The United States, on Monday last, invaded the Caribbean Island of Grenada. This was an act of military intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign and independent country. As such it violated the rules of the United Nations and of the Organization of American States and violated the oft declared precepts of the US itself.
By doing so it weakened the arguments the US uses against similar acts by the Soviet Union. In the eyes of many there is no difference between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the US invasion of Grenada.
Is there a valid difference?
I think that there is, and the essence of it lies in the fact that a lot of men supposedly working on the new airfield on Grenada turned out to be Cuban soldiers trained in warfare, ready and willing to resist the American arrival with Cuban arms.
In addition, evidence is said to have been captured showing that the Cubans were preparing to set up an administration run by Cubans. Grenada, in other words, was intended to become a colony or satrapy of Cuba.
The US would not have had a valid reason to intervene had the end result indicated by the captured documents been desired by the people of Grenada themselves. But there is no evidence to indicate any such general desire. On the contrary, the nearest thing to an expression of popular will in Grenada since its independence in 1974 was a mass rally on Oct. 19.
That rally, consisting of several thousand people, surged to the jail and liberated Maurice Bishop (dictator since 1979), who had been overthrown in a coup on April 15 and imprisoned. Bishop led the mass of demonstrators to the barracks, where they were met by the troops involved in the coup. Bishop was killed along with an estimated 40 others of his followers.
The Grenadians have not had democratic government since independence in 1974.
At that time Bishop was the leader of the political opposition. When the British took down their flag on Feb. 7, the government was in the hands of Prime Minister Eric Matthew Gairy. Within two weeks of his takeover the Constitution had been suspended and Bishop was arrested.
From 1974 to 1979 Grenada was run by a Gairy dictatorship.
In 1979 Mr. Bishop's turn came. He had built on the unpopularity of the arbitrary Gairy regime. He took power, became friendly with Fidel Castro, and turned toward Marxism. But did he turn far enough to satisfy the Cubans and Moscow?
We do not know all the details. Bishop remained friendly with Castro, but also recently he had opened up relations with Washington. There is some evidence that he was trying to move back toward the center and escape from the Cuban-Soviet connection. Was that why he was overturned in turn?
There are overtones here of part of the Afghan story. The native Afghan government had been overthrown in a leftist coup. The new government was Marxist in inclination, but kept up ties to the West and at one point seemed to be trying to move away from the Soviet connection. That was when the Soviets went in with 100,000 soldiers and imposed a new puppet of their choice.
Were the Cubans planning to repeat the whole of the Afghan story in Grenada? It looks that way. If true, then US intervention thwarted a plot to do to Grenada what Moscow did to Afghanistan. The Grenadians would have had no chance to show their own wishes.
If fuller documentation bears out this version of the story, then what the US did was the opposite of what Moscow did in Afghanistan. Moscow went into Afghanistan to impose a government of Soviet choice on the Afghans. The US has gone in to prevent a Cuban regime being imposed on the Grenadians.
If the US now gives the Grenadians a fair choice to attain a government of their own choosing and withdraws, it will have done a good and right thing, and the justification will be that, as in the case of a citizen's arrest, it has acted to support law and order and, in this case, to prevent a crime from being committed.