Stepping on a Flea
by Mickey Z.
November 6, 2003
October 25, the twentieth anniversary of a momentous American victory, came and went without a surprising lack of fanfare. I'm talking, of course, about a military operation that warmed Ronald Reagan's cold, cold heart, and was deemed film-worthy by the former mayor of Carmel. Yes, it’s the liberation of Grenada.
In March 1979, socialist leader Maurice Bishop took over Grenada in a bloodless coup. Once deemed "a lovely piece of real estate" by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, Grenada is a small East Caribbean island of some 133 square miles and 110,000 inhabitants. Half of its nationals actually live in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn.
The U.S. worked to destabilize the Bishop regime for years but could not have been happy when he was deposed and later murdered by a group more left than he in early October 1983. That's when the U.S. decided to risk awakening this sleeping Caribbean flea by launching a preemptive attack on October 25, 1983.
Reagan said the invasion was "forced on us by events that have no precedent in the eastern Caribbean," leaving the U.S. with “no choice but to act strongly and decisively." (Sound familiar?)
"Grenada has a hundred thousand people who produce a little nutmeg, and you could hardly find it on a map," Noam Chomsky explains. "But when Grenada began to undergo a mild social revolution, Washington quickly moved to destroy the threat."
After adding the obligatory statements about Soviet and Cuban designs on the island, Reagan sent roughly two thousand American marines in to lead an operation called "Urgent Fury." The fighting was over in a week. Casualties included 135 Americans killed or wounded, 84 Cubans, and some 400 Grenadians.
"The American media rarely mentioned Grenadian casualties of U.S. aggression," explains Ramsey Clark. "It barely reported the mental hospital destroyed by a Navy jet, leaving more than 20 dead." (Sound familiar?)
A Wall Street Journal headline blared: U.S. INVADES GRENADA IN WARNING TO RUSSIA AND CUBA ABOUT EXPANSION IN THE CARIBBEAN. It was also a warning to potential critics.
"The invasion was already under way, so even if we opposed it, there was nothing any of us could do," House Speaker Tip O'Neil said at the time. "I had some serious reservations, and I'm sure my Democratic colleagues did as well, but I'd be damned if I was going to voice any criticism while our boys were out there." (Sound familiar?)
With “detainees” still in custody at Guantanamo Bay, one group did commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Grenada invasion. Amnesty International highlighted the plight of the "Grenada 17.” Amnesty's UK media director, Lesley Warner, explained that these 17 prisoners were detained after the invasion and tried under controversial circumstances. "These people were initially held without charge in cages, before being tried before an unfair, ad-hoc tribunal. They were denied access to legal counsel and to documents needed for their defense," Warner told The Guardian. "After sentencing, the Grenada 17 were held in tiny cells with lights left permanently on.” (Sound familiar?)
Reagan, stopping short of donning a flight suit, made a speech on the fourth day of the invasion, which, according to journalist William Blum “succeeded in giving jingoism a bad name." "The president managed to link the invasion of Grenada with the shooting down of a Korean airliner by the Soviet Union, the killing of U.S. soldiers in Lebanon, and the taking of American hostages in Iran,” says Blum. “Clearly, the invasion symbolized an end to this string of humiliations for the United States. Even Vietnam was being avenged. To commemorate the American Renaissance, some 7,000 U.S. servicemen were designated heroes of the republic and decorated with medals. (Many had done no more than sit on ships near the island.) American had regained its manhood, by stepping on a flea."
It’s all too familiar!
Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (www.murderingofmyyears.com) and an editor at Wide Angle (www.wideangleny.com). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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