Monday, November 07, 2005

Who We Are, What We Do

On this fine sparkling morning, I believe I'll continue to examine the blurry line between terrorism and policy.

For decades, the United States used the land running along the Panama Canal as a firing range.

It gave control of the canal to Panama at the end of 1999, but handover treaties only obliged it to clear up unexploded munitions as far as was "practicable."

Around 30,000 acres were cleaned but 8,000 acres are still scattered with live mortars, grenades, bombs, rockets and Agent Orange residue. Outside the canal zone, seven mustard gas bombs weighing between 500 pounds and 1,000 pounds were abandoned on Panama's uninhabited Pacific island of San Jose....

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared the issue closed when he visited Panama last year, and US officials say Panama simply needs to keep people away from the former ranges.
Past and future fatalities, then, are not the fault of the United States for turning another country's land into a minefield, and refusing to clean up the mess it made. Instead, the Panamanians are to blame, because they've failed thusfar to be sufficiently watchful shepherds of their flock.

John Lindsay-Poland makes the essential point:
"When the U.S. has gone to war over weapons of mass destruction being in other country's hands, to abandon WMD in a country they used as a military training ground for nearly a century is irresponsible and hypocritical," he told Reuters.
If you're interested, you can find a horrifying account of US weapon testing in Panama here.

UPDATE: Regarding unexploded ordnance, Bush tells Panamanian President Martin Torrijos "Go fuck yourself."


Thersites said...

Ah, the borderlands, where imperialism turns to Wonderland. Every border between the great power and the natives is a weird, magical place where truth gets twisted. Makes for great fiction. Sucks to actually live there, though.

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