Thirty Years After the U.S. Invasion of Grenada, the First Neoliberal War

US Invasion Of Grenada
Former Grenada Prime Minister with President Fidel Castro in Cuba

AFRICANGLOBE – October 25, marked the 30th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Grenada. There were many meanings and consequences of that invasion, not just for Grenada itself, or for the wider Caribbean region (including the increased militarization of the region in the aftermath, the importation of U.S. national security doctrine, and the scandalous collaborationism embodied by Dominica’s then Prime Minister, Eugenia Charles, and Barbados’ then Prime Minister, Tom Adams–and the advent of the Caribbean Basin Initiative), but also meanings and consequences for the onset of the “new world order” of the post-Cold War period which was just a few years away. (From a personal perspective, the revolutions in Grenada and Nicaragua, where I spent months in the 1980s, formed an important foundation of my own development and impelled me in certain directions with my own studies.)

Merely two days after the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut (October 23, 1983), Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada. An opportunity for intervention presented itself after infighting in Grenada’s government exploded into full view, with the execution on October 19 of Maurice Bishop and seven others, including cabinet ministers, who were all executed by firing squad along with an unknown number of supporters of Bishop who had earlier freed him from imprisonment. The immediate culprits of this internal coup were the Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard (released from prison in 2009) and the head of the People’s Revolutionary Army, Hudson Austin. Reagan had prepared for action against Grenada, and now the time seemed ideal.

The Propaganda for a Manufactured Emergency

“In 1979 trouble came to Grenada. Maurice Bishop, a protégé of Fidel Castro, staged a military coup and overthrew the government which had been elected under the constitution left to the people by the British. He sought the help of Cuba in building an airport, which he claimed was for tourist trade, but which looked suspiciously suitable for military aircraft, including Soviet-built long-range bombers.” ~ Ronald Reagan, address to the nation, October 27, 1983.“In Grenada, our military forces moved quickly and professionally to protect American lives and respond to an urgent request from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. We joined in an effort to restore order and democracy to that strife-torn island. Only days before our actions, Prime Minister Maurice Bishop had been brutally murdered, along with several members of his Cabinet and unarmed civilians. With a thousand Americans, including some 800 students, on that island, we weren’t about to wait for the Iran crisis to repeat itself, only this time, in our own neighborhood — the Caribbean.” ~ Ronald Reagan, November 4, 1983.

The U.S. clearly did not invade because of the rift in Grenada’s government. As Stephen Zunes explained on the 20th anniversary of the invasion, there were at least four U.S. rationalizations for launching “Operation Urgent Fury,” which had already been rehearsed on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques two years prior to the invasion, at the same time as the CIA began a campaign of destabilization and sabotage of Grenada, augmented by Reagan’s policy of blocking loans from international financial institutions to Grenada. Of the four justifications advanced by the Reagan administration for the invasion, all four were false (a modus operandi that may have served as an inspiration for the two Bush presidents and later Obama, in concocting fictions that supposedly justify intervention, but that never stand up to any serious scrutiny). These were:

  1. That 800 U.S. medical students in Grenada were in immediate danger, and required evacuation. In actuality, officials at the medical school refused to issue a call for help when the U.S. government tried to pressure them to do so; 500 parents cabled Reagan asking him to not undertake any aggression; 90% of the medical students said they were never in any danger and did not want to be evacuated; and even visiting U.S. diplomats from Barbados found no danger. The medical school was not even a priority for invading U.S. troops.
  2. The U.S. also claimed, again falsely, that there was a Cuban military buildup in Grenada, and that this somehow posed a direct threat to the U.S.
  3. Reagan also advanced the bizarre theory that a new airport under construction in Grenada, by a major British firm, to accommodate larger passenger jets needed to boost the tourism industry, would somehow become a base for Soviet “bear bombers”.
  4. The U.S. also tried to justify the invasion on the basis of an invitation issued by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (somehow this “invitation” was to be seen as legitimate, whereas the Afghan invitation to Soviet forces was not), in a direct violation of the OECS’ own charter. In fact, the OECS had no authority to issue such a request.

The End of the “Vietnam Syndrome”

Ronald Reagan US Invasion Of Grenada
The historical actor? Regan being apprised of the situation as the U.S. invasion of Grenada gets underway. Breakfast ensued

While it is a fact that the U.S. has been at war almost continuously since it gained independence from Britain, there have been brief periods of a few years every now and again in the past 200 plus years where U.S. troops were not mobilized on some international adventure. The period between the end of the Vietnam war and the invasion of Grenada was one such period, and Ronald Reagan was elected on a sweeping tide of bruised and thus ultra-jingoistic nationalism and fanatical anti-communism, with the promise of reversing what rightly appeared to be the start of a global tide rising against U.S. dominance. Not just literally fighting communists where it was feasible–as in very small and almost defenseless locales such as Grenada–Reagan also spearheaded the neoliberal era that continues to the present, with its rollback of trade unions and collective bargaining, the deregulation of the economy, the financialization and de-industrialization of the U.S., and the upward flow of capital toward the already wealthy.

Part Two