Operation Just Cause

The United States Invasion of Panama was originally named “Operation Blue Spoon”, however the name “Operation Just Cause” was instead chosen to amplify the perceived legitimacy of invading a small Central American nation.

Operation Just Cause

An Invasion to Arrest One Man: Manuel Noriega

Above Fourth of July Avenue the AC-130 Spectre gunships floated like fire-breathing galleons through the cool midnight air. Their weapons were fixed upon Manuel Noriega’s headquarters, the Comandancia. It was December 20th 1989, and George H.W. Bush had earlier that day ordered 27,684 troops and over 300 aircraft to apply “maximum force” to arrest just one man.

Red and green tracers lit up the sky above the El Chorrillo slums, and thousands of civilians ran frantically from the flames. Armoured personnel carriers and tanks stormed through the debris while paratroopers floated like spiders from a web of helicopters above. The Comandancia was decimated, sending great plumes of fire and ash into the air and raining debris down on burning residential buildings and the historic colonial architecture of Casco Viejo. Further away, Noriega’s private jet and a Panamanian gunboat were destroyed by US Navy SEALs. The dictator was trapped.

A Dictator Becomes a Fugitive

For two weeks Noriega avoided capture, originally speeding through the streets of Panama City in a small Hyandai before hiding out in the elaborate mansion of a business associate. There he hid with the resident toucans and monkeys in a pool area behind a garage housing five Mercedes and a candy-coloured Porsche.

With a million dollar reward offered for information leading to his capture, information began flowing in. Noriega vacated the mansion and negotiated his way into the Vatican embassy. There he hid as the streets around the embassy became filled with spectators and journalists.

The US military famously blared out rock music to intimidate the cowering dictator. Metallica, Guns N Roses, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath were all blasted from loudspeakers atop a circling hoard of Humvees.

The total number of civilians killed by the invasion ranges from a few hundred to 3000, with 25 US troops killed. Over one billion dollars of property was destroyed. Noriega was whisked off to Miami to face trial for drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering.

With all of the CIA’s clandestine information and strategic planning, could the arrest have not been a much simpler, less destructive operation?

Or was there more to the invasion than just one arrest?

US Invasion of Panama
Damaged House Near Playa El Tuco, Casco Viejo. Photo: Lance Karlson

The Noriega Tapes

The Noriega Tapes is a gripping novel based on the true events leading up to the US Invasion of Panama in 1989. An unsolved murder, a missing briefcase and a corrupt dictator on the CIA payroll lead to astonishing twists where truth is more shocking than fiction! Watch the trailer with footage of the US Invasion below.

The Noriega Tapes Novel

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