You could argue for compassion for Manuel Noriega from a, well, compassionate point of view. He's old (77) and has been in jail a long time. However, I have to disagree with COHA about going easy on him because the United States is entirely to blame for everything he did:
COHA calls for compassion. House arrest is the proper sentence to mete out to a man who was but one of countless U.S. officials and Central American operators who worked outside the law and would never qualify for a red badge of courage.
This type of argument bothers me not because the U.S. is blameless, since I agree with many of the accusations in the article, but because it robs Latin America of agency. Individuals are simply puppets, pulled by the all-powerful strings in Washington. In this view, domestic Panamanian politics fades into the background or disappears entirely and Noriega is simply a product of circumstances. Given the canal, of course the United States always played a large role, but it was not the only player. The article doesn't even mention Omar Torrijos.
Anyway, why go easy on a dictator just because he received support from the U.S.?
As an aside, Randal Archibold at the New York Times writes that there's far more fuss about Noriega outside Panama than inside.