Lindsay-Poland, John. EMPERORS IN THE JUNGLE: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama. 2003. Duke University Press, USA.

“…the book examines the manner in which Panama served as an instrument for grander U.S. aims and the role of ideas about race and the tropic…”

The author of this excellent history is a peace activist and Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean who lived for many years in Panama. He is one of the organizers of the NOUSBASES Network which hosted a panel at the World Peace Forum on ‘Foreign Military Bases: Instruments of Domination’.

As Guillermo Castro, former Deputy Minister of Education in Panama says in the afterword: “Panamanians must aspire to be universal if we want to survive as a people and as a nation in a globalized world, but we can only achieve that is we are authentic. On that path towards ourselves, John Lindsay–Poland has been and will be a welcome friend.”

These are wise words and an excellent recommendation for all people; the book will help Canadians and other Americans (used in the proper sense – as citizens of this hemisphere) understand the nature of domination and understand our own need for authenticity. We, too, are on the path to our destiny.

Emperors In The Jungle: A Book Review

Panama is a small country, the slender link between two continents, whose recent history has been the ugly story of gross racism, exploitation, oppression and total disregard for a people and their culture and environment. The USA used Panama as a testing ground for jungle warfare and ecological dominance. The author writes,“ …with the help of a whistle-blower who had been under contract to the Pentagon, I found evidence that the U.S. Army had tested depleted uranium and tested and disposed of chemical weapons in Panama.”

The attitude of the USA to this small country, whose shape made it ideal for a canal, is a model for how it treats any nation that has a resource or location the USA wants. “…the United States’ construction of the canal in Panama responded to strategic imperatives in the rise of American imperial power.” Truly behaving like emperors in the jungle.

The author develops a vivid picture of Panama’s history, USA government and corporate domination and the struggles of Panamanians to be “authentic”. Amazingly, it has achieved some changes and measures of independence. The USA has left jungle warfare for war in the sky and on the desert, but as the author points out, Panamanians are well aware that USA has the treaty right to intervene if canal operations are in danger and that their neighbour, Colombia, is a USA controlled war zone.

In his closing words he says: “The United States’ relationship to the Panamanian isthmus will also depend on the evolution of its own self–image as a civilizing force and its attitudes towards the tropics and dark–skinned people”. In today’s world that is not a very hopeful statement, but the work and organizing of people like Lindsay–Poland and millions of like–minded USA citizens continues and grows as the world changes for good as well as evil.

Filed under Book Reviews, John Lindsay-Poland