Schoenhals and Melanson provide an excellent summary of the short-lived Grenada Revolution and its forcible suppression by the United States. Schoenhals describes this tiny island state, summarizes its earlier history, and records the rural workers’ upheaval led by Eric Gairy and his degeneration into a personal tyrant. Having laid this foundation, he gives a skillfully condensed account of the revolution which began on March 13, 1979, lasted for four and a half years, and was terminated by a U.S. invasion and occupation.
Schoenhals spent several months in Grenada gathering information about the revolution and meeting the people engaged in its development. His contribution, coming after the publication of so many ill-informed or deliberately distorted versions of the events leading up to the killing of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and the assumption of control by the Revolutionary Military Council, is like a breath of fresh air. He shows clearly that, even on the basis of the selective issue of captured documents released by the U.S. government, the only disagreement of importance within the New Jewel Movement (the ruling Marxist-Leninist party) was the question of what would be the most effective structure of party leadership. He disposes of the allegation that there was an internal power struggle between “hard-liners” and pragmatists, and discounts completely the suggestion that Coard, Bishop’s deputy, conspired to replace Bishop for personal ambitions or any reason at all.
In assessing the blame for the escalation of the internal party dispute to the point of the fatal armed confrontation at Fort Rupert on October 19, 1983, Schoenhals is even handed as between Bishop and Coard. But, unable to resist a desire to identify a villain in the piece, he speculates as to the responsibility of certain army officers. His statement that these officers were present at Fort Rupert on October 19 is, however, incorrect.
Melanson reviews the U. S. government’s external relations policies and their implementation in the Caribbean area in general and Grenada in particular. He avoids analysis of these policies in terms of imperialist motivations toward world domination and appears to concede a genuine, if misguided, concern on the part of U.S. policy makers for national security. His condemnation of the hostility of successive U.S. administrations to revolutionary change in the region is implicit rather than direct, having more the force of understatement than accusation. But Melanson’s disclosures reinforce my convictions that:
U.S. citizens in Grenada were in no danger before the invasion;
the governor-general’s letter requesting external intervention was a postdated cover-up;
the call for use of U.S. armed forces by certain Caribbean governments was made at U.S. request;
there was, in fact, no military airport under construction;
there was no internal disorder in Grenada.
Melanson fails to mention one of the most damning pieces of evidence exposing the hypocrisy of the reasons given for the invasion—a telexed note from the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council to the U.S. ambassador on October 23, two days before the event. That note, broadcast repeatedly over Radio Free Grenada;
gave an assurance that all U.S. citizens and other foreigners who wished to do so were free to leave Grenada, either by chartered or scheduled flights, and would be given every assistance to do so;
observed that U.S. officials from Barbados had come to Grenada and satisfied themselves that there was no threat or danger to the lives or property of foreigners;
informed the U.S. government that plans were already underway for the formation within 10 to 14 days of a broad-based civilian government to replace the R.M.C.
Melanson has preferred not to refute in detail the disingenuous legal justifications for the invasion and occupation, though he leaves the reader in little doubt that he finds them unimpressive.