How Manuel Noriega surrendered to the sanity-destroying power of mallrat music

US special forces know that bad music on loop can get the strongest opponent to surrender – from a Panamanian dictator to a Guantanamo detainee

It was a Christmas miracle. On 25 December 1989, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who has died this week, sought refuge in the Papal Nunciatura (the Vatican’s embassy in Panama). Noriega was facing a US indictment for narco-trafficking, as well as claims of electoral fraud. To smoke him out , General “Mad Max” Thurman ordered construction of a “musical barrier” around the embassy – constant barrages of sound played from the speakers of encircling US army Humvees.

The first day was something of a truce – Christmas music. But thereafter, things rapidly descended towards classic rock. Noriega was an opera fan. Instead of Verdi, he got a psyops playlist that included Billy Idol’s Flesh for Fantasy, Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses, God Bless the USA by Lee G,reenwood, We’re Not Going to Take It by Twisted Sister, several songs by the Doors: Strange Days, People Are Strange, The End War Pigs by Black Sabbath, Electric Spanking of War Babies by Funkadelic, and most worryingly of all: If I Had a Rocket Launcher by Bruce Cockburn. Faced with the sanity-destroying power of middle-American mallrat music, Noriega surrendered.

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