Grenada 1979-1984

Lying -- one of the few growth industries in Washington

excerpted from the book

Killing Hope

by William Blum


What can be said about an invasion launched by a nation of 240 million people against one of 110 thousand? And when the invader is, militarily and economically, the most powerful in the world, and the target of its attack is an underdeveloped island of small villages 1,500 miles away, 133 square miles in size, whose main exports are cocoa, nutmeg and bananas...

The United States government had a lot to say about it. The relation which its pronouncements bore to the truth can be accurately gauged by the fact that three days after the invasion the deputy White House press secretary for foreign affairs resigned, citing "damage to his personal credibility''.

One of the fundamental falsehoods concerning the invasion of Tuesday, 25 October 1983 was that the United States had been requested to intervene by an urgent plea on the 21st from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), comprising six countries and joined in this instance b Barbados and Jamaica. These countries purportedly feared some form of aggressive act from the new ultra-leftist regime in Grenada which had deposed socialist leader Maurice Bishop. Bishop had been expelled from the ruling party on 12 October, placed under house arrest the next day, and murdered on the 19th.

Even if the fears were valid, it would constitute a principle heretofore unknown under international law, namely that state A could ask state B to invade state C in the absence of any aggressive act toward state A by state C. In Washington, State Department lawyers worked overtime, finally settling on sections of an OECS mutual assistance pact, the Charter of the OAS, and the United Nations Charter as legal justifications for the American action. These documents, however, even with the most generous interpretation, provide for nothing of the sort.. Moreover, Article Six of the OECS pact requires all members to approve decisions of the organization's Authority (the heads of government). Grenada, a member, certainly did not approve. It was not even at the meeting, although US officials were present to steer the direction of the discussions.

As matters later transpired, Tom Adams, the Prime Minister of Barbados, stated that the United States had approached him on 15 October concerning a military intervention. (The State Department declined to comment when asked about Adams' statement.) Then "sources close to Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga" asserted that the plea by the Caribbean nations "was triggered by an offer from the United States"-"Issue an appeal and we'll respond" was the message conveyed by Washington. Furthermore, on 26 October, the US ambassador to France, Evan Galbraith, stated over French television that the Reagan administration had been planning the invasion for the previous two weeks, that is, not only well before the putative request from the Caribbean countries, but, if Galbraith is to be taken literally, even before Bishop was overthrown or before this outcome could have been known with any certainty, unless the CIA had been mixed up in the intra-party feud .

Eventually it was disclosed that at some point before the invasion the government of Eugenia Charles, the Prime Minister of Dominica, who headed the OECS, had been the recipient of covert CIA money "for a secret support operation".

At the same time, the United States, as if to cover its bets, endorsed (if not in fact devised) the claim by the OECS that the governor-general of Grenada, Paul Scoon, had also sent an urgent appeal for military intervention to the organization. Apart from the highly debatable question of whether Scoon-appointed by the British Queen to his largely ceremonial, figurehead position, a vestige of the days of the Empire-had the constitutional right to make such a momentous decision on behalf of an independent Grenada, there was the mystery of how and when he had sent his request or indeed whether he had sent it at all.

On 31 October, the London press reported that British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe "was emphatic that there had been no request for intervention from Sir Paul Scoon". Prime Minister Thatcher unequivocally confirmed this. Scoon, said Sir Geoffrey, "had been seen by a British diplomat last Monday-the day before the invasion-and had not mentioned any such desire." The same day (another report places it on Sunday) Scoon spoke by phone to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and to Buckingham Palace, but, again, made no mention of intervention.

Interviewed later by the BBC, Scoon himself said that an invasion was the "last thing" he wanted In the end, after the invasion was underway, Scoon signed a piece of paper aboard the USS Guam that made the whole operation nice and legal.

Another justification advanced by the United States for its action, what President Reagan termed "of overriding importance", was the need to evacuate many hundreds of civilians from the island, mainly students at St. George's Medical College who were supposedly in a dangerous position because of the new regime and the chaos surrounding its accession to power.

To refute this contention one does not have to dig for evidence; there is a surfeit Iying on the surface, viz....

Two members of the US Embassy in Barbados, Ken Kurze and Linda Flohr, reported over the weekend before the invasion that "US students in Grenada were, for the most part, unwilling to leave or be evacuated. They were too intent on their studies." Another r port, in the London press, that three US diplomats visited Grenada at the same time and appeared to have agreed on orderly departures for any Americans wishing to leave, may or may not refer to the same thing.

The White House acknowledged that two days before the invasion, Grenada had offered the United States "an opportunity to evacuate American citizens. But officials said the Reagan administration came to distrust the offer." This was, they said, because the Grenadian government had promised that the airport would be open on Monday for evacuation flights, but it was instead closed. Only later did the White House admit that four charter flights had indeed left the airport on Monday.

Some of those who left on Monday were American medical students. The Chancellor of the medical school, Dr. Charles Modica, who was visiting New York, declared on the day of the invasion that he was in touch with amateur radio operators at the college. "I think the President's information is very wrong," he said, "because some of the Americans started to go out yesterday.''

The Grenadian government issued instructions that the American students should be treated with utmost consideration by the army; vehicles and escorts were provided for them to shuttle between their two campuses.

The Cuban government released documents which showed that it had notified the United States on 22 October that no American or other foreign citizen was in danger and said it was ready "to cooperate in the solution of problems without violence or intervention. It received no reply until after the invasion had begun. On the 23rd the Cubans sent a message to the Grenadian leaders suggesting that the area around the medical school be demilitarized to avoid providing the United States with an excuse for invasion: "the pretext of evacuating its citizens''.

Asked by journalists if there was any concrete information about threats to Americans in Grenada, the White House spokesman responded: "Nothing that I know of."


The New Jewel Movement (NJM) under Maurice Bishop had taken power in March 1979 by ousting, to popular acclaim, Eric Gairy, an erratic personality given increasingly to thuggery to maintain his rule. That accomplished, Bishop, a London-educated lawyer, had to deal with the exceedingly more formidable task which faces a socialist revolutionary in power: spurring an underdeveloped country to lift itself up by its own bootstraps when it doesn't have any boots. They had to start with the basics: jobs, new schools, teacher training, adult literacy, social services, clean water ... the NJM left private business undisturbed, but instituted free health care, free milk for young children, agricultural co-operatives, and the like.

Nicholas Brathwaite, the Chairman of the US-approved Interim Government following the invasion, and his colleagues, reported The Guardian, "readily praise the [NJM] for giving Grenadians new awareness, self-confidence and national pride and admit it is a hard act to follow."

The World Bank gave the Grenadian government good grades also. In 1980 the Bank praised the NJM's sound fiscal management and two years later wrote that "Government objectives are centered on the critical development issues and touch on the country's most promising development areas."

The New Jewel Movement did not hold elections. Bishop explained this decision on one occasion in the following way:

'There are those (some of them our friends) who believe that you cannot have a democracy unless there is a situation where every five years, and for five seconds in those five years, a people are allowed to put an 'X" next to some candidate's name, and for those five seconds in those five years they become democrats, and for the remainder of the Time, four years and 364 days, they return to being non-people without the right to say anything to their government, without any right to be involved in running the country.'


As to the invasion itself ... code-named "Urgent Fury" ... 2,000 American marines and paratroopers the first day, by week's end 7,000 on the island, even more waiting offshore ... planes fitted with murderous multi-barreled Gatling guns spraying positions of the People;s Revolutionary Army ... "The People's Revolutionary Army-are they on our side or theirs?" asks the young Marines... the home of the Cuban ambassador damaged and looted by American soldiers; on one wall is written "AA", symbol of the 82nd Airborne Division; beside it the message: "Eat shit, commie faggot" ... captured Cubans used as hostages, ordered to march in front of American jeeps as they advanced on Cuban positions, a violation of the Geneva Convention ... promises of all kinds were made to Cuban prisoners, said Castro, to get them to go to the United States; none accepted. "I want to fuck communism out of this little island," says a marine, "and fuck it right back to Moscow." ... "Britain announced that it was sending a destroyer to assist in the rescue," said the American radio station to the Grenadian people the first morning; not a half-truth, but a complete lie ... Grenadians who heard the broadcasts said they were a powerful encouragement to accept the occupation ... the fighting was over in a week, 135 Americans killed or wounded, 84 Cubans, 400 Grenadians, more or less ...
The land conquered, there remained the people's hearts and minds. At the outset, the invasion radio station engaged in fiery attacks against Bishop-he had brought Grenada into captivity said the announcer. But then the Americans evidently learned that this was a tactical error, that Bishop was still enormously popular, because for some time afterward, criticism of his regime was usually made more indirectly and without naming him.

Before long the Psychological Operations Battalion of the US Army was cruising over the island in a helicopter offering the Grenadians, via a loudspeaker, a large serving of anti-Cuban fare: the Cubans had supported those who had killed Bishop, Grenada had been a pawn of Cuba, Castro/communism were still a threat, and so forth. Posters were put up showing alleged captured Cuban weapons with the slogan, "Are these the tools that build airports?" Other posters linked the MRC leaders to Moscow.

In March 1984, a visiting London journalist could report:

'The island remains visibly under American occupation. Jeeps patrol constantly. Helicopters fly over the beaches. Armed military police watch the villagers and frequent the cafes. CIA men supervise the security at the courthouse. The island's only newspaper pours out weekly vitriol about the years of the revolutionary government, this gruesome period in our history". The pressures, in a small community, are heavy.'

And in June we learned that schools called after "heroes of the revolution" had been given back their old names, though not without pupil protests. And the US Information Service was showing school children a film entitled "Grenada: Return to Freedom".

The invasion was almost universally condemned in Latin America, only the military dictatorships of Chile, Guatemala and Uruguay expressing support. The United Nations voted Its disapproval overwhelmingly. To this President Reagan responded: "One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that's come before them where we're involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all."

One of the evils of Communist states, we were always told, is that they were oblivious to world opinion.

There was, however, the supreme irony that most of the people of Grenada welcomed the invasion. In addition to the conservative minority who knew that the "socialist" experiment would now be decisively put to rest, there were the greater number who were overjoyed to see the murderers of their beloved Maurice Bishop receive the punishment due them. Despite all the hostility and lies directed at Bishop by Washington for over four years, it did not seem to occur to the islanders that the invasion had nothing to do with avenging his death and that the United States had merely used the event as a convenient pretext for all action it had desired to carry out for a long time.

If the average Grenadian seems thus rather ingenuous, with a short political memory, we must consider also that the average American lustily cheered the invasion, believed, believed everything which crossed the lips of Ronald Reagan (as if this were the first US intervention in history), and to this day would be hard pressed to recite a single falsehood associated with the entire affair. The president himself later appeared to have completely repressed the incident. In March 1986, when asked about the possibility of an American invasion of Nicaragua, he replied:

'You're looking at an individual that is the last one in the world that would ever want to put American troops into Latin America, because the memory of the great Colossus in the north is so widespread in Latin America. We'd lose all our friends if we did anything of that kind.'

On the fourth day of the invasion Reagan made a speech which succeeded in giving jingoism a bad name. The president managed to link the invasion of Grenada with the shooting down of a Korean airliner by the Soviet Union, the killing of US soldiers in Lebanon, and the taking of American hostages in Iran. Clearly, the invasion symbolized an end to this string of humiliations for the United States. Even Vietnam was being avenged. To commemorate the American Renaissance, some 7,000 US servicemen were designated heroes of the republic and decorated with medals. Many had done no more than sit on ships near the island. America had regained its manhood, by stepping on a flea.



At the end of 1984, former Premier Herbert Blaize was elected prime minister, his party capturing 14 of the 15 parliamentary seats. Blaize, who in the wake of the invasion proclaimed to the United States: "We say thank you from the bottom of our hearts," had been favored by the Reagan administration. The candidate who won the sole opposition seat announced that he would not occupy it because of what he called "vote rigging and interference in the election by outside forces."

One year later, the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs reported on Grenada as part of its annual survey of human rights abuses:

'Reliable accounts are circulating of prisoners being beaten, denied medical attention and confined for long periods without being able to see lawyers. The country's new US-trained police force has acquired a reputation for brutality, arbitrary arrest and abuse of authority.'

The report added that an offending all-music radio station had been closed and that US-trained counter-insurgency forces were eroding civil rights.

By the late 1980s, the government began confiscating many books arriving from abroad, including Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana and Nelson Mandela Speaks. In April 1989, it issued a list of more than 80 books which were prohibited from being imported.

Four months later, Prime Minister Blaize suspended Parliament to forestall a threatened no-confidence vote resulting from what his critics called "an increasingly authoritarian style.

Killing Hope