Overthrows #12, #13, #14 (Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq)
Panama (du du du du du) Panama-a (du du du du du ) Panama (du du du du du) Panama-a-a-a-a-a-a
Noriega was an interesting guy, and by interesting I mean amoral to such a ridiculous degree that he was shockingly skilled at playing all sides. He managed a friendship with the US and Cuba, to work w/ drug dealers while reporting others to the DEA, and to call for Central American unity while funding the Contras.
America liked him b/c he helped the DEA, was an informant for the CIA (when Bush was in charge), and helped them in their fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. That he was getting paid by a Colombian drug cartel 100,o00 per flight out of Panama and was a murderous thug did not start to be a problem until Congress began getting involved in a particularly egregious act. Hugo Spadafora, a reformer and critic of Noriega, was found missing a head that had apparently been cut off slowly. His brother brought this information to Jesse Helms (?) who began hearings.
Reagan's administration reacted by trying to hush these up, w/ plees to Helms to shut his trap so as to save their operations in Nicaragua. He ignored these plees and soon Kerry joined Helms in denouncing the America's support of this man. Things only got worse in 1988 when an old ally of Noriega became disillusioned at his chances for power, went mystic, proclaimed publicly Noriega's misdeeds, and said this great quote, "I am a criminal. I am ready to go to jail for my crimes, but I think Noriega should go with me."
Reagan was starting to change his tune and tried to convince Noriega to leave office, even promising to drop all criminal charges if he did. Noriega considered this, but in the end chose to stay in power (He wasn't technically president, but he fixed all the elections and controlled whomever was elected). With a new US president in 1989, Bush I, and another fixed election in Panama, the US decided to send extra troops. When one of these was killed by some Panama soldiers, a 25,000 troop invasion ensued. Noriega was removed and replaced by the guy who actually should've won the election.
And I'm going to skip summaries of Iraq and Afghanistan due to their recentness.
Ranking (Worst to Least Worst)
1. Guatemala (1954)
2. Nicaragua (1909)
3. Chile (1973)
4. Iran (1953)
5. Honduras (1910)
6. The Philippines (1898)
7. Cuba (1898)
8. Iraq (2003)
9. Panama (1989)
10. Vietnam (1963)
11. Afganistan (2001)
12. Hawaii (1893)
13. Puerto Rico (1898)
14. Grenada (1983)
The Panama invasion could have been gone better, for instance, we let a Panama coup die on the vine and our invasion was followed w/ looting and fires. Still, looked at it as an independent event, we took out a murderous thug and replaced him w/ a democrat.
But it's a little ridiculous to focus on 1 day and ignore the fact that wouldn't have been in power (probably) w/o our support. And let's not forget that Panama only exists b/c of a fake independence movement we started to separate it from Columbia and give us control of the Panama Canal. I'll put Panama at 9, the overthrow probably did actually help matters there, but our continual presence certainly did not.
Afghanistan and Iraq are tricky, at least partly b/c we're right in the middle of them. In both cases the governments we overthrew were bad ones and we have tried to bring in democracy. And before you start rolling your eyes, remember these are in comparison to invasions where we replaced popular presidents with generals. It does matter that the Taliban and Saddam were not good people.
Being pretty much against any war, I was opposed to our Afghanistan invasion. Still, it has to be our most understandable overthrow. We had just experienced the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world. And although the Taliban had not sanctioned it, to say they were "harboring terrorists" is not the joke it became w/ Iraq, it was the truth in Afghanistan. I place it above Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Grenada b/c it's still a mess there. We need to keep in mind that they were in the midst of their own civil war (to some degree) when we came and there have been significant improvements in some places. But I wouldn't say I have a lot of confidence that our presence will make a bright future for Afghanis (except for the opium growers, that industry's doing great!).
And then there's Iraq. One of my first thoughts after reading this book (Overthrow), was how ridiculous it was that people called the Iraq war our first preemptive war. So... what exactly did Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Honduras... do to us? I guess it was our first non-clandestine preemptive war, but, that's all besides the point. Iraq is certainly worse than Afghanistan: no reason to go there, more violent, and less successful. But I can't put it worse than #1 - #7 since it really was a bad person we were taking out. And things are worse there, but perhaps not as much as it feels to us. Yes, the invasion has caused terrible chaos, but Saddam supplied controlled cruelty. The Kurds are certainly happy for the invasion (75% support US troops), and, surprisingly to me, more Shias say things are better than worse (46% say things are "quite good" versus 32% who say things are "quite bad"). The Sunnis feel otherwise (88% support attacks on us and only 3% support the troops), but this due in some part to their loss of power.
I'm not trying to defend the invasion, which I think was wrong, or to say the occupation has gone well. I'm just saying it's not our worst overthrow, not even close in my opinion. That award will go to Guatemala, which just edges out Nicaragua, Chile, and Iran. Sorry guys, better luck next time!