صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


Information Information Gap Creates Confusion on Aspects of Island Conflict

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


What Was He Hiding?

By Anthony Lewis

BOSTON, Oct. 30 A man who strains to conceal what he is doing must fear the consequences if the truth is discovered. What feared knowledge was President Reagan trying to keep from the American public on Grenada? Why did he bar the press from the invasion of that small island as General Eisenhower did not feel it necessary to do when his forces challenged the might of the Nazis?

There is no great mystery about it, really. Mr. Reagan was afraid that the facts on the ground would not support the reasons he gave for the invasion. He was afraid that public support, as shown in opinion polls, would wither if people learned too much too soon. The official justifications for the attack on Grenada have already started to unravel. What sounded so clear and dramatic in Mr. Reagan's speeches is less convincing in light of facts that have emerged despite the blackout.

The safety of Americans on Grenada was the first reason given by the President in his announcement of the invasion on Oct. 25. He said he had reports that "a large number" were "seeking to escape." U.S. officials ¦said the Grenadian regime had closed its airport. The implication was that the regime was planning to hold Americans there.

Now we know that Grenada and Cuba both sent urgent messages to the United States saying that our citizens, in particular the large number of medical students, were safe. We know that the airport was open and that Americans flew out the day before the invasion, encountering no problems at the airport and seeing not even an armed guard.

The Reagan Administration was in fact not interested in exploring peaceful evacuation of Americans who wanted to leave. It did not look into chartering ships or planes. It did not respond to the Grenadian or Cuban messages until after the invasion was under way. It was determined to make a show of force.

The President did not mention Cuba or the Soviet Union in his original explanation of the invasion. But by the time he addressed the nation on television three nights later, they had dominant and sinister significance. He said Grenada "was a Soviet-Cuban colony being readied as a major military bastion to export terror."

The statement was no doubt effective politically. It would be hard to find language better calculated to play on American fears than "SovietCuban colony" or "military bastion"

or "terror." But where is the evidence for those terrifying assertions?

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Com. mittee, is not exactly soft on communism. After listening to Administration briefings he said: "Nothing has been discovered so far that would show with any certainty that Cuba was planning to take over Grenada."

A Republican senator similarly told reporters: "We need to know a lot more before I'd be willing to accept the assessment that Grenada was about to become a Cuban proxy."

One of the first things reporters will try to find out on Grenada, once they fully slip the leash of Reagan Administration "guided tours," is what the extent of Cuban military facilities was. They will also surely explore how Grenadians feel about the invasion.

The attitude of the Grenadian people is a particularly important unknown, affecting the future of the Reagan operation. The President set as one of his objectives "the restoration of democratic institutions in Grenada." But how exactly is that going to work, politically or militarily? How long will Americans have to stay?

Ad Vesley L. McDonald, commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic fleet, told reporters that American troops must get rid of all resisting Grenadian elements before leaving. "We have to identify the people who are the hard-liners," he said. "I think the identification process is going to be one that's very difficult for us to continue to pursue but one that we've got to do because we cannot afford the withdrawal of all of the forces and allow an insurgency government to reappear."

For an outside power to remake the politics of even a small country may be complicated. Did the Reagan Adminis tration think the problem through before taking on the responsibility?

The American people needed light on such questions from the start to enable them to perform their duty of critical judgment on official policy. But Mr., Reagan did not want the inconvenience of democratic judgment. He wanted unrestrained power. Hence his great effort to keep the pub lic in powerless ignorance.

He knew the facts would come out eventually. But if that day could be postponed, it might make a great polit. ical difference. People would be left with their first impression that this was a decisive President fighting communism. They would not reckon the cost of what may have been just a hasty, lawless show of muscle.



Admiral Fights 2 Battles: With Grenada and Press

By Kernan Turner

Associated Press

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct. 30 The U.S. military commander of the Grenada Task Force is fighting two battles: one with the resistance on the island and another with reporters trying to cover the invasion.

Vice Adm. Joseph Metcalf III says that he has ordered naval patrol boats to shoot at unauthorized small craft attempting to land reporters and photographers on Grenada. Journalists hope that he is joking.

Metcalf, commander of the invasion force, also has rejected complaints from the press about restrictions, saying that he is protecting the reporters' lives by not granting them free access to the island.

Dressed in a beribboned white uniform, Metcalf told reporters at a news conference yesterday to stop trying to take their complaints to a higher authority.

"The buck stops with me," the admiral declared. "If you want to argue with somebody about it, you've got to argue with me, not the DOD (Department of Defense], not anybody else but me."

Earlier in the day, when he was wearing a jump suit and visored cap, Metcalf greeted a pool of reporters in Grenada on a closely guarded visit to the embattled island.

"Any of you guys coming in on press boats?" Metcalf asked. "Well, I know how to stop those press boats. We've been shooting at them. We haven't sunk any yet, but how are we to know who's on them?"

A number of weary correspondents have returned to Bridgetown after hiring boats that were turned back off the coast of Grenada by Navy warships, but there have been no reports of journalists ducking U.S. bullets.

Metcalf, a native of Holyoke, Mass., is a 1951 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He is commander of the Second Fleet.

The admiral's encounters with journalists have revealed a tough, yet good-natured personality. He greets

reporters on the press-pool tours at planeside, shaking hands and asking their names.

But when pressed for specific information, he often says, "I haven't the foggiest idea." He confided to one group of perplexed reporters: "I love that quote."

On some occasions, he has misled reporters. When asked about the capture yesterday of Bernard Coard, the politician who is believed to have provoked the events leading to the slaying of prime minister Maurice Bishop, Metcalf at first told a news conference that Grenadans had detained Coard.

Told that a marine officer had described to the press pool how Coard had been surrounded by marines in a hideout and ordered to come out of the house or be blown up, Metcalf said: "Okay, let's be technical, okay?"

Pressed further by the reporters, Metcalf acknowledged that he was at a Marine command post when Coard was brought in and was aware that the Marines had captured him.

Despite his restrictions, Metcalf insists that he wants "the news media to get on with the legitimate business of public information."

In what appeared to reporters to be contradictory statements, Metcalf accepted full responsibility for keeping reporters out of Grenada despite "enormous pressure in Washington to get reporters in there," and yet called himself the journalists' "best friend."

"I want to get you there but, by golly, I'm going to insist that you can be supported when you get there," the admiral said.

[In a conversation with reporters Edward Cody of The Washington Post and Don Bohning of The Miami Herald last night, Metcalf acknowledged that he deliberately had held them aboard his flagship, the aircraft carrier USS Guam, for 18 hours to prevent them from filing first-hand accounts of the invasion. The task force commander said that he had been "following orders" from Washington in holding the reporters, but he did not specify who had given the orders.]

PRESS CLIPS The Village Voice

By Alexander Cockburn

The Press and the Invasion

With considerably less resistance than that displayed by the Grenadian militia, important sections of the US media surrendered without much of a struggle in the face of the US invasion of Grenada and the Reagan administration's propaganda barrage to justify this outrageous and illegal venture.

It's true that editorials in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post-to mention three important papers-indignantly denounced the invasion, its legality and its rationales. It's true that an assiduous reader of the papers would have had a fair amount of informative material against which to assess the claims of the administration. But even after last weekend fundamental Reaganite assumptions remained entirely unchallenged in the mainline media.


A crucial moment for the Reagan administration came with the network newscasts on the first Tuesday, the day of the invasion. These, more than any editorial or report in the New York Times or Washington Post, set the basic terms for public perception. The CBS, NBC and ABC newscasts were all, by and large, ill-informed, if not actively misleading. They accepted most Reaganite assumptions and, particularly in the case of Bill Moyers on CBS, ectively endorsed them.

Consider the famous airstrip. For over a quarter of a century the Grenadians have been hoping to lengthen their airstrip, which cannot accommodate the large passerger planes which could bring tourists so necessary to the island's economy. The airstrip has been favorably viewed by the World Bank. At least half its financing comes from western European countries. The British firm of Plessey has been advising on its construction. There is an enormous difference between a civilian airport-which is being built on Grenada-and a military


It is not as though such reflections were kept from the highly paid reporters, anchormen and producers who put out the network news. Serious attempts to deflate to sensible propertions the dreaded airstrip were made at the time of Maurice Bishop's visit to the United States this summer. Yet, last week, it is as though such informed assessments had never been made. On CBS, Bob Simon reported jauntily, "The Grenadians said their new allweather night-and-day airport, with its 10,000-foot runway built by Cubans was for jumbo jets carrying tourists. Washington said. 'Nonsense.' The Grenadians said the new port facilities under construction were for banana boats. Washington said, 'No Way.' Washington believed this tiniest Caribbean country was being redesigned from a tourist haven to a Communist airbase and a way station, a stopping-off point for Cuban soldiers on their way to Africa, for East Bloc supplies on their way to Nicaragua..."

For ABC, Jack Smith faithfully parrotted Reaganite claims about the airstrip and the deep port. NBC was somewhat more restrained. Unchaller.ged on all three programs was the fundamental premise that Grenada could be of immense military and strategic value to Cuba and the Soviet Union. Why? This was never satisfactorily explained, aside from some astounding bosh promulgated by former CIA director Stansfield Turner on Nightline to the effect that a Cuban/Soviet controlled Grenada threatened crucial oil tanker lanes.

[blocks in formation]

Ignorance Is Safe

What is always astounding is that these networks, and indeed these newspapers and newsmagazines, equipped with incredible sums of money and enormous staffs, apparently find it impossible to find anyone who knows anything about the Caribbean, anything about the economy or politics of the region beyond the New York Postsize headlines which apparently substitute for thinking inside Reagan's head.

In an entire week, an American citizen would have found it hard to discover that the "democracy" allegedly overthrown by the New Jewel Movement on Grenada was a corrupt and fraudulent regime run by Eric Gairy in which ballot boxes were routinely stuffed, political opponents killed and the economy sold to criminal interests.

Since the press prates on ceaselessly about the public's "right to know," you would have thought that the media would have tried to cater to this same right Instead of which, on that first crucial Tuesday night, we had this fairly representative slice of nonsense from Jack Smith, ABC news correspondent. Buzz phrases are italicized.

"Former Grenadian prime minister Maurice Bishop, a Jeftist, recently showed signs-of-wabering towards de mocracy. He was killed in a bloody coup ea this month and apparently replaced by his deputy, Bernard Coard, a committed ideological Marxist. With Fidel Castro now firmly established as an ally of Nicaragua's leftist regime and with the guerilla war now being fought in El Salvador, the last thing the US or its Caribbean allies wanted was another Soviet or Cuban base, especially since Grenada sits astride the Trinided channel, which is the preferred route for half of the US's imports enroute to Gulf Coast refineries. Today's events reall a similar crisis, 18 years ago, when US troops intervened against leftist rebels in the Dominican Republic. That intervention is now largely forgotten and the Dominican Republic & democracy. It remains to be seen if today's action will turn out as well. Jack Smith, ABC News, Washington."

But if you think this is bad, try Bill Moyers's revolting homily:

"In a world where freedom has enemies, the use o force can be justified. The question is always when anc where....You can argue that a tiny island with a leftist government could scarcely have been more than a nuisance, if that. But then that huge airstrip appeared, built with Soviet and Cuban help, and harder-line Marxists trained in Cuba threw out the hard-liners already in power. There followed a blood letting similar to the one Marxists had already inflicted on opponents in nearby Surinam

"You can hardly blame the peaceful islands around Grenada for being alarmed, or an American president for imagining the strategic consequences of yet another Soviet base in the Caribbean. John Kennedy almost went to war to get Soviet missiles out of Cuba; and Lyndon Johnson sent some 20,000 troops, of whom 28 died, to prevent a Communist takeover in the Dominican Republic. So it's not surprising that Mr. Reagan would also consider the use of force legitimate in the Caribbean.

"Whether the price was worth it depends on whether" the result is to replace their 'thugs--as Mr. Reagan calls them with our thugs, as happened in Guatemala, in Chil-Chile, or whether the people of Grenada really get their freedom. If this happens, there will be no less grief for the next of kin of the troops who died in Grenada than for those flown in Beirut, but at least they can say, 'mission accomplished."

Brainwashing Techniques

Notice, inter alia, the mechanical repetition "trained in Cuba" as a way of categorizing opponents of the US. The technique-which has nothing to do with truth, since neither Bishop, Coard or for that matter Austin were "trained" in Cuba-is kindred to the Israelis' systematic use of "terrorists" for Palestinians. Persistent use of "Cuban-trained" or "Cuban presence" or "Cuban support" gradually induces a pathological response, in other words, brainwashing.

Note above all the distortion of Lyndon Johnson's intervention in the Dominican Republic, for which Moyers may indeed have had a soft spot since he was in the White House working for Johnson at the time.

Johnson used the excuse of a threat to Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic to try to prevent not a Communist takeover but the overthrow of a rightist junta by a group of nationalist junior officers with a reformist bent. The Peace Corps volunteers met later to protest LBJ's use of them as a rationale for intervention with 21,000 marines, which tells you the difference between 1965 and 1983, with those medical students slobbering over US soil after being rescued by marines from the consequences of a US attack.

Notice finally that none of these law-abiding commen. tators actually care a fig for the law. Not Moyers, who simply says that the end can justify the means and hang the consequences, nor James Reston who said the same thing. I exclude here such predictable desperados and ardent supporters of the Reagan administration as Norman Podhoretz ("Grenada points the way back to recovery and health") or the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which declared exultantly that the world was the better for this display of US military might.

The media had some problems with the first of the Rescan administration's excuses for intervention-the "appeal" from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The flouting of the UN and OAS charters, not to mention the famous section 8 of the OECS charter, was too blatant. But even so, you had to read long and hard to discover that the US almost certainly backdated the so-called appeal for intervention of Governor General Sir Paul Scoon and in effect kidnapped him onto the USS Guam-where legally he had no standing as governor general, since he was not on Grenadian soil.

After a brief moment in which Dr Modica, representative of the St George's medical school in New York, maintained that intervention was unnecessary and might indeed endanger the students, the press collapsed, along with Modica, and accepted the Reagan line. Amid the emotional pictures of students kissing US soil, few pointed out that they were escaping from danger provoked by the US attack

My colleague Jason Salzman talked on Monday to Alice Paiatnick, who had just got back from Grenada where she had been visiting a friend in the medical school. Palatnick says she felt in no danger during the curfew period. "Half the med students didn't like the Grenadians. Students called them FIGS-Fucking Ig norant Grenadians'. This is indicative of their attitude, especially the ones who came back and who were kissing the ground... From Tuesday to Friday when we were lifted out we just viewed the war. The only time I felt endangered was when the Americans bombed nearby. Jim Brubacher, a med student who lived in the area, had his house totally destroyed by a bomb on Tuesday. The whole time I was there not once did I hear of Grenadians or Cubans theatening any students. The attack put us in incredible danger because the Americans did not know where we were the first days. It was thanks to the good will of the Cubans and Grenadians that I didn't get hurt. The American soldiers didn't even have maps to the island. They borrowed all our maps and binoculars."

With the US military's censorship, which produced howls of outrage, the story turned into a rather selfregarding saga of how the US press tried to invade Grenada on its own. Of course the censorship did have a purpose which the press, amid all its indignation, did not point out-perhaps because the networks were too busy running DoD film and the editor of Newsweek, Maynard Parker, too occupied denouncing his photographer, who let the side down by breaching army rules and staying beyond his appointed term. The point was that the US invading force was hosing down Grenada with 20-millimeter rounds from its AC-130 gunships, in salvos which, if Vietnam is anything to go by, produced large numbers of civilian casualties. Simultaneously, artillery salvos were leveling such institutions as the mental hospital, as Paul McIsaac in this paper and others have described. The New York Post was decent enough to call this one of the "misfortunes" of war. So it was, but one can imagine what the Post would have said if some force other than the Americans had been responsible? The "accident" would speedily have become a war crime,

By now the Reagan administration had cast aside the student/hostage rationale and was claiming that it had got there "just in time" to prevent the conversion of Grenada into a Communist version of Guantanamo. Once again, before journalists such as Loren Jenkins of the Washington Post actually took a look at the famous warehouses with their venerable guns and the Cubans provided full lists of their people on the island, the networks and papers bought the story.

"American military sources say they were staggered by the depth and strength of the Cuban military presence," ABC's John McWethy reported on Thursday night. He went on to speak of our old friend "sophisticated communications equipment" and "what one intelligence source described as a enormous supply of ammunition and weapons". This all turned out to be lies of course, but by then the damage, or rather the good-if you look at it from the Reagan administration's point of view-had been done.

Very late on Thursday night, too late for the Friday morning headlines, the US ended up isolated in a Security Council vote-a solitude reminiscent of French and British isolation in the wake of Suez. But US media, which could hardly keep out of the Security Council for an instant when it was a matter of condemning the USSR for KAL 007, had far less to say on this occasion.

It's not that there was no decent reporting at all, though television was by and large disgraceful. It's more that the Big Lie techniques of the Reagan administration, now in full and menacing flower after three years growth, overwhelm conventional journalistic techniques with sheer volume of arrogant mendacity. In one of the few really tough pieces, Robert Kaiser pointed this out in the Washington Post Outlook section last Sunday.

"But if the limitations of Reagan and his team are widely accepted by the expert community in Washington, the experts mostly keep still. Reporters who also realize that many officials in this administration are less than wizzes don't know how to put that into print.... Lou Cannon, the Post's White House correspondent, wrote the other day that according to a congressman who heard him discuss the invasion of Grenada, Reagan displayed 'an unusually detailed grasp' of the issues involved. A reader from Mars might have thought that this meant that in absolute terms Reagan had a splendid mastery of the material. But every insider, in Washington knew what Cannon acknowledges was intended-that this time, Reagan knew something about what he was discussing.

"Everybody in this town has known that the emperor has no clothes,' said the same former cabinet member, 'but there has been a polite silence not to say so.' Polite, or foolish? Perhaps, once again, the American people will have cause to complain that the 'establishment' that is supposed to know the most about these things failed to warn its countrymen of the dangers it faced. If the people who know most say nothing, what is the good of having the freedom to speak out?".

« السابقةمتابعة »