Spy Ops (2023) s01e02 Episode Script

Operation Just Cause

The president has directed
United States forces
to execute a.m. this morning
preplanned missions in Panama
to protect American lives,
restore the democratic process,
preserve the integrity
of the Panama Canal treaties,
and apprehend Manuel Noriega.
The U.S. essentially built
the Panama Canal,
and owned and operated it for years,
until the Carter administration
enacted the treaty
to hand it over to Panama.
Then Manuel Noriega rose to power.
He was actually working
for the U.S. government
in a more or less counter-narcotics role
while he was simultaneously
helping the narcotraffickers.
We were giving the canal
to the Panamanians,
so we could not do it
while we had a dictator like Noriega,
who was all-powerful
and involved in narcotics trafficking.
Prior to the execution
of Just Cause,
all the intel we received said
that we know where Noriega is
24 hours a day.
As soon as we got down there,
nobody knew where he was.
There we are.
The big, big prize, Noriega.
We can't find him.
And so the hunt starts.
Linking the Pacific
and Atlantic Oceans,
the Panama Canal was opened in 1914.
The United States built the canal,
chopping through miles of jungle
and importing thousands of workers
from as far away as China and Italy.
The Panama Canal was completed in 1914.
Earlier in the year,
the United States had convinced Panama
to become independent from Colombia.
And the area where the canal is
was the narrowest point
between both oceans.
Although the sea levels are different,
but it's the narrowest point.
The French had tried to build a canal,
and, because of disease,
malaria and so forth,
were not able to complete it.
We took it over, and the United States
was successful in completing it.
And so the United States government
created a Canal Zone,
which is about 20 miles wide
and about 40 miles long.
The agreement with Panama and the canal,
and this is where the controversy came in,
was that the canal would be almost
as if it was United States property.
Canal Zone had its own government,
its own law, its own jails.
And so if a Panamanian
was transiting through the canal
on the highway that they had,
they would be subject
to U.S. jurisdiction.
So eventually,
it became a very conflictive point
where, when Carter came in,
he agreed to end the Zone
and turn it over to Panama.
Under these accords,
Panama will play
an increasingly important role
to the operation and defense
of the canal
during the next 23 years.
And after that, the United States
will still be able to counter any threat
to the canal's neutrality
and openness for use.
When the treaty with Carter was made,
we set up a division in the operations
called "Joint Treaty."
And that was under me.
I was chief of operations of South Comm.
Panama had to recognize
that we had military there,
and we were in the canal
up to the year 2000.
I had 12,000 troops under me,
which was the largest of 'em.
But we had about 12,000
military civilian dependents.
And we had about another 20,000 Zonians
that were American citizens.
The CIA and the U.S. military
were the biggest stakesholders in Panama.
Panama is very important to the U.S.
because of the Panama Canal in particular,
and because all the commerce
that goes through the canal.
So it's a vital place for us.
The Panama Canal Agreement
was done with Torrijos.
Torrijos was a dictator.
Very charismatic guy.
Very nationalist.
We dealt with him effectively.
Noriega was the chief of intelligence
for Torrijos.
He recognized the importance
of propaganda, for example,
and deception, and sources, and networks.
They called him "Pineapple Face"
because he had pockmarks
from childhood.
And, uh, they were all over his face.
It was a derogatory term towards him.
I'm sure he didn't like it,
but that's the way it was.
Manuel Noriega had a very,
very interesting,
um, childhood and adolescent.
He was a son of a maid.
And the mother had always
tried to provide for him
the best she possibly could.
In his high school years,
he was sent to a military academy in Peru
where he excelled and he did really well.
When he came back to Panama
as a lieutenant,
he then was assigned under Omar Torrijos.
And Torrijos took him under his arm
and began being his mentor.
That relationship fostered,
uh, quite a bit.
He rose in 1971 to become
the chief of the secret service.
He was very helpful to us
during the Central American wars,
supporting our regional policies
and giving us access to hard targets,
which we appreciated very much.
Freedom fighters in Nicaragua
can win the day for democracy
in Central America.
But our support is needed now.
Tomorrow will be too late.
What was going on at that time
on a bigger scale in Central America
we were involved in fighting
the Sandinistas.
They were supported by the Cubans.
And, of course, the Cubans
were a satellite state
of the Soviet Union.
So we were very concerned about it.
Noriega had a good relationship
with the Cubans.
He could give us inside information
about these contacts,
and what he learned from them.
On the other hand, however,
he was double-dealing
and probably selling
telling them what we were up to
and what we were doing.
There was a question
as to how reliable he was overall.
I knew that the CIA was paying Noriega
$200,000 a year for information.
Noriega did receive compensation,
but it was compensation
to pay for, uh,
for things that he was doing for us
in terms of collecting information,
in terms of setting up equipment
that we used
to collect intelligence on, uh,
hard targets.
But there was always a problem
with Noriega and corruption.
He knew the country.
He knew the players.
So he was an important part
of the Panamanian government at the time,
and Torrijos in particular.
Omar Torrijos was killed
in a fiery plane crash.
The circumstances of the incident
are unclear.
Authorities said that his plane
crashed into the side of a mountain,
but witnesses said that the plane
exploded in flight.
Although his death was officially
declared an accident,
many suspect that he was assassinated.
When General Torrijos died
in Cerro Marta on July 31, 1981
a situation of national
uncertainty arose.
Torrijos was not
President of the Republic.
Torrijos was head
of the government.
So in that transition,
General Noriega takes over the National
Guard, called the Defense Forces.
He was the one who ordered
the transition.
He became head
of the Panamanian Defense Force,
and was able to consolidate power,
and become the strongman.
He was not the president,
but he was the main person,
the dictator in Panama.
He had good knowledge
of where the money was,
and the rich people,
and got involved in all kinds
of different types of corruption.
I think that probably the worst,
of course, was narcotics trafficking.
Noriega was able to use Panama
as a transit point for drugs.
So he had control of the waterways
with Colombia, getting into Miami,
routes into Europe.
And he developed that network
working with the individuals
from the various cartels.
And he was paid very well for that.
If the cartels want safe passage
through the canal,
or support,
he can make it happen.
So, for the cartels,
it's an important relationship to have.
So it was a perfect haven
for drug trafficking
and other kinds of corruption.
Well, our country had become
very concerned about the narcotics trade.
In 1986, President Reagan directed
the Central Intelligence Agency
to get better intelligence on how to take
down the trafficking organizations.
We formed the Panama Task Force
in order to enhance
our intelligence collection.
And that was the situation
when I arrived there on my second tour
in 1986.
I asked the embassy to give me a list
of all those companies
who you're doing business with,
and I wanted a report of how many of those
had links with Noriega.
All of them had links with Noriega.
Noriega had his claws in them.
So I wanted to ban all business
with those companies
and import it from the United States.
Thought that was inherent in my mission.
Get rid of Noriega.
And so Noriega and I became archenemies.
Most countries don't like
foreign troops in their country,
so it'll eventually get under their skin.
Pretty quickly,
Noriega started to question
whether we were the best partners to have,
the best friends to have,
and started to oppose us
in different ways.
asked General Noriega
to intervene on behalf
of the Contras in Nicaragua.
He even asked Noriega
to lend part of the territory of Panama
to train the Contras
to go fight in Nicaragua.
General Noriega said no,
he was not going to allow that.
They saw in General Manuel Antonio Noriega
an obstacle
to the materialization
of those geostrategic
and political objectives.
He became
antagonistic and even confrontational,
and almost belligerent towards the U.S.
And he started to undermine
our Central American policies.
This machete represents
the dignity and courage
of the Panamanian people.
It says not one step back.
And he started to oppress,
suppress, the political establishment
in Panama.
He started to torture and kill
his political opponents.
Well, at some point, we knew we could
not turn a blind eye anymore.
We knew we had to do something about it.
Uh, and that's when it was decided
that we would cut relations with him.
President George Bush, Sr.
stopped economic
and military aid to Panama.
So things were out of control.
In 1988, Noriega was on federal charges
for drug trafficking in the United States.
It's in a helicopter
originally supplied by the Americans,
but the ruler, who has now been charged
with drug smuggling,
still flies around his country.
General Manuel Noriega
is commander of the army,
and the most powerful man in Panama.
As the head of the task force,
I was going to the deputies' meetings
at the White House,
the National Security Council meetings.
The objective was to have him
step down from power peacefully
and turn it over to a democratic
government at some point.
Noriega out?
I would love to see them get him out.
We'd like to see him out of there.
In 1989, there was
a coup attempt, March of that year,
by some of his own military members.
And they were put down, executed.
General Noriega was, for a long time,
on the CIA payroll,
and he knows a trick or two
about propaganda.
Once again, he's rebuffed
an attempt to unseat him.
And as desperately
as the Americans want him to leave,
his grip on power still looks
as strong as ever.
We weren't looking to have a coup.
We were not giving them weapons
or training them in any way.
We just persuade the military
to put pressure on Noriega to step down.
Kurt Muse was an American citizen
whose family had gone to Panama.
His father had a graphics business,
and he was working for his father.
Uh, his children were going
to Panamanian schools.
He was part of the community there.
Integrated into the Panamanian community.
But he, like others, friends of his,
Panamanian friends,
became very concerned with Noriega
and his abuse of authority.
They called themselves
Radio Voz de la Libertad.
They were able to discover
that they could intercept
commercial radio transmission
from commercial radio stations
from downtown Panama City
and take it over,
basically hijack the signal
and broadcast their own program.
And at the time,
they were broadcasting sporadically,
very short messages that were anti-Noriega
and pro-democracy.
The Voice of Freedom.
And we gave them money, funds,
to rent safe houses
in downtown Panama City
in different places,
where we gave them
the state-of-the-art equipment,
where they could be programmed
to take over radio stations
at a given time.
And then we decided
that we would use this capability
to push back against Noriega,
because we knew
that he was going to cheat.
He was going to manipulate
the election process.
We would set up our equipment,
and we would wait for election day.
And on election day, we would receive
the results of exit polls.
And we would then read the script
that we put together.
"Attention, attention, attention.
Urgent, urgent."
"We are interrupting this broadcast
to bring you the real results
of the elections
based on exit polling."
And we would quickly go through
the information that we had received
from the exit polling,
and then shut down and monitor
Panamanian military communications
to make sure they weren't looking for us.
It worked like a charm.
We spent most of the afternoon
and part of the evening
doing our messages,
intercepting the radio communications.
But eventually what happened
was that Noriega stopped the count.
And a day or two later,
he basically annulled the election.
And his reason for annulling:
there was foreign interference.
The Dignity
Battalions were the expression
of an important group
of Panamanian citizens
who voluntarily decided to organize
themselves as a civil militia,
as a second line of support
for the Defense Forces.
What we wanted was to prevent a foreign
military intervention from taking place.
My name
is Amadís Jiménez Sandoval.
I was a captain in the Defense Force
during the time of the invasion.
I have known Benjamín Colamarco
for many years,
and like many young men of his time,
he was a very idealistic man.
And I think that he believed a lot
in the matter of nationalism
and Panama's sovereignty.
He was the commander
of the Dignity Battalions.
After the period
of the elections were negated
and there were
the mass civilian protests,
Noriega had put out the word
to the Panamanian Defense Forces,
and also to the Dignity Battalions
to attack the men who had been
legitimately elected.
One of those was Billy Ford.
He was attacked in the streets.
His bodyguard driver was killed,
and Ford was severely beaten.
Violence in Panama today
as pro-Noriega forces
attacked opposition leaders
and their followers.
The opposition presidential candidate,
Guillermo Endara, was beaten unconscious.
His vice presidential candidates
were also badly mauled.
But he showed his true colors.
He showed that he was a dictator.
And that was
the beginning of the end for him.
I was assigned
to this special operations unit.
It was called
a Joint Intelligence Fusion Cell.
The mandate for the unit was to find,
fix, and predict Noriega's moves.
So we were sent down as a team
in November to do this.
I would jog down Amador Causeway,
which is the same area
where his headquarters was located,
talk to the guards
to see what information could be gained,
and then report back on anything
that I had heard.
Upon my arrival, one of the things
that I started developing
was a networking of sources
who may have seen or heard
of Noriega's whereabouts,
so that we were able to predict
his every move.
I knew that he had a mistress,
Vicky Amado.
And I went down to one of the nail parlors
that she would frequent
to see if I could pick up some rumors
from there.
And there was also a home
that he frequented
that was known to be the witch's home.
He was very, very involved in voodoo,
called Santería in Spanish.
He thought that these powers
would be extended to him
through these rituals,
and give him greater powers.
We were holding our Christmas ball,
and our commander, General Cisneros,
called a halt to our evening.
I went up to the microphone and I said,
"I'm sorry to have to cancel this event,
but we just had an incident,
and I'm ordering all of you officers
to go drop your family off
and report for duty back at the base."
I was notified by my aid
that there was an incident that occurred
where a marine lieutenant
had been killed.
He had gone out,
and with two other friends,
they drove by the Panamanian headquarters.
There was a roadblock.
And that's when they told them to halt.
He ran through the blockade.
They shot him and killed him.
A very reliable story I got
that when they briefed Bush,
they also briefed him that subsequent
to that marine getting killed,
there was a Navy lieutenant who also
shouldn't have been there, with his wife,
driving by the same place,
and they stopped him.
They got him out, rough-treated him,
and pawned his wife.
So that's when Bush
ordered the operation to be done.
It was called Just Cause then.
The Panamanians called it
an American invasion.
That's what I'm gonna refer to it:
the American invasion of Panama.
Because that's what it was.
I was returning home
around ten when I received a call
from Captain Moisés Cortizo,
whose base was in Fort Amador.
Captain Cortizo told me,
"Benjamín, strange things are happening."
"We have lost communication
with the American counterpart
of the United States Army
in Panama."
That night, when we arrived,
passing the lights of the checkpoint,
they were broken and there was no soldier
in the checkpoint,
neither Panamanian nor American.
And the entire left area of the base,
which was where the Americans were,
which was the United States Navy
Command area, was dark.
Completely blacked out.
I was the command sergeant major
of the U.S. infantry battalion
stationed there,
the 5th Battalion 87th Infantry.
Delta Force participated
in the, uh, invasion of Panama
on Operation Just Cause
for a couple of reasons.
One, they had had a team
tracking Noriega for a number of months.
Second one was Kurt Muse.
Kurt Muse, who had been part of this
Panamanian group, Voz de la Libertad.
He had traveled to the U.S.
and had returned to Panama.
The group had been betrayed
by someone, uh, known to them.
And they had wrapped up Kurt,
put him in jail.
Kurt was being held
at the Modelo prison
in downtown El Chorrillo,
right across from the Comandancia,
the PDF headquarters.
It became clear
for the U.S. government
that as a first step in the invasion
was to get Kurt out.
That mission was called Acid Gambit.
At the time of Operation Just Cause,
I was assigned to an army
special mission unit.
So a special mission unit
is the Army's designation
of different units that are classified.
Delta Force are the elite of our troops.
They can go into any situation
and take care of business and come out.
We wanted to get Kurt Muse
out of prison safely
because we knew
the longer he stayed there,
the more at risk he was.
Little birds from Delta
had been putting this one together
for quite a long time.
I knew Lee when he came
to go through selection
through the operator's training course
at Delta.
They landed on top of Modelo prison
fought their way inside
blowing doors and cells open
with some charges that they had
for that purpose.
Grabbed Kurt Muse and drug him up
and stuck him on a helicopter.
When the helicopter left,
they fired at it.
Got damaged, and crashed down
on the street below.
The military sent in reinforcements.
And all the shooting going on,
an armored personnel carrier from us
went up there, drove up, rescued him,
and drove him back to the Army base.
It was a pretty dramatic
escape from prison.
The Delta Forces,
a couple of them got shot.
But everybody survived,
and it was a happy ending.
On a scale of one to ten, it's a ten.
Meanwhile, H-hour,
the rest of the battalion
was gonna helicopter
into Fort Amador
and secure Fort Amador,
then we launched the operation.
The operation plan
had simultaneous attacks
on the Canal Zone,
Fort Amador,
Panamanian airport, Torrijos,
Fort Cimarron.
And Rio Hato,
which was way up north by itself.
They had the 82nd Airborne Division
had come down.
The Navy SEALs had parachuted
into PanamáViejo.
And, unfortunately,
it was during the time of low tide,
and when that occurs,
the tide is very, very distant,
you know, from the mainland.
And, unfortunately, we lost four
Navy SEALs during that event.
But it was a very, very chaotic time.
For us, it wasn't an invasion.
It was a walk out the back door.
The truth is that the limit
between the Panama base
and the United States Army base
was the street.
They had to cross a street
to invade our country.
The most important one
was to immediately take out
any of the Panamanian Defense Force
locations in the city,
to isolate them and to knock them out.
The Comandancia
was pounded like a drum.
It was hit by AC-130 gunships
just firing on that.
Just pounding the place.
And then later cleared
by a company of rangers.
We knew that Noriega wasn't there,
or we would have gone in
with boots on the ground
as opposed to bombs and rockets
from the air.
So it was essentially destroyed
when the operation first kicked off.
That's where the majority
of the deaths occurred, right there.
In that fight at the Comandancia.
That's where we caught fire
on the four houses that were there.
Wherever you were in
the city, you could see the beam of light
that the fire from El Chorrillo made.
We weren't sure if our house would
even still be there when we returned.
It was very, very scary.
We burned Chorrillo to the ground.
Twelve square blocks, a little more.
People were just streaming out of there.
Those buildings had been built
by the French
during the French Canal project.
It was heart pine timber
from Savannah, Georgia.
If you've ever seen heart pine go up,
I mean, it just whoosh!
And if you were slow,
or old, or crippled, or little,
you didn't get out of that damn place.
On the night of December 19,
I was the commander of the
Coco Solo Marine Infantry Company.
I had just been promoted to captain,
and that was the day I took command
of this new company.
I didn't even know
the unit's phone number.
I didn't know the name
of the soldiers I had there.
Soldiers in that unit were very young.
They were 18, 19, 20-year-old kids,
and when the bombing started,
they were very scared.
They had us all surrounded.
Then the soldier that
was next to me says,
"Do not go outside
because you will get killed,"
and I said to the soldier, "The only
way is to try to save ourselves,
because the enemy's force against us
is far superior."
"So I will try to surrender."
The moment I tried to surrender
and get out,
a hand grenade blows up.
The soldier and I went down.
He didn't find cover in time
and was hit by the grenade.
He died in my arms.
There are reports
that in the first hours alone
there were more than 480 bombs detonated
in the capital area,
specifically in the area of El Chorrillo.
In my opinion, the fighting
was over in about an hour.
I was at the Davis prisoner camp.
I did not know that the new
president of Panama was President Endara.
The new government
installed by the invasion
was headed by the U.S.-backed candidates
from the aborted national election.
President Endara
talked with General Cisneros
and asked Cisneros about me.
That is when I met
with General Cisneros
in a safe house in Fort Davis.
Could see the hatred in his eyes.
Of course, nobody likes to be invaded
and shot down.
At the time,
I was upset and I told him
that I wanted to go back
to the prisoner camp
and that I did not want to participate
in absolutely anything.
But I told them,
"Listen, it's all over."
"Noriega's running.
He has betrayed you all."
"There's no need to do any more
dying or destruction."
"I need you to help me."
Cisneros tells me
that there was a fire in El Chorrillo,
and that there was a number of people
left homeless.
The other American generals
wanted to bomb Colón,
and they were planning
to bomb Colón that night.
And asked me to help him to get officers
and troops in Colón to surrender.
We were on the same page about
avoiding unnecessary bloodshed.
Then we made
a telephone call together.
They talk to me,
they talk to Captain Cisneros,
and he asks them very respectfully,
in a very correct manner, to surrender,
that what he wants is to avoid
bombing the city of Colón.
I said, "Listen, I will not bomb you.
If you give up all your weapons,
fly a white flag,
you will not be hurt."
A few hours went by
and officers started to exit
toward the American troops' checkpoint
and with this,
they avoid the bombing of Colón.
That happened to about 75%
of the Panamanian Force.
Surrendered by day three.
Prior to the execution of Just Cause,
all the intel we received
said that we know where Noriega is
24 hours a day.
"Tell us when you're going,
we'll tell you where he is."
As soon as we got down there,
nobody knew where he was.
The individuals that were tracking him
had noted that he had been at meetings
on the Atlantic side, in Colón.
Then he came to the Pacific side,
where he was at a hotel
close to the airport.
And then they lost track of him.
We found out that the reason
no one knew where he was
is because he was in a bordello
when Just Cause went down.
And so he's there seeing the aircraft,
and the noises, and the explosions,
and he went to ground.
Noriega was a clever man.
He knew that we were gonna kill him.
Because we were going to kill him.
Had we been able to catch him
anywhere during the fighting,
he was a dead man.
So he was going place to place, hiding.
He's in civilian clothes.
Had a driver, someone stuck with him.
And he couldn't stay anywhere very long,
because Delta was on him.
We did over 20 missions
in a six-day period
of places where he either
might likely have been
or where he was reported to be.
But it was the same story everywhere.
No Noriega.
In my mind,
I felt that Noriega
was too much of a coward
to really run into the jungles.
He loved comfort too much.
He loved his mistress, Vicky Amado,
too much.
And I then began developing,
in my mind,
that perhaps Vicky Amado
knew where he was
in the chaos that had ensued.
I got the Yellow Pages.
Back then we had Yellow Pages.
And I looked for the Amado residence.
And I made the phone call.
This was late on 21st December.
Her mother, Norma, answered the phone.
And I introduced myself as Maria,
and I had a message from Manuel Noriega
for Vicky.
Vicky gets to the phone
and she's just out of breath,
and just asks me,
"Is he safe? Where is he?"
So that let me know
that neither one of them
knew where Noriega was.
So I just proceeded to tell Vicky
that the message that I had from Manuel:
if she did not feel safe,
that she could contact me, Maria,
and I would help her to safety.
That was the end of the conversation
on December 21st.
On the afternoon of December 22nd,
I received a call.
She told me she was scared
for her life.
I told her that I would arrange
to go pick her up.
On 23rd December,
met her at the prescribed location.
But then when she notices that the vehicle
is going into the old Canal Zone
and we are approaching a military gate,
she looks at me and she says,
"Where are we going?"
And, um, I said, "To a safe place."
I did inform her
that I was not a Noriega ally.
You know, I was on the side
of the U.S. forces,
and it was time for Noriega
to be brought to justice.
And the country needed her support
in order to help this occur.
So I think, you know,
in the next few days,
she started feeling her role in this
was really very, very important.
And she had the life of her children
to think about.
And I think that was probably
foremost in her mind.
Vicky Amado's downfall was that
she just liked to be part of high society.
Her mother, Norma, she ran a bar,
and was known to fix
Noriega's meals for him
because he was afraid of getting poisoned.
So that was Vicky's mother.
Vicky, on the other hand,
just lived a style
that she never had the opportunity
to do so
until she met up with Manuel Noriega.
Interestingly enough,
we did not know where Noriega was
at the time that I brought Vicky
to the safe house,
which was on 23rd December.
The evening of 24th December,
Noriega calls the nuncio
and asks for refuge.
Noriega sought refuge in the nuncio
because it's a sanctuary
that's established by the Catholic Church.
The Pope says nobody can be touched
as long as they are in the papal nuncio.
He had called from a Tastee-Freez
ice cream shop.
Okay, right over here is the parking lot.
Adjacent right across is the Vatican.
You see the two men standing up
inside the parking The open bay there?
Directly right across
is supposed to be Noriega's room.
That is where Noriega's staying,
right there.
And then he's surrounded, of course
There are people who said
that when he entered the Vatican embassy,
he was dressed as a nun.
Others say that he was dressed as a woman.
Then there is a third version
that says that Father Villanueva
got him into the nunciature.
I really do not know.
So we hightailed it there.
We're the first ones on the scene.
We secured the embassy itself
to keep him from escaping.
And then there were numerous
concentric circles of security
put around us.
We had him locked up tight.
We then set up communications,
a direct line,
on about 26th, 27th December
from the safe house into the nuncio,
so that we had direct contact
phone conversations
between Vicky and Noriega.
We tapped the phone,
and I heard Noriega
talking to Vicky Amado.
So the conversation
basically with her and Noriega was,
you know, you can't stay in there forever.
In the meantime,
as she's talking to him on and off,
we're amping up the pressure.
Big Army loudspeakers
blasting rock music.
The favorite one was,
"I Fought the Law and the Law Won."
They'd just be blaring
And we knew the room he was staying in,
so we put some speakers
just really close to the wall.
Right there, to just blast him
day and night, no rest.
General Assembly adopted a resolution
deploring the U.S. invasion of Panama
as a quote, "flagrant violation
of international law."
The vote: 75-20.
The United Nations General Assembly
approved Resolution 44/240,
which indicates that the administration
of the U.S. government,
at that time, of President Bush,
violated international law
and violated the sovereignty
of the Republic of Panama.
I went that morning
back to my headquarters,
and on the way back
there was a large crowd
about a mile from the nunciature,
Panamanians demonstrating.
As soon as they saw my car,
they were, "Ah!"
You know, I was very popular then.
And they told me,
"General, if you just let us in there,
we'll drag Noriega out."
I went back to the headquarters,
called the nuncio, and I said,
"You know, there's a large group
of Panamanians out there
that want to come in
and take care of Noriega."
He got the light, and went and called
Noriega from the bedroom upstairs.
This is exactly how he told me.
He said, "I told Noriega,
'If you don't give yourself up,
that crowd is gonna come in
and hang you like Mussolini.'"
Said, "That's what's gonna happen
if you don't give yourself up to Cisneros
because Cisneros is required to protect
you once you're in his custody."
Which was true.
Prior to this,
I had really talked to Vicky
about what kind of man Noriega was.
And she said that, you know,
he was a very, very proud man.
He was very happy and proud
of his military accomplishments.
He did not like humiliations at all.
And that's when I had the idea that,
you know,
maybe bringing him in his uniform
out of there
would be something that he could come out
and not feel the humiliation.
And the conversation with Noriega
was that,
"Put your uniform on,
you come out of the nuncio,
your pride restored."
You know, you just can't stay
the way it is now.
We had our military forces that had gone
to one of Noriega's residences
to get the uniform,
and ironed it, and had it all prepped up
and clean for him.
And it was delivered that way.
When he saw the curtain was up,
he agreed to come out.
One of the things he said was,
"I will give myself up
and surrender myself to General Cisneros."
So I passed that on to General Thurman.
He said, "No, you shouldn't be up there."
So I was not at the gate.
A Special Forces detachment were there
to check him and so forth.
And I stayed back.
And at 8:50 that evening,
Noriega did come out
of the nuncio in his military uniform.
So he came out.
We were trying to present a calm
appearance so as not to spook him.
I didn't want him to get to the gate
and then panic and turn around,
and then we're back to square one.
He came out through the gate.
I remember grabbing him
by the upper arm so we could
turn him around and search him.
And he asked,
"Where is General Cisneros?"
He says,
"¿Dónde estáGeneral Cisneros?"
And I told him, "He's right over there
across the street."
We cuffed him, walked him over
to a Black Hawk helicopter.
Put him in the helicopter
and they handcuffed him,
and he started rocking.
He thought we were gonna
throw him out of the helicopter.
I'm convinced that's why.
He started going, "Ah, ah."
He was afraid. A coward.
He's nothing but a coward.
It was not until Noriega left
the papal nuncio
and I saw him be turned over
to the DEA agents,
I just had a sigh of relief.
There were a lot
of moving parts in Just Cause.
It wasn't flawless.
You know, people made mistakes.
Sometimes the enemy gets a vote,
and the weather gets a vote,
and broken vehicles get a vote.
So nothing is ever flawless.
But for the size and scope
of this operation,
it was pretty amazing
how it was carried off.
Regarding the invasion
of Panama, the military operation,
I have no regrets that I participated.
In fact, I'm glad I did
because I know I saved a lot of lives.
What was a real surprise
for us, or at least for me,
was that Noriega had worked
until the last minute with the CIA.
That I risked my life,
that my military unit almost got killed
It was bitter to find out that until
the very last minute he had been working
for the enemy that was attacking me.
It is very hard to see
people next to you die.
What marked me the most
is having very clear
that there is no good war,
as there is no bad peace.
That is what has marked me the most.
We still don't
know the number of deaths that occurred
during the invasion.
We calculate about
2,000 to 3,000 dead.
But there were no records of that.
Noriega was sentenced to 40 years in jail
as a prisoner of the United States.
Then he went to prison in France
because a French law was broken.
Then they released him to Panama,
and they put him in a former
Canal Zone jail.
Then they found out he had cancer,
and he died.
But I think overall,
Noriega was treated much better
than he deserved to be treated.
Noriega was a very cruel man.
Panama is one of those success stories
because they've been democratic,
they took over the canal,
they've run it well, they've made money.
But we need to be careful
not to engage in military takeovers
in the future like this.
Not only did they result
in the death of many young soldiers,
but a loss of treasure
and standing in the world.
So, uh, hopefully the days
of invading other countries is over.
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