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Time for Amnesty for Grenada Coup Leaders
Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2003

by George Alleyne, Newsday TT

It is time for an amnesty to be granted to Bernard Coard and other leaders of the coup which overthrew Grenada Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, in October of 1983, resulting in the deaths of Bishop, several of his Ministers and associates.

In turn, the remains of Bishop, whose New Jewel Movement had overthrown the Government of Eric Gairy in 1979 in a bloodless coup to establish the English speaking Caribbean's first Marxist regime, should be allowed to receive a proper burial. Persistent reports claim that Bishop's body was removed from the precincts of Fort Rupert by United States forces, which invaded Grenada shortly after the failed counter coup by Bishop. Maurice Bishop had been killed when he led a large group of followers to Fort Rupert where arms, originally stored there, had been removed unknown to him.

Coard, former General Hutson and others have been in prison since 1983, several of them sentenced to death, subsequently, for offences arising out of the October coup. They have been punished long enough, for what flowed out of what Bishop clearly meant to be armed conflict, and the time has come for a general pardon. There had been no need for the assault on and invasion of Grenada by United States forces. Had the CARICOM leaders, who went along with American military intervention in Grenada, employed economic sanctions against the Coard-led country, as Trinidad and Tobago had begun, the Coard regime would have collapsed. For example, the then George Chambers Administration had removed CARICOM preferential treatment from Grenada imports into this country. The Grenada development should have been treated as a CARICOM issue, and CARICOM States should have moved to have it resolved by them, without third party interference. And once America's intention to employ armed force against Grenada was made known to them, they should have collectively appealed to the United Nations to seek to stop the planned US invasion.

Admittedly, as we have seen in the case of Iraq earlier this year, even the United Nations Security Council was powerless to prevent American agression against that Middle East country. But at least there would have been a united Caribbean voice raised in protest. Instead, the leaders of several English speaking Caribbean countries, for whatever reason, pretended that the US intervention had been at their request, and had been, in their collective view, necessary to avoid further bloodshed. But contrary to what CARICOM leaders had trumpeted, the military intervention by the US was not at the behest of any group of Caribbean Governments. Instead, the decision was taken by the Americans weeks before the October, 1983 coup to remove the Maurice Bishop regime. The fact that the Bernard Coard group had acted, made it easier for the US to launch a propaganda offensive aimed at conveying the impression that its sole intent was to rescue Grenada.

Early in October of 1983, 241 US Marines had been killed when a suicide bomber drove a vehicle, laden with explosives, into a US military compound at Beirut, Lebanon. The United States, experiencing a sense of anger and virtual impotence at the killing of 241 of its servicemen, ordered its warships operating in the Mediterranean Sea to shell Beirut. The US was caught between Scylla and Charybdis with respect to a powerful response to the Beirut tragedy. One option was outright war against Lebanon, which would then unmistakenly cast the US as being militarily on the side of Israel, and the consequent risk of alienating the Arab world, or at least most of it. In turn, the US could not be certain that the then Soviet Union would not view military action in Lebanon as hostile to its interests. It could not be certain as well that the Soviets would not declare specific areas of the Middle East, particularly those sharing a common border with it, as being within its sphere of influence, and indulge in pointed sabre rattling.

The invasion of Grenada presented itself as a practical alternative, and several of the warships off Beirut were ordered to Grenada, so that when some Caribbean leaders, encouraged by then American President, Ronald Reagan, to say that they had invited the US to send troops to 'rescue' Grenada, it had to be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. Within a day or two of the invasion of Grenada, I had to leave for a certain Caribbean country, which shall remain nameless, and where I had been commissioned to do a project. A luncheon was arranged, on my advice, and purely as a public relations exercise, to which the country's Governor General, Prime Minister, leading Cabinet Ministers et cetera were invited. The Governor General could not make it. In speaking with a Minister of State, he offered that the United States had asked certain CARICOM Governments to invite it to invade Grenada. It is a fact of history worth retelling. Armed with this information I approached a Senior Government Minister and advised him, without revealing my source, I had been told that the Americans had requested CARICOM countries to invite it to invade Grenada. The gentleman, who is now Prime Minister of his country, confirmed this. The Caribbean, in light of what actually transpired, should reassess the events of October, 1983, dispassionately, and urge upon Grenada that a general pardon be granted to the players of 20 years ago. This would not be seen as making their actions any the less shameful.

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