Was Grenada Justified?

I was a young lieutenant when we invaded Grenada. (What a goat-rope, from a professional point of view, but I digress.

I recall the broad outlines. A disputed election, the Leftists resorted to force, there was something of a massacre (given the population size). A number of US medical students. So the US invaded.

Were the Cubans really supporting the Leftists? Looking back, was invading Grenada the right thing to do?

The invasion achieved its purpose.

Which was to let America feel good about its military again, after Vietnam.
To be able to shout RAH! again.
To give back to America that feeling that they could rule the world again!

So, no. It wasn’t the right thing to do.

I never felt so. The reasons given were so obviously insufficient or misleading – the Cubans were helping them build a longer runway – horrors! although that’s exactly what an island with a big tourist industry would do to bring in larger planes (and a larger runway *was * built. After the invasion). Their leader believed in UFOs and touted it to the world. So perhaps we should invade Roswell, New Mexico, too.

I’ve long felt that there was something I didn’t know, and still don’t, about the role Grenada plays in someone’s geopolitical thinking. Sir John Hackett’s The Third World War: The Untold Story has the US invading Grenada, and that book came out a year before the events in Grenada that ultimately precipitated the invasion. Why should the US be interested in overthrowing the government of a pretty minor Caribbean island so far from the US and its territories?

Sometimes I think it must have been for the reason some wags cited at the time. Referring to the med students used as one justification for the invasion, they said “The Student Loans were Due.”


Forgive me – the invasion of Grenada was in Hackett’s earlier, 1979 book on The Third World War. So strategic thinking goes even farther back.
The Wikipedia article emphasizes the thinking that the long runway was intended to help Communist supplying of South American insurgencies, and that, coupled with the new communist-leaning government, was the reason. It still seems woefully inadequate justification, and it was condemned around the world.

Yes; Yes it was.

Lest Darkness Fall…

[ More CIA yummy goodness at PsyWarrior ]

Here’s what happened. Grenada became independent in 1974, and the first prime minister was Sir Eric Gairy, the head of a party called the Grenada United Labor party. In 1976, there was an election, which the United Labor Party won. There were allegations of election fraud, and another party, the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (“New JEWEL movement”), a Marxist/Communist party headed by a guy named Maurice Bishop made it their goal to get rid of United Labor.

There were a lot of confrontations. The police would regularly disrupt New JEWEL meetings and demonstrations and beat and arrest their leadership. There was a special police force called the “Special Reserve Police”, nicknamed “the Mongooses” who the government specifically used for disrupting demonstrations and harassing the opposition.

Things continue like this for the remainder of the '70s, with increasing demonstrations against Gairy and increased suppression by the government, and then in '79, Gairy goes overseas on a diplomatic trip, and there’s the rumor that the Mongooses were planning assassinate the JEWEL leadership while Gairy was gone.

In response to that, JEWEL decides its time to act. They attack the radio station and the barracks, and seize control of each, and arrest the government ministers. Bishop becomes the new PM. He then goes on to suspend the Constitution, outlaw all other political parties, and arrest his political opponents, including the Grenada Rastafarians. He also started taking aid from Cuba and the Soviet Union and started making plans to expand Grenada’s airport, which was, up to that point, a pretty pitiful thing, and he set up the People’s Revolutionary Army, headed by a guy named Hudson Austin, and supplied and trained by the Soviet Union and Cuba. Education programs and social spending were also increased, and Cuban aid helped with that too, and Cuban labor was used to start to build the airport.

Things went on for a while like that until 1983, when a split developed in the New JEWEL leadership. Bishop, the Prime Minister, wanted to try to improve relationships with the US, both because he was afraid that if the US got too angry it would intervene, and also because he wanted to counter the influence of the other faction, led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Courd, who had the backing of the People’s Revolutionary Army, and wanted to accept even more aid from Cuba and the Soviets and “speed up” Granada’s move to Communism.

On October 13, 1983, things between Bishop and Courd came to a head. Bishop ordered Courd to step down, and Courd responded by placing Bishop under house arrest and arresting his ministers. Over the course of the next week, there were street demonstrations by pro-Bishop forces, and on October 19th, Bishop’s foreign minister, who had escaped arrest because he had been in New York at the United Nations, came back and made a speech that inspired the crowd to free Bishop. Then the crowd, led by the Foreign Minister, went to Ford Rupport, a PRA base, to free the other government ministers imprisoned there. The army fired on the crowd, killing about 100 people, and rearresting Bishop and the ministers, including three influential supporters of Bishop. The Labour Minister was beaten to death by the Army, and then Bishop, three of his ministers, a union leader and the three Bishop supporters were lined up against a wall and shot.

General Austin then declared martial law, announced he was in control of the country, established a “Military Revolutionary Council”, set up a 24 hour curfew, warning that violators would be shot, and ordered the arrest of Bishop supporters. This went on for about four days, when the US government, along with forces from other Caribbean countries, claiming that the murder of Bishop and the general instability put the lives of ordinary Grenadans and American students at Grenada’s medical school at risk, invaded.

Was invading Grenada the right thing to do? I have no idea, but there’s the background.

Definitely worth it for an old buddy of mine. While invading, he fucked up his knee. Not too badly actually, but badly enough he gets a disability payment each month for the rest of his life. Haven’t talked to him in years, but he was pretty pleased back then.

I suspect it was seen within the White House as a way to show the communist regimes that the US wouldn’t tolerate any possible actions on their part to expand revolutionary activities, and that it didn’t take much justification to mount an operation to get rid of the Grenada regime (Maurice Bishop took office as a Socialist type in 1979, which may be what prompted Hackett. Reagan purportedly wanted to do something about it since 1982). When the coup toppled Bishop for something even further left, I think the US government got worried. The idea of airstrips providing supplies was on their minds – they were concerned about it elsewhere in Central America. The spectre of US citizens as hostages (the med students) brought up memories of Iran in 1980. Reagan invaded (quickly and virtually secretly, with practically no news organizations allowed in). There was apparently a lot of support by people in the US, I suspect because people felt it was a positive step, the US re-asserting its power after the Iranian debacle (with only the Mayagues to show since then). But Europeans certainly didn’t like it. And what bothered me was that there really was no justification for it, aside from such suspicions. And it sent the clear message that if you were a small nearby regime, and we didn’t like what you were doing, we could invade you at our discretion. (There wasn’t anything like the UN discussions that were behind Libya, Iraq under Bush I, and, for that matter, even Iraq under Bush II.)

Thank you

Captain Amazing pretty much summed up the facts.

So what were possible justifications?

  1. Grenada was a threat to the United States: Please, we’re talking about Grenada. It couldn’t threaten us if it wanted to.

  2. Grenada was becoming a base for Cuba: Maybe true but so what? Grenada was a sovereign country* and had the right to ally with Cuba if it wanted to. And a Cuban base in Grenada was no big deal. Any Cuban troops in Grenada were farther away from the United States then they would have been back home in Cuba.

  3. Americans in Grenada were in danger: There’s no evidence they were in any serious risk. And they could have been evacuated without a military invasion.

  4. Grenada was turning Communist: Actually Grenada already was sort of Communist and had been for several years. Arguably, it turned more Communist in 1983. But again, so what? The United States is not at war with Communism.

*Or at least mostly sovereign. Grenada is a part of the British Commonwealth and its head of state is Elizabeth II, who was represented in 1983 by Governor General Sir Paul Scoon. Her Majesty and then Prime Minister Thatcher protested the invasion.

I remember pictures of the students on their knees, kissing the ground as they disembarked from the planes in the US. This gave the impression that they had been in grave danger before being “rescued” when that wasn’t actually the case. Much like if we “rescued” some students currently in from Egypt by invading that country.

Huh. I didn’t realize that Grenada was part of the British Commonwealth. What was their reaction to the original violence?

You say Grenada, I say Granada. (That is, southern Spain is badly in need of a thrashing. They’re all just so, so southern-Spanish! :mad:)

Pat Buchanan was on Hardball a couple days ago, and he couldn’t keep from chuckling with a very guilty look when Chris Matthews said the ground-kissing was a stunt orchestrated by the WH PR flacks.

The UN condemned the invasion of Grenada as a violation of international law. We kill dictators for that.

Grenada was a comic-opera which would have been funny if nobody died. Notice how nobody’s proud of it? Acolytes of St. Ronnie of Hollywood don’t even bring it up, there is no Grenada Memorial in the works. Clint Eastwood made a movie out of it, Heartbreak Ridge, which is, once again, a remake of The Sands of Iwo Jima with Clint for The Duke.

And we bought it. We sat there and watched, they piled bullshit on top of bullshit, and waved the flag.

Funny thing: just flashed on the crapola being offered that the extened runways were meant to provide a refueling spot for Soviet bombers. I swear, I am not making this up! So I went looking for a cite and what do you think pops up, numbero uno?


No, Grenada was fully sovereign (in as much as any country can be in the modern era). Margaret Thatcher had absolutely no jurisdiction or authority in respect of Grenada.

My understanding is that the US acted upon (or used as a helpful pretext) a formal request made by Grenada’s deposed Governor-General under his emergency reserve powers. I don’t know if it’s true that the invasion was “highly criticised” (as Wikipedia puts it) by the Queen, but if so it would’ve been while wearing her British hat, rather than her Grenadan one (since public comment by the Queen in such matters can only be made upon ministerial “advice”).

I’ve heard it said that the staff at Buckingham Palace were instructed to go to some lengths to keep communications with, and internal discussion about, Grenada affairs away from the ears of the British government; this would’ve been considered necessary to avoid the Queen being given conflicting formal advice.
It is incorrect usage in relation to the UK to refer to “Prime Minister [surname]”.

The Grenada operation distracted people from asking Reagan uncomfortable questions about the 200 Marines who had just been blown up in Beirut for no explicable reason. That was its purpose, and it succeeded.

More detail is available by watching “Wag the Dog”.

It’s rather hilarious, watching this, to see liberals twist and squirm into a comfortable belief system about the world based largely on who did a thing, rather than the outcome.

And nothing I said suggested otherwise.

As for Scoon’s request for American intervention, it’s been reported that this request was made after the intervention had already occurred and was then backdated to give us diplomatic cover.

This I didn’t know. How are you supposed to refer to a previous Prime Minister?

Pee-Wee Herman could have led the invasion, the outcome would have been the same. It wasn’t even David v. Goliath, it was a tyrannousaurus against a quadriplegic puppy.

Not even Reagan could fuck that one up!