?" . This question, which was repeated over and over on the TV seemed to drown out the other important questions that needed to be asked such has: How many Panamanians have been killed? , Has this invasion been lawful under international law? What is the foreign reaction to the invasion?
And so on. Instead of anxiety for everyone involved in the Panama invasion we only seemed to get concern for the precious American lives. On the morning of the invasion a CBS reporter named Kathleen Sullivan came on to report about the US soldiers", Nine killed, more then 50 wounded. How long can this fighting go on? " With that brief sentence we really do not get much information on many people have died, all we get is the number of American deaths which I suppose is the most important statistic we needed.
What Kathleen failed to inform the public with was that hundreds of Panamanian civilians and soldiers had already been killed at the same time has those nine American soldiers. After the attack TV reporters went in to Panama to get the reaction of the civilians on how they felt about the invasion. Two weeks after the invasion, CBS news sponsored a public opinion poll in Panama found the residents in rapture over what happened. Even 80 percent of those whose homes had been blown up or their relatives killed by American forces said it was worth it. Their enthusiasm did not stop with the ousting of General Manuel Noriega, however.
A less heavily advertised result of the poll was that 82 percent of the sampled Panamanian patriots did not want Panamanian control of the canal, preferring either partial of exclusive control by the US. If a concerned American citizen were to have heard this on TV days or weeks after the invasion it would be a very relaxing and satisfying poll to hear. To know that the people that were attacked were happy with what happened then you would not have to feel any guilt or embarrassment that your country that is many times larger and more powerful took out a small defenseless country. Now that the mainstream model has been portrayed it is time to give the other half of the story. The Alternative Model The alternative side of the story seems like it is on a different spectrum then mainstream stories. To find anything alternative you actually have to go searching for it unlike the mainstream which is right in front of you.
As was said before the United States claimed that the reason for the invasion was to protect the American people, restore democracy in Panama and to rid the country of its horrible dictator. The funny thing about the reasons for the invasion are that Panama has never been a democracy so to restore democracy in Panama would seem to be a difficult task. Also, if Noriega was such a huge threat to the American people then why on earth would the CIA have had him on their pay roll? When George Bush 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 pay roll, in fact he increased his salary to more then 100,000 American dollars a year and eliminated a requirement that intelligence reports on Panama include information on drug trafficking.
All this makes you wonder that maybe after all the years of using Noriega as an asset the American government decided that he was not worth the trouble anymore and that's why they turned their backs to him. Despite Noriega's collaboration with many U.S. 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 Contador a peace talk. The talk called for an end to U.S. intervention in Central American Affairs. Obviously this talk did not end intervention in Central American affairs by the U.S. because if it did there would be no essay to write. The final event that leads to the invasion was the death of the American officer at a PDF road block in Panama.
As the mainstream story told it the soldier was unarmed and lost and did absolutely nothing to provoke the attack. The alternative story tells a different side that seems to make a little more sense then the mainstream. The incident according to the Los Angeles times, which is not an alternative media but in this case seems to tell the truth, said that the killing was actually provoked. It was a step in a pattern of aggressive behaviour by a small group of United States troops who frequently tested the patience and reaction of Panamanian forces, particularly at roadblocks, which they would "dare" by driving up and then refusing to stop or suddenly pulling away. The American's in this case were not lost; and they were armed. They drove up to a very sensitive roadblock and when told to leave the car by the PDF, the American's all gave them the finger, shouted an obscenity, and drove off.
The Panamanians then opened fire. To add strength to this report a marine guard said, the four Americans "were out of bounds, owing to the fact that they had no reason to be there. The whole world knows that they shouldn't have gone there. They messed up.
If the United States set up a barricade anywhere and someone acted in the same way we would also start firing". Not to say that the death of any human life is not a loss but in this case the death of the American soldier really helped out the United States because for them it gave a just cause for claiming the invasion was to protect American lives. On the night of the invasion the American media claimed that they were only going after certain non populated areas and that they would only use the necessary amount of force. The story again seems to be very different in the alternative media. "On December 20th, 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". If the attack was supposed to avoid heavily populated areas and neighborhoods then the attack was a huge failure. It looked as though the attack was almost deliberately targeting populated areas and not avoiding unnecessary civilian casualties. "It soon became clear that the objectives were not limited to only military targets.
According to witnesses, many of the surrounding residential neighborhoods were deliberately attacked and destroyed". In the mainstream media only white English speaking residents were interviewed said that they were happy with attack and the American soldiers acted in a civil manor. According to a civilian in Panama the soldiers did far from treat the people properly and go about the attack in a civil manor, "They shot everything that moved, without mercy and without thinking whether there were children or women or people fighting. Instead everything that moved they shot". To add to the fact that the soldiers did not act civilly a translator for a Spanish speaking civilian had this to say, "The North Americans began burning down El Chorillo at about 6: 30 in the morning. They would through a small device into the house and would catch on fire.
They would burn a house and then move to another and begin the process all over again. They burned from one street to the next. They coordinated the burning through walkie-talkies". With that said it seems that the American invasion of Panama did much more then just attack the military bases. A major reason for the invasion according to the American government was to rid the country of Noriega who was a drug trafficking dictator". Mr. Noriega, the drug indicted, drug related, indicted dictator of Panama.
We want to bring him to justice". You would assume that if your goal is to rid the country of its leader getting him would be on the top of the list in the first hours of the invasion. According to a European diplomat in Panama the American forces had the knowledge of Noriega's location in the first hours of the invasion but did not act. A European diplomat in Panama City claimed that less then three hours after the invasion began he telephoned the U.S. military to inform them that Noriega was two houses away in the flat of his mistress's grandmother, but the military disregarded the information.
The U.S. may have decided to not go after Noriega in the early stages of the invasion because they wanted to carry out what they originally intended, crippling the country. Did the U.S. decline to capture Noriega in the first few hours of the invasion because it was determined to first cripple his base of power, the PDF, and score a grand military triumph that would enable George Bush to shred the wimp image that plagued him? This is all very interesting because after the first couple days of the invasion even though the Americans could have had Noriega in custody with in hours of first strike they went out to say that Noriega narrowly escaped. In the days after the invasion the concern is always how bad the causalities are?
Unfortunately, it seems the only important lives to talk about are the precious American lives. "They focused with utter ethnocentrism only on American lives. The only life that was precious, the only life that one could report on, the only life that one could consider a serious loss was an American life". The mainstream media was only concerned with American lives and did not ever even seem to mention the fact that many thousands of Panamanians had been killed at the same time as the couple of American soldiers.
The Pentagon claimed there were only 23 U.S. troops were killed. No consideration was given by our government or media to the thousands of Panamanian soldiers and civilians killed, wounded, or in other ways harmed by the invasion. Nothing was said of the thousands left homeless. To make matters worse the mainstream media basically lied about the amount of Panamanians died.
The government gave an estimate of the deaths in Panama saying that there were 516 dead but most of them were military soldiers. The truth of the matter is that much more then 516 Panamanians died during this invasion. "What we have is different testimonies that help us arrive to the conclusion that for sure, there were more then 4,000 people that died". Another form of deception by the Americans was to hide the dead Panamanian bodies. This is just the worst of the worst when it comes to how bad the Americans were lying about the amount died. "In the months following the invasion, Panamanians were shocked to discover the existence of mass graves where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bodies were hastily dumped into pits and buried by U.S. troops".
If lying about the amount died was not enough then hiding the evidence is. It looks as though the American government and armed forces have no shame when it comes to military practices and will do whatever it takes to wipe themselves clean of any wrong doing. After the invasion reporters went into Panama to get the reaction of the civilians that were involved. In the mainstream media the people interviewed were happy that the Americans came in and only white English speaking people were interviewed. "When they interviewed people in Panama about what they thought of it, they were invariably interviewing white, middle class people, who could speak English. They really didn't go into the poor neighborhoods were people had been bombed.
Did you see one media actually go into the bombed areas and talk to people who had lost a family or lost everything they had in the bombings? The only reason that I could come up with to why the U.S. media would avoid the bombed areas would be because like hiding the thousands of dead Panamanian bodies, they just wanted to give good news to the American people. In today's society the media is an extremely powerful tool. Every time we turn on the television and watch the news we are bombarded by stories that may or may not be true. With the mainstream media you never know if you are getting the whole story or just the parts of the story that make the governments sound best. With the invasion of Panama in 1989 that was just the case.
We turned on the TV and did not get the whole story but got the story that sounded nicest. When you looked at the other half of the story through alternative Medias you realized that there was much more to the story then CNN or ABC had given. Instead of there being about 500 Panamanian deaths in the invasion you found out that there were thousands of dead Panamanians and thousands left homeless. It is truly unfortunate that to get the real story on events around the world you have to go out of your way and find alternative Medias.
The world would be a much better place if the mainstream media told the whole story because people in the country would actually know what is going on in the world and be able to take the right steps in fixing whatever problems there are. After doing this research essay I have learned much more then I expected. To see the difference between mainstream and alternative medias is amazing and I will forever read the Windsor Star and Globe and Mail in a completely new light.