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tv   Reel America The Panama Deception - 1992  CSPAN  January 4, 2020 8:01am-9:36am EST

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--ia's coverage on a 1990 1993 academy award-winning independent documentary that takes a look at the invasion and the media's coverage. the film argues that many more civilians were killed in the u.s. government acknowledged. and that the u.s. media generally accepted the pentagon's versions of events. >> [speaking spanish] >> the shooting began at midnight and everyone ran towards their home. people started hollering. children began crying. [gunshot] >> it was a complex operation. 27 targets were hit simultaneously. [gunshot] >> someone in my family got shot. i do not know nothing.
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>> the goal was not to level the place, but to minimize damage to property and most important of all, to minimize casualties. that was accomplished. [gunshot] >> my daughter did not belong to any group. she had nothing to do with this. she was innocent. she had nothing to do with all of this. they killed her. [gunshot] >> if i had to do it again, i would do it again because the cost was high. men, women, civilians, and military who gave their lives not for us. they gave their lives for democracy, for liberty, for freedom. i do not mind paying any price under the sun to be free. ♪ ♪
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>> on december 19th, 1989, while panamanians were getting ready for the christmas holidays, the united states was secretly mobilizing 26,000 troops for a midnight attack.
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>> i saw helicopters approaching. they were close. the lights went out, the helicopters began to shoot. >> people were running left and right without direction, without knowing where they were going. it was not just machine-gun fire. there were bombs. the noise was frightening. >> you could hear gunfire from all directions. and, a strange noise we had never heard before. people were frightened, running,
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wondering what was going on. the sky was completely red. there was a tremor you can feel throughout the city. >> the invasion was swift, intense and merciless. when it was over, thousands lay dead and wounded and the country was in shambles. millions of u.s. tax dollars were swallowed up in three days of brutal violence. the strategy was considered a stunning military and political success. in many ways, the invasion served as a testing ground for the persian gulf war one year later.
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it is also an indication of the kinds of intervention the united states may undertake in the years to come. but still, big questions remain. what exactly happened during the invasion of panama? and why? ♪ >> this is the pbs evening news. dan rather reporting. good evening. more than 20,000 u.s. soldiers and marines launched their attack in the early morning darkness -- >> as the invasion unfolded, americans stayed glued to their tv's and newspapers for coverage. but how much of the real picture did the media give them? >> the performance of the mainstream news media in the coverage of panama has been just about total collaboration with the administration. not a critical murmur, not a critical perspective, not a second thought.
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>> the story that the white house was pushing was getting this so-called narco-terrorist in a net. and that was the thrust of all of the coverage. when are we going to get noriega? have they let noriega get away? >> by late today, they had taken control of much of the country but their chief target, general manuel noriega, escaped. manuel noriega belongs to that special fraternity of international villains. men like qadaffi, idi amin, and the ayatollah khomeni, whom americans just love to hate. >> the white house announced a one million-dollar reward -- >> the justice department set up a hotline to take on tips on noriega's whereabouts. >> they focused on noriega to the exclusion of what was happening to the panamanian people, to the exclusion to the bodies in the street, to the exclusion of the number dead, to the exclusion of what happened to the women and children in that country during this midnight invasion. ♪
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>> in some ways, the 1989 u.s. invasion of panama was no surprise given the history of relations between the countries. the united states refused to recognize panama's independence throughout the 1800s. when the u.s. proposal to build a canal was turned down by colombia, u.s. policy changed. in 1903, the united states provided military backup, enabling panama to secede from colombia. by doing so, the united states secured the rights to take over the canal project that had been abandoned by the french. in a treaty negotiated between the french canal investors and the united states, the americans were granted sovereign control in perpetuity of a 10 mile wide strip of land they called the canal zone.
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panamanians were not included in the negotiations and no panamanian signed the treaty. the united states immediately placed the canal zone under military control. >> teddy roosevelt was asked by what right he acquired possession of the canal. at least in the honest words, he said i took it. that gives you no right. never has. hopefully never will. >> the canal project had an impact on panama. the u.s. imported cheap labor from the caribbean, india, and asia, changing the racial makeup of the country. thousands of these workers died and those who remained lived as part of a new racial underclass.
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>> they created an apartheid system in panama, a system based on racial segregation where black people could not even use the same water fountain. the jim crow law that was practiced in the southern united states was implemented in panama by the united states government. >> after the canal was completed in 1913, the united states continued to expand its military presence and tighten its grip on panamanian politics. violent confrontations between panamanians and the u.s. military grew in the decades that followed. tensions peaked in 1964 when students tried to exercise their right to fly the flag in the canal zone.
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21 panamanians were killed and hundreds were wounded in the confrontation. in 1968, the panama government was overthrown in a military coup. the colonel in the national guard emerged as the new leader of panama. although he used repressive measures to consolidate his power, he became immensely popular. he introduced social reform that benefited the majority population of black, indian, and mestizos. >> it created a populist reformist process. brown, ano administrator at the state university of new york served as the panamanian diplomat to the united nations. he was educated in panama.
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humberto; for the first time in panama, we had participation of the non-oligarchical people of the nation. people like myself could go to university and get a degree. the peasants, the people from the mestizos, all the people who were deprived an opportunity, for once and our lives, were playing an important role in our nation. >> in 1978, relations between the united states and panama reached a high point. rejos carter and omar t negotiated treaties to abolish the 1903 treaty, establishing a new relationship between the countries. [applause] treaties required the united states to vacate its military bases and withdraw its troops by the year 2000. full control of the canal and the canal zone would be turned
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over to panama. although these treaties were a source of pride for panamanians, many conservatives in the united states had opposed them. isthe panama canal zone sovereign united states territory as much as alaska as well as the louisiana purchase. we bought it, we paid for it. general torrijos should be told we are going to keep it. >> in november 1980, ronald reagan defeated jimmy carter in a landslide election victory. >> thank you all. [applause] >> eight months later, on the night of july 31, 1981, torrijos was killed in a fiery plane crash. the circumstances of the incident are unclear. authorities said his plane crashed into the side of a mountain. witnesses said the plane exploded in flight.
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although his death was declared an accident, many suspect he was assassinated. some think manuel noriega may have been involved. many are convinced it was the cia that was responsible. >> i am convinced the cia killed torrijos. this i know because i worked with torrijos. >> jose martinez was one of his aides for many years. >> they killed him precisely at the moment they had to kill him. the moment that he was having a big influence over central america. especially among the revolutionary movement. torrijos represented the political solution of the whole central american problem. >> waiting in the wings, was colonel manuel noriega, the cia's primary contact in panama. noriega was head of the military
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intelligence and had a long standing relationship with the united states. he had been on the cia payroll since the 1960's. when george bush became director of the cia in 1976, under president ford, he inherited noriega as a contact. despite evidence that noriega was involved in drug trafficking, bush kept noriega on the payroll. in fact, he increased noriega's salary to more than $100,000 a year and eliminated a requirement that intelligence reports on panama include information on drug trafficking. >> over the last 20 years since noriega was recruited to be an asset, he had provided many important pieces of information to u.s. intelligence. >> peter is an analyst at the national security archives.
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the archive has assembled hundreds of previously classified government documents revealing the details of noriega's relationship to u.s. intelligence. >> they paid him an incredible amount of american taxpayers money. obviously, they decided his value to them was so important that his drug smuggling and other illegal activity could be ignored. >> i do solemnly swear i will support and defend the constitution of the united states. i will support and defend -- >> after george bush became vice president under ronald reagan in 1981, he was named head of the administration's anti-drug campaign and once again took responsibility for monitoring noriega's intelligence activities. >> bush in fact seems to have been instrumental according to the documented evidence made available in seeing to it
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noriega was well taken care of. and the former director of the cia under carter claims he cut noriega off. that he removed him from the u.s. payroll. bush put him back on. and in fact gave him a raise. and developed an even closer relationship than existed before. >> with support from the cia, noriega was able to outmaneuver his rivals, and in august of 1983, he became commander of the panamanian military. >> [speaking spanish] [applause] as the reagan administration expanded its covert war against the sandinista government in nicaragua, noriega became increasingly helpful. working with the cia and with
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israeli arms dealers, noriega helped coordinate an arms supply network to provide weapons to contra bases in northern costa rica. >> it is by now, undeniable that the same planes carrying arms from panama into costa rica were also carrying drugs. in fact, the people who were the pilots flying those arms to the uptras and flying drugs on eventually reaching the united states had been indicted and are serving time. >> this operation gave noriega the assurance they would turn a blind eye to his continued brokering of cocaine deals in return for using his network to get the arms to the contras in northern costa rica. >> noriega's involvement in the drug traffic really increased his importance as a source for
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the cia and as someone who was able to conduct dirty tricks in the region for the cia. so it's no accident that the cia became the most prominent defenders of noriega against the drug charges, because that's the sort of thing which cia clients tend to do. >> time after time, when we install strongmen in the third world, because we want them to be strong, we want them involved with the strongest local economic forces, which time after time are the drug traffickers. ♪ >> despite noriega's
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collaboration with many u.s. covert operations, he was becoming increasingly uncooperative with u.s. objectives in central america. in 1984, he angered the reagan administration by hosting latin american leaders at the contadora peace talks. the talks called for an end to u.s. intervention in central american affairs. >> noriega was not the yes-man the united states wanted him to be. he did not like to be pushed around. he certainly did not people like john poindexter coming down to his villa and telling him what he should or should not do. >> in 1986, the iran-contra scandal erupted. noriega's contacts were now under intense scrutiny. >> oliver north was fired. poindexter was forced to resign.
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william casey fell ill with a brain tumor. all three of noriega's major protectors were out of government and that led to a shift in u.s. policy. >> sentiments within panama were turning against noriega as well. for three years, noriega worked with the dea in a sting operation code-named operation pisces. in 1987, authorities arrested hundreds of suspects and froze millions of dollars in panama's banks, disrupting the money-laundering business. the financial community was outraged and noriega's opponents mobilized against him. back in washington, noriega's opponents testified against him, accusing him of murder, corruption, and drug running.
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the u.s. media quickly turned it into a major story. >> but relations with panama are under a new cloud tonight because of news reports alleging -- >> senator jesse helms charged today that the military strongman of panama, manuel noriega, is the number one drug trafficker in the americas. he said depending on how the situation -- >> new investigations on capitol hill. >> faced with pressure, in the u.s. and panama, noriega introduced a wave of brutal repression, attacking protesters in the streets and jailing hundreds of opponents. the reagan administration now openly called for his removal. >> we do want noriega out of there and a return to a civilian democratic government. >> behind the scenes, the administration was negotiating with noriega, promising not to indict him on drug charges if he would cooperate with u.s. objectives.
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gabrielle, the director of the independent commission of inquiry on the u.s. invasion of panama, spoke to noriega about his negotiations with the u.s. >> general noriega told us there were a number of demands placed on him through poindexter and other meetings where the state department pressured him to change the panamanian government's policy on several issues. he said the most pressing was the demand that noriega and the panamanian government allow the u.s. to expand their military presence in panama and keep control over the 14 military bases that exist in panama.
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>> noriega refused to agree to the u.s. demands or to relinquish power in panama. in february 1988, two grand juries in florida indicted noriega, accusing him of drug trafficking and racketeering. it was the first time a foreign head of state had been indicted in the united states. the u.s. now undertook a systematic effort to overthrow noriega. economic sanctions were stepped up and additional troops were dispatched to panama. >> the united states tonight declared in effect that panama's general manuel noriega is a threat to this country's national security. >> mr. noriega, the drug indicted, drug-related, indicted dictator of panama. we want to bring him to justice. we want to get him out and we want to restore democracy to panama. when you read these outrageous charges by a drug-related indicted dictator, discount them. they are total lies. >> still unable to force noriega from power, the united states turned to influencing the 1989
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panamanian national elections. the bush administration, working through the cia and the national endowment for democracy, funneled more than $10 million into the opposition candidate, a wealthy lawyer educated in the united states and his vice presidential running mate. >> if the same scenario had taken place in the united states, they would have been illegal. in the united states, accepting money from a foreign government for the purpose of influencing a domestic collection is illegal. >> those elections were irregular from the beginning. how can you call it a fair election? the strategy was applied in panama and nicaragua and every
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government that disagreed with u.s. policy. they used sanctions to starve the vote. because people vote to get bread when they are hungry. i don't think that is democracy. >> the elections were held. the counting of the votes again. it became clear that the prd would lose. at that point, and not for the first time, the military rulers halted the electoral process. >> the country erupted in violence. ballot boxes were seized. the u.s. supported candidates who have been leading in vote tallies were brutally beaten in front of tv cameras.
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the assailants were alleged to be noriega's dignity battalion, although none were ever identified. it was a photo opportunity that crystallized world public opinion against noriega. >> good evening. the violence in panama escalated sharply this evening when government goons were beaten up in panama city. it has been confirmed he was attacked by goons.
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>> the following day, president bush ordered 2000 additional troops into panama. >> i will do what is necessary to protect the lives of american citizens, and we will not be intimidated by the bullying tactics, brutal though they may be, of the dictator noriega. >> after the election fiasco, the panamanian national assembly declared a state of emergency and appointed noriega head of state. george bush now openly encouraged the panamanian military to revolt against noriega. >> we would like to see him out of there. >> with support and
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encouragement from the united states, a group of officers from the panamanian defense forces began planning a military coup to overthrow noriega. they secretly met several times to coordinate support for the overthrow. >> the role to be played by the united states army was to block certain roads and make sure certain airfields were not made available for use by elements loyal to general noriega. >> with these assurances, the insurgent troops launched a coup attempt. they quickly overpowered noriega's guards. they seized the headquarters and captured noriega. the americans did not carry through on the promises. forces loyal to noriega crushed the rebellion, freeing general noriega. president bush later denied any u.s. involvement in the operation. >> i can tell you that is not true. i would repeat, we have no argument with the panamanian
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defense forces. we have good relations with the panamanian defense forces. >> but an investigative journalist in panama all during the coup attempt disputes these claims. >> the idea on the american side was to lead these plotters along, to seduce them into believing they had the support of the united states and abandon them so that the excuse could be made we had to smash the pdf completely. we could not rely on disgruntled officers inside the panamanian army to rise up against noriega, and we would have to do this ourselves. >> after the coup attempt, 1300 additional u.s. troops were flown into panama, and equipment was secretly deployed.
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the u.s. military stepped up its campaign of intimidation and provocation, setting up roadblocks, conducting offensive military maneuvers outside of u.s. jurisdiction. >> [speaking spanish] >> they have blocked passage here. what security? the panamanian people would never threaten them. they are the ones threatening. they are the one to charge us with a weapon. what is wrong with them? >> they charged with bayonets to scare us. they said not to step onto that area. they are on our side. this is pantomimes jurisdiction. -- panama's jurisdiction. >> it came to an inch that day the killing did not start.
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the tanks and everything were ready to go into kill the panamanian people. >> in the final months before the invasion, the army special operations command sent a secret delta force team to panama. >> there were numerous actions undertaken by the delta team in the united states press against the united states. infiltrations of the united states position, shots fired in the direction of the united states parameters and positions. roughing up of the united states citizens in the street. >> sabina virgo, a national labor organizer, was in panama just weeks before the invasion.
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>> provocations against the panamanian people by the united states military troops were very frequent in panama, and they had several results and in my opinion probably a couple of different intents. one, i think, was to create an international incident, was to have united states troops just hassle the panamanian people until an incident resulted and from that incident, the united states could then say that they were going into panama for the protection of american life, which is in fact exactly what happened. >> on the night of december 16, a group of u.s. marines ran a military roadblock in front of pdf headquarters and were fired on by panamanian guards. [gunshots] >> one lieutenant, a u.s. marine intelligence officer, was killed. the marines were reported to be part of a group called the hard
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chargers, known for provoking confrontations with pdf forces. the pentagon claims they were unarmed and lost. local witnesses said they were armed and exchanged fire with the pdf headquarters, wounding a soldier and civilians. >> an american serviceman has been killed in a weekend shooting incident. >> what u.s. officials called an example of general noriega's cruelty. >> the death of an american officer which president bush condemned today as outrage. >> another incident, a navy officer and his wife were detained. he beaten and threatened with death. she, threatened sexually. >> another servicemen, threatening that man's wife. strong public support for a reprisal was all but guaranteed. >> four days later on december 20, u.s. troops invaded panama.
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the invasion was code-named operation just cause. shortly after midnight, u.s. troops simultaneously attacked 27 targets, many of which were in densely populated areas. one of the primary targets in panama city was the headquarters of the panamanian defense forces, located in the crowded neighborhood of el chorillo. u.s. troops shelled the area for four hours before moving in and calling for surrender. >> we ask you to surrender. if you do not, we are prepared to level each and every building. surrender now. >> 10 minutes after, we saw the helicopters.
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start to use things like that. we hit the ground. >> it soon became clear that the objectives were not limited only to military targets. according to witnesses, many of the surrounding residential neighborhoods were deliberately attacked and destroyed. >> the helicopters were heavily armed, firing powerful machine guns and rockets. they were firing indiscriminately. they were not just looking for military targets. they were firing at many civilians. people were running all over trying to escape. >> they shot at everything that moved, without mercy and without thinking whether there were children or women or people fighting.
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instead, everything that moved, they shot. >> we thought they would take noriega. they said that is what they wanted. they would take him and respect everyone else. >> been going on for a few hours. the soldiers say, tell everybody to come out with their hands on their heads. they direct us to the church. when we were in the church about 6:00 in the morning, all of a sudden, the building started to burn in front of the church. the only thing they had inside -- they tried to run out to get water. the american soldiers told them to get out. some people are stubborn. the americans shot up in the air.
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the people got scared and ran back. >> the north americans were denying people access to their homes. they sent people back and threatened them with their machine guns and forbid anyone to get close to the houses. then they began to set the houses on fire. >> the panamanian soldiers know each alley, how to go in and come out. from one street to another street. the only way the american soldiers could get rid of that danger was to burn down the buildings. that way, the panamanian soldiers would have nowhere to hide. >> i am unaware of any operations by the u.s. military to go through systematically and burn down buildings. you get fires that are started
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by weapons. i've not seen any reports of military folks setting buildings on fire. >> [speaking spanish] the north americans began burning down el chorillo at about 6:30 in the morning. they would throw a small device into a house and would catch on fire. they would burn a house and then move to another and begin the process all over again. they burned from one street to the next. they coordinated the burning through walkie-talkies.
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>> from there, all of el chorillo went to nothing. >> the pentagon used panama as a testing ground for newly developed high tech weapons such as the stealth fighter, the apache attack helicopter, and laser guided missiles. there were also reports that cannot be explained indicating the use of experimental weaponry. >> [speaking spanish] we have testimony about combatants who died with their guns as a result of a laser.
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we know of automobiles that were cut in half by these lasers of atrocities committed by weapons that fire poison darts which produce massive bleeding. >> i think there is a probability there was a use of sophisticated weaponry to test it. >> ramsey clark has conducted extensive research into the invasion. >> above all, there was a use beyond any conceivable necessity of just sheer firepower. just an excessive use of force beyond any possible justification. >> president bush wanted to make certain that this was going to be a success. this was going to be his vindication, denial of the wimp factor in spades. so they sent down a force that wasn't going to encounter any effective resistance but simply
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overwhelm the opposition and the fact that it would cause tremendous peripheral damage, damage to innocent civilians on a wide scale, was not of concern in the planning. >> what we intended was to reduce collateral damage. that means if the target is right here, you are trying not to have damage to other places. you are trying to have damage to a specific target. you are trying to minimize damage outside of the target. and they worked. >> my god, we were sending in artillery and air strikes against a very heavily populated urban area. there was absolutely no question that there were going to be immense numbers of civilian casualties.
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>> we walked among the dead and saw the tanks run over and crush our dead. we saw a great number of civilian cars with families inside, kids, women, and a driver torn to pieces and crushed by the tanks. >> the soldiers passed the tanks over the people's bodies. some of them dead. some of them wounded. there were cases that we know for example, the case of m anuel, alexander, and some others whose bodies were totally destroyed.
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>> during the days and weeks following the invasion, the u.s. policy of applying overwhelming deadly force continued. there were many reports of indiscriminate killings and executions of unarmed civilians. >> we have eye witness accounts on the part of a number of panamanians where soldiers took panamanians who had been captured after the invasion and executed them on the street. >> i have seen no reports of u.s. soldiers executing anyone in panama. we have carefully checked every such report, and if we think there is evidence that a u.s. soldier murdered a panamanian, we will court-martial that soldier. that behavior would be absolutely unprofessional, totally unacceptable, and illegal. >> a community leader was taken to the balboa high school detention camp the morning after the attack.
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>> [speaking foreign language] there were many panamanian troops at the balboa concentration camp. they did not seem to know what was going on. they were sitting on the grass with their arms and feet tied with plastic bands. i along with many other people witnessed their execution right in front of us. eight of the soldiers at the entrance were executed by u.s. troops. >> there were many reports of unprovoked killings at u.s. roadblocks. one woman told investigators how her brother and friends were killed at a roadblock on december 23, three days after the initial attack. >> all five of the passengers were forced out of the car and put facedown on the ground. they were riddled with bullets. there were simply going to visit family members when they were detained and killed in the
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street. >> although 19 cases of homicide and alleged execution were filed, all but two cases were internally reviewed and dismissed. during the invasion and throughout the days and weeks that followed, access by the news media was tightly controlled. the pentagon flew in a 16 person press pool from the major u.s. media. the pool did not reach panama until after the crucial first four hours of the attack and were restricted to u.s. military bases for the next day and a half. >> our regret is we were not able to use the media pool more effectively. the goal was to get reporters to see for themselves the early hours of the operation. once they got there, we had a
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breakdown in our ability to move them around. helicopters we thought were going to be available had to be pulled off and used for the operation itself. >> the press pool was managed from the day they arrived. they were only taken to see what the government wanted them to see. there has been continuous suppression and denial of the extent of damage inflicted during that invasion. >> many journalists who tried to investigate on their own were stopped by u.s. troops from entering areas that were attacked. one of the few journalists able to penetrate the military's restrictions was a panamanian photographer. >> [speaking spanish] i had already taken photographs in the area. i had taken photos of dead
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bodies in the street when a north american soldier told me i could not walk any further. they wanted to take my camera. i did not let them. they made me open the camera and expose the role of film with the shots of the dead bodies. >> military folks should not be taking films out of cameras. you get young guys in combat. they get concerned. they do that sometimes. i don't think that was the norm. >> another panamanian journalist was covering the attack on the night of the invasion when he was stopped by u.s. troops. >> speaking spanish -- >> [speaking spanish >> we almost got to the edge of el chorrillo. as soon as we were able to, we
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started videotaping. the north american troops took our tapes and placed us virtually under arrest until the bombing was over. >> a spanish news photographer who was able to get a picture of bodies lined up in the morgue was shot under strange circumstances. there was not a conflict. according to the reports of colleagues, an american soldier took aim and shot him. >> the u.s. military also targeted the panamanian media. radio stations were immediately taken over and destroyed. u.s. forces occupied tv stations and begin transmitting their own signal. many journalists were either arrested or fired.
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one of panama's largest newspapers was raided, ransacked and closed down by american troops. the u.s. military's control of the media was so effective, there's almost no video footage of the first three days of the invasion other than what was shot by the militaries camera crews. >> it is so ironic that the kind of very tight press control that you used to see in russia under stalin which was finally ending under gorbachev, that we have seen the united states the exactly the opposite phenomenon. a new degree of press control, which we never had in vietnam. so the american people did not know what had happened until it was over and too late. >> during the week of the invasion, more than 18,000 people who fled from the areas
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of attack were forced into temporary detention centers created by the u.s. forces. >> [speaking spanish] >> [speaking spanish] >> it was a war, it was a
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battle. the way you get it over with is, you find the people who are most likely to shoot you and detain them. that was the goal of that operation. >> >> [speaking spanish] we arrived at the concentration camp of balboa, a school. it was surrounded by barbed wire and full of heavily armed soldiers. when we arrived, they picked all the men between the ages of 15 and 55 and put us on an army truck. the women were crying, shouting. they were pushing us around and we did not know where they were taking us. they took us to a secret place and we were submitted to an intense interrogation. then they put a card in front of us and took our picture. so all men between 15 and 55 had this card with their id number and refugee number.
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>> as part of the invasion, the u.s. forces worked with newly installed panamanian officials to institute repressive measures that continue in panama today. american forces took control of the public buildings, government ministries, and universities. almost every organization opposed to united states policy had its offices destroyed. thousands of individuals were arrested. >> endara and the attorney general wrote down the names of their political enemies, gave them to u.s. military personnel, who, going around like stormtroopers, would drag people out of their houses, take them to detention centers. only because their name was given by one of these officials.
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there was no legal case against these people whatsoever. >> i got it. >> get the door. >> open the door. >> get down on the floor. u.s. marines. >> keep their eye on them. >> government officials had to go underground, many of them, to not be arrested, including university professors. there were a form of government and diplomatic officials that were arrested and some of them in prisons. the list runs into the thousands. spanish]ing they say i have weapons.
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i do not have no weapons. >> why are they after him? why aren't they after bush instead? he is the one that is killing people all over the place. why are they harassing a worker defending other workers? >> [speaking spanish] 26 times, the u.s. troops were here searching my house. they would surround everything with tanks and would take books, personal documents. photos. they would search it whenever they felt like it. >> this woman was the mayor and a member of the national assembly. after the invasion, she was subjected to a campaign of slander and harassment. >> the southern command put up -- wanted posters with my photo. if you see her, call such and such a number at southern
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command. they interrogated my children, my three little ones, they would ask them where their mother was, where their father was. they would ask them for information about us. ublicaeditor of la rep newspaper had been openly critical of the new government and the u.s. invasion. >> what i don't understand is they've been holding me 30 days and no one has talked to me about my case. this is what we want a decision on. is there justice here are not? >> he was imprisoned for 18 months. no charges were ever filed against him. >> they arrested close to 7,000 panamanian individuals. they arrested almost every trade union leader, the leaders of the nationalist parties, of progressive parties, of left parties in panama. they arrested people who were cultural leaders.
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there are still hundreds of panamanians who remain in jail, with no due process, with no formal charges against them. ♪ >> as a result of the u.s. invasion, an estimated 20,000 panamanians lost their homes. hardest hit were residents in the poor neighborhoods of san miguelito, colon, panama veijo, and el chorillo. ♪
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♪ ♪ >> the survivors of the invasion received little assistance from the panamanian government or the united states. many moved into bombed out golding's and makeshift shelters. -- bombed out buildings and makeshift shelters.
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many languished for more than a year. number one, it is a 10 by 10 cubicle, >> in hanger number one, it is a 506 cubicle. it is a 10 by 10 foot cubicle, which holds each of the families. in each cubicle we can put as much as four camps and mattresses for the kids. >> although the refugee camp was administered by the panamanian red cross and the united states agency for international
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development, u.s. military police would frequently enter the ground and restrict access to make arrests. with explicit permission from the directors of the camp, our camera crew enters to interview refugees about the experience of their invasion and the aftermath. even though we had authorization, u.s. military police and the criminal investigation division of the u.s. army tried to stop our crew from videotaping. they said to detain anybody from filming. >> i don't think that is right. i think the world he has the right to know the truth. sir, please. we are the victims. we are the victims. we lose everything. we lose our families. so why is a world not supposed to know the truth, sir? officiallook affairs gets here, i cannot allow you to film. >> we are the victims, serve. we want the world to know the truth. >> i do to. >> why are you against it? >> you can come arrest me, but the right to be here. we have the right to address it. i am not stopping, we are not
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slowing down. if you have to bring someone into forcibly do that, that is your business. to slow downy want the reporters? they came to talk to us. they want to know the truth, and they won't let them in to interview. why? why? >> hundreds of angry refugees surrounded the camera crews forcing the military to withdraw. finally, the refugees could tell their story. >> [speaking in spanish] we are tired of being stuck inside this hanger sleeping on a cot. many old people are sick. there is no medical attention. in the children, when are they going to put an end to this? we are victims of this presidency. why did it have to be us?
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why didn't they choose the rich neighborhood? if they had picked 50th street, it would have been repaired by now. they have forgotten about us. >> the people are in bad shape. they have no clothes, nothing to wear. i buy them clothes sometimes and sometimes food out of my own pocket. can't do that every day. we need to avoid a problem with them. in the states they are liable to start a riot. there could be more shootings in more deaths because the people are very riled up. >> if they want us to close up all the streets in the country, we are going to do it. we want an answer. we want to get out of this place. this is no democracy. there are plenty worse because we were eating three meals a day, now we are not eating even
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one. >> more than 60 panamanians are reported to have died. >> more than panamanians were 50 killed. a doctor at a government hospital in panama city there are casualties. we have only had one report throughout the day. we don't know how extensive they are. >> there is no reason to develop reports that we are getting from the pentagon. all the information from the pentagon conflicts with all the information we are getting out of panama city. >> how many people were killed in panama and who were they? these questions may never be answered come because the united states undertook elaborate efforts to conceal the number of dead, how they died, and the location of their bodies. >> children died, pregnant women died, seniors died, adolescents died, soldiers died, victims who had nothing to do with politics, the invasion of the noriega regime.
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>> what happened in panama is a hidden horror. many of the bodies were bulldozed into piles and put in collected in the slums. put in the swamps where they other bodies were left in the garbage shoots at the poor projects, where they died from the shooting from the artillery , machine guns, airborne attacks. others were said to have been pushed into the ocean. >> when we went down to el chorio, there were still dead bodies inside cars. there was a man and a woman with a child, all of them burnt up inside a car. people never thought they would see so many dead bodies. see them being burned on the beach. right on the beach they are being burned. >> in the early hours of the invasion, u.s. troops took control of the hospitals and the
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morgues. many of the doctors and hospital personnel were detained, and thousands of official documents were confiscated. >> the truth of the matter is we don't know how many panamanians we have killed. we should have more information on what happened. how many civilians were killed? >> the national human rights commission of panama interviewed hundreds of people in an effort to determine how many died. >> what we have is different testimonies that help us arrive to the conclusion that for sure there were more than 4000 people who died. >> you have the u.n. human dewey's human rights commission estimating 2500 deaths because of two major independent human rights organizations in the
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. two major independent human rights organizations in the region estimating 2500, 3000, 3500. you have isabella estimating probably about 4000, that is an enormous human total. that is an enormous human total. >> the u.s. military said 250 civilians were killed. there isn't a credible source in panama that believes that is true. whether it is ambulance drivers, human rights monitors, doctors who worked in hospitals. neighbors of bombed out blocks, this is clearly false. that story would be so easy to tell for any journalist worth his or her salt. they are not telling it. >> i made a point of reading the european press as well as the american press when the invasion occurred. immediately i could see that whereas the american press was talking about a couple hundred
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civilian casualties, from the very beginning the european press was talking about thousands of civilians dead or 2000 civilians dead. so the real facts are the american people didn't really know what had happened in panama. >> you would think from the video clips that we have seen that this hoping was just a monte drive. mardi gras, that the people of panama were jumping up and down with glee. that all of us had just moved in without taking any lives at all for liberty and freedom. >> does it feel like intervention? >> no, it is not intervention. they came to save us, i thank them. >> do you think this will end soon? >> when they interviewed people in panama about what they thought of it, they were
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interviewing white, middle-class people who could speak english. they didn't go into the poor neighborhoods where people had been bombed. did you see one media actually go into the bombed areas and talking to the people who talk to families or lost everything they had in their bombings. they focused on the invasion as a tactical event. was it effective? did it work well? are we losing many american lives? >> another unit moved in by helicopter. have died servicemen in combat today. >> not all the news is good. american casualties are now at 15 dead. >> they also announced one american civilian has been killed. that would make a total of 16. >> it was a schoolteacher apparently hit by stray gunfire. this person is the 20th american to die. >> they focus only on american lives, the only life that was precious, the only life one could report on, the only life one could consider as a serious loss was an american life. >> tonight, as we enter this
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end this program, we hear from president bush on the high price these young men paid. and we say goodbye to them. ♪ >> every human life is precious. and yet, i have to answer yes, it has been worth it. >> in the months following the invasion, panamanians were shocked to discover mass graves where hundreds, perhaps thousands of bodies were dumped into pits and buried by u.s. troops. >> there was a report of what some were calling a mass grave, which i think is a term that is imprecise.
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>> say we had any mass burials. there was one case of some i cannot quote to you that number. [crying] >> to date, there have been 50 mass rates identified throughout panama. the u.s. military was directly responsible for the killings of
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men, women, and children that burial.their these mass graves exist throughout panama and some are believed to be on u.s. military bases, which create the difficulty of access to these mass graves. >> among these corpses we found many young people, 15, 16, 18 years old. we found people in their 60's and in their 70's. we found people killed by a shot to the back of their heads. dead with their hands tied. dead with casts on their legs or arms. >> although the pentagon insists that no more than 516 panamanians were killed, they do concede that over 75% of those killed were civilians. families of the victims continue to demand a full accounting of the missing and the dead.
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>> who has the right to determine how many people should be killed in an invasion? i think if one person got killed in an invasion that is illegal , that violates all principle of human rights, the number of people, the quantity, the figures, if it is 10,000 or one it is irrelevant. the issue is that innocent people were killed. ♪ >> a lot of to many people died.
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people died. too many people died. >> although the u.s. media created a perception of support, for the invasion within the united states, the invasion was overwhelmingly condemned in the international community. document look at any in international law, any number of treaties, it is clear this invasion was illegal. it is not debatable. >> the panama invasion violates charters that have specific prohibitions against an invasion of sovereign countries, and the invasion of territory. these prohibitions are very strict and clear under international law. united states actions in violation of human rights also violated the geneva convention, which protects civilians from indiscriminate acts that had
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acts as occurred against civilian victims in panama. >> the biggest, most important papers in this country endorsed the rightness of the panama invasion. the washington post, los angeles times, strong endorsements. the new york times and the wall street journal. everyone of them. now, a little body known as the united nations had a vote about this on december 29. they voted by an overwhelming majority to condemn the invasion flagrant violation of international law." so i was interested to see that night on the nbc nightly news great newscaster deborah norville, no mention of that vote. turning to cbs, the bastion of responsible broadcasting, i found a full 10 seconds lavished on that story. >> at the united nations today, the general assembly adopted a
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resolution deploring the u.s. in panama as an "flagrant violation of international law." the vote 75-20 with 40 abstentions. >> the media was so cooperative. the media are owned by the same interests being descended in defended in central america by the government policy. the media are not close to corporate america. they are not favorable to corporate america. they are corporate america. they are an integral part of corporate america. >> we are a plutocracy. we ought to face it. we are a country in which wealth controls. it may be true of all countries, more or less, but it is uniquely for us because our materialism and the concentration of wealth here. even our democratic processes are hardly that because money dominates politics and we all know it. true politics, it dominates government.
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and it dominates the media. we really need desperately to find new ways to hear independent voices and points of view. it is the only way we are going to find the truth. >> the truth about the invasion of panama remains hidden for most americans. those who have studied the official accounts have discovered many contradictions and have arrived at disturbing conclusions. >> i have studied everything that the president has said as to reasons why he ordered the invasion. and none of those things singly or collectively makes any legal , moral, or constitutional sense. >> one of the reasons for the invasion was to take the wimp image off president george bush. he had had what now seems the necessary bloodying of the united states president to show his forcefulness in which he
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ande -- forcefulness machismo. this was a chance for the military to show what it could do. >> if they show an american marine, that is real bad. if they threaten and brutalized brutalize the wife of an american citizen, sexually threatening the lieutenants wife from kicking him in the groin over and over again, this president is going to do something about it. >> when he would say the loss of american life was the last straw, there must be something we could have done. certainly there must have been papers we could've filed. we could've gone to the world court. we could have gone to the united nations or organization of american states, but invade a country because of this? absolutely ridiculous. >> the excuse that the invasion was to protect american lives, is the one that is always giving.
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the fact is there are 35,000 american citizens. none of them were in any danger. i was there three weeks before the invasion. there is simply no evidence. and i don't think the administration has ever bothered to give any evidence to that. statement. >> the goals of the united states has been to safeguard the lives of americans, to defend democracy in panama. >> then-president bush said we had to go to restore democracy in panama. how in the world to you restore that which has never existed? panama has never been a democracy since we created panama for our own purposes in 1903. and all we did was go down to restore american control and dominance in panama. >> the new government installed by the invasion was headed by the u.s.-backed candidates from the aborted national election. hours before the invasion they were taken to a u.s. military base where they were sworn in as the president and vice
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president. but the new government has enjoyed little popular support within panama. antigovernment demonstration occurs regularly and there have been numerous attempts from within the panamanian police force to seize military control of the government. u.s. troops were mobilized several times to crush these insurrections. .> get down >> get down. get your hands on the ground. >> get your hands out in front of you. [indiscernible] >> every time there is a crisis, the u.s. military takes over. they give orders. they don't trust the military force. the conflict is still there. the oligarchy knows that if the
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united states were not there, they could not rule this country. >> but the president minimizes the significance of america's military occupation in panama. >> i think that we are a very, very normalized now. have none at all, practically. you don't see them. i don't see him in panama. however, there are a few here and there, but it is not really an occupation. >> of course he is not going to is -- in fact, he might not even call it an invasion. he lives in the nice area. in the oligarchy area. you know, his interest is protected.
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he is not running panama. he is a puppet of the u.s. government. the u.s. government is running panama. they are running all the ministries in panama. he is only abiding by what he is told to do. >> the bush administration claimed that another reason for the invasion was to remove noriega to stem the flow of drugs into the united states. but according to eight u.s. general accounting office report, cocaine traffic through panama may have doubled in the two years following the invasion. there is also considerable evidence that key members of panama's new government, including the president, have to banks and companies that laundered drug money. >> the involvement of the panamanian government as a whole in drug trafficking, arms running, various questionable banking practices, in fact
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involved most of the panamanian elite. involved most of the people who now run this u.s. approved panamanian government. >> we all know that they are the real drug traffickers. they have been, because panama has had a history of the oligarchy being involved in drug trafficking. >> in the years preceding and throughout the invasion, the u.s. government and the major media consistently portrayed manuel noriega as america's most hated and evil enemy. >> noriega became a mythic figure. there was an attempt to personify noriega all that was evil. it was very interesting that when general noriega's office was captured, we discovered the red pajamas, the voodoo
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equipment, and the alleged cocaine that he was using. and the pornographic pictures in his desk. now happen to have been in chile , with united nations at the time of the overthrow of the president. and it is interesting that the same desk appeared in chile with the pornographic pictures, red pajamas, and the cocaine. >> the whole propaganda against it was in order to invade panama and say we invaded panama because of noriega. i don't do how americans can be so stupid to believe this. how can you be so stupid? like for example, at one time they had noriega at gunpoint. they could have taken noriega then. but the americans did not want noriega. what they really wanted to is to destroy the panamanian army in order to do what they wanted, which is what is happening now.
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>> although the u.s. governments for thents reason invasion made no mention of eliminating the panamanian forces, u.s. officials later admitted that destroying the pdf was a central part of the plan. >> it was not only mr. noriega but his accomplices and underlings who stood for a reprehensible government at the time. therefore, you had to take down not only mr. noriega, but the elements of his supporting entity and reduce the pdf to nothing. ♪ objectiveshe main of the invasion was to destroy pdf. why? the treaty, the panama treaty stated clearly that the year 2000, panama will will be responsible for the security,
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safety of the canal. safetyesponsible for the of the nation, you need to have an army. , the liquidation of the pdf means the continuation of the u.s. presence as the only military force. >> what they really want is to stay in panama after the year 2000, and that is what they have achieved, to destroy the toamanian defense forces, make in the control center for all of latin america. >> the invasion sets the stage for the war in the 21st century in south america.
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the 2000-mile invasion from washington to panama city took place with basis from the united states. the essential value of the southern command is to get another 2000 miles of intervention capability, which takes us right into the heart of producing region, where the wars of the next decade are entirely likely to take place. >> panama is another example of destroying a country to save it. and it is another case of how the united states has exercised doctrine amonght small countries of the third world. it has long been u.s. practice to invade these countries, get what we want, and leave the people that live there to rot. >> our country has been ruined, our homes a and destroyed and we have no real answers. what else can we do but take to the streets? we did not lose our lives in the war and we are willing to risk
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to fight. >> george bush, may his children be spared with my daughters being subjected to. my daughter who does not want to live. may his generation be spared what our generation is living through. forhould ask god forgiveness for all the damage caused to families down here. >> one year ago, the people of panama lived in fear under the thumb of a dictator. today, democracy is restored, panama is free. [applause] 1991, the president
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proposed a constitutional amendment that would forever abolish panama's rights to have an army. later that year, a law was passed by the united states congress to renegotiate the panama canal treaties to ensure continued u.s. military presence in panama. come on the grounds that panama was no longer capable of defending the canal. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] ♪ ♪
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but ♪ ♪
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♪ >> today on american history tv on c-span3. at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war, scholar timothy smith explores the 1863 battle of champion hill. >> one of the three divisions is cut off. he fumbles back toward the ridge. the confederate army is devastated. >> at 8:00 p.m. in lectures in
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history, a boston college professor. >> one year before the next presidential election. he had to start running for office almost immediately. the area in which he knew he was weakest. the area in which a republican opponent would be able to score the most points against him was in foreign policy. >> sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on reel america, the party for ronald reagan. >> the only man from our community who ever wound up living in public housing. [laughter] [applause] >> by the way, you have a lot of friends here tonight. some of the white house press corps, who will beef served their favorite meal, leek soup. >> beginning at 5:30, a look at the house judiciary committee debate in the senate trial of the impeachment of president bill clinton. explore our nation's past on
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american history tv on c-span3. normally what would happen is there would be a team of helicopters helping each other to make sure they were safe. because there was no one else there and had to be done, o'donnell made the decision immediately he would rescue these men. he went into the landing zone area and he hunkered on the ground for four minutes to wait for the reconnaissance team, which is, in a battle condition, and eternity. it is a long time to be sitting vulnerable to the enemy. he waited, the reconnaissance team arrived, injured but safe. to fly theegan helicopter above the fury line -- tree line and radioed everyone i have everyone and i am coming out. >> daniel weiss on his book, in that time about the life of
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michael o'donnell, who would missing in action during the vietnam war. sunday night 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. the campaign played a major role in ensuring a u.s. victory in the world war ii pacific theater. next, to historians who are authors of books on the historic war give talks about two key events on the campaign. the battle of the philippine sea and the battle of saipan. this was part of the national world war ii museums annual conference. some fantastic presentations for this afternoon. beginning with our next panel, entitled, dominance, the mariana s


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