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.