By Jerry Edwin
Today, Friday, October 25, is a public holiday known as Thanksgiving Day in Grenada. It is a day that the Americans dedicated for their slain servicemen after President Reagan ordered the US forces to invade the island on October 25, 1983, following what was undoubtedly the bloodiest day in the English-speaking Caribbean after the Second World War. That invasion was invited by other Caribbean leaders who feared for the lives of Grenadians since one week earlier, on October 19, 1983, Grenada’s date with infamy was sealed when its beloved prime minister and several members of his Cabinet and inner circle were lined up and gunned down execution style.
Jerry Edwin is a risk compliance attorney practicing in the Caribbean and North America
There is no memorial for Bishop or Grenada’s own soldiers who died on October 25, 1983, anywhere on the island. Yet, on the airwaves everywhere now, as it has been for decades, people are pleading with their political leaders to erect a shrine to honour the men and women who rightly or wrongly fought defending their small island nation from the Americans. And Grenadians the world over particularly want the United States to return the bodies of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and others who were executed by their fellow Grenadians.
This is not an anti-American sentiment.
On the contrary, Grenadians of all political, social, religious and other walks of life concur that an American invasion at the time was a better alternative to the continued rule of outlaw revolutionaries who had murdered Bishop, his cabinet members and other ordinary citizens six days before the American force crashed into this bucolic island paradise.
Moreover, there are many times more Grenadians and their families who call the United States home than those who are resident on the tiny island.
Of course, the Americans would understand Grenada’s demand. Since the end of US combat involvement in Vietnam in 1973, the US has listed 668 American combatants’ bodies as repatriated from Vietnam and identified 1,303 as still unaccounted for. So the Americans know the importance of returning the bodies of its slain military men to their homeland.
Someone should send an e-mail to the government of Grenada advising them that the Cold War is over. In fact, that e-mail should have been sent in 1989 while the Berlin Wall was crumbling and the then Soviets were rushing to emulate US-style democracy and neo-liberal capitalism.
Either successive governments in Grenada after 1983 have not seen that memo or there is the latent fear that the island, which former Secretary of State George Schultz called “a lovely piece of real estate”, is incapable of demanding that the Americans return the bodies of the Grenadian martyrs. That position is untenable and not acceptable to Grenadians at home who unanimously gave their vote to one single political organization believing it was best suited to represent their interests at home and abroad.
Are the leaders of sovereign Grenada afraid to demand from the Americans what that country has sought for and gotten from their former adversaries in Vietnam? Do the Grenadian leaders somehow think that the Americans will be angry at the only English-speaking Caribbean nation that broke out from the US axis and possibly invade them again? Such fear belongs in the realm of fantasy.
It is important to Grenadians to let President Barack Obama know that there is firm evidence from the invading army comprising Jamaican units that the Americans removed the mutilated bodies of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and the other slain members of his Cabinet. There is corroborating information that Bishop’s body was taken to an American university where his burnt body was recognized through dental records.
Is Grenada’s government ‘subject positioning’, that is could the Grenadians be thinking of protecting America’s foreign policy objectives and placing that ahead of their own countrymen and women? Thus it is argued by some, that a shrine honoring the Grenadian martyrs could evoke such deep feelings that one day another revolution may arise on these soils again.
And what is wrong with another revolution in Grenada? For certainly, it won’t be another socialist gun toting group marching in lockstep with old-time Marxist- Leninists who sleep with Das Kapital under their pillows.
That was 30 years ago.
Any revolution in Grenada’s future will likely unleash a brand of neo-liberal innovations that would make the US blush with envy. Grenada’s next revolution will be technological when its highly educated nationals at home and in Diaspora (numbering close to one quarter of a million) invade the small island of 110,000 citizens and prepare the launch of the next Google, Twitter, Yahoo and climate friendly companies.
That is not so far-fetched an idea, since Nicholas Braithwaite, a founding partner of California’s Riverwood Capital, frequently dreams of Grenada as a potential outer edge technology frontier. Braithwaite, the son of a former Grenadian prime minister, holds at least several patents, one of which is in cell phone technology, and sits on the board of leading Silicone Valley and Asian corporations and is a recognized leader in developing and evaluating technologies.
The next invading force may also include a Wall Street general, Osbert Hood, who is the chief operating officer at Advent Capital Management and was the former chairman of Mackay Shields LLC, the $6,000,000,000 securities division of New York Life Insurance. Mr Hood has over three decades of non-military experience in the financial industry and has an extensive portfolio in high yield, credit products and convertible securities. Hood is an alumnus of one of the oldest boys-only high schools in Grenada.
Here at home, Dr Anslem LaTouche, the extraordinary designer of St George’s University, the economists Dr Wayne Sandiford and Lennox Andrews, maritime legal expert Anslem Clouden, hotelier Sir Royston Hopkins, rights activist Sandra Ferguson and the environmental scientist Dr Valma Jessamy are among an impressive group who would comprise the welcome committee for these friendly invaders.
As leaders in technology, finance, and the arts (the film director Steve McQueen, auteur of the hottest Hollywood product 12 Years A Slave, is rooted in the Spice Isle), the island’s future revolutionaries poised to invade Grenada will, like the Americans, be welcomed with open arms but, unlike the invaders of 1983, they won’t be donned in military fatigues or armed with M-16 machine guns willing to drop devastating high explosives on their own homeland.
Those days are long gone and won’t be back anytime soon, for the world has changed and history marches on.
In very strong terms, little Grenada must insist that it is inadequate and unacceptable for the US government to simply report to the Grenadian authorities on the whereabouts of the Grenadian martyrs, for it is well documented that the bodies of the Grenadian heroes were in fact removed by the American military units.
And in the current lifetime of the people who call Grenada home, it is high time that current and future governments here in St George’s recognize that they have an abiding responsibility to their people and must demand that America does the right thing and return the Grenadian martyrs home where they rightfully belong.
Grenadians are entitled, like sovereign people all over the world, to have shrines of their own. Or, like all law-abiding citizens, they can reserve the right to file lawsuits in the courts of international law so their friends in Washington can better comprehend the profound national feelings that require closure around the monumental events of October 1983.