Breitbart savaged over inaccurate Panamanian history article

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Rep. Martha McSally (right) shouted “fake news” at CNN while speaking at her rally The historian who made front page news last week for concluding that President Barack…

Breitbart savaged over inaccurate Panamanian history article

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Rep. Martha McSally (right) shouted “fake news” at CNN while speaking at her rally

The historian who made front page news last week for concluding that President Barack Obama played into fears of gun violence by talking about the Newtown school massacre, is in trouble again.

Rebecca Olenfeld has been accused of twisting history and lying about the name of the author of an influential history of the US military invasion of Panama.

In a lengthy article published on TheAtlantic.com on 2 September, Ms Olenfeld – a former Yale University historian and Fulbright Scholar – described Panama as a rogue state in the Third World when the US invaded the country on 4 December 1989.

But in reality the country was never a republic or a colony, nor was it ever a “northern springboard” to the Caribbean for the US Navy.

And it was never, as Ms Olenfeld wrote, “a product of an early wave of American military adventures in the Caribbean and Central America.”

Panama began to fall apart as the 1990s began, after the end of military dictatorship. In 1993, then-President Fernando Collor de Mello was overthrown and overthrown in the 1992 coup which helped set off the country’s slide into chaos.

Ms Olenfeld’s article also distorted the role of Jose Ocampo, Panama’s original president of ‘government in exile’, who by some estimates was responsible for half of the overthrow, as early as December 1992, during his second interim government as Panama’s caretaker leader.

Apologies for the factual errors have been written on Ms Olenfeld’s article. But the attack on the facts of the article continues.

Image copyright AFP Image caption The map pictured on Ms Olenfeld’s piece shows the very conflicting locations of the Panama invasion

Wikipedia, the go-to site for critical assessment of history, is the latest place to amplify claims that Ms Olenfeld made up a contribution from Bill Clinton to a book about the Panama invasion.

Ms Olenfeld made reference to an alleged conversation between Clinton and US military historian Douglas Valentine (who wrote the book Panama: A History in 1997), in which Mr Clinton claimed that he had received “verbal briefing” on the possibility of US military action against Panama from the Pentagon and called for the help of the US president of Panama at the time, Jose Domingo Arias.

But in a 2015 biography of Mr Clinton, Mr Arias said that he and his former vice-president, Al Gore, never received any direct testimony from the former president about the Panama invasion.

“We never heard from him again about the invasion of Panama,” Mr Arias told the author, Matt Bai. “Maybe, one day, he will tell us.”

Sticking point: The map that informs Ms Olenfeld’s view of the incident

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Ms Olenfeld appears to have been sticking to a map of the region where the invasion took place

The original map is the only real undisputed piece of historical evidence.

In the early 1990s, National Geographic magazine published an illustration in which the US forces crossed the main northern crossing from Panama City to Amado Trinidad Island in the Caribbean, and vice versa.

Ms Olenfeld, who describes herself as a history researcher and writer, was highlighting the fact that the map gives the invasion of Panama a military objective, and then exaggerates the zone where the invading forces were to deploy.

Her article, published just as the presidential election in the US was being heatedly debated, focused a harsh spotlight on the Republican candidate and frontrunner Donald Trump.

Republican members of Congress have pointed to the piece as evidence that Ms Olenfeld has not done her homework on the “legitimate” history of US military interventions in the Western Hemisphere.

The Huffington Post meanwhile, has called the article “an all-out, impassioned assault on a commander-in-chief” who has done an “unprovoked gassing of innocent civilians.”

More outrage: The Seattle University historian who insisted Hillary Clinton was racist

More coverage: Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ seeks to take a stand against Islam

More reaction: Afghan veteran killed and injured by Donald Trump supporters

More reaction: Alex Jones and right-wing conspiracy theory

Leave a Comment