AC/DC Proves Their Music Is Power In Panama

AC/DC Proves Their Music Is Power In Panama | I Love Classic Rock Videos

AC/DC live in 2009 - AC/DC / Youtube

AC/DC is one of the few bands who truly know how to rock and roll. They are also loyal adherents of Spinal Tap’s maxim of being as loud as hell. So loud that their songs are even used in ousting dictators.

In 1983, Panama became a victim of Manuel Noriega’s dictatorship. By 1989, his autocratic rule was fueled by involvement in drug trafficking, primarily aimed at amassing a personal fortune. 

The US government lent a hand in 1989 to depose the dictator using an absurd tactic that they probably borrowed from Looney Tunes: blasting the dictator’s hiding hideout with rock songs, one of them being AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

Panama under a dictatorship

When Panamanian politics entered a tumultuous phase, Noriega saw an opportunity to leverage his power and expertise to engage in the very criminal activities he had once been reporting using his connections to the CIA. Noriega once held the role of chief of military intelligence to gather information on activities in the South American region.

Eventually, his illicit rule over Panama led to his indictment by multiple US grand juries. The need for US intervention reached a pinnacle when he invalidated the 1989 general election in Panama, essentially declaring himself a dictator.

The US special forces undertook a mission to apprehend Noriega. However, the wily dictator had barricaded himself within the Apostolic Nunciature, a Vatican building in Panama, rendering them without legal authority to enter. 

Noriega sought shelter there alongside four others: Lieut. Colonel Nivaldo Madrinan, head of Panama’s secret police; Captain Eliecer Gaitan, leader of the special force guarding Noriega; Belgica de Castillo, the former head of the immigration department; and her husband Carlos Castillo. He handed over most of his weapons and asked for refuge within the embassy. He spent his time in a simple room without air conditioning or TV, reading the Bible throughout his stay.

With the dictator hiding away and the Vatican not handing him over despite the intense messages from American diplomats and military leaders, the US forces needed a strategy to coax him out, and that’s when they turned to psychological warfare and the piercing strains of AC/DC and other rock bands.

Operation Nifty Package

And they called it Operation Nifty Package. 

To pressure Noriega, psychological tactics were employed. Rock music was played at extremely loud volumes, armored vehicles revved their engines against the embassy fence, and a neighboring field was set ablaze and then bulldozed to create a helicopter landing zone. Apart from AC/DC’s powerful entry, the military also used other songs at ear-splitting decibels such as “I Fought The Law” by The Clash, “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses, “Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Jethro Tull, “Panama” by Van Halen, and “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.

Rick Astley’s catchy song had already been in use to annoy people at that time, so it seems. It’s fun to think that Noriega was rickrolled to surrendering, though, because the tactic worked. After ten days, Noriega walked out of the building and submitted to his arrest.

The dictator was handed a 40-year sentence, of which he served 17 years before facing extradition to other nations where he was also wanted. He eventually passed away in 2017 at the age of 83. 

Reports suggest that he never again listened to rock music following “Operation Nifty Package.” His fall from power ushered in a political revolution in Panama, and “You Shook Me All Night Long” continues to echo as a symbol of gratitude to the rock ‘n’ roll band that played a role in restoring a nation.

Music in warfare

Curiously, this isn’t the sole instance of AC/DC becoming entangled in this kind of operations. For some reason, people looking to annoy others always find AC/DC’s music as an effective tool. 

One of the more recent times AC/DC was deployed as a weapon was when Iran’s nuclear computers blasted “Thunderstruck” in the middle of the night, announcing to some poor scientists the hacker’s excellent taste in music.


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Another memorable example of usage of music in warfare was during US army’s sieges in Afghanistan and Iraq. While besieging various encampments, the Americans adopted a strategy of continuously playing specific songs at incredibly high volumes. 

Reportedly, a number of songs from heavy metal, death metal, and black metal acts have disturbed unsuspecting combatants. Great friendly songs such as F*ck Your God” by Deicide, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, “You Shook Me All Night Long” (what a surprise), “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, “Bodies” by Drowning Pool, “No More Mister Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper, and more. 

Even songs from children’s TV shows like “Sesame Street” and “Barney & Friends” were weaponized and gained newfound hate amongst Afghan and Iraqi militias.

The people behind the American psyops are probably fans of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, who loved blasting Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” from helicopter-mounted speakers in the movie Apocalypse Now.

Lt. Col. Kilgore has more sophisticated taste, though.