Any Day Now, Honest

If key State Department officials in Washington have consistently miscalculated Noriega's departure date, don't blame the U.S. embassy in Panama City. For months now, embassy officials have been warning the State Department that the general would be extremely hard to remove. As a Panama-based diplomat put it, "Noriega is one tough nut to crack."

But Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams remained skeptical. Perhaps because the embassy's cables competed with less pessimistic messages from CIA operatives and the Army's Southern Command headquarters in Panama, Abrams and others often predicted that Noriega would step down any day. When Abrams admitted last month...

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