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Panama – of tailors, spies and invasions

Since I’m in Panama let me take this opportunity to recommend The Tailor of Panama, a movie based on the John LeCarre novel.  There are many great quotes in this movie, but my favorite is when Harry Pendel greets the newcomer with a succinct assessment: "Welcome to Panama, Casablana without heros."

Some would dispute that statement, pointing out that there were American heros in Panama in 1989 when President George Herbert Walker Bush ordered a full-scale invasion. I was in New Orleans then, but I remember getting a call from my mother at 3 in the morning, and I could hear the gunfire in the background.  She was frightened, as were many other people in the country, especially those who lived near where the Panamanian military headquarters was located.  About 300 civilians were killed in the ensuing battles, but, in the end, the U.S. prevailed and captured Manuel Noriega and convicted him of drug charges.  Of course, the fact that we secretly supported Noriega for many years before then (knowing full well about his drug dealings) is a trivial matter that didn’t undermine the nobilty of our venture.

If you want to understand how W could have planned to invade Iraq with such a flimsy pretext then review the invasion of Panama that his father ordered, which was called euphemistically enough: Operation Just Cause.   As it turned out, Panama flourished after Noriega’s departure and the United States gave Panama about a billion dollars in aid.  Which makes me want to paraphrase Chico Escuela’s famous line: "your invasion been berry berry good to me."

Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking that maybe New Orleans could use a major U.S. military invasion.  Oh right, I forgot: we had one just last year.  Anyhoo, it’s often uplifting to reflect on our really successful military invasions.  You know, the ones where –even though there is a great loss of life and property– it ends quickly, the invadees get a bunch of financial aid, the bad guys are convicted swiftly in a U.S. court, and everyone else lives happily ever after.

I think a good name for our next invasion would be "Operation Just Because."

P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

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