09 Junio 2017 11:31
When Noriega sought refuge in a church, the United States resorted to psychological warfare to get the dictator to surrender. These are some of the songs they used.
On 20 December 1989, the US army surrounded the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, the Vatican’s embassy in Panama. The soldiers had no intention of launching an attack, but rather force its occupant to leave: Manuel Noriega.
Panama’s military dictator between 1983 and 1989, Noriega, died on the 29 May. For years, he was a key ally for the US until his links with drug trafficking were uncovered. By now fully at war with America, in late 1989 Noriega locked himself inside of the papal embassy.
An army offensive was not an option as the building belonged to another country. Moreover, the Catholic church was determined to protect the dictator. So, how did they get Noriega out? With rock.
The strategy was popularly known as Operation Nifty Package and, essentially, consisted of aiming loudspeakers at the building and blasting it with music at a deafening volume. The army hoped Noriega would be harassed to the point of walking out of his own accord.
US military radio for Central America was the weapon of choice, known as the Southern Command Network, a radio station that played song requests by soldiers. Fully aware of what was happening, the troops began asking for songs that were quite different to their usual repertoire. These mostly consisted of very loud hard rock, replete with clear messages for Noriega.
And so, quite by accident, they created the Noriega Playlist, a list that defines an era and has the same potency today as it did back then:
Other songs like 'Refugee' by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers or 'Hair of the Dog' by Nazareth were also played, day and night, until on 3 January 1990, Noriega eventually emerged from his hideout. Apparently, the only ceasefire came on 25 December, when the schedule was changed for Christmas carols.
It may not seem overly torturous, but Noriega was a great fan of opera, a style diametrically opposed to what was blaring out from the speakers. Later, President George H.W. Bush spoke out against psychological warfare, saying it was childish and shameful. But as unethical as it may have been, it got him what he wanted.