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may 1989, Panama --- American Army troops arrive in Panama to depose former ally Manuel Noriega. --- Image by © Jason Bleibtreu/Sygma/Corbis

The Truth Behind the 1989 U.S. Invasion of Panama

The raid into Panama was the largest US combat operation since the Vietnam War. At the time the US trotted out various “noble justifications.”

The narrative was to overthrow the military dictator Manuel Noriega who was accused of drug trafficking and supressing democracy.

A key narrative was that Manuel endangered U.S nationals, similar to how Russia justified the invasion of Crimea and its intervention in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 – to “protect Russian speaking nationals”

But in an all too familiar fashion, this wasn’t the true story. Like Saddam, Noriega enjoyed US support and was actually recruited by the CIA before he turned into a wayward ally.

Noriega was recruited as a CIA informant while studying at a military academy in Peru. He received intelligence and counterintelligence training at the School of the Americas at Fort Gulick in Panama, in 1967. He remained on the CIA payroll until February 1988.

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