A Strange Peace After A Strange War
In Grenada, nothing seems to follow conventional patterns. The American invasion and its aftermath are no exception.
ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada
Legend here has it that a rebellion Grenadian slave once eluded his Brit ish masters for weeks by reversing hi horse's shoes. And the unusual still i the rule on this idyllic but politically confused Caribbean island.
Grenada achieved independent, from Britain in 1974; overthrew one Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy, who believed in flying saucers; plunged into revolutionary madness under Prim Minister Maurice Bishop; saw Bishop murdered by even more radical Marxists, then was invaded by the U.S.
Having failed with their first try a independence and next with Marxism the 100,000 inhabitants of Grenada now look to American financial largess to guarantee a prosperous future.
Airstrip slogan. The biggest industry on this "spice island" these days is no nutmeg or bananas. It is trade in revolutionary T-shirts. The 3,000 U.S. servicemen still here in mid-November were snapping them up for $7 each The shirts are made in China and printed locally. Most popular is: "Year of the International Airport."
The new 9,000-foot airport at Point Salines had been the root of great controversy. The U.S. charged that the Cu bans were building a military base Grenada's Marxist rulers, now ousted insisted that the airport was needed to bring in tourists aboard jumbo jets. Ignored was the fact that their revolution had wrecked the tourist industry.
The evidence supports the United States. One big jet holds more than
300 people, and the entire island has fewer Mean 300 hotel rooms.
A hotel operator says business was so bad that she took in more money in
eight days from U.S. journalists covering the invasion than she made from
tourism all last year.
Bishop's revolution may have failed, but his sign painters cannot be blamed. Virtually every wall carries a revolutionary slogan, and most Communist publishing houses in the world seem to have sent their best sellers here.
Since the invasion, T-shirts decorated with American flags have started to appear, and "God Bless America" is showing up on the walls.
Most Grenadians are content to wait and see how the invasion turns out. Not so the small group of Britons here.
While most longtime British residents-remnants of Grenada's colonial past-believe that the invasion was necessary to curb Communism and anarchy, they are appalled at the audacity of the U.S. to invade a Commonwealth country without Britain's approval. To many, this is like Britain's invading Puerto Rico without American consent.
"Quite frankly, we understand this place much better than you do," a British businessman says almost wistfullyaware that 82nd Airborne troops on the street are the forerunners of American domination.
Some Grenadians now argue that the revolution was not that bad after all and that the Americans may have overreacted. Reg Blamphin, who runs the Red Crab restaurant near St. George's, thinks otherwise. A U.S. military-claims office is going to reimburse him for a door kicked in by Marines.
In contrast, Blamphin has been trying since April to collect on a $100 dinner check signed by archradical Bernard Coard, then the Minister of Finance, who was behind the bloody coup that overthrew Bishop. Coard now is imprisoned, and Blamphin wonders if the U.S. will pick up his tab.
The Americans here are making their presence felt in more ways than one. Airborne insignia are seen everywhere. Carved on cement blocks next to the temporary mortuary at the Point Salines airport is this message: "Heaven can wait, because we're raising hell."
Troops have painted obscenities on the wall of the Cuban ambassador's
home, vilified the Russians with graffiti and put up a sign near the airport
reading "Communism stops here."
The 15,000 American Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part in the operation generally are praised by Grenadians for professional restraint. But it was not always easy.
On one occasion, four machine-guntoting troopers had to save two former government ministers from a mob. On another, three soldiers arrested a Cuban in a St. George's market. Within minutes, the Americans found themselves defending their prisoner against an angry mob trying to lynch the Cuban.
A major pastime among soldiers has been the collection of war souvenirs. Blackhawk helicopters swoop down on the former Cuban military base at Calivigny Point-scene of a big battle-so that crews can collect war trinkets.
Eager reporters. Despite the controversy over the military's ban on press coverage early in the operation, it did not take long for the press to arrange an invasion of its own. Chartering boats, many journalists tied up the U.S. Navy in their efforts to run the military blockade. When the ban was lifted, hundreds of reporters relied on C-130 troop-transport planes to ferry them from Barbados to Grenada.
Reporters normally based in Central America even identified one man with press credentials as a member of the U.S.-backed contras, the rebel force fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
Most people here expect that the tons of captured Soviet and Cuban arms-which
have been flown to the U.S.-will end up in the hands of contras in Nicaragua
or Moslem tribal rebels in Afghanistan. Many also are convinced that the
invasion was just a trial run for an eventual American attack on Nicaragua.
The invasion was a strange war in an unusual setting. For the Americans who remain behind, restoring democracy to Grenada could be just as strange and just as unusual an undertaking.