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Deceived, again.

Regular readers of The Humanist should need no introduction to Barbara Trent and the Empowerment Project, a group of activist documentarians and videographers based in Santa Monica, California. Their incisive and powerful documentaries Coverup: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair and The Panama Deception earned Barbara Trent last year's Humanist Arts Award from the American can Humanist Association. A working cut of The Panama Deception was shown by Trent at the 1992 annual conference of the AHA in Portland, Oregon, and on March 29, 1993, The Panama Deception received the Academy Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The documentary has even been widely praised by a press otherwise too cowed to tell the real story about Panama, which has remained in a shambles ever since the American attack.

The U.S. government continues to insist that casualty figures from the 1989 invasion were low and the "human costs" kept to a minimum. But as The Panama Deception effectively illustrates, this is an official lie still endlessly repeated by the U.S. media. In February, the National Censorship Board of Panama banned the release of Trent's documentary in any form in that country. And on March 4, Trent and David Kasper, per, the cofounders of the Empowernent Project, were told "P.O.V." series (short for "Point of View") that The Panama Deception would not be included in the show's 1993 lineup--and this despite the documentary's Oscar nomination.

David Kasper, who wrote and edited The Panama Deception, calls both the overt censorship in Panama and the covert PBS censorship "a classic case." "You have a government lying through its teeth to the public," says Kasper, "and the media shamelessly functioning as publicists for this completely illegal and immoral foreign policy."

The Panama Deception tells one too many uncomfortable truths. According to the official story, the invasion was about routing a drug-trafficking dictator who had thuggishly seized power after a democratic election. But as Trent's documentary points out, the Endara government would rather suppress the fact that drug trafficking through Panama has actually doubled since Noriega's removal. And Endara and his vice, president have been repeatedly linked to the very same banks charged with laundering money for the Medellin and Cali drug cartels.

Those interested in seeing The Panama Deception will have to wait until summer, when Rhino Home Video of Santa Monica, California, will begin its long-planned, nationwide release. Now is the time to start badgering your local video store to stock the film, which otherwise won't be seen by the public, especially on the "Public" Broadcasting System.

Gerry O'Sullivan is the senior editor of The Humanist, a book-review editor for Z Magazine, and the author, with Edward S. Herman, of the "Terrorism" Industry.
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Title Annotation:documentary 'The Panama Deception'
Author:O'Sullivan, Gerry
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:459
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