[From the January-February 1990 issue of "Extra!", a publication of FAIR.]

                          The Media Goes to War:

                       by Mark Cook and Jeff Cohen

      TWO weeks after the Panama invasion, "CBS News" sponsored a public
    opinion poll in Panama that found the residents in rapture over what
    happened.  Even 80 percent of those whose homes had been blown up or
    their relatives killed by US forces said it was worth it.  Their
    enthusiasm did not stop with the ousting of Gen. Manual Noriega,
    however.  A less heavily advertised result of the poll was that 82% of
    the sampled Panamanian patriots did not want Panamanian control of the
    Canal, preferring either partial of exclusive control by the US
    ("Panamanians Strongly Back US Move," "New York Times," 1/6/90).
      A "public opinion poll" in a country under martial law, conducted by
    an agency obviously sanctioned by the invading forces, can be expected
    to come up with such results.  Most reporters, traveling as they did
    with the US military, found little to contradict this picture.  Less
    than 40 hours after the invasion began, Sam Donaldson and Judd Rose
    transported us to Panama via "ABC's Prime Time Live" (12/21/90).
    "There were people who applauded us as we went by in a military
    convoy," said Rose.  "The military have been very good to us [in
    escorting reporters beyond the Canal Zone]," added Donaldson.
      While this kind of "Canal Zone journalism" dominated television, a
    few independent print journalists stuck out on their own.  Peter
    Eisner of "Newsday"'s Latin American Bureau, for example, reported
    (12/28/89) that Panamanians were cursing US soldiers under their
    breath as troops searched the home of a neighbor--a civilian--for
    weapons.  One Panamanian pointed out a man speaking to US soldiers as
    a "sapo" (a toad--slang for "dirty informer") and suggested that
    denouncing people to the US forces was a way of settling old scores.
    A doctor living on the street said that "liberals will be laying low
    for a while, and they're probably justified" because of what would
    happen to those who speak out.  All of Eisner's sources feared having
    their names printed.
      The same day's "Miami Herald" ran articles about Panamanian citizen
    reactions, including concern over the hundreds of dead civilians:
    "Neighbors saw six US truck loads bringing dozens of bodies" to a mass
    grave.  As a mother watched the body of her soldier son lowered into a
    grave, her "voice rose over the crowd's silence:  `Damn the
      Obviously there was a mix of opinion inside Panama, but it was
    virtually unreported on television, the dominant medium shaping US
    attitudes about the invasion.  Panamanian opposition to the US was
    dismissed as nothing more than "DigBat [Dignity Battalion] thugs"
    who'd been given jobs by Noriega.  And it was hardly acknowledged that
    the high-visibility demonstration outside the Vatican Embassy the day
    of Noriega's surrender had been actively "encouraged" by the US
    occupying forces ("Newsday," 1/5/90).
      Few TV reporters seemed to notice that the jubilant Panamanians
    parading before their cameras day after day to endorse the invasion
    spoke near-perfect English and were overwhelmingly light-skinned and
    well-dressed.  This in a Spanish-speaking country with a largely
    mestizo and black population where poverty is widespread.  "ABC"'s
    Beth Nissen (12/27/89) was one of the few TV reporters to take a close
    look at the civilian deaths caused by US bombs that pulverized El
    Chorillo, the poor neighborhood which ambulance drivers now call
    "Little Hiroshima."  The people of El Chorillo don't speak perfect
    English, and they were less than jubilant about the invasion.

                      "Our Boys" vs. Unseen Civilians

      In the first days of the invasion, TV journalists had one overriding
    obsession:  *How many American soldiers have died?*  The question,
    repeated with drumbeat regularity, tended to drown out the other
    issues:  Panamanian casualties, international law, foreign reaction.
    On the morning of the invasion, "CBS" anchor Kathleen Sullivan's voice
    cracked with emotion for the US soldiers:  "Nine killed, more than 50
    wounded.  How long can this fighting go on?"  Unknown and unknowable
    to "CBS" viewers, hundreds of Panamanians had already been killed by
    then, many buried in their homes.

     |                         YOU BE THE JUDGE                         |
     |                                                                  |
     |  * "[The invasion was legal] according to all the experts I      |
     |  talked to."--Rita Braver ("CBS Evening News," 12/20/89)         |
     |                                                                  |
     |  * "As far as international law is concerned, even sources in    |
     |  the US government admit they were operating very near the       |
     |  line."--John McWethy ("ABC World News Tonight,"  1/5/90)        |
     |                                                                  |
     |  * "The territory of a state is inviolable.  It may not be the   |
     |  object, even temporarily, of military occupation or other       |
     |  measures of force taken by another state directly or            |
     |  indirectly on any grounds whatsoever."--Article 20, OAS         |
     |  Charter                                                         |

      Judging from the calls and requests for interviews that poured into
    the FAIR office, European and Latin American journalists based in the
    US were stunned by the implied racism and national chauvinism in the
    media display.  The "Toronto Globe and Mail," often referred to as the
    "New York Times" of Canada, ran a front-page article (12/22/89)
    critiquing the United States and its media for "the peculiar jingoism
    of US society so evident to foreigners but almost invisible for most
      TV's continuous focus on the well-being of the invaders, and not the
    invadees, meant that the screen was dominated by red, white and blue
    draped coffins and ceremonies, honor rolls of the US dead, drum rolls,
    remarks by Dan Rather (12/21/89) about "our fallen heroes"...but no
    Panamanian funerals.  This despite the fact that the invasion claimed
    perhaps 50 Panamanian lives for every US citizen killed.
      When Pentagon pool correspondent Fred Francis was asked on day one
    about civilian casualties on "ABC's Nightline" (12/20/89), he said he
    did not know, because he and other journalists were traveling around
    with the US army.  Curiosity didn't increase in ensuing days.  FAIR
    called the TV networks daily to demand they address the issue of
    civilian deaths, but journalists said they had no way of verifying the
      No such qualms existed with regards to Rumania, where over the
    Christmas weekend "CNN" and other US outlets were freely dishing out
    fantastic reports of 80,000 people killed in days of violence, a
    figure--greater that the immediate Hiroshima death toll--which any
    editor should have dismissed out of hand.  Tom Brokaw's selective
    interest in civilians was evident when he devoted the first half of
    "NBC Nightly News" (12/20/89) to Panama without mentioning non-
    combatant casualties, then turned to Rumania and immediately referred
    to reports of thousands of civilian deaths.

     |                       Due Process Mugged                         |
     |                                                                  |
     |  You've seen it everywhere.  It made the cover of "Newsweek,"    |
     |  the front page of the "New York Times"' "Week in Review", and   |
     |  the "CBS", "NBC" and "ABC" news:  Manual Noriega's mug shot,    |
     |  looking just like the criminals at the end of each "Dragnet"    |
     |  episode after Sgt. Joe Friday had brought them to justice.      |
     |    But what you didn't often see is an acknowledgement that the  |
     |  release of such mug shots is highly unusual, and may threaten   |
     |  Noriega's already slim chances of getting a fair trial.  The    |
     |  Miami U.S. Attorney's office claims to have released it "under  |
     |  pressure from the press," according to the "New York Times"     |
     |  (1/14/90). "We will not comment very frequently on this case,"  |
     |  U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen said, calling that "the key to    |
     |  success."  Sure, as long as the media are willing to publish    |
     |  prosecution leaks without regard to the defendant's             |
     |  constitutional rights.                                          |
     |                                                                  |
     |  [Below this are two covers:]                                    |
     |  "Newsweek" (1/15/90) has "NORIEGA'S NEXT HOME?  America's New   |
     |  Alcatraz" at the top;  followed by "EXCLUSIVE The Noriega       |
     |  Files;  His Treacherous Links With the Drug Cartel, Castro,     |
     |  Bush and the CIA", accompanied by a picture of a Noriega mug    |
     |  shot--he in a T-shirt holding the sign:                         |
     |       "U.S. MARSHAL, MIAMI, FL,  .0.0.4.  '90"        |
     |                                                                  |
     |  "New York Post" (1/5/90) has "CANNED PINEAPPLE" covering half   |
     |  it's cover, with a subhead "Arrogant Noriega:  I'm a political  |
     |  prisoner";  the bottom half shows two photos:  one of Noriega   |
     |  surrounded by three police officers restraining him, and the    |
     |  other, the same mug shot as "Newsweek".                         |

      Not until the sixth day of the Panama invasion did the US Army
    augment its estimated dead (23 American troops, 297 alleged enemy
    soldiers) to include a figure for civilians:  254.  The number was
    challenged as representing only a fraction  of the true death toll by
    the few reporters who sought out independent sources:  Panamanian
    human rights monitors, hospital workers, ambulance drivers, funeral
    home directors.  These sources also spoke of thousands of civilian
    injuries and 10,000 left homeless.  Many journalists, especially on
    television, were too busy cheerleading "the successful military
    action" to notice the Panamanians who didn't fare so successfully.
      TV correspondents, so uncurious about civilian casualties, could not
    be expected to go beyond US military assurances about who was being
    arrested and why.  As the "Boston Globe" noted (1/1/90), US forces
    were arresting anyone on a blacklist compiled by the newly-installed 
    government.  "Newsday"'s Peter Eisner reported (1/7/90):  "Hundreds of
    intellectuals, university students, teachers and professional people
    say they have been harassed and detained by US forces in the guise of
    searching for hidden weapons."

     |        CENSORED NEWS:  Drug Links of Panama's New Rulers         |
     |                                                                  |
     |    The Bush White House justified the invasion by claiming that  |
     |  overthrowing Noriega was a major victory in the war on drugs.   |
     |  If journalists had reported the backgrounds of the new          |
     |  Panamanian leaders installed by the US invasion, and their      |
     |  connections to drug-laundering banks and drug traffickers, a    |
     |  primary rationale for the invasion would have been shredded.    |
     |    But few journalists scrutinized Panama's "new democrats"      |
     |  from the country's banking and corporate elite.  One who did    |
     |  was Jonathan Marshall, editorial page editor of the "Oakland    |
     |  Tribune".  In a series of editorials, "Panama's Drug, Inc."     |
     |  (1/5 & 1/22/90), Marshall reported the following:               |
     |    PRESIDENT GUILLERMO ENDARA is a wealthy corporate attorney    |
     |  for several companies run by Carlos Eleta, a Panamanian         |
     |  business tycoon arrested in Georgia last April for conspiring   |
     |  to import more than half a ton of cocaine each month into the   |
     |  US.  The Brazilian daily, "Jornal do Brasil," reported that     |
     |  Endara was Eleta's lawyer for 25 years and a direct             |
     |  stockholder in one of his companies.  Endara's political        |
     |  mentor and idol is former President Arnulfo Arias, who          |
     |  reportedly amassed $2 million from smuggling contraband,        |
     |  including hard drugs.                                           |
     |    VICE PRESIDENT GUILLERMO "BILLY" FORD is a co-founder and     |
     |  part owner of the Dadeland Bank, in Miami, a repository for     |
     |  Medellin drug cartel money.  One of Ford's co-owner's,          |
     |  Panamanian Steven Samos, used the bank in the late 1970s to     |
     |  launder millions of dollars in drug money for a CIA-trained     |
     |  Cuban American.  Panama's new ambassador to the US, Carlos      |
     |  Rodriguez, is also a co-founder of the Dadeland Bank.  (The     |
     |  "New York Times" on Jan. 28 mustered up Roberto Eisenmann, the  |
     |  publisher of Panama's "La Prensa," to deny allegations linking  |
     |  Ford to money laundering.  The "Times" didn't mention that      |
     |  Eisenmann is another co-founder of the bank.)                   |
     |    ATTORNEY GENERAL ROGELIO CRUZ served as a director of the     |
     |  First Interamericas Bank.  The bank, closed down for drug-      |
     |  related "irregular operations" in 1985, was owned by the        |
     |  leader of Columbia's Cali cocaine cartel and reportedly         |
     |  laundered money for Jorge Ochoa of the Medellin cartel.         |
     |  Panama's new chief justice of the supreme court and new         |
     |  treasury minister were also members of the bank's board.        |
     |    Marshall concluded:  "President Endara's appointments read    |
     |  like a who's who of Panama's oligarchy.  Many have personal     |
     |  or business associations with the drug-money laundering         |
     |  industry."  Portraying Noriega's replacement by the Endara      |
     |  clique as a strike against drug dealing is a cruel joke.        |
     |    The importance of Panama to the international narcotics       |
     |  trade has long revolved around its supersecret banks--cool      |
     |  places to launder "hot money."  In December 1986, Noriega's     |
     |  legislature pushed through a rollback in the country's bank     |
     |  secrecy law.  In May 1987, when Noriega's government froze      |
     |  accounts in 18 banks as part of an anti-drug operation mounted  |
     |  by the DEA, it sparked a massive banking crisis in Panama.      |
     |  The actions were vigorously opposed by Noriega's foes in the    |
     |  banking elite.  These foes now run Panama's government thanks   |
     |  to the US invasion.  The "war on drugs" continues.              |

             The "Objective" Reporter's Lexicon:  We, Us, Our

      In covering the invasion, many TV journalists abandoned even the
    pretense of operating in a neutral, independent mode.  Television
    anchors used pronouns like "we" and "us" in describing the mission
    into Panama, as if they themselves were members of the invasion force,
    or at least helpful advisors.  "NBC"'s Brokaw exclaimed, on day one:
    "We haven't got [Noriega] yet."  "CNN" anchor Mary Anne Loughlin asked
    a former CIA official (12/21/89):  "Noriega has stayed one step ahead
    of us.  Do you think we'll be able to find him?"  After eagerly
    quizzing a panel of US military experts on "MacNeil/Lehrer" (12/21/89)
    about whether "we" had wiped out the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF),
    Judy Woodruff concluded, "So not only have we done away with the PDF,
    we've also done away with the police force."  So much for the
    separation of press and state.
      Ted Koppel and other TV journalists had a field day mocking the
    Orwellianly-titled "Dignity Battalions," but none were heard
    ridiculing the invasion's code-name:  "Operation Just Cause."  The day
    after the invasion, "NBC Nightly News" offered its own case study in
    Orwellian Newspeak:  While one correspondent referred to the US
    military occupiers as engaging in "peacekeeping chores," another
    correspondent on the same show referred to Latin American diplomats at
    the OAS condemning the US as a "lynch mob."  After the Soviet Union
    criticized the invasion as "gunboat diplomacy" (as had many other
    countries), Dan Rather dismissed it as "old-line, hard-line talk from
    Moscow" ("CBS Evening News," 12/20/89).
      Journalism gave way to state propaganda when a "CNN" correspondent
    dutifully reported on the day of the invasion:  "US troops have taken
    detainees but we are not calling them `prisoners of war' because the
    US has not declared war."  (That kind of obedient reporter probably
    still refers to the Vietnam "conflict.")  Similarly, on Day 1, many
    networks couldn't bring themselves to call the invasion an invasion
    until they got the green light from Washington:  instead, it was
    referred to variously as a military action, intervention, operation,
    expedition, affair, insertion.

     |              "NORIEGA OFFERED HIS USUAL DAMP LIMP                |
     |                 HANDSHAKE TO BUSH'S FIRM GRIP."                  |
     |                                                                  |
     |    For sheer propaganda, high marks go to "Newsweek"'s Noriega   |
     |  cover story (1/15/90) featuring excerpts from a book about      |
     |  Noriega by "Wall Street Journal" reporter Frederick Kempe.      |
     |  The book and its author were much touted by the media during    |
     |  the invasion.  Some highlights:                                 |
     |    HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ELLIOTT ABRAMS.  "By the summer of      |
     |  1985, the State Department's new Assistant Secretary of State   |
     |  for Latin American Affairs, Elliott Abrams, began to believe    |
     |  that Noriega's help for the Contras was overestimated and his   |
     |  general harm to democracy and human rights was underestimated.  |
     |  Abrams had come out of State's human rights office..."          |
     |    Abrams hardly "came out" of a human rights office.  He was    |
     |  put there to disseminate anti-Nicaragua war propaganda as       |
     |  human rights information, an operation repeatedly exposed and   |
     |  denounced by Americas Watch.  Abrams "human rights" work        |
     |  included attacks on the church-based Sanctuary movement, which  |
     |  offered refuge to Central Americans fleeing death squads.       |
     |    A careful reading of the "Newsweek" article leaves the        |
     |  sneaking suspicion that much of the material was provided by    |
     |  Abrams himself.  "[Abrams] argued at several interagency        |
     |  meetings that backing the Contras could only be one part of     |
     |  an overall strategy of promoting democracy in the region.  He   |
     |  wanted more pressure on Panama to democratize--without          |
     |  endangering the good relationship that existed."                |
     |  intelligence chiefs contrasted in style and substance:  Bush    |
     |  was lanky and refined, raised by a Brahmin New England family.  |
     |  He towered over the five-foot five-inch Noriega.  Noriega was   |
     |  mean-streets Mestizo, the bastard son of his father's           |
     |  domestic.  Noriega offered his usual damp, limp handshake to    |
     |  Bush's firm grip.  They were clearly uncomfortable with each    |
     |  other."  Aside from the racism of the piece, the line about     |
     |  the two being uncomfortable with each other is significant-     |
     |  -primarily to protect Bush.  A second later:  "Only in the      |
     |  twisted mind of Manuel Antonio Noriega could that 1976          |
     |  luncheon with George Bush be construed as the beginning of a    |
     |  beautiful friendship." Though it lasted for more than ten       |
     |  years.                                                          |
     |    BUT IT WAS ALL CASEY'S FAULT.  George Bush wasn't             |
     |  responsible for the ongoing ties to Noriega.  The guy to        |
     |  blame, according to Kempe, was--as usual--the CIA director      |
     |  William Casey.  Casey met often with Noriega to discuss aid     |
     |  to the contras.                                                 |
     |    AND CASTRO'S, OF COURSE.  Kempe makes a herculean effort      |
     |  with scant evidence to implicate Fidel Castro in all the drug   |
     |  dealing.  But as other journalists have pointed out, Castro's   |
     |  main need for Noriega and Panama was as a haven for Cuban       |
     |  front companies to engage in legitimate trade with Western      |
     |  countries in circumvention of the US economic blockade ("Miami  |
     |  Herald," 12/28/89).  An  editorial in Kempe's "Wall Street      |
     |  Journal" (1/8/90) called on the US to cut a deal with Noriega   |
     |  if he'd implicate Castro.                                       |
     |    A WALK ON THE HOMOPHOBIC SIDE.  Perhaps aimed at bolstering   |
     |  the anti-gay vote in support of the invasion, "Newsweek" ran    |
     |  a sidebar from Kempe's book under the headline, "A Walk on      |
     |  the Bisexual Side":  "The macho officer [Noriega], proficient   |
     |  in judo and parachuting, would perfume himself heavily on off   |
     |  hours and wear yellow jump suits with yellow shoes, travel      |
     |  the world with a male pal with whom he was widely rumored to    |
     |  be having a torrid affair, and surround himself with openly     |
     |  gay ambassadors and advisers...Armchair psychiatrists credit    |
     |  Noriega's sexual confusion to his gay brother, Luis Carlos      |
     |  Noriega, the only person Noriega ever trusted completely."      |

                          Where Did Our Love Go?

      Many reporters uncritically promoted White House explanations for its
    break-up with Noriega.  Clifford Krauss reported ("NY Times," 1/21/90)
    that Noriega "began as a CIA asset but fell afoul of Washington over
    his involvement in drug and arms trafficking."  "ABC"'s Peter Jennings
    told viewers on the day of the invasion, "Let's remember that the
    United States was very close to Mr. Noriega before the whole question
    of drugs came up."  Actually, Noriega's drug links were asserted by US
    intelligence as early as 1972.  In 1976, after US espionage officials
    proposed that Noriega be dumped because of drugs and double-dealing,
    then-CIA director George Bush made sure the relationship continued
    ("S.F. Examiner," 1/5/90;  "New Yorker," 1/8/90).  US intelligence
    overlooked the drug issue year after year as long as Noriega was an
    eager ally in US espionage and covert operations, especially those
    targeted against Nicaragua.
      Peter Jennings' claim that the US broke with Noriega after the
    "question of drugs came up" turns reality upside down.  Noriega's
    involvement in drug trafficking was purportedly heaviest in the early
    1980s when his relationship with the US was especially close.  By
    1986, when the Noriega/US relationship began to fray, experts agree
    that Noriega had already drastically curtailed his drug links.  The
    two drug-related indictments against Noriega in Florida cover
    activities from 1981 through March 1986 ("Analysts Challenge View of
    Noriega as Drug Lord," "Washington Post," 1/7/90).

     |         Objective Journalists of State Propagandists?            |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * "one of the more odious creatures with whom the United       |
     |   States has had a relationship."--Peter Jennings ("ABC,"        |
     |   12/20/89)                                                      |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * "At the top of the list of the world's drug thieves and      |
     |   scums."--Dan Rather ("CBS," 12/20/89)                          |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * Q:  "Do we bring him here and put him on trial...or do we    |
     |   just neutralize him in some way?"--John Chancellor             |
     |     A:  "I think you bring him here and you make it a            |
     |   showcase trial in the war on drugs and justice prevails."-     |
     |   -Tom Brokaw ("NBC," 12/20/89)                                  |
     |                                                                  |
     |   *"We lose numbers like that in large training exercises."-     |
     |   -John Chancellor, commenting approvingly upon hearing only     |
     |   nine US soldiers had died ("NBC," 12/20/89)                    |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * "Noriega's reputation as a brutal drug-dealing bully who     |
     |   reveled in his public contempt for the United States all       |
     |   but begged for strong retribution."--Ted Koppel ("ABC          |
     |   Nightline," 12/20/89)                                          |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * "Noriega asked for this.  President Bush listed all the      |
     |   things Noriega had done to force him to take this action.      |
     |   Why does Noriega do these things?"--"CNN" anchor Ralph         |
     |   Wenge, interviewing a former US military commander             |
     |   (12/21/89)                                                     |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * "Noriega seemed almost superhuman in his ability to          |
     |   slither away before we got him."--Anchor Bill Beutel           |
     |   ("WABC-TV," New York, 1/3/90)                                  |
     |                                                                  |
     |   * "[George Bush has completed] a Presidential initiation       |
     |   rite [joining] American leaders who since World War II have    |
     |   felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood     |
     |   to protect or advance what they construe as the national       |
     |   interest...Panama has shown him as a man capable of bold       |
     |   action."--R.W. Apple ("New York Times," front page news        |
     |   analysis, 12/21/89)                                            |

      When, as vice president, Bush met with Noriega in Panama in December
    1983, besides discussing Nicaragua, Bush allegedly raised questions
    about drug money laundering.  According to author Kevin Buckley,
    Noriega told top aide Jose Blandon that he'd picked up the following
    message from the Bush meeting:  "The United States wanted help for the
    contras so badly that if he even promised it, the US government would
    turn a blind eye to money-laundering and setbacks to democracy in
    Panama."  In 1985 and '86, Noriega met several times with Oliver North
    to discuss the assistance Noriega was providing to the contras, such
    as training contras at Panamanian Defense Force bases ("Noriega could
    give some interesting answers," Kevin Buckley, "St. Petersburg Times,"
    1/3/90).  Noriega didn't fall from grace until he stopped being a
    "team player" in the US war against Nicaragua.
      Democracy had as little to do with the break-up as drugs.  If
    Noriega believed Bush had given his strongarm rule a green light in
    1983, confirmation came the next year when Noriega's troops seized
    ballot boxes and blatantly rigged Panama's presidential election.
    Noriega's candidate, Nicolas Ardito Barletta, was also "our"
    candidate--an economist who had been a student and assistant to former
    University of Chicago professor George Shultz.  Though loudly
    protested by Panamanians, the fraud that put Ardito Barletta in power
    was cheered by the US Embassy.  Secretary of State Shultz attended his
    inauguration.  (See "The Press on Panama," "Extra!", Mar/Apr 88;
    Richard Reeves, "San Francisco Chronicle," 12/25/89)
      As the Noriega case progresses toward trial, the media's treatment
    of key witnesses against the General may offer a case study in bias.
    Several of the witnesses have already testified on these matters in a
    very public forum--hearings before Senator John Kerry's Foreign
    Affairs Subcommittee on Narcotics.  At that time, February 1988, they
    fingered Nicaraguan contras as cocaine cohorts of Noriega operating
    under the umbrella of the CIA and Ollie North.  The hearings were
    ignored or distorted by national media outlets, with Reagan/Bush
    officials and CIA dismissing the witnesses as drug trafficking felons.
    ("Extra!," Mar/Apr 88;  Warren Hinckle, "S.F. Examiner," 1/11/90).  In
    a predictable turnaround, as soon as Noriega was apprehended, TV news
    brought forth experts to explain that "when one prosecutes someone
    like Noriega for drug dealing, witnesses will of necessity be drug

     |                Reporters Rallying Round The Flag                 |
     |                                                                  |
     |    Journalists justified their role as distributors of           |
     |  government handouts in different ways.  Asked on Day 1 why US   |
     |  opponents of the invasion were virtually invisible on-the-air,  |
     |  a "CBS" producer (who declined to give her name) told           |
     |  "Extra!":  "When American troops are involved and taking        |
     |  losses, this is not the time to be running critical             |
     |  commentary.  The American public will be rallying around the    |
     |  flag."                                                          |
     |    Some TV reporters claimed they were forced to rely on         |
     |  official US versions because they had nothing else.  As         |
     |  "Newsday" reported Jan. 14, "Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer Prize-    |
     |  winning combat journalist, was reduced to reporting on          |
     |  Noriega's alleged pornography collection.  `They [the           |
     |  Pentagon] got away with it again,' Arnett said of the initial   |
     |  press blackout."                                                |
     |    Arnett, who covered the invasion for "CNN," was complaining   |
     |  that Pentagon officials failed to provide photo opportunities   |
     |  of wounded soldiers, suffering civilians and general bang-      |
     |  bang.  Naturally the Pentagon did everything possible to        |
     |  prevent such shots, keeping with its belief that the Vietnam    |
     |  War was lost in American living rooms.  "Two things that        |
     |  people should not watch are the making of sausage and the       |
     |  making of war," "Newsday" (1/4/90) quoted an Air Force doctor   |
     |  as saying.  "All that front-page blood and gore hurts the       |
     |  military."                                                      |
     |    Experienced combat journalists like Arnett should know that   |
     |  the Pentagon's aim is to manipulate the pictures and stories    |
     |  that get out.  "If you just looked at television, the most      |
     |  violent thing American troops did in Panama was play rock       |
     |  music," political media consultant Robert Squier told           |
     |  "Newsday."  "They feel if they can control the pictures at the  |
     |  outset, it doesn't make a damn what is said now or later."      |
     |    Unhappiness with the Pentagon did not keep reporters from     |
     |  promoting the US Army-approved image of Noriega as a comic      |
     |  strip arch-villain.  The Southern Command told reporters soon   |
     |  after the invasion that 110 pounds of cocaine were found in     |
     |  Noriega's so-called "witch house," and this played big on TV    |
     |  news and the front-pages.  When, a month later the "cocaine"    |
     |  turned out to be tamales ("Washington Post," 1/23/90, page      |
     |  A22), the government's deception was a footnote at best.  The   |
     |  initial headlines of Noriega as drug-crazed lunatic had served  |
     |  their purpose:  to convince the American people that he         |
     |  represented a threat to the Canal.                              |

                         Provocations of Pretexts?

      The US media showed little curiosity about the Dec. 16 confrontation
    that led to the death of a US Marine officer and the injury of another
    when they tried to run a roadblock in front of the PDF headquarters.
    The officers were supposedly "lost."  In view of what is now known
    about the intense pre-invasion preparations then underway ("NY Times,"
    12/24/89), is it possible the Marines were actually trying to track
    Noriega's whereabouts?
      The Panamanian version of the event was that the US soldiers, upon
    being discovered, opened fire--injuring three civilians, including a
    child--and then tried to run the roadblock.  This version was largely
    ignored by US journalists even after the shooting two days later of a
    Panamanian corporal who "signaled a US serviceman to stop," according
    to the administration.  "The US serviceman felt threatened," the
    administration claimed, after admitting that its earlier story that
    the Panamanian had pulled his gun was false ("NYT," 12/19/89)
      As for the claim that a US officer had been roughly interrogated and
    his wife had been sexually threatened, the administration provided no
    supporting evidence ("NYT," 12/19/89;  "Newsday," 12/18/89).  Since
    the Marine's death and the interrogation were repeatedly invoked to
    justify the invasion, the lack of press scrutiny of these claims is
      For months, US forces had been trying to provoke confrontations as a
    pretext for an attack.  In response to an Aug. 11 incident, Panamanian
    Foreign Minister Jorge Ritter asked that a UN peacekeeping force be
    dispatched to Panama to prevent such encounters.  The US press largely
    ignored his call ("El Diario/La Prensa," New York's Spanish-language
    daily, 8/13/89).

  |                        A Tale of Two Editions                            |
  |                                                                          |
  | Fighting in Panama: The Home Front    Fighting in Panama: The Home Front |
  | ___________________________________   __________________________________ |
  | The President                         The President                      |
  | -------------                         -------------                      |
  |                                                                          |
  |       DOING THE INEVITABLE                                               |
  |           ------------                     A SENSE OF INEVITABILITY      |
  | Bush Reportedly Felt That Noriega          IN BUSH's DECISION TO ACT     |
  |  'Was Thumbing His Nose at Him'                                          |
  |                                                                          |
  |   If the news of the invasion wasn't favorable enough to the             |
  |   administration, the "New York Times" sometimes fine-tuned it           |
  |   between editions.  Above are headlines over the same story in two      |
  |   editions on Dec. 24--the earlier one (left) was apparently changed     |
  |   because it implied that the invasion was an act of personal            |
  |   vengeance by Bush.  Another headline in the same early edition read,   |
  |   "U.S.  Drafted Invasion Plan Weeks Ago," accurately describing the     |
  |   article's evidence that the invasion was scheduled before the          |
  |   "provocations" that justified it ever occurred.  The headline          |
  |   changed to the more innocuous "U.S. Invasion:  Many Weeks of           |
  |   Rehearsals."                                                           |

                  The "Declaration of War" That Never Was

      "When during the past few days [Noriega] declared war on the United
    States and some of his followers then killed a US Marine, roughed up
    another American serviceman, also threatening that man's wife, strong
    public support for a reprisal was all but guaranteed," Ted Koppel told
    his "Nightline" audience Dec. 20.
      Noriega never "declared war on the United States."  The original
    "Reuters" dispatches, published on the inside pages of the "New York
    Times" (12/17-18/89), buried the supposed "declaration" in articles
    dealing with other matters.  In the Dec. 17 article headlined,
    "Opposition Leader in Panama Rejects a Peace Offer from Noriega,"
    "Reuters" quoted the general as saying that he would judiciously use
    new powers granted to him by the Panamanian parliament and that "the
    North American scheme, through constant psychological and military
    harassment, has created a state of war in Panama."  This statement of
    fact aroused little excitement at the White House, which called the
    parliament's move "a hollow step."
      The day after the invasion, "Los Angeles Times" Pentagon
    correspondent Melissa Healey told a call-in talk show audience on "C-
    SPAN" that Noriega had "declared war" on the United States.  When a
    caller asked why that hadn't been front page news, Healey explained
    that the declaration of war was one of a series of "incremental
    escalations."  When another caller pointed out that Panama had only
    made a rhetorical statement that US economic and other measures had
    created a state of war, the Pentagon correspondent confessed ignorance
    of what had actually been said, and suggested that it was certainly
    worth investigating.
      The incident symbolizes media performance on the invasion--dispense
    official information as gospel first, worry about the truth of that
    information later.  It's just what the White House was counting on
    from the media.  The Bush team set out to control television and front
    page news in the first days knowing that exposes of official deception
    (such as Noriega's 110 pounds of "cocaine" that turned out to be
    tamales) would not appear until weeks later buried on inside pages of
    newspapers.  Rulers do not require the total suppression of news.  As
    Napoleon Bonaparte once said:  It's sufficient to delay the news until
    it no longer matters.
      Besides uncritically dispensing huge quantities of official news and
    views, the TV networks had another passion during the first days of
    the invasion:  polling their public.  It was an insular process, with
    predictable results.  A "Toronto Globe and Mail" news story summarized
    it (12/22/89):  "Hardly a voice of objection is being heard within the
    United States about the Panama invasion, at least from those deemed as
    official sources and thus likely to be seen on television or read in
    the papers.  Not surprisingly, given the media coverage, a television
    poll taken yesterday by one network ("CNN") indicated that nine of
    ten viewers approved of the invasion."

     |                 I'm not Rappaport...I'm Valdez                   |
     |                                                                  |
     |    "Extra!" usually complains about media outlets relying on     |
     |  the same sources again and again, but "KTTV-TV" in Los Angeles  |
     |  may have gone too far in the opposite direction.                |
     |    Seeking a source to comment on the failed October 1989 coup   |
     |  against Manuel Noriega, the station called what they thought    |
     |  was the Panamanian consulate.  In fact, it was the home of      |
     |  Kurt Rappaport, a 22-year old prankster.  Rappaport,            |
     |  pretending to be an anti-Noriega Panamanian diplomat, "Arturo   |
     |  Valdez," was invited to be interviewed, and showed up at the    |
     |  studio sporting a false moustache.                              |
     |    A sound bite from the 10-15 minute "Valdez" interview was     |
     |  broadcast on "KTTV"'s evening news, phony Spanish accent and    |
     |  all.  ("LA Times," 10/7/89)  But Rappaport was not treated      |
     |  any differently than most TV experts:  "I get asked tougher     |
     |  questions when I go to cash a check," he told the "National     |
     |  Enquirer."                                                      |

     |                Swallowing Hokum in Central America               |
     |                                                                  |
     |    During the height of the civil rights movement, Southern      |
     |  authorities frequently reacted to the bombing of a black        |
     |  church or a civil rights leader's home by blaming the act on    |
     |  the Movement:  "The Negroes did it themselves.  It's a stunt    |
     |  to win sympathy."  While the innuendo that Martin Luther King,  |
     |  Jr. would have fire-bombed his own home while his children      |
     |  slept was prominently and uncritically reported in Southern     |
     |  dailies, journalists from national media ignored such hokum or  |
     |  reported it as a way of highlighting how depraved or dishonest  |
     |  the authorities were.                                           |
     |    Ironically, the same absurd scenarios dismissed by            |
     |  journalists when uttered by segregationists about Southern      |
     |  blacks are treated as entirely credible when uttered by US      |
     |  officials about Central Americans.                              |
     |  Journalists knew instantly that the US-equipped Salvadoran      |
     |  army, with a history of execution-style slayings, had control   |
     |  of the Jesuit university grounds and that the martyred priests  |
     |  had been outspoken advocates of seating the FMLN guerrillas at  |
     |  the negotiating table.  Yet when US officials played dumb,      |
     |  pretending not to know whether the killers were "far rightists  |
     |  or leftists," and when Salvadoran authorities asserted that     |
     |  the FMLN had murdered their advocates, these statements         |
     |  received credible coverage in some media.  The fog was still    |
     |  thick a month later when "Newsweek" reported (12/25/89) that    |
     |  the priests had been murdered "by a presumed rightist death     |
     |  squad."  Through such phrases, centrist media obscure the fact  |
     |  that the "rightist death squads" are an integral part of        |
     |  Salvador's  military structure.  (See Amnesty International's   |
     |  1988 report, "El Salvador `Death Squads'--A Government          |
     |  Strategy.")                                                     |
     |    MURDER OF NUNS BY NICARAGUAN CONTRAS, Jan. 1, 1990:  Days     |
     |  after the US relied largely on the death of a single US         |
     |  citizen to justify its invasion of Panama, two nuns--one an     |
     |  American--were killed when their pickup truck was ambushed in   |
     |  northeastern Nicaragua.  The attack occurred in an area in      |
     |  which the contras--who have killed dozens of civilians in       |
     |  recent months--were known to freely roam.  Initial media        |
     |  coverage gave play to Nicaragua's charges that the contras      |
     |  were responsible and to contra claims that the Sandinistas had  |
     |  impersonated contras killing the nuns.                          |
     |    By Day 2, the murders were not worthy of mention on "CBS"     |
     |  and "ABC" nightly newscasts.  By then Mexican and Latin         |
     |  American press agencies had found two eye-witnesses who         |
     |  identified the contras as the killers of the nuns.  The story   |
     |  took two weeks to break in the US and when it did, the          |
     |  "Washington Post" broke it in a news story that read like a     |
     |  White House-sanctioned editorial (1/14/90):  "There was little  |
     |  doubt that it was contra rebels who killed them.  But there is  |
     |  also little doubt that the US-backed  guerrillas did not mean   |
     |  to do it."  "The Post" proceeded with an unsourced claim        |
     |  reminiscent of the innuendo once aimed at Martin Luther King:   |
     |  "In Managua, the capital, some suspected immediately after the  |
     |  attack that the Sandinistas might have staged it to appear to   |
     |  be a contra ambush.  After all, only the Sandinistas...could    |
     |  benefit from such an atrocity."                                 |
     |    By giving credence to claims which obscure the violence       |
     |  caused by US-backed forces in Central America, some in the      |
     |  national media seem to be impersonating the Southern cracker    |
     |  reporters of 30 years ago.                                      |

                         POSTSCRIPT:  July 4, 1990
As an indication of the on-going intent to obfuscate the true scope and impact
of US military activities in and results of the invasion, the following item 
appeared in the July 4 issue of the "San Francisco Bay Guardian":
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    by Jim Crogan

      IN A PANAMANIAN refugee camp last month, soldiers from the U.S.
    Southern Command confronted a U.S. film crew that was interviewing
    Panamanian refugees.  The soldiers attempted to stop the interviews
    and confiscate the videotape and equipment.  An estimated 500
    residents of the camp surrounded and protected the crew and hid its
    taped footage.
      The crew, from Ronin Films (aka the Santa Monica-based Empowerment
    Project) returned to Los Angeles this week.
      Barbara Trent, EP's co-director and the director and co-producer of
    the Panama film, told the Bay Guardian her crew's confrontation with
    Southern Command military police and members of the U.S. Army Criminal
    Investigations Division [CID] took place at the Allbrook Field
    Displaced Persons Camp, a civilian war refugee facility administered
    jointly by the Panamanian Red Cross and the Panamanian government's
    Office of Disaster Assistance.
      "The camp was exclusively a Panamanian facility, and we had
    permission to be there from Panamanian disaster authorities, the Red
    Cross and the council set up by the refugees to govern the camp, so I
    didn't understand why SouthCom people were even there," said Trent.
    "The refugees saved the day for us," she added.  "They got between us
    and the military, surrounded us and eventually walked us over to the
    office used by the Disaster Assistance people.  They even hid our
      "The people wanted us there," Trent continued, "because they
    desperately wanted to tell the world about the losses they suffered
    during the invasion, and the camp conditions they've been forced to
    live under for the last six months."
      During the incident, which she said her crew captured on film, the
    CID people refused to explain to her or the Panamanian officials why
    or on whose authority they were trying to stop the filming.
    Eventually, after a series of negotiations between the Panamanians and
    representatives from SouthCom, the EP crew finished its interviews and
    left the camp.
      Lt. Col. Robert Donley, deputy director of public affairs for
    SouthCom, said the MP's actions were "definitely wrong.  They are
    there only to assist the Panamanians and had no authority to
      Asked why Army CID officials were participating in trying to stop
    the EP crew from filming, Donley said, "That's a good question.  I
    really don't know and haven't been able to find out why."
      Gary Meyer, co-director of EP and co-producer of the film, said the
    crew also brought back several interviews that apparently describe the
    U.S. use of laser weapons during last December's invasion.  One
    Panamanian said he saw "a bright red light, which made a distinctive
    sound that he repeated for us on camera, and was then followed by an
    explosion," Meyer said.  Another family said they had an intense white
    light come through their apartment window and explode whatever object
    it hit."
      Trent added that several people said they had seen "a Panamanian
    soldier killed by a laser beam."
      Trent reported that she had questioned General Maxwell Thurmond,
    head of SouthCom, about the reports that laser weapons were used.  "He
    responded by saying that was crap, and that lasers were only used by
    the U.S. Air Force to pinpoint targets," Trent recalled.