Dictator vs. rock music

Manuel Noriega was the CIA-funded dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989. When the United States invaded Panama, they drove him out with The Clash’s cover of I Fought the Law.

unknown, United States Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
If you want a great example of the ways in which American interference in Central and South America worked out very poorly for them, not to mention the people of Central and South America, you can’t really go past the story of Manuel Noriega. Trained as a CIA informant, he rose through the ranks of the Panamanian military during various coups and power struggles until, in 1983, he was the de facto ruler of Panama.

He was still on the CIA payroll, by the way, and (as dictators tend to do) had a nice little side-trade in murder and drug trafficking. He eventually fell out with the States over said drug trafficking – he was supposed to be an ally in the War on Drugs, but was actually playing both sides – and election shenanigans.

In 1989, the United States invaded. Noriega took sanctuary in the Apostolic Nunciature (effectively, the Vatican’s embassy). The American military was obviously hesitant to follow, so instead they turned to a rather unlikely ally: The Clash.

Well, not exactly. It’s not like they shipped Joe Strummer down to Panama. Instead, they blasted the building with rock music all day and all night for three days straight: Guns n’ Roses, Jethro Tull, AC/DC, and The Clash’s cover of I Fought the Law. Ten days after he entered the Apostolic Nunciature, Noriega couldn’t take it any more and surrendered.

So I guess… the law won?


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