Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 19

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
The Revo Blog. Part 16 - 25th October 1983. War - the next 4 hours
The Revo Blog. Part 16a - photos
The Revo Blog. Part 17 - 25th October 1983 - midday onwards
The Revo Blog. Part 18 - 26th-27th October 1983 - the war continues

Friday 28th October - still fighting

Yesterday we heard that the Americans have arrested J, a friend in Tempe. This makes no sense. J was never a big supporter of the Revo. He is a merchant seaman and was one of the people who welcomed the invasion with open arms, dancing in the street and celebrating.

This morning, we hear the story from his own lips. He was in Queen's Park with the hordes of people greeting the troops when someone with a personal grudge pointed him out, saying he was active in the militia. He was dragged into the stadium which was packed with other Grenadians. They were all forced to lie spreadeagled and silent on the ground, surrounded by armed guards. It was only when J's frantic wife rushed back with his merchant's seaman's papers that they eventually let him go. He's very shaken but relieved to be free.

Meanwhile, the close fighting is continuing sporadically, there's still no current, looters have cleared the shops, casualty figures are mounting according to regional radio reports and there's more stress and conflict between the men within our own yard.

Where do the radio stations get their information from? It can only be from US sources. With the sea and air exclusion zone still in operation, a fly couldn't get into or out of Grenada right now. And that means the US can do anything they like without fear of being judged by the rest of the world.

4.00pm - BBC World Service - the marines will leave shortly to go to Lebanon, the Airborne division will remain. All Grenadian embassies abroad will be closed. The Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon, will be the only civilian authority until such time as elections can be held.

5.00pm radio 610 - the 240 US students at the medical school have already returned to the States. (Only later do we hear that the 'rescue' of these students was the official justification for the invasion.)

6.00pm radio 610 - the Red Cross are not being allowed in. There are accusations of contravention of the Geneva Convention.

The US has total control over our lives.

During our wandering round the area, we find that Caribbean troops are taking over at the Governor General's house. These are the first non US soldiers we have encountered.

There's a roadblock on the hill just past Westmorland School with about 15 GIs searching all vehicles.

Lagoon Road is packed with people looting a warehouse, encouraged by GIs who are also carting off goods and supplies.

Each time we're spotted by soldiers, they ask if we want to be evacuated. When we refuse, they're confused. What does this mean that we choose to stay in a war zone when we're clearly not Grenadian? Some of them just shrug, others view us with narrow-eyed suspicion, while some turn distinctly hostile. We realise with a jolt that there can only be a handful of white people left on the island who are not soldiers. Most of the others, both tourists and politicos, have evacuated. We couldn't be more conspicuous ...

This is just the beginning of a new phase in which that visibility becomes more and more threatening.

Not that it's safer to be Grenadian. P comes in late at night with 9 stitches in his arm. He got into a fight with a guy and GIs threatened to shoot them both.

Saturday 29th October

Radio 610 says that the United Nations has censured the US for flagrant violation of international law but pockets of resistance consisting of Cubans and diehard Grenadians are expected to last several more weeks..

Incredible! All these thousands of troops, armed to the teeth with the latest technology, yet they had to call for reinforcements. And just who are they fighting? Less than a thousand Cuban engineers and what must be a mere handful of Grenadians who still believe there's a revolution worth defending. The mightiest army in the world, yet they have trouble subduing a tiny island where the majority of the population welcome them.

H and I walk into St Georges. The police station has been burnt down. The ruins look like something out of a spaghetti western. There are conflicting stories about who was responsible, with some people suggesting it was the Commissioner of Police, ensuring records didn't fall into the wrong hands. Supposedly, men in camouflage gear were seen running away.

We walk to Tanteen and chat to US and Caribbean soldiers there. One of the marines agrees to send a message to our families, who we know must be frantic. We give him their names and phone numbers and he promises they will be contacted and assured we're alive and unharmed. (NOTE: this message was never delivered.)

We want to get our films to the outside world. It feels important. A half-baked plan sees us attempting to hitch a lift to the international airport at Point Salines, but when this isn't successful, we give up and get high instead. Life goes on.

Back home, we find the local radio is broadcasting on 990, but only between 10-12am and 2-4pm. There's a statement from the Governor General. He says businesses should all reopen on Monday and everyone should report back to work as usual that morning. But people are urged to stay inside between 8.00pm and 5.00am. A sort of voluntary curfew?

A 'back to normal' day. We had one of those before, exactly a week earlier - the day between the ending of curfew and the invasion. It's mindblowing how events have followed one another so fast, piling up and distorting time. So much can happen, so fast, and life can change - or end - in a blink of an eye.

We've just heard! Coard and his family have been found in a house just up the road in Mt Parnassus!

This is evidently true but the rambling word-of-mouth information that follows seems less convincing and we realise that we need to be careful not to take anything at face value. For example, we hear that secret plans were found in the house, proving that arrangements had been made for Russian, Cuban and Libyan troops to mass here in November. This same person tells us that Maurice disagreed about the timing of this Communist military presence and that was the root of the disgreement between him and his comrades.

This just doesn't ring true. For starters, November would have been before the international airport was open, so makes little sense. And all of this - including the disagreement with Maurice - was in these 'secret papers' stored in Coard's keeping? How very convenient. And anyway, even though the seeds of suspicion have been sown and people are aware that they knew little of what was really going on behind the scenes in the country they believed they ruled, I refuse to accept the Central Committee were planning some kind of genuine military threat to the US.

No. This smacks much more of standard US paranoia than the reality of the Revo.

And so another stage begins. In spite of those 'pockets of resistance', the bulk of the fighting is over. The battle for hearts and minds has begun in earnest. With a technique that is sometimes heavy handed and obviously 'wrong' and at other times is subtle and effective, the US propaganda machine is swinging into action. And even if we reject much of what we hear, it is enough to sow seeds of doubt and confusion into the minds of a people deeply traumatised by the events of the last ten days.

Ten days! That's all it is! Ten days that have seen revolution, popular uprising, coup, slaughter and terror, curfew and repression, invasion and war. Is it any wonder that the propaganda is so effective when those it is aimed at are so deeply traumatised?

2.30pm - we tune into the new radio station on 990. This is Spice Island Radio, broadcasting from Barbados. We will tell you the truth!

We cautiously welcome one piece of news: twelve reporters are now being allowed in. They are coming via a four hour helicopter trip and have pledged to share their findings with other journalists. It feels like a small sign that things are moving forwards and won't continue like this for ever.

We're about to listen to a statement by the Governor General but lose the radio signal. Damn! It doesn't help to know that his house is just up the road from us!

L comes back from Grand Anse having been told the beach is mined and no one can go on it.

And it's still not over. In the evening I count seven jets circling overhead. As soon as it's dark, flares begin to drop on Richmond Hill and the planes switch on their searchlights. There's masses of traffic movement on the hill behind us. This continues all through the night.

Sunday 30th October.

10.00am radio 610 tells us there are Cuban troops on Carriacou!

Yeah right. This suggestion is so ludicrous we dismiss it instantly. But we're beginning to see - this is how the propaganda works. The mere suggestion that the Cubans might take the opportunity to fight the US to the death on Grenadian soil is enough to make people anxious that the war will go on without end. That there could be even worse to come. And this blatant lie also helps to entrench attitudes against anything that looks remotely like Communism, which is associated directly with Coard and all the troubles. And reinforce the concept of the US as saviours ...

Spice Isle Radio is even more wily and specious. In a direct appeal to any members of the PRA still fighting the announcer says that we have nothing against the soldiers personally. We only want your guns. Give them up and we will leave you alone. We won't insist on taking your names. The US soldiers might even give you food. You are hungry, aren't you?

The final news of the day is that Hudson Austin has been captured. There are no further details yet.

Today was the quietest day in Tempe since the invasion. Maybe the end of the war is in sight after all.

Though we have no way of knowing what will come next to fill the vaccuum.

3 comments:

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

That shot of the police station is horribly reminiscent of the station in Port of Spain after it was bombed during the attempted coup in 1990. The actual death toll from those days was never made public. Those were terrible days, and I wasn't even smack in the middle of things like you were.

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

P.S. My father was a policeman at the time. The only fatality from that attack was the policeman at the gate who was calmly shot as the car-bomb was driven through.

Debi said...

Ghastly, Liane. And yet another example of finding each other in our personal stories.