Few people give the event much attention these days and unfortunately few people gave it much attention when it occurred. Here is the back story:
In 1974, Sir Eric Gairy became the first Prime Minister of Grenada after the country gained its independence from Great Britain. Gairy's party, the Grenada United Labour Party, won 1976 elections but the results were disputed by the opposition, who began preparations for a coup. Gairy was opposed because he ruled the tiny (under 200 sq. miles) nation with an iron fist, and used his colorfully named mercenary army, the Mongoose Gang, to harass and murder his opponents.
One of the opponents harassed by Gairy and the Mongoose Gang was Maurice Bishop, a talented lawyer and Black Power advocate and leader of the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation, or the New JEWEL Movement. Bishop and the NJM were Marxist-Leninists but not Communists, as they acknowledged that Grenada wasn't advanced enough for communism since its primary industries were tourism and small-scale agriculture. Sir Eric Gairy travelled to the US in 1979 to give a speech before the UN (about the Bermuda Triangle and UFOs, oddly enough) and the NJM seized the opportunity to depose him and take control of Grenada. From a democratic standpoint, Bishop and NJM were just a new form of dictatorship, but he did place a greater emphasis on racial equality, women's rights, and universal education. It was a case of taking the good with the bad; Grenada under Bishop was one of the first nations in the Western hemisphere to have equal pay for women codified into law, but they had no free press or elections.
Bishop reached out to the United States for aid in 1980-81, but newly elected President Reagan refused to meet with him. So Bishop turned to Cuba, and with their help, began construction of an international airport to aid their tourism industry.
In early 1983, the Reagan administration began accusing Grenada of building the airport to serve as a satellite base for the Soviet Union, despite all the evidence to the contrary and the fact that American companies were working on the construction. In October, there were disputes among the leadership of the NJM. Bishop was deposed, arrested, released, and then executed all before October 19th. As to be expected, there are rumors that Bishop's predicament was orchestrated by the CIA, since there is evidence that the US had already drawn up plans for invasion prior to his death (New York Times, 10/29/83). To make things nice and quasi-legal, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States requested that the US intervene.
October 25, 1983: Operation "Urgent Fury" took place; a copious display of US military might that the United Nations called a "flagrant violation of international law." Grenada was "freed" from the evil Communists and some American kids studying in one of those mythical "Caribbean medical schools" were rescued. In case some Grenadians didn't believe that the US military was saving them from those horrible commies, the CIA made this mind-bending propaganda comic book to help sell their story.
Reagan used the victory, small though it was, to puff up the American military and begin beating the war drums again. It is a logical assumption that the massive force was sent to the tiny island in hopes of goading Cuba or the Soviet Union into an armed conflict, but thankfully for the rest of the world they didn't take the bait. The Grenada formula of overthrowing Central and South American leaders to set up a US puppet-state would be repeated again and again throughout the 1980s. The invasion of Grenada is perhaps most important because of the role the media played in it, or rather didn't play in it.
The government denied journalists access to Grenada during the invasion and for 48 hours afterward. The reason cited was "safety," but the real reason was so that coverage of the event could be completely managed by the Armed Forces. Journalists allowed on the island were hand-picked and, as you'd expect, extremely supportive of the invasion. And, by and large, the American public and the media were okay with this. The public supported the media blackout by an almost 2-to-1 ratio, and only those excluded from the island were critical of the invasion, so their attacks had an air of sour grapes. The American government had learned a lesson from Vietnam and that lesson was that a free press is harmful to American militarism. All future conflicts would be stage managed in such a manner, and the real legacy of Grenada has been the death of accurate, unbiased journalism when it comes to the military. Some excellent (if highly academic) writings on the invasion's impact on First Amendment rights can be found all over the net. Here's one.
The death of objective war journalism was just one side-effect of the Grenada invasion. Reagan's decision to invade without asking or even informing Congress was a clear violation of the War Powers Clause. Eleven members of Congress sued the President, but the government had the case dismissed, citing the fact that Congress had "other remedies" available to them. The court was specifically referring to impeachment, but Congressional Democrats never attempted to get impeachment proceedings off the ground. Reagan was sued four more times during his Presidency for War Powers violations, and the fact that he was allowed to get away with it each and every time is why there was no legal basis to impeach Bush over Iraq and Afghanistan and why Obama didn't even have to ask Congress for permission to intervene in Syria.
Thirty years later, questions regarding the Grenada invasion remain. Specifically:
What was going on in Grenada that the US wanted to keep a secret?
The most obvious reason journalists were kept out for 48 hours is because the on-the-ground scene was vastly different than the tale the Reagan administration had spun about the country being a hot-bed of godless Commies. This fact is confirmed by government officials, who, after reviewing the over 18 TONS of documents seized during the invasion, wrote that there was no conclusive evidence of Soviet involvement.
Short digression: You'll note that the above link comes from The Daily Beast, an allegedly liberal-leaning news site. You'll also note that the article is written by Michael Ledeen of all people. Ladeen is one of the biggest "bad guys" of the 1980s, a far right conservative propaganadist who was a key figure in the international mayhem wrought by the right wing for the past 50 years. He's responsible for the Bush Doctrine, brokered the Iran-Contra deals, and tried to pin the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II on the communists, when it was really the ultra-right wing. He may have actually had a hand in setting that last one up too, since he was the US contact for Italy's military intelligence agency SISMI, and thus responsible for Operation: Gladio which wreaked havoc throughout Europe for a couple of decades. So there's your liberal media, folks.
Back on topic, 18 tons is quite a large amount of information to take from a tiny island. According to files released under FOIA, the government was even interested in what type of ink the Soviets might be using to sign documents. If we allow them one ton just for ink-checking, that still leaves 17 tons of paper, a good deal of which is still classified. Why?
Jonestown, mind control, and the invasion of Grenada
Expect a much longer analysis of Jonestown in the future, but one little known fact about the People's Temple is that their first choice wasn't Guyana, but Grenada. Jones deposited $200,000 of Temple money in their national bank after meeting with Sir Eric Gairy, some of which was still there at the time of the tragedy. Jones opted for Guyana, but the People's Temple's relationship with Grenada didn't end there. Four survivors moved to Grenada after the tragedy to set up a business to fund "the work of the original Temple." They weren't the only survivors, as most of Jones' top team left prior to the mass suicide. During the massacre, Jones can be heard saying "Get Dwyer out of here." The Dwyer to which he was referring was Richard Dwyer, the CIA agent stationed at the American embassy. Dwyer "got out of there" and went straight to Grenada.
The only structure bombed during the invasion of Grenada was the free hospital at St. George's University. The hospital was run by Dr. Peter Bourne, formerly drug czar under President Carter (the Carter administration had interceded on Jones' behalf to acquire the land in Guyana). He resigned in 1979 after prescribing Quaaludes to Carter staffers. Bourne was a psychologist linked to England's Tavistock Institute, which kept the British end up in regards to the mind control game. Jonestown had copious links to mind control experimentation and the CIA, and Bourne's father had first worked at the Grenada med school in 1977, just after the People's Temple moved to Guyana. The elder Bourne worked for Emory's Yerkes Primate Center and brought Peter in there as well. The Bournes were working on "effects of drugs, sensory deprivation, behavioral modification on apes." Peter Bourne had previously worked in Vietnam as part of the Phoenix Program of mind control and assassination. Bourne had done his psychatric residency in the free clinic in Haight-Ashbury, a MK-ULTRA front run by Gregory Bateson, an OSS/CIA agent (Albarelli, H.P. Jr., A Terrible Mistake, The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments, Trine Day, Walterville, OR (2009)).
Maurice Bishop had accused Bourne and the med school of being a CIA front. The 7/23/78 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times implies that there could be some truth to this, since Bourne was providing debriefing statements to the CIA after his travels abroad. Just in case that's not enough, Bourne's wife Mary King was deputy director over the Peace Corps during the Carter administration. The Peace Corps is regularly used as a front for CIA spying.
Just to recap: In 1983, you had the following in Grenada:
- Former high-ranking members of the People's Temple raising money to continue Jim Jones' "mission."
- Jones' CIA handler Richard Dwyer.
- Dr. Peter Bourne, a man with just as many links to the CIA and mind control experiments as Jim Jones himself.
It isn't much of a stretch to hypothesize that there was something sinister going on at the medical school in Grenada. Peter Bourne was awash in connections to the CIA and mind control and it would be odd if someone of his stature was in Grenada just to give out free vaccinations and teach med school dropouts. Why did it need to be destroyed then? One possibility is that Bishop's increasingly friendly relationship with Cuba and the Soviet Union worried the US, who opted to destroy the hospital rather than have the information fall into communist hands. With no American journalists on the ground, the Armed Forces had two full days to destroy all evidence and load up 18 tons of paper unnoticed.
I'll return to the topic of Grenada in the future in posts on Jonestown and because it ties into the Banco Ambrosiano/P2 scandal since the island was home to many fictional financial institutions used for intelligence and mafia money laundering.
Provided there's no major news events, I'll be back soon with the continuation of the JFK50 series.