On December 20th, 1989, the United States began the invasion of the strategically invaluable Central American nation of Panama. The sole intent of the invasion was to depose the former CIA asset and dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega. The invasion, which began at 1AM local time, was aptly named Operation Just Cause.
The complex relationship between Manuel Noriega and the US Government began early on, with the future dictator’s birth within the Panama Canal Zone, and his career starting with a job with the Panamanian military. Somewhere along the way, the United States recruited Noriega to be educated at one of the most prestigious and infamous American military colleges, The School of the Americas, an institute that still exists today after a brief closure with a new name: The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC for short. Like many other graduates of the school, Noriega then began a prospering career as a CIA asset within his home country, working with the United States in accomplishing foreign policy objectives.
For Central and South America, the later 20th century encompasses the beginning of a winding history of international meddling to prevent the spread of Communism, with the 1970s and 1980s also marked with the explosion of the international drug trade. The two issues had a self-perpetuating relationship, with US-backed anti-Communist forces like the Contras in Nicaragua finding themselves in bed with narcotics traffickers to fund their operations. At the same time, anti-Communist forces were finding themselves in bed with cartels and drug smugglers, and President Richard Nixon formally declared the beginning of the War on Drugs, putting the objectives of the United States against itself. In a culmination of the confusing and surprisingly inconsistent US foreign policy in the Americas, President George Bush Sr., former head of the CIA in 1976-1977, pulled the trigger on the invasion of Panama to depose their now ex-asset, who was accused of laundering money for cartels, and smuggling drugs on behalf of rebels.
The well-executed invasion ended with Noriega surrounded in a Vatican embassy looking for a way to freedom. With universal condemnation from the international community, the United States camped outside of the embassy looking for a way to lure out the now ex-dictator. Due to international law, the United States couldn’t enter the embassy and arrest Noriega, so instead they began a siege.
Instead of using weaponry, the international forces placed festival-size speakers all around the building, and began to play music nonstop to smoke the Panamanian out of the embassy. To add a little interaction, the radio that was being broadcast invited its listeners to request songs for the dictator. After ten days of non-stop American hits, with Christmas Day being nothing but Christmas-themed music, Noriega surrendered, was detained, and was later tried by the United States. The ex-dictator Manuel Noriega died from brain surgery complications in May of this year.