TITLE:(Following FS material not for publication) (04/10/92)
*ARF556 04/10/92*

1Following FS material not for publication)
(04/10 WashPost edit)  (420)
The following editorial, "The Noriega Conviction," was published in the  10
April 92 issue of the Washington Post.

(begin text)
In the government's nightmare scenario, Gen. Noriega would have beat
racketeering and drug charges in Miami and, although he might have been
re-indicted or extradited, the United States would have suffered the
immense embarrassment of seeing acquitted the man it invaded Panama to
bring to trial.  But it didn't turn out that way.  Gen. Noriega yesterday
was convicted on most of the charges brought against him.

Some part of the Miami proceeding was exemplary.  Gen. Noriega got a long
and fair trial in which he had first-rate representation of his own choice.
 The judge hung on through a mid-trial heart operation, and the jury
listened for seven months and worked out a severe split at the end.

The conviction does not itself vindicate President Bush's invasion of Panama
in December 1989.  Formally, the invasion was not launched to unseat and
nab Gen. Noriega but to see to the safety of U.S. citizens, the working of
the Panama Canal and the integrity of the canal treaties.  In the political
context of the day, however, it mattered greatly that Gen. Noriega was not
only a dictator who had thrown out the democratically elected leadership of
Panama but was also an accused drug trafficker whose depredations had
enormous consequences.

The argument over the intervention was succeeded in most American and Latin
quarters by relief or at least resignation that Panama had been given a new
lease on democratic life -- a promise, unfortunately, that has been far
from fully met.  But that leaves the stunning evidence produced by the
trial.  We refer not simply to testimony that Gen. Noriega arranged for
drug-and cash-laden planes to enter Panama, for large amounts of cocaine to
be shipped to the United States and for profits to be laundered in
Panamanian banks.

The terrible thing was confirmation that this vile character was actually an
American creature.  The United States created him as a National Guard
officer, and he became chief of Panamanian intelligence and worked for
American intelligence on drug and political matters for some years,
including the time when George Bush ran the CIA.  It is a somber reproof to
the United States that this man could have been on the American payroll for
one day.

(end text)