On December 20th, 1989 more than 20,000 U.S. troops invaded the small Central American country of Panama. How and why did it happen? This Academy Award winning 1992 documentary attempts to answer these questions and more. Were we invading Panama to capture the rogue dictator Manuel Noriega, or were we meeting out frontier justice on a man who had the temerity to stand up to the CIA and its former director George H. W. Bush? Or could it have been something else? Why did the US military need to destroy the Panamanian Defense force if they were there to capture one man who had been accused of dealing drugs to the United States. In the year 2000 the United States was slated to return control of the Panama Canal to Panama. But Panama would also be responsible for providing for the security of the canal, something it could not easily accomplish with out capable military forces.
This film also documents the human cost to the invasion. It examines claims that US military forces indiscriminately attacked civilians and civilian residences with tanks and incendiary grenades, arrested progressive Panamanian leaders and cultural figures, interred thousands of refugees and prisoners, covered up civilian casualties with mass graves, tested experimental weapons on both civilian and military targets, executed Panamanian prisoners, and used force to intimidate and shut down media outlets critical of the invasion.
This film also suggests that military action in Panama was used as a proving ground for new tactics and systems that would soon be used in the 1991 war against Iraq.
Featuring George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Oliver North, Colin Powell, and Ronald Reagan.
Directed by Barbara Trent.
Written by David Kaspar.
This film is also available on Netflix here.