(By Felicity Arbuthnot | Global Research)
“I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare…. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” (Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965, from War Office minute, 12th May 1919.)
As the sabre rattling against Syria gets ever louder, the allegations ever wilder and double standards, stirring, plotting and terrorist financing (sorry: “aiding the legitimate opposition”) neon lit, it is instructive to look at the justifications presented by US Administrations for a few other murderous incursions in recent history.
This month is the twenty third anniversary of the US invasion of Panama on 20th December 1989, as Panamanians prepared their Christmas celebrations. A quick check reminds the late Philip Agee recalling President George H.W. Bush telling the American people that the threat from Panama (pop: 3,571,185 – 2011) was such that: “our way of life is at stake.” Agee referred to this in his aptly named talk “Producing the Proper Crisis.”(i) Apt then as now. Nothing changes.
The aim of the invasion was to capture the country’s leader General Manuel Noriega and, of course, to: “establish a democratic government.” Regime change.
With the approaching transfer of control of the Panama Canal to Panama (originally scheduled for 1st January 1990) after a century of US colonial stewardship, America wanted to ensure it was in the hands of malleable allies.
Noriega a CIA asset, since 1967 (ii) who had also attended the notorious School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia, came to power with US backing, but seemingly his support for the US was cooling. To encapsulate a long story, the US kidnapped him and sentenced him to forty years in jail.
Plans to invade were called: “Operation Prayer Book.” It was later re-named “Operation Just Cause”, with General Colin Powell commenting that it was a moniker of which he approved as: ”Even our severest critics would have to utter ‘Just Cause’ whilst denouncing us.” (Colin Powell, with Jospeh E. Persico: “My American Journey”, 1995.)
All military marauding should simply be called: “Operation Silly Name 1, then 2,3,4” etc., until the numbers finally run out.
Twenty seven thousand US troops backed by Apache helicopters decimated much of the small country, with a defense force of just three thousand. George Bush Snr., said he was removing an evil dictator who was brutalizing his own people (sound familiar?) and that the action was needed to:” protect American lives.” It was also to: “defend democracy and human rights in Panama” – and to “protect the Canal.” Surprise, eh?
Manuel Noriega was released from US jail in 2007, extradited to France which had awarded him the country’s highest honour, The Legion d’honneur in 1987. He remained in jail in France until December 2011, when he was returned to Panama, where he is still imprisoned.
In the near forgotten Panama decimation (unless you are Panamanian) the densely populated, poverty stricken neighborhood of El Chorillo was incinerated by American actions to such an extent that it became named “Little Hiroshima.”
One woman charged that: “The North Americans began burning down El Chorillo at about 6.30 in the morning. They would throw a small device in to a house and it would catch on fire – then they would move to another, they burned from one street to the next, coordinating the burning on walkie-talkies.”
A US soldier was recorded stating: “We ask you to surrender … if you do not, we are prepared to level each and every building.”
“Everything that moved they shot”, said a city resident.
The dead were consigned to mass graves with witnesses stating that US troops used flame throwers on the dead, noting the bodies shriveling as they burned. Others were bulldozed in to piles.(iii)
There was worse. As the current self-righteous, if contradictory statements flow from Washington and Whitehall about Syria’s unproven chemical weapons, proven facts relate to America’s.
“From the 1940s to the 1990s the United States used various parts of Panama as a testing ground for chemical weapons, including mustard gas, VX, sarin, hydrogen cyanide and other nerve agents in … mines, rockets and shells; perhaps tens of thousands of chemical munitions.” (William Blum: Rogue State, 2002.)
Further, on departing Panama at the end of 1999 they left: “many sites containing chemical weapons. They had also: “conducted secret tests of Agent Orange in Panama …” In the 1989 invasion, the village of Pacora, near Panama City: “was bombed with (chemicals) by helicopters and aircraft from US Southern Command, with substances that burned skin, caused intense pain and diarrhea.”
Many analysts felt that Panama was the testing ground for Iraq.
Nine months after the poisoning of Panama, on Hiroshima Day 1990, the strangulating US-driven embargo on Iraq was enforced by the UN, after the US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie had given the green light for Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, after Kuwait’s considerable provocation and financial and geographical destabilization.(iv.)
The hype over chemical and other weapons went in to overdrive, leading Saddam Hussein to comment: “I am afraid, one day, you will say ‘You are going to make gunpowder out of wheat.’ ”
Thirteen months after Panama, America led a thirty one country coalition to “reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age.” The only chemicals released from Iraq were the poisonous mix from the bombed pharmaceutical and fertilizer factories, the car manufacturing plants and the factories of Iraq’s entire industrial base, including the compounds holding the chemical and biological substances, including medical ones, sold to Iraq by the US, UK Germany and others over the previous decades, sales ironically, still ongoing at the time of the onslaught. (v.)
Highly toxic and radioactive substances were introduced into Iraq however, in the form of up to seven hundred and fifty tons of chemically toxic and radioactive depleted uranium munitions (DU) which have a toxic “half-life” of 4.5 billion years. Iraq’s litany of deformed, still born, aborted babies, infants born with cancers, the tiny graves, silent testimony to weapons of mass destruction of unique wickedness. Iraq was bombed for forty two days and nights.
The hyped chemical weapons alleged to have been manufactured by Iraq were, of course, never deployed.