Manuel Noriega: From best friend to worst enemy
For much of his professional life Manuel Noriega was both a friend and asset of the United States. After backing a 1968 coup against leftist Panamanian President Arnulfo Arias, Noriega was rewarded by Panama’s new military leader Omar Torrijos with the position of chief of intelligence in 1970. In 1971, Noriega received his first payment from the CIA in what was the beginning of a long relationship that until a bitter end, was largely fruitful to both sides.
Beginning in 1983, Manuel Noriega became the def-facto military leader of Panama. During the 1980s, Noriega supported all of the US moves to destabilise leftist governments in Latin America including in El Salvador and particularly in Nicaragua where he played a key role in facilitating the Iran-Contra scandal in which the Reagan administration illegally circumvented the US Congress in order to sell weapons to Iran (while also selling them to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war), while then funnelling the proceeds of the Iranian weapons sales to the right wing Contra insurgents in Nicaragua who the US supported in their bitter war against the legitimate President Daniel Ortega.
It was at this time that the CIA also facilitated the trafficking of cocaine into the United States which in turn feed the urban crack epidemic that blighted mostly African American areas of major US cities throughout the 1980s. The US admitted that it paid Noriega $322,000 for his complicity and cooperation in the US meddling in Latin America as well as his role in allowing Panama to be a major transport hub for Colombian Cocaine into Central America and eventually the United States. While the US admitted paying Noriega $322,000 in 1980s Dollars, many historians say that even without adjusting for inflation, the CIA and other organs of the US deep state paid millions over a period of years to Noriega.
And then in 1989, just a year before America’s Iraqi partner Saddam Hussein fell from Washington’s graces, Noriega went from best friend to worst enemy. Many in the US began to worry that because of the wealth and prestige the US bestowed upon him, Noriega was beginning to become too independent of US influence. When rumours spread that the Panamanian leader was selling secrets to Cuba, it was a last straw and the US sent 27,000 soldiers to Panama to arrest him on charges of drug trafficking, something that Noriega was in fact guilty of, but only because the CIA encouraged him to do so.
During the invasion which saw civilians killed and civilian infrastructure destroyed by US troops, Noriega took shelter in the Vatican’s Embassy in Panama. Because the storming of an embassy is illegal according to international law, as made clear by the Vienna Conventions, the US proceeded to surround the embassy and bombard Noriega with loud rock music for hours on end.
Noriega eventually surrendered to US troops who then captured him as a prisoner of war and brought him to the US to face trial. The event was seen as a prelude to the unbridled US power of the 1990s and early 2000s, where any Cold War considerations about even attempting to show respect for a head of state were abrogated by a US keen to humiliate world leaders before a US television audience.
The Assange connection
Like Noriega, Assange took shelter in a foreign embassy to avoid capture from a hostile regime. While Noriega surrendered fairly quickly, Assange has been living in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012. Recent events have made it clear that the US and UK will not likely violate all conventions of international law and warfare by storming the embassy in order to take Assange (who is now an Ecuadorian citizen) prisoner. Instead, it seems that Assange’s state enemies are looking to essentially force Assange out by making his life unbearable in the Embassy or otherwise wait for him to die a painful death within the Embassy walls.
For months, medical experts and Assange’s close personal companion Pamela Anderson have warned that the Wikileak’s founder’s health is in a dire condition. Anderson recently sated that she fears Assange might die in the Embassy. Seeing as Hillary Clinton once asked why Assange couldn’t be “droned” in the embassy (aka killed with a weaponised drone), it seems that Assange’s death might actually be something the western deep states prefer as even in a trial situation, Assange could talk and would likely say a lot. ‘Dead men tell no tales’ is as apt an expression as any when trying to ascertain why the western powers continue to violate a UN ruling which called for Assange’s immediate freedom on human rights grounds.
Barring this, the western powers may be trying to ‘smoke Assange out’ by taking away his only means of productivity, professional work and personal pleasure – his internet connection. Since the 28th of March, Assange’s internet connection has been cut off by Ecuadorian Embassy and shows no signs of being restored. Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa who granted Assange asylum and remains a staunch Assange supporter has publicly stated that his fears his successor Lenin Moreno sees Assange as more of a headache than a humanitarian cause that Ecuadorian must champion.
If not having an internet connection would be enough to drive even many free men and women insane, one can only speculate on the effect it is having on a man who has not left a tiny room or breathed fresh air since 2012.
If Assange dies, his enemies will know that many of his secrets will have died with him. If his physical health deteriorates so badly that a feeble Assange is forced out of the embassy prior to death, he may well be kidnapped as Noriega was. The unkindest element of the entire scenario is that while Noriega was a head of state, he did in fact dance with the CIA devil and he was by no means an angel. He was a brutal rightwing ruler who used his position to held the US crush genuine popular leftist governments in the region. Assange by contrast is a publisher who has exposed to war criminality, corruption and lies of multiple governments for the benefit of all the world.
Now though, two very different men may find that they have a similar demise unless something just short of a miracle happens to save the most important publisher in world history: Julian Assange.