Jan 6, 2014
On October 25, 1983, the Reagan administration sent over 8,000 U.S. troops to invade the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada. This was the first time since the Viet Nam War in the 1960s and early 1970s that large numbers of U.S. combat troops had been sent to fight a war abroad.
The long and bloody U.S. war in Viet Nam in the 1960s and early 1970s had produced lasting mass opposition and mistrust in the U.S. population to any foreign wars. This mistrust even extended inside parts of the U.S. military. This became known as the “Viet Nam syndrome,” like it was some kind of horrible disease or condition.
For U.S. rulers, it was this so-called “syndrome” that constrained them from imposing their domination over poor peoples all over the world through direct military force, as U.S. rulers had done throughout much of this country’s history. Their fear of provoking a new anti-war movement inside the U.S. was one reason the U.S. didn’t send its own troops to directly intervene even when loyal dictators it had supported for many years, like the Shah of Iran and General Somoza of Nicaragua, were deposed in revolutionary upheavals in 1979. When many of the U.S.’s own diplomatic personnel were taken hostage and held for well over a year by the new Iranian regime, the mighty U.S. seemed paralyzed.
In this period, U.S. military planners mounted only a few small, limited military actions. In April 1980, there was the spectacularly unsuccessful rescue mission of the U.S. hostages in Iran. The rescue mission was aborted after a U.S. helicopter and a transport plane collided at a remote staging area. And then twice during the early 1980s, the U.S. deployed troops to Lebanon as a so-called “peacekeeping” force after the Israeli invasion of that country. On October 23, 1983, a truck bomb exploded at the marine headquarters in Lebanon, killing 241 marines – the largest U.S. troop loss in a military operation since Viet Nam. In response, President Reagan promptly pulled the remaining U.S. troops from the country.
Two days after the Lebanon truck bombing, the U.S. invaded tiny Grenada. In many ways, Grenada presented a perfect target for the U.S. military, especially after the retreat of U.S. troops from Lebanon proved once again its weakness and vulnerability. The regime in Grenada had been a bit of a problem for the U.S. It had come to power by overthrowing a U.S.-sponsored dictator, and the government of Grenada tried to take a distance from the U.S., including by establishing friendly ties with the U.S.’s arch-rivals, both Cuba and the USSR. Given that Grenada’s poorly equipped military force had only a couple of thousand soldiers, the U.S. invasion was a quick success.
This was not just a military victory, but a political victory as well... against the U.S. population. The invasion was over so quickly, little or no response against the war was organized. That left U.S. rulers freer to carry the U.S. down the road toward more military interventions, in fact, more wars like Viet Nam. This would be underlined in the years to come, after the U.S. invaded Panama in December 1989, and then carried out the much bigger Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, which were a prelude to the much bigger U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The U.S. invasion of Grenada was the first step by the rulers of this country to overcome that “syndrome” that had constrained them from using direct military force, violence and bloodshed all over the world. U.S. rulers used the invasion to declare to the entire world that the period when it hesitated to use its own forces to intervene was over.
These U.S. interventions have not just caused untold suffering for the people in those countries, but the people of entire regions surrounding them. Also suffering under the yoke of the U.S. rulers’ wars have been the people of this country, who have been made to pay for these wars in every way possible.
The reality we must face is the one the Viet Nam War taught several generations ago: the workers of this country have nothing to gain and everything to lose as U.S. imperialism moves to control the rest of the world.