Flashback: Why Ronald Reagan Invaded Grenada


Here is Ronald Reagan on October 27, 1983, explaining his decision to invade Grenada in a nationally televised address:

[Earlier this month, Prime Minister Maurice] Bishop was seized. He and several members of his cabinet were subsequently executed, and a 24-hour shoot-to-kill curfew was put in effect. Grenada was without a government, its only authority exercised by a self-proclaimed band of military men.

There were then about 1,000 of our citizens on Grenada, 800 of them students in St. George’s University Medical School. Concerned that they’d be harmed or held as hostages, I ordered a flotilla of ships, then on its way to Lebanon with marines, part of our regular rotation program, to circle south on a course that would put them somewhere in the vicinity of Grenada in case there should be a need to evacuate our people.

Last weekend, I was awakened in the early morning hours and told that six members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, joined by Jamaica and Barbados, had sent an urgent request that we join them in a military operation to restore order and democracy to Grenada….These small, peaceful nations needed our help. Three of them don’t have armies at all, and the others have very limited forces. The legitimacy of their request, plus my own concern for our citizens, dictated my decision.

Shorter Reagan: the government of Grenada was in chaos; Americans were in danger; and nearby governments requested our help. So we sent in troops. Does this sound at all familiar?

As it happens, there was little evidence that any Americans were in danger, and the nearby governments had asked for help largely because Reagan had requested it. The real reason for the invasion was that Grenada was a nearby country and Reagan was concerned that Cuba and the Soviet Union were establishing a military foothold there. Does it start to sound familiar now?

You may decide for yourself whether the invasion of Grenada was justified. The Cuban military presence was real, after all. And there’s certainly no question about the instability of the Grenadian government.

Then again, the eastward expansion of NATO and the more recent EU/American attempts to increase Western influence in Ukraine have been quite real too. And there’s certainly no question about the instability of the Ukrainian government. So does that mean Vladimir Putin was justified in sending troops into Crimea? Once again, you may decide for yourself. But Grenada might provide a useful framework for thinking about how regional powers react to perceived threats in their backyards.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate