On January 3rd, 1990, Panama’s General Manuel Noriega surrendered to U.S. military troops after taking refuge in the Vatican embassy for 10 days. The U.S.invasion of Panama, and the ouster of its dictator (who was also a CIA operative) was called Operation Just Cause.
My primary memory of this event is that the US military played blaring rock music 24 hours a day to harass Noriega into surrender. The pentagon claimed the music was actually used to prevent parabolic microphones from eavesdropping on negotiations going on within the embassy between the Papal Nuncio and U.S. officials. (The playlist of music can be found here.)
Operation Just Cause was a tipping point in U.S. foreign policy. George H. W. Bush was president at the time. The elder Bush used “regime change” as justification for military action. Many years later, his son George W. Bush would, as president, take regime change to a whole new level when he launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. In my humble opinion at the time, that invasion of Iraq, with the goal of ousting Saddam Hussein, would result in a backlash that the entire world would regret for years to come. I believe I was right.
As an aside, I’ll state that the ongoing war with Islamic Extremists is not new. It boils down to the same conflict between Christians and Muslims that dates back to The Crusades. In today’s political climate, however, our leaders use justification and propaganda to sell the idea of military action to promote regime change and defend democracy. In actuality, Western leaders, especially U.S. presidents, are acting very much like the Popes of the middle ages in waging war with Islam. To call it anything else is to whitewash it.
For a more detailed and well written piece on Operation Just Cause, I refer you to a story from Mother Jones – How Our 1989 Invasion of Panama Explains the Current US Foreign Policy Mess.