Monday, February 09, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 11

Previous posts in this series:

The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Revo Blog. Part 3a - why 'Revo'?
The Revo Blog. Part 4 - Feb-March 1982 (continued)
The Revo Blog. Part 5 - April 1982 - June 1983. London
The Revo Blog. Part 6 - June-Sept 1983. Sickness and signs
The Revo Blog. Part 7 - relationships
The Revo Blog. Part 7a - Faye's film
The Revo Blog. Part 8 - Sept - Oct 1983. Rumours
The Revo Blog. Part 9 - Oct 1983. The Last Days of the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 10 - 19th October 1983. Coup

Thursday 20th - Sunday 23rd October. Curfew. Day 1.

From now on, these posts will include extracts from my diary (in italics). I've resisted the urge to edit these extracts as, confused though they are, they are a record of how I felt at that point in time, before I had a chance to process what had happened or fully comprehend it.

All hope is dead. It died yesterday up at the fort with Maurice. The hopes and dreams of an entire people are in shreds.

And yet the loss is even greater than that. This tiny beacon in the Caribbean whose brave light shone around the world, illuminating the dark places and bringing with it hopes of a better way, has been extinguished. Shock, rage - and horror that the Revo didn't succumb to its mighty enemies outside but imploded from within - mingle with utter despair.

And then there's fear. What will the future bring?

I can't stop thinking about Maurice and the others. What were their last thoughts as they were lined up against that wall, knowing they were about to be executed? True to form, Maurice's last recorded words were of despair for the people he loved.
'The masses ... They're firing on the masses ...'

And what about Jackie Creft? In the joyous procession en route to Fort Rupert after she and Maurice had been broken out from house arrest, her mother came out of the crowd to greet her.
'Look what we've got ourselves into, Mum,' Jackie murmured as they embraced.

As a woman, I can't help thinking. Were her last thoughts for those she would be leaving behind? Or with the one who would never know life at all now? Jackie Creft was five months pregnant with Maurice's child when she was murdered.

Photo of the courtyard at Fort Rupert from OAS

M was first to get up this morning. With the blank denial so evident yesterday, he had blocked on me waking him last night to tell him about the curfew and instead heads off to work as usual. He's stopped by soldiers at the Tempe crossroads and turned back.

We're relieved this seems to indicate the curfew may be more benign than we were led to fear from last night's chilling broadcast. On the other hand, in an odd kind of way, it adds to the uncertainty. Just what are the rules? If we don't know, how can we assess risk? Does it depend on which soldiers you encounter?

The first thing I do when I get up is switch on the radio and insert a blank tape. US airships are on their way to Grenada and a battleship is already at St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Excerpt from my diary: Tempe is quiet. How else could it be? They've put a whole people, a whole nation, under house arrest.
We can move between here and C's house. Where is she? How is she? My thoughts keep moving to mum and dad and the hell they must be going through. Perhaps worse than our own personal hell, we who sit here knowing we're living through history ...

H is in reasonable spirits. M listens to music and tries to wrap his head around it all. W is high on it all but very restless. B is freaked, speechless and feeling ill.
L and I spent the night making love and holding each other ... I am unable to think of any future but horror. At best, we all live. At worst ...

Oh sweet sweet Grenada. Strong struggling people - how can you stand against tanks? You thought you ruled this country - so when things you didn't understand started to happen you asked for explanations. When none were forthcoming, you obeyed the tradition of the Grenadian revolution and came onto the streets to make your demands known.

You were arrested.


Finally, after exhausting all other means, you freed Maurice yourselves and the soldiers laid down their arms in the face of the people. Guns for defending Grenada - how could they use them against the Grenadian people? When these **** **** **** realised they couldn't stop the people calling for Bishop they simply exterminated him and his comrades and imprisoned all the people.
Overwhelming sadness mingles with rage ...

Rain. Rain in the skies and rain in the eyes of the people. H and I have an enormous responsibility to bear for the Grenadian people we know and love. The rest of the world has to know what's going on here ... To be in England now would be close to unbearable. We have food. We have music. We have weed. We have each other.
The rain is falling in sheets. It's 9.30 on the first day of imprisonment. Bob Marley is telling us we're the survivors on the stereo. I hope he's right. They killed Maurice. They killed Jackie Creft. But they can't kill the whole of the Grenadian people.

W has been to the gap. There's massive troop movement at the road. He says people's feeling is to hope for a US invasion. Misguided but understandable. These fools have done the reverse of what they hoped for - you can't put the people in chains and then hope they'll support you. Why should the people believe anything these oppressors tell them now?


10.00am - international news only on Radio Free Grenada.
We just listened again to the tape W made yesterday and then to Austin's broadcast. There's a lull now as everyone allows to sink into their consciousness the fact that we'll be here on our arses for at least the next four days. You can't stop thinking about it and working out practicalities. Might they come to get me and H out? Can we refuse? etc etc.

But every so often I'm overwhelmed by righteous anger at this dread Babylon system. Why aren't the soldiers turning their guns on these oppressors? Aren't they Grenadian too?

11.00am - W returns to tell us an army truck was going round to collect ex-soldiers to get them to go back into the army.

The map of Grenada keeps falling off the wall.

13th March 1979 was the day everything seemed possible.

19th October 1983 was the day everything went irrevocably wrong.

There's no going back now - but what a grisly and ironic slant it gives to the Forward Ever Backward Never slogan.


Photo from Stormcarib

Midday - RFG seems to be trying to catch up They broadcast a statement from the Ministry of Information saying that the international press are all telling lies. They're taking groups of journalists to Fort Rupert and the hospital. What do they think that will prove? They put full responsibility for the current suffering on Maurice and Unison Whiteman. The Revolutionary Military Council (RMC) of whom Austin is the chairman, issues dire warnings about non-interference. There are 16 members of the RMC (all drawn from the armed forces) and they have full legislative and executive powers. The PRG has been dissolved. Cabinet has been dismissed. Passes are being issued for workers in essential services. There follows the first interview with a 'witness' who was at Fort Rupert, predictably laying all the blame on Maurice, saying he was arming counters.

12.25 - a soldier on a motorbike arrives at our house. W recognises him as one of the ones he'd seen earlier, rounding up ex-soldiers. He tells us he's looking for Little W!!! My god, he's 13 years old - any gun would be the same size as he is! They must be picking up militia members too. The soldier leaves. We can hear booming in the distance.

12.30 - news from Trinidad says no Grenadians will be allowed into Trinidad without a visa. At 1.oopm there's a broadcast by Chambers, PM of Trinidad. We're told it's important, but for some reason it's inaudible.

B is now in a filthy mood, stomping round getting vexed with all and sundry, wishing he was at home at his own yard so he wouldn't have to talk to anyone.

Six people, two of them ill, all of them freaked out, in one small house for at least four days. And this is a country where you are rarely at home, apart from to sleep and eat. All life takes place outside. But not now. Not now.

2.00pm - Chambers is calling for a Caricom summit.

2.30pm - RFG issues a coded call: 'All Ms CMs and As are asked to call 3117.' This is followed by more interviews with people who were supposedly at the fort yesterday. Unsurprisingly, they all confirm the official line, laying full blame for events on Maurice. Don't they see? Can they really be so out of touch? The more they lay claim to the 'truth' when almost everyone knows the REAL truth, the more their already-rockbottom credibility crumbles.

(NOTE: It later transpired that they really were that out of touch. Coard's analysis was apparently that the people would shout and demonstrate for a few days after cooling their heels in curfew but then knuckle down.)

3.00pm - RFG tells us about Michael Alse (?), chair of the People's Popular Movement of Trinidad, who had arrived in Grenada on 17th October as a mediator between the two factions. The upshot was supposedly that Maurice would be allowed to remain as Prime Minister on the condition that he took full responsiblity for the crisis.

Tempe news is that they tracked down Little W and took him away. Crying.

So how do we spend that first day of curfew? My diary gives minute by minute accounts, so obviously I spend much of the time making notes and recording the news. We cook. We eat. We listen to music. We smoke. We try to be kind to each other.

There's no doubt that out of us all, W is the one who has had the most traumatic experience. To add to the pressure, we hear that there are moves being made to round up witnesses to what happened at the fort. If these witnesses' versions don't coincide with the official one, will they be silenced? And what might that mean? Detention? Or worse?

Because if one thing is now clear it's that anything - including cold-blooded murder - is possible.

Hyper and close to the edge, W keeps replaying the tape he made over and over. At some point, H snaps. She can't handle hearing it any more. In response, W wipes the tape! I'm horrified! Even at that point I can see that it was probably the only incontrovertable evidence of what really happened up at the fort, apart from witness testimonies. And it's already clear how unreliable they can be.

With little to distract us, every tiny thing seems weighty with symbolism. As the map of Grenada falls off the wall for the umpteenth time, I try yet again to fix it back up. It's crucial. Grenada can't fall. But she already has ...

On one of W's forays to check out the scene, he tells us that one of the local shops is open at the back and people are sneaking out to buy stuff. We're low on staples - rice, flour, yam etc - and won't be able to stretch our supplies for the full four days. I check and find I have 20$ EC (about £5). A brief group discussion results in a decision: W and I are delegated to break curfew tomorrow and attempt to get to the shop and stock up.


9 comments:

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

And another cliff-hanger ending! Still riveting stuff, Debi.

wordtryst said...

Yes, horrific and mesmerising. This entire experience must have been life-changing for you. How could it not?

(Michael Als is the name of that guy you mentioned. He's still very much involved in politics and community service here in Trinidad, if my memory serves.)

wordtryst said...

The ultimate horror, to me, was the murder of the pregnant Jackie Creft. It is so monstrous I've never been able to get my mind around that total rejection of all humanity.

BarbaraS said...

It's harrowing just reading it Debi: you actually lived through it and you're here telling us about it. So sad to see it all collapsing like this.

granny p said...

Unbelievable, all of it. Thanks for having the courage to write this, Debi. Can imagine how it hurts. Cold war stuff with hot lies and hotter bullets. Not nice.

Debi said...

I can't begin to tell you how hard it is having to relive all of this and somehow fit it in with my present life.

The support I'm receiving from people commenting here is valued and greatly appreciated.

John Baker said...

I couldn't leave it to chance that you missed this news.
So go see for yourself:
http://prorev.com/2009/02/passings-americas-last-flag-officer-to.html

Debi said...

Thank you, John. I hadn't seen that. And of course it confirms what I've said before about how the invasion is seen in the US.

Also once again it also confirms the importance of getting the full story and context of this 'stunning victory' out there.

For those of you who don't have time/energy to click the link, here's a quote:
Wesley L. McDonald, 84, the admiral who led the 1983 Grenada invasion, the last war America has won since WWII, has died. As the Washington Post reports, it was a stunning victory: "About 6,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines overwhelmed the 1,200 Grenadians and 780 Cubans in the waning days of October 1983. Adm. McDonald told the Senate Armed Services Committee several months later that despite inaccurate maps, problems with radio communications between different forces and the barring of press coverage during the invasion, Operation Urgent Fury was 'a complete success.'

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

This is such captivating reading , Debi and the inclusion of your diary excerpts brings it even more powerfully to life.
I'm struck in reading this, in how many places this has happened and in how many places it will still happen. The age old question of the human condition constantly reposes itself.
Kudos to you for having the courage to revisit this and live it all over again.