"WE BLEW THEM AWAY," gleefully announced Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, the commander of U.S. forces in Grenada, as some of the 6000 American troops began withdrawing from the island. Indeed, the Pentagon completed most of its military objectives on the first few days of the two-week war. Meanwhile, our embarrassed European allies deplored the invasion; our delighted adversaries quickly racked up much-needed propaganda points. The legality of U.S. intervention will remain forever unresolved, the battle lines fiercely drawn along ideological lines. Perhaps now is the time to distance ourselves from this bickering and begin to examine the future of Grenada. Will it exist under a truly democratic government, or will it eventually emerge as a U.S. puppet in the Caribbean?
Restoring freedom and democracy, explained President Reagan, were paramount objectives of American intervention. Consequently, Grenada Governor-General Paul Scoon's proclamation last Thursday to enact sweeping restrictions on personal and press freedoms surprised the Administration. Citing a 1968 "state of emergency" law, Scoon banned public meetings, allowed searches without warrant, and established measures to censor the press. Moreover, American troops have rounded up over a thousand Grenadian civilians suspected of sympathizing with slain Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. These detained Grenadians, questioned on their anti-Western beliefs and political activities, are kept in isolation cells under heavy guard. Relying on local denunciations and lists of former government workers, U.S. troops are attempting to "neutralize" subversive elements before foreign soldiers leave the island. Charged Kendrick Radix, the Attorney General in the Bishop government. "This isn't a legal proceeding. This is a witchhunt."
The abrupt change in the role of American soldiers--from liberators to interrogators--strikes a dissonant chord in the Administration's glossy public relations campaign. And it arouses a lingering suspicion of ultimate U.S. objectives and policies for the country. One could argue that a combat environment justifies extraordinary measures, including the suspension of personal rights. But as Admiral Metcalf eloquently noted, serious military opposition evaporated soon after the initial American assault. Military action continues only in the form of occasional sniper fire in the wooded areas. That the temporary Grenadian government would resort to nonexistent hostilities as a convenient excuse to restrict democratic rights only strengthens the position of Reagan's critics and narrows the moral gap between American and Soviet behavior.
Despite Scoon's proclamation, Grenadians overwhelmingly support the U.S. invasion. A CBS news poll of 304 Grenadians revealed that 91 percent approved of the American invasion. However, these figures do not translate into support for a center-right Western government. From its birth in March 1979, Bishop's leftist New Jewel movement enjoyed widespread popularity. With Bishop's assassination, Grenadians feared the prospect of Cuban domination under General Hudson Austin. Ironically, if free elections were held today, a center-left government--the type Reagan so ardently opposed--would probably win.
WOULD THE ADMINISTRATION permit a left-leaning Grenadian government to replace the leftist one U.S. forces dislodged? The ambivalent role of American troops and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger '38's refusal to set a specific withdrawal deadline portend a disheartening, but hardly surprising, answer. We have toppled democratically elected governments (Mossadegh of Iran in 1953). We also support repressive dictatorships around the globe (Ferdinand Macros of the Philippines, Chun Doo Hwan of South Korea, etc.) to suit our own geopolitical and strategic interests. By ferreting out known Bishop supporters, the U.S. government is preventing the leaders of a major political faction from participating in the democratic forum. Without the international fallout of heavy-handed paternalism, this weeding-out process subtly changes Grenada's political composition--skewing the election results months in advance.
The warm welcome U.S. troops received in Grenada seemed to justify the invasion and reinforce our sense of having taken a moral action. But when we begin to exhibit moral arrogance and trample on the rights of people we seek to protect, we become almost as dangerous as dictatorial regimes. More than three centuries ago. Grenadians enthusiastically welcomed French invaders. These foreigners, with their peculiar language and customs, found a native population eager to sell their island for a few trinkets. Nine months later, Grenadians confronted their French masters in bloody skirmishes.
Today, we find a population eager to embrace Americans, if not as saviors, at least as peculiar foreigners. Overt attempts to install a government unrepresentative of Grenadians will certainly generate hostility and a profound sense of betrayal. For the U.S., that scenario means supporting another repressive regime. And for Grenadians, things would not have changed very much. In this land of Bob Marley and reggae, perhaps the words of Pete Townshend and The Who best express their predicament:
"I tip my hat to the new revolution.
Take a bow for the new constitution.
Smiling free with the change all around.
I pick up my guitar and play.
Just like yesterday.
And I get on my Knees and pray.
We don't get Cooled again.
Meet the new boss.
The same as the old boss."