Recent Grenadian History Revisited

Going deeper down the Grenada rabbit hole I fell into just a week ago, I recently learned of a limited series podcast titled The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop. I’m only two episodes in (episode 5 released on November 15) and I am completely absorbed. The title of the podcast isn’t clickbait–it’s literally the truth. Forty years after he and members of his cabinet were lined up against a wall and machine gunned to death the whereabouts of their remains is still unknown.

It has been fascinating to revisit the early 1980s as this podcast does and hear just how often Ronald Reagan talked about this little island in speeches, as well as animosity at least one leader of Grenada’s revolution had for Reagan. The episodes I’ve listened to so far went into some depth regarding Eric Bishop’s predecessor as prime minister, Sir Eric Gairy. His iron-fisted rule of Grenada, which stretched back before it achieved independence from Great Britain, was enforced by the Mongoose Gang. The descriptions of this group of thugs with police powers reminded me of the Tonton Macoutes of Haiti under Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Listening to episode 2 in particular, it was sad to see how quickly Bishop adopted the rhetoric of Gairy, even if he didn’t go as far as forming a secret police. Bishop’s rule in Grenada ultimately ends in gunfire either as a result of unwillingness to share power, not being extreme enough in his embrace of Cuba and the Soviet Union, rivalry and jealous within the New Jewel Movement, or some combination of all of the above. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series and what else I can learn from it.

Grenada: Nobody’s Backyard

I learned a lot from this episode of Throughline about an invasion that happened when I was just 9 years old. It provides a ton of context and backstory of what was happening on the island in the decades leading up to the invasion. What I didn’t realize until I looked it up was how close in time the invasion was to the Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut (just 2 days earlier). In the clips of Ronald Reagan speeches played during the episode, it was interesting to hear anti-communist rhetoric as the rationale for invading Grenada just a few years before the scandal we call Iran-Contra would be brought into the light.

Other Caribbean nations (Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Jamaica actually played a role in the invasion as well. Jamaica sent 150 troops via an Air Jamaica 727 who served in a peacekeeping role well after U.S. troops arrived. All six nations also voted against the U.N. resolution condemning the invasion. A UPI piece I found lists Barbados and Antigua as also providing soldiers for the invasion while St. Lucia, Dominica, and St. Vincent sent police officers. The same UPI piece does a good job of putting the U.S. invasion of Grenada in historical context, noting that Haiti and the Dominican Republic were invaded and occupied for multiple years on 3 separate occasions during the 20th century.