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The post-independence flag

A tiny Caribbean island and former colony which had the misfortune to be hosting several hundred US students in 1983, when a violent revolution occurred. At the time, President Ronald Reagan was suffering from a disease peculiar to Americans: Political Dick-Shrinkage.

Having been kicked out of Vietnam, humiliated by the Iranians, then playing Roosevelt to Thatcher's Churchill ("Give us the tools - we will do the job!") when the Argies got a bit bolshy, Uncle Sam was not happy. The perception of US military incompetence abroad did not sit well in Washington.

But - what was this? Suddenly, an opponent loomed which the Yanks felt they might - just might - be able to defeat. A Marxist (Boo-ooo! Hisssss!) regime had just been overthrown by an even harder-line bunch of Commies in Grenada. ("What's harder-line than Marxist, huh? You kiddin' me here? Where's Grenada - isn't that Spain or somewhere...?")

The head-scratching in the Pentagon continues until well into the night. By midnight, the name of the operation has finally been thrashed out: Operation URGENT FURY is all systems go. If only they can work out just WHY they're going in, then all will be clear. "THAT'S IT! OK, guys, listen up. There are nearly one thousand US Stoodents over there!" (Blank looks all around: Stoodents? Didn't the National Guard used to beat the shyte outta them in the sixties? Why'd we wanna rescue Stoodents?)

"These Stoodents are potential... HOSTAGES!" (The light dawns: smiles and nods all around.) Colonel Oliver South now has them all listening. Before the first Big Mac of the day has been ordered, a brigade (really a small division) of US troops will be poised to strike a thunderous blow in defence of Western values.

OK - it's a Loony Tunes scenario. It reads like "Monty Python Meets Dr Strangelove" - except that it went on from there to become reality. On 13 October 1983, Grenada's Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was overthrown in an untidy coup by his deputy, Bernard Coard. Coard did not have the brains to keep his mouth shut. Immediately after taking power, he used a lot of very offensive "c" words.

"I know I can trust you with this, Art..."

"It's 'Al', Mr President."

"What d'you mean, Art? What's Al got to do with this ..? Oh - Sorry ... Of course - you're Al. Of course, Al ... Like I was saying: I know I can trust you with this. Just don't say anything to Art, OK?"

"Of course not, Mr President."

"As I was saying, this Coard guy uses a lotta 'c' words..."

"Well ... we all swear from time to time, Sir..."

"I'm not talking about coons here - or constitutional rights - or even the Cu Clux Clan - "

"That's spelt with a 'K', Mr President - actually three 'K's".

The President rose slowly from his desk, a menacing scowl on his dark, handsome face. "You quite finished korrekting your President, Mr Sekretary?" An uncomfortable silence followed. Al Vaig said nothing. The President continued: "This guy is forever making references to ... Cuba! And ... and - Castro! Not to mention - Communism!" The President spat the words out as though ridding himself of a poison in his system.

"Er - OK, Mr President. I'll get right on to it." The Secretary of State grabbed his briefcase and stood, before hurrying out of the Oval Office.

"Good. Thanks, Art. Just remember what I told you - not a word to Al, OK?"

By dawn, operational orders had been issued - along with extra chewing gum and ice cream - and Clint Eastwood had delivered the final pep-talk to the troops as John Wayne had stopped answering phone calls. Everything that could be done to ensure success, had been done. The C-130s roared down the runways and the LPHs set sail with their Marine Amphibious Units embarked.

On 25 October 1983, the US landed 1200 troops in the initial assault wave. Brushing aside feeble resistance from local witchdoctors armed with home-made blunderbusses, they quickly made their way to the capital, St George's, where the local constabulary attempted to restore order by killing 19 US soldiers. 49 local volunteers and militiamen ended up dead.

By early December, the country had been pacified: 29 Cuban military engineers, exchange students, medical and agricultural teachers had been added to the death toll. Only 7000 US troops had been deployed. President Reagan went on national TV to inform the nation: "We got there just in time." (To prevent an upstart socialist regime from making a success of their worker-participation economy.)

Sanity has now been restored. Grenada has climbed down from its lofty ideals: from its 98% literacy rate in 1983, and its 92% employment rate, with the economy growing at a respectable 2% annually since 1979, Grenada has become just another Third World country. Its conservative, corrupt (more 'c' words) government dutifully receives its foreign aid from Washington; dutifully floods its marketplace with US imports; and dutifully imposes restraints on its hitherto-booming primary industrial sector.

The big lesson to be learned here is, of course: Nils Iancus Copulatus.