The Rock 'n' Roll assault on Noriega.
U.S. SOUTHCOM Public Affairs After Action Report Supplement, "Operation Just Cause "
Dec. 20, 1989 - Jan. 31, 1990.

6 February 1996

You may have noticed a hiatus of sorts in the Document of the Month Club, and for an explanation, I will point you to the new address at the top of this memo. In January, after two years of negotiation and months of preparation, the intrepid Archive staff moved nearly ten years of accumulated documents and detritus from our quarters at the Brookings Institution annex to new space on the top floor of the Gelman Library at the George Washington University. The Archive is maintaining its fiscal and legal independence from GWU, but both we and GWU are excited about the synergies from this new relationship, for research, education and electronic dissemination of the Archive's extraordinary collections.

As the move was about to commence, the enclosed document arrived, as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request by Research Assistant Ian Stevenson and former Intern Jon Bildner, continuing the Archive's Panama documentation work started by former Visiting Fellow John Dinges for his book on Noriega. This particular item ran to more than 220 pages, of which Ian pulled three pages -- the very first document to grace the walls of our new space, and now the first Document of the Month for the new year.

As a type, after action reports tend to be among the most valuable historical documents produced by the military, since they often pull together the most complete set of contemporaneous materials available, in addition to providing extensive summaries of what officially happened. Since two key public relations aspects of the December 1989 invasion of Panama -- the handling of the media and the reports of civilian casualties -- became the most controversial aspects of that action, the public affairs staff of the U.S. Southern Command wound up producing both an after action report and a supplement which covered the on-going uproar. We have included here the table of contents for the supplement in order to give a sense of the very serious issues involved.

But looking at pages 209-211, we laughed out loud. You probably also remember that after General Noriega took refuge in the Papal Nuncio's residence in Panama City, American troops directed loudspeakers his way in an attempt to blast him out. Here, SouthCom Network (SCN) radio actually included the playlist of the rock 'n' roll anthems requested by the troops for this purpose.

There are a few mistakes in the list, apparently. I'm told by our resident rock critic (and Senior Librarian) Pamela Morgan that, for example, the "Flesh and Fantasy" recording referred to is by Billy Idol (not David Bowie), and "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" is a Bruce Cockburn (not Cochran) song. I think you'll agree with the Archive staff that humor is not only useful for survival in wartime, but also to survive the usually grim regime of national security studies. SouthCom has not yet produced a Noriega Compact Disc of these songs, so you'll have to dig them out of your personal music library, if you can. Enjoy your reading.

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