US invasion of Grenada laid blueprint for war
Twenty-seven years ago, on October 25, 1983, the US invaded the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada. Washington justified its use of overwhelming force against a largely unarmed civilian population with quintessential Cold War rhetoric, that Grenada's socialist government was an imminent threat to freedom and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere.
“Grenada, we were told, was a friendly island paradise for tourism. Well it wasn’t. It was a Soviet Cuban colony being readied as a military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy. We got there just in time,” said Ronald Reagan, two days after the invasion that left hundreds dead or wounded.
The invasion of Grenada was a litmus test for US military intervention in the post-Vietnam War era, a blueprint applied to Panama, the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Pentagon’s skillful control of information and manipulation of journalists also set a precedent in media coverage and cooptation that continues today.
“The invasion of Grenada was something of a testing ground for what we've seen come afterwards, in which the media was extremely controlled, so that the message coming out was the message that the United States wanted to hear,” said Dr. Adrienne Pine, professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. “It was one of the first of these Media Wars that culminate in what we see today with journalists actually being embedded with the troops and only reporting the vision that is the official vision of the United States Army.”
Nearly three decades later, the legacy of the invasion of Grenada lives on in US policy and interventions across the world.
Glen Ford, the author of "The Big Lie: An Analysis of US Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion” argued that US media failed to effectively cover the invasion of Grenada.
The media initially complained about a lack of access to the conflict, but once they were allowed in with troops “they performed as if they were spokespersons for the US military,” said Ford. “There was not the slightest trace of independence what so ever.”
The US media jumped in to defend and went along with the official US military line; whether it involved US students in Grenada or the rumor there were Cuban bases on the island. In fact, the Cubans who were there were construction workers, he added.
Ford explained the US media is not likely to steer far from the official Washington line unless there is a significant opposition to the war from inside the Democratic Party.
“They in fact can do a better job of propagandizing a war than the State can do, because actually they’re better,” said Ford. “They have shown over and over again in the past several years they are quite capable of ignoring a hundred thousand people in the street. But when significant sections of the Democratic Party begin expressing anti-war views, then a portion of the press responds to that faction of power."
He argued that this is the case today, as it was then.