Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 16

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
The Revo Blog. Part 11 - 20th October 1983. Curfew. Day 1
The Revo Blog. Part 12 - early morning 21st October 1983. Breaking curfew
The Revo Blog. Part 13 - curfew continues
The Revo Blog. Part 14 - 24th October 1983. 'Back to normal' day
The Revo Blog. Part 15 - 25th October 1983. Invasion - the first 2 hours
The Revo Blog. Part 15a - Faye's journey continues

25th October 1983. War - the next 4 hours

It's at 7.45 am, just over two hours after the fighting first began, that we hear the mysterious disembodied voice telling us the American soldiers have taken over and instructing us to tune into 1580 frequency.

Can it really all be over that soon? Continuing heavy artillery fire all around us suggests otherwise.

At 7.55 am we hear the first broadcast on the new frequency but the message is not intended for us.

Do not approach within fifty nautical miles of Grenada. Any aircraft flying over will be treated as hostile to the multinational forces.

Grenada is tiny and defenseless. It's clear the US can do what the hell they like with no one to stop them. The announcement is repeated in Spanish and then the broadcast continues with a 'history' lesson:

In 1979 the New Jewel Movement seized power and turned the nation into a Cuban surrogate. People were imprisoned without trial. Economic policy bankrupted the country. Children were brainwashed. Tens of thousands of people left Grenada. There were no elections. A more repressive clique is now operating on the orders of a foreign power. They terrorised foreign visitors. The US have been forced to attack in order to rescue their own citizens. Stability and tranquility are rapidly being restored.

We gawp at each other, appalled at this blatant and crass attempt to rewrite history. Who is this message intended for? Are they honestly trying to persuade Grenadians that this is what they've been experiencing for the past four and a half years?

Where to start to convey how corrupted this version of events is?

Economic policy bankrupted? When ordinary people were better off during the Revo and had more hope than ever before?

Children brainwashed? Did they need to be brainwashed to recognise their place in a search for a fair and egalitarian society with justice for all?

Tens of thousands of people leaving? When the total population is only about 100,000?

No elections? When this is what Maurice had promised to work towards?

Now operating on orders of a foreign power? Do they mean Cuba? Who did not hesitate to condemn the coup? And when the US are the foreign power who have in reality taken over by force?

Terrorised foreign visitors? Eh? Who? When? Whatever we may think about the leaders of the coup, it was clear they were desperate to appease foreigners in the country ...

US forced to attack? When we all know they've been looking for an excuse ever since 1979? And that just a few short months ago they carried out a naval exercise nearby on the fictional 'Amber and the Amberines' - clearly practice for invading Grenada and the Grenadines?

Rescue their own citizens? Does this mean the medical students whose safety has been assured by the RMC?

Stability and tranquility being restored? So how come the battle is still raging around us? In spite of the comparatively low numbers of people opposing them since the coup sapped the will from the vast majority of the people?

So since they must know that those hearing this fantasy version are fully aware of the reality, just who are they hoping to convince? It's mindbending. As the announcer finishes speaking, we find out just how mindbending the battle for hearts and minds can be when his voice is replaced by music.

Not reggae now. No uplifting messages of rebellion and survival. This time our ears are blasted by US disco music. The cultural takeover has begun, hot on the heels of the bullets and the bombs.

Image from Carriacou.biz

At 8.05 am there's more weasel words from 1580: that the US and our Caribbean neighbours were concerned for us. That they are here to restore peace and order. It feels like they're making it up as they go along. But then the words become more sinister and heavy again:

Do not hinder our efforts to stabilise your nation. Everyone stay at home. Foreigners should all stay neutral. The military forces are from neighbouring countries and the US. Stay inside and away from windows. Confiscate weapons from your children. Co-operate. Report the location of those resisting the international forces. Allow the forces into your homes. Ignore instructions from non-friendly forces.

There's so much to take in. Over the last week there have been so many ghastly developments, so many emotional swings and extremes to try to adapt to. We're numb but our minds are racing, trying to keep up and maintain some kind of clarity of thought.

There are more words on 1580 at 8.15 am. The contradictions are piling up and it really does feel that they're thinking on their feet as much as we are. This time they tell us that the US forces have come in at the request of our Caribbean neighbours. That they constitute an emergency relief operation. They are only here to get US citizens out. They have no intention of harming Grenadians. This time there's no mention of their role in intending to stabilise the country, though they do say peace and democracy will be restored in the near future.

Meanwhile, we can still hear the sounds of fighting, though it is more distant now. Each time this happens, we have no way of knowing whether or not it is temporary.

Excerpt from my diary: Make tapes, take photos, write this. A horrible calm. Our outsides remain really calm but our insides are doing really strange things.

8.25 am - more words and yet another psychological tack with a direct appeal to those opposing them:

Members of the PRA and militia - do not resist. Do not risk your lives. Help us.

At 8.40 am there is constant heavy booming from the top of the hill when we lose the radio signal. There's still a spy plane circling high overhead. It makes us feel even more isolated and vulnerable when we discover that there's no news at all about what's happening on the regional radio stations.

Then at 9.00 am we catch some news at last on the BBC World Service. It just confirms the details originally given on RFG about the first assault but then they go on to say the US have captured the radio station and the airport. The broadcast is momentarily drowned out as a fighter jet shrieks across the skies overhead.

The announcer goes on to say the troops moved off from Barbados during the night and that they consist of Jamaican, Bajan and US forces, but the US presence is supposedly just to supervise evacuation of their own citizens. There has been no comment from the Pentagon. British troops are not involved.

Image from BBC

At 9.20 am, Trinidad at last acknowledges the situation, saying that PM Chambers has ordered an emergency meeting, and that Reagan is to make a broadcast on US TV.

At 9.30 am, I note in my diary that the close firing has stopped. 1580 is still off the air and we don't know how to interpret that. Just behind the house is Richmond Hill, where there are forts, the prison and also the mental hospital, known locally as 'the crazy house'. The Hill has come in for some of the heaviest fire and now that it's quieter, we can hear bawling from there. My diary also says that we hear that a chopper has been brought down but we don't know if it's true. (NOTE: I have no recollection where we heard that information, which was indeed true.)

On radio 610, we hear the voice of the old cowboy himself at 9.30 am when Reagan speaks, together with Eugenia Charles, PM of Dominica and chair of the Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS). It's reasoned propaganda, mainly focusing on the lack of elections in Grenada. Reagan says that the OECS requested US help on Sunday and they agreed to intervene for three reasons: to protect innocent lives, forestall further chaos and restore law and order.

Image from USA Today

He seems keen to focus attention on the Caribbean presence and minimise the suggestion that the US is pulling the strings. Troops, he says, include those from Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, and St Vincents.

9.45 am - more bombing close by. Radio Antilles reports that invading troops have taken over the radio station, Pearls Airport, the power station at Queens Park and the unfinished international airport at Point Salines, having cleared the runway of barbed wire and obstructions.

Ah yes. Point Salines. That will be the airport still under construction in the south of the island that the US have been saying for years is far bigger than Grenada needs for tourist flights and is intended for military purposes. And the first time it's used ... is for the military purposes of the US.

10.00 am - CBC reports one US soldier dead and thirteen Cuban construction workers taken prisoner.

10.10 am - 1580 is still off the air. We hear gunfire and then there's a heavy blast nearby, followed by more. There must be PRA in the bush behind the house. From the window we can see a plane firing down. Actually see the fire spurting. There seems to be more than one of them, but because we're inside and they are directly overhead, we can't be sure.

11.00 am and still no 1580. Blasting and anti-aircraft fire has been going on non stop. Radio 610 reports that Guyana and Cuba are condemning the invasion. They say that three Cubans have been killed and one US soldier died when his helicopter was shot down. Several Cubans have been imprisoned. Though there has been no UK intervention HMS Antrim is standing ready to evacuate the 250 (???) British citizens on the island.

CBC says that thirty two Russian military advisers have been arrested and that the fighting is being led by Cubans. But we know that the Cubans on the island are nearly all engineers employed in constructing the international airport. Where are the regional stations getting their information from anyway? From US sources? Because they've already amply demonstrated just how high a value they place on the truth ...

There's gunfire on either side of us now. Just yards away in the bush around the house, people are fighting and maybe dying.

My diary reports close gunfire at this point, heavily underlined.

I look at the faded pages of my diary now and I can see what I was doing. My frantic urge to record led me to compulsively note down every nuance, knowing in the shrunken timescale that each note could be my last. Anyway, how else was I supposed to pass the time? Keep busy. Keep busy.

And maybe this was also a way of extracting a tiny fragment of control when patently we had none whatsoever. I might not have been able to control what would happen to me, but at least I could record it.

Maybe too that need to exert a minimal degree of control (and keep busy) was why, when PC popped back to see us at midday, I decided to go out through the bush with him on a mission to track down cigarettes ...


Anonymous said...

"I decided to go out through the bush with him on a mission to track down cigarettes ..."

Oh 'eck. Good luck.

Debi said...

Yep. Mad, eh? Still, I survived - evidently!

Elizabeth Baines said...

My god!

Debi said...

Is that in response to me going out to find cigarettes, Elizabeth? Or to the whole thing?

Because all of it - ALL of it - was crazy ...

Elizabeth Baines said...

Both, Debi! Initially to the thought of you going out there, and then of course all of it....