America Invasion of Grenada: 30 Years On

America Invasion of Grenada: 30 Years On

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 21 October 17, 2013

I pray for progress, I pray for stability

I pray for happiness

And a whole lot of love in meh country

— “A Prayer For My Nation”

— King Ajamu

The United States of America is inarguable the most powerful nation in the world. Thirty years ago, on October 25, 1983, America invaded the small Caribbean nation of Grenada — with all its military might, including US Navy Seals, the Delta force, a fleet of 23 warships with the aircraft carrier USS Independence, stocked with fighter jets and bombers, as if Grenada was an emerging superpower, and a threat to other Caribbean islands and to American hegemony.

Under the pretext that the lives of approximately 800 American students at the U.S. run St. George’s University School of Medicine were in danger following the overthrow and murders of Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, Education Minister Jacqueline Creft, who was pregnant, Housing Minister Norris Bain, Secretary of Home Affairs Vincent Noel, former foreign minister Unision Whiteman, and union leader Fitzroy Bain, by hard-line Marxist-Leninists in his government, the American invasion of Grenada dubbed “Operation Urgent Fury” — sanctioned by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was cheered on by Dominica Prime Minister Dame Eugenia Charles, Barbados Prime Minister Tom Adams, and Jamaica Prime Minister Edward Seaga.

There was a time in West Indian history, when, in spite of the accolades and achievements of Grenadian nationals, and Grenadian citizens known for their willingness to work hard and ambitiousness, being Grenadian was equated to being on the lowest rung of the pecking order.

After the long despotic reign of the “Obeah” believing Prime Minister Eric Gairy, his Grenada United Party and his murderous secret police known as the “Mongoose Gang/Squad,” Grenada under Maurice Bishop and his New Jewel Movement was “Black Power” at work; a nation in elevation.

During the four years of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop’s stewardship, Grenada prospered. There was a huge decrease in unemployment. Cooperatives were established, agriculture was diversified, and more schools were built. A free health care system and secondary education system were established, and Grenadians had more scholarships to study abroad. There were vast improvements to the country’s transportation system — and the future and fortunes of Grenada looked bright.

In war, like politics, truth is often a victim of propaganda. Much like France and other European nations never forgiving Haiti for the defeat of “superior” whites by enslaved Blacks, America has never gotten over its failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba; a small non-white axe cutting down branches from its huge tree.

Cuba’s proximity to the mighty USA, and the fact that socialism and not democracy is its political platform and form of governance, has Cuba like a giant haemorrhoid in America’s backside.

America couldn’t sit idly by and allow Grenada’s “revolution” to succeed; let Grenada follow in Cuba’s footsteps. It would send the wrong message to other West Indian territories and deny America the ability to treat the Caribbean as its plaything and satellite countries.

Thus the Reagan administration listed Cuba, Grenada and Nicaragua as a “communist troika,” and the CIA went about doing what it does best; destabilize governments and leadership that do not play American football.

In August 1981, the American military used the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico to stage a mock invasion of Grenada.

Since invasion plans were already drawn up, the murders of Maurice Bishop and company at Fort Rupert on August 19, 1983, was the sort of excuse America was looking for to invade Grenada — and restore democracy, but was not reason enough. It was an act of terrorism in Lebanon that precipitated the invasion of Grenada.

On October 23, 1983, 240 US Marines were killed in a truck bombing of a very vulnerable US marine barracks in Beirut. Knowing the outrage the unnecessary deaths would cause, and subsequent demands for heads to roll; Reagan authorized the invasion of a powerless Grenada to distract the US public from the guiltiness and criminal stupidity of the US military brass in Lebanon.

No American civilian was killed in Grenada, yet America invaded the country. Hundreds of US Marines were killed in Lebanon and there was no immediate retaliatory response by America or even an invasion. In fact, America withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 1984.

Despite Canada being highly critical of the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the General Assembly of the United Nations voting against the invasion, and the invasion of Grenada was illegal; a clear violation of international law, Grenada was a successful American war story. It made Reagan looked good, and was redemption of sorts after America’s shame-faced lost in Vietnam, eight years earlier.

It was also a lesson to non-white sovereign nations that independence does not give gave them the right to receive economic and/or military assistance from whomever they pleased. Washington was the one with the last world.

The Purple Heart medal is one of America’s most famous military decorations. The Purple Heart medal is given to every American serviceman wounded in battle. Even if friendly fire; soldiers on the same side mistaking each other for enemy combatants, accounted for the injury.

In the Newhouse News Service August 27, 2004, article, “In Times of War, Standards for Medals Can Vary Widely,” its author David Wood, stated that according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripe, “After the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, the Army handed out more combat medals than there were soldiers who actually landed on the Caribbean island.”

New York Times writer Philip Shenon gave a more detailed account. In his May 26, 1996, article, “The Nation: What’s a Medal Worth Today?” Shenon stated, “After the American invasion of Grenada in 1983, the Defense Department handed out 8,600 medals, even though no more than 7,200 troops ever set foot on the tiny Caribbean islands.”

Imagine friends or a child looking kindly upon a parent’s Purple Heart medal, and boasting about it to others, not knowing it wasn’t deserved? But then, war is a business.

Convince a nation of the righteousness of a war and there will be a willing stream of volunteers ready to die for a lie — and country. In addition, a nation would be willing to put up with drastic measures including the suspension of civil liberties as part of the price of war — as has been the case with the war on terrorism.

War heroes, medals, medal ceremonies, ribbons, and the pomp and pageantry associated with soldiers returning home and victory parades uplift national pride, boost the economy, as well as make for movies.

Clint Eastwood starred in the movie “Heartbreak Ridge,” about recruits being trained to invade Grenada. “Heartbreak Ridge” was the site of the last major UN offensive in the Korean War.

“Heartbreak Ridge” was considered the most difficult battle of the war, and it defined the line of demarcation between North and South Korea. “Heartbreak Ridge” gives the impression Grenada was a Caribbean Afghanistan. To make such a film, and with such a title is to mock real soldiers who fought real wars.

The movie I want to see about Grenada is the documentary: “Forward Ever: The Killing of a Revolution” by Bruce Paddington that highlight the People’s Revolutionary Government (1979-1993), and which was recently screened during the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. Hopefully, it will reach Montreal.

Apologists for America’s invasion of Grenada use the term “intervention” rather than “invasion.” Sadly, October 25, the date of the infamous invasion is a public holiday in Grenada — Thanksgiving, commemorating the anniversary of the 1983 Caribbean and American military “intervention” in Grenada

Logically, methinks October 19, is much more deserving of public holiday status, giving the economically downward slide Grenada has taken after the killing of Bishop and America’s “intervention.”

What has America done for Grenadians as compared to Cuba, when Maurice Bishop was alive? Did America invest in Grenada and raised its standards of living?

On September 7, 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed by conservative estimates, over seventy per cent of Grenada. Only when Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State surveyed the devastation one month later, did America truly made the effort to assist.

America’s economic neglect of nations inhabiting the Caribbean Basin forced them to look elsewhere for investments and aid — to predatory China and Taiwan.

Grenada got into bed with Taiwan, and then switched to China. The Export-Import Bank of Taiwan then sued the Grenada government in a New York court for US$21 million plus interest payments for its loans for several projects.

For all the cheapness of Chinese made goods and efficiency of Chinese workers, Chinese made products do not last long, and per documentary evidence, have been laced with dangers.

Bishop must be turning in his unmarked grave to know that self-sufficiency he envisioned for Grenada has been seriously stymied, and new colonials inhabit his land.

A conspiracy of silence still persists. Grenadians still do not know the true tally of the deaths of its citizens on account of the invasion, and the atrocities committed by American troops are never talked or written about.  The bodies of Bishop and the others executed at Fort Rupert have never been recovered.

I hope this 30th Anniversary Invasion would spur Grenadians to ask questions, demand and find answers. The events that took place in Grenada in October 1983, is still of historical interest to the Caribbean people, and I dare say — the conscious.

An Open Letter To Dr. Clarence Bayne

An Open Letter To Dr. Clarence Bayne

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 20 October 3, 2013

Dr. Bayne, let me start off by saying I owe you. It was your response to “What A Waste,” (C.C. 23/9/10) about your contemplated sale of the Black Study Center (BSC) that prompted me to dust off my “Black Power” military fatigues, pick up the weapon of mass elucidation, and return to penning articles for this paper.

I couldn’t allow your oration rooted in mis-leadership; you blaming the community for the BSC morphing into a white elephant, to stand.

One of the points in my rebuttal (Leadership & Community Part 1) is that “An association has to market itself, have strong programs, ample users, display organizational efficiency, transparency and financial accountability, and be relevant to the community to attract volunteers and make soliciting donations easier. Anything else, including ineffective administrators, internal power struggle, perceptions of elitism, mismanagement and corruption, and its fossilization and inability to attract volunteers begins.” And therein is the rub; the heart of what assails the BSC.

Having put the BSC up for sale, in the arrogance of narcissism you state, “We are not accountable to the community, only to the government which grants us our charitable status.” (C.C. 19/9/13)

Dr. Bayne, I must disabuse you of that fallacy. And I say so mindful of your service to community, and in acknowledgement as well as gratitude.

Clearly, you have conflated being the long-serving president of the BSC with ownership.The BSC doesn’t belong to you even though none of your peers and members of the BSC board challenged your autocratic reign, your nepotism, and you have “ruled” the BSC as your personal fiefdom. You serve at the behest of the community.

The BSC is held in trust — by you — for the community. You are its steward — its guardian. As such, the BSC is accountable to community, and it is expected that as its chief administrator, decisions in its regards would always be in the community’s interest. Selling the BSC is not, and it can in no way, shape or form be justified.

Furthermore, a guardian of a trust cannot be the extirpator of that trust — even if, or when they take money out of their own pockets for its maintenance.

You are not the only person to do such a thing. Many have done the same to support and build organizations; to grow the community. Even so, the onus is always on an institution or organization to have astute plans; ceaselessly find new and creative ways to raise funds to go about their business, and/or to supplement government funding.

And what have you done — as the steward of the BSC, to ensure its visibility, success, and usage by the community it is meant to serve, and its bills met?

It is my contention that sitting in prime location, you deliberately kept the BSC underused and underdeveloped for a future sale — that in your estimation is now.

And I make that claim, and levy the charge of nepotism because of the composition of the board of the BSC. Besides yourself, two other persons on the board carry the surname Bayne; are members of your clan.

Is our community pool of qualified volunteers that bankrupt, you had to rely on family? It doesn’t look good, makes for corruption, and automatically stacks the board. It gives you three votes for anything you propose. It does not make for fair play, and is glaringly a violation of trust. And no, I do not expect the two Bayne to be impartial or to vote their conscience.

Our organizational politics is still rife with the culture of friendship and cliquishness as opposed to supporting ability and vision. More so, given your leadership style — penchant for petulance and bullying others to have your way.

Seeking refuge in that the Board approved the sale of the BSC is thus disingenuous. As per a confidential source: Only one person voted no, when the motion to sell the BSC was raised at a Board meeting two years ago. Your decision was rubberstamped.

It is rather hypocritical — deceitful of you, to say that the BSC is accountable only to “the government which grants us our charitable status.”

You didn’t know that when you went before — the community;  the Black Community Council of Quebec (B.C.C.Q.) — for help, to contest the court decision revoking the BSC Tax Exemption Status by virtue of the non-use of its facilities, and to “restore the viability and credibility of the B.S.C. and ultimately to save the property itself.”

I refer you to the minutes of B.C.C.Q. Board of Directors meeting held on Tuesday, November 11, 1986, at 2121 Old Orchard.

The loss of BSC Tax Exemption Status was under your watch. As the facts show, the non-use of the BSC is not recent. Yet, you still do not want to accept responsibility for the state of the BSC, preferring to proffer that the community don’t give a “ship,” and selling the BSC is the best option.

Allow me to jog your memory; draw attention to your September 13, 1993, letter, as the President/Executive Director of the BSC to Ms June Mayers, Chairperson of the BCCQ, outlining reasons for the withdrawal of the BSC, from under the BCCQ umbrella.

To précis your letter, one of them was in regards to the decision taken by the Board to sell the BCCQ Foundation Building to Mr. P. Brady, Ms June Mayers and Dr. Martin Cato, in order to refinance the $200, 000 debt held by the Toronto Dominion Bank against the building.

You emphatically stated that the “BSC firmly believes that the Building deserves saving.” Paradoxically, there are people in the community saying the same thing about the BSC: “The building deserves saving.” But it has fallen on deaf ears. Your mind is made up.

Dr. Bayne, you once published in this very newspaper an article titled, “A Deeper Look At The Perils Of Our Community.” Selling the BSC imperils the community.

You’ve been in town too long to not know right from wrong — that no other ethnicity or race, finance their own oppression, and we not only finance ours, but endorse it as well. Don’t be a contributor.

Land and institutions are the basis for empire building. Without institutions a community doesn’t exist; has no political and economic standing, and cannot fully lay claim to a nation’s patrimony. The BSC is tied to legacy and community pride. Selling it is akin to giving away one’s birthright for a bowl of porridge.

When Michael Jackson was up to his neck in financial troubles, white financial pundits/advisors keeping putting out that if he sold the publishing rights of the Beatles catalogue he owned, he’ll be financially solvent. I can only surmise that the thought of a Black man owning such, was too much for them to bear, hence their unsolicited advice.

Michael understood ownership. Now his estate is extremely rich, and continues to grow.

Ownership imbues one with pride, accomplishment and sense of independence. Many Blacks felt a psychic pain when Berry Gordy sold Motown. Motown was more than just the sound of Black America; it had become a component of our soul, our blackness.

Owners have the right to do what they want with their possessions, but Dr. Bayne, you do not own the BSC. Too many sacrificed much to get to here, for you to use a Board, indifferent to Black aspirations to sell a community asset.

I implore you Dr. Bayne, in the name of all who toiled on behalf of, and for the good of the community, and beyond the call of duty, to reconsider your position.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: “Our past is littered with bones of endless failures, yet those thrust into leadership spare no thought as to the success model they want; learn nothing from our failures, do no research, seek no advice, and do not surround themselves with company that could help advance their cause and/or community.”

In closing, I leave you with the Shakespearian quote: “The evil that men do live after them.” Don’t let it be said, “Black America has its Uncle Tom, Canadian Blacks have Uncle Clarence.”

Sincerely,

P.S. In your report on our August 16 discourse at the UNIA Hall, “Why we are the way we are” (C.C. 7/9/13), you failed to mention the most important thing that came out of it: The UNIA to take the lead in Emancipation Celebrations.

Spare Us The Lashes Of The “Selfish Gene” Theory

Flagellation as a tool of education and social sophistication

SPARE US THE LASHES OF THE “SELFISH GENE” THEORY

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 23, Number 19 September 19, 2013

When the Black historical experience has been marked by chattel slavery, torturous suffering, unmitigated brutality and violence, unbridled exploitation, the fracturing of voice, soul and self, obliterating identity, culture and religion, destruction of the bond of family, institutionalize racism and discrimination, dysfunction in every imaginable way; our education, must in part — and out of necessity be centered on making us whole, and languaging ourselves — finding voice, being formidable, and uncompromising in upholding one’s humanity, and bringing respect to the race.

To that end, those of us at the bottom of the education, employment, wealth, and health indexes expect our brightest, our leaders and exemplars to throw us lifelines; provide us with visionary blueprints, winning strategies and techniques to empower — stop our recycling of losing formulas that keeps us at each other’s throat, and at the bottom of the economic barrel.

If, or when those we look up to or expect great things from, are lacking in critical thinking and analysis skills, have no “groundation” in liberation education, a working knowledge of “his story,” and an understanding of how the game is played, and/or they are caught up in the narcissism of ego and the “selfish gene,” they are going to be liabilities. The human facility and ability to question perceived wisdom would be rendered useless.

Given that this is a society that in the main meets the needs of the majority, and the educational system was designed to ensure white hegemony — and turn out worker bees/drones, their discourses and analysis would mislead, mis-educate, and trap. Their inability to unfetter the mind from Euro-centric perspectives and ideologies, which are at odds with the struggles of disenfranchised and oppressed peoples worldwide, would have them recycle the same.

Though some of “us” came to Canada on our own strength, a far greater number of “us” came on shoulders; the financial sacrifices of parents, siblings, other family members, even friends — and carrying the weight of expectations.

Our debt to them could never be repaid. So the conscious always do what they can for family and others “back home” and elsewhere.

The extension of that is much of what Blacks are, is owed to the sacrifices of family, lovers, and the sacrifices, hard-work, exploitation, incarceration, and slaughter of our forebears — strangers. Thus a debt is owed to those who cleared paths, marched, sat down at lunch counters, walked rather than ride buses, and boycotted businesses that discriminate.

And that debt could only be repaid by doing good; contributing positively to the commonwealth of blackness.

Furthermore, when one consider the contributions of the likes of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, CLR James, Richard Wright, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, James Baldwin, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Molefi Keti Asante, Cheikh Anta Diop, and Dr John Henrik Clarke, in advancing new templates, counteracting and disassembling the tenets of white supremacy, rectifying the deliberate falsification about Blacks and misinterpretation of African history, it is obscene and intellectually dishonest for any conscious person of African descent to advance the “selfish gene” theory.

The selfish gene is simply a white capitalist ideology to justify psychopathic behaviours, rapaciousness, exploitation, and to limit legal accountability and corporate responsibility.

The selfish gene eschews individualism. And though history is replete with the stories of many who accomplished great things; attained wealth, titles, fame and glory on the strength of their individualism; their character and tenacity, individualism is responsible for the growth of greed, coldness, hostility and incivility in human interaction, fragmented families, and the state of our environment.

Humans are social animals hard-wired to belong to a larger collective, with whom they have values in common or share the same beliefs. Thus the breakdown of the family is matched; balanced by children gravitating to gangs — propelled by that innate need to belong.

Group identification is psychologically rewarding and strengthening. The sense of belonging it engenders grows self-esteem, assuredness, gives one pride, empowers one with a sense of self and place in the world, and triggers loyalty to the extent that one is willing to sacrifice life in defence of the unit.

Individualism engenders screwing people over just to get ahead. Individualism forces one to abandon the values, goals, responsibility, duty and obligation to the collective for personal satisfaction.

While there are self-made individuals and achievers rightfully deserving accolades, by and large, people who succeed at the highest level do so because of the support structure around them, including teachers, coaches, and mentors.

Given that racism forces Blacks to stay within the confines of group identification, have Blacks 400 yards behind the starting line, and for everyone else but us, education, certification, training, experience and skill does not translate into employment, or even equal salary; buying into the selfish gene would leave us up the proverbial creek, and without paddles.

“Smartmen,” “smartwomen,” and predators personify the “selfish gene.” And what have they built or achieved? What do they have to show for all their selfishness and stinginess? What is their legacy going to be? More importantly, have we — they, ever stop to consider whether or not they are heaping coals on the head of their children and grandchildren by their negativity, divisive and destructive actions?

The selfish gene cannot liberate; bring us in/out from the cold. It can only alienate, deepen Black disadvantage, damage, foster the illusion of inclusion; make “us” think the playing field is level, we are just like “them” — our cultural, political, educational, social, and economical imperatives are the same, when they are not. And there is still a lot of work to be done and battles to fight.

Our social-historical circumstances necessitate we exorcise the “selfish gene.” Alliances and collaboration facilitates achievement, success, growth, the building of empires, materialization of one’s dreams, advancing of community, and for persons to have a dynamic social network, and able to stand in their own circle of power.

This article is in response to a point of view articulated by Dr. Clarence Bayne at the Marcus Garvey Commemoration event at the Montreal’s UNIA Hall, on August 16, 2013, and reproduced in part in the September 7, 2013, Montreal Community Contact.

Dr. Bayne and I were the speakers at the Marcus Garvey Commemoration event.