Christopher Hitchens on Ronald Reagan, War, the Media and Freedom of the Press (1983)
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Published on May 13, 2013
American peacekeeping forces in Beirut, a part of a multinational force during the Lebanese Civil War who had been earlier deployed by Reagan, were attacked on October 23, 1983. The Beirut barracks bombing resulted in the deaths of 241 American servicemen and the wounding of more than 60 others by a suicide truck bomber. Reagan sent a White House team to the site four days later, led by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush. Reagan called the attack "despicable", pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon, and planned to target the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, training ground for Hezbollah fighters, but the mission was later aborted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. In April 1984, as his keynote address to the 20,000 attendees of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's "Baptist Fundamentalism '84" convention in Washington, D.C., he read a first hand account of the bombing, written by Navy Chaplain (Rabbi) Arnold Resnicoff, who had been asked to write the report by Bush and his team. Osama bin Laden would later cite Reagan's withdrawal of forces as a sign of American weakness.
On October 25, 1983, only two days later, Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade Grenada, code named Operation Urgent Fury, where a 1979 coup d'état had established an independent non-aligned Marxist-Leninist government. A formal appeal from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) led to the intervention of U.S. forces; President Reagan also cited an allegedly regional threat posed by a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean and concern for the safety of several hundred American medical students at St. George's University as adequate reasons to invade. Operation Urgent Fury was the first major military operation conducted by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War, several days of fighting commenced, resulting in a U.S. victory, with 19 American fatalities and 116 wounded American soldiers. In mid-December, after a new government was appointed by the Governor-General, U.S. forces withdrew.
The Invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, was a 1983 United States-led invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation with a population of about 91,000 located 100 miles (160 km) north of Venezuela, that resulted in a U.S. victory within a matter of weeks. Triggered by a bloody military coup which had ousted a four-year revolutionary government, the invasion resulted in a restoration of constitutional government. It was controversial due to charges of American imperialism, Cold War politics, the involvement of Cuba, the unstable state of the Grenadian government, the illegality under international law and Grenada's status as a Commonwealth realm. Media outside the U.S. covered the invasion in a negative outlook despite the OAS request for intervention (on the request of the U.S. government), Soviet and Cuban presence on the island and the holding of American medical students at the True Blue Medical Facility.
Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. The leftist New Jewel Movement seized power in a coup in 1979 suspending the constitution. After a 1983 internal power struggle ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, the invasion began early on 25 October 1983, just two days and several hours after the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, early Oct. 23 Beirut time, late evening Oct. 22 U.S. Eastern time.
The U.S. Army's Rapid Deployment Force (1st, 2nd Ranger Battalions and 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers), U.S. Marines, U.S. Army Delta Force and U.S. Navy SEALs and other combined forces consisted of the 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica, and members of the Regional Security System (RSS) defeated Grenadian resistance after a low-altitude airborne assault by the 75th Rangers on Point Salines Airport on the southern end of the island while a Marine helicopter and amphibious landing occurred on the northern end at Pearl's Airfield shortly afterward. The military government of Hudson Austin was deposed and replaced by a government appointed by Governor-General Paul Scoon until elections were held in 1984.
While the invasion enjoyed broad public support in the United States, and received support from some sectors in Grenada from local groups who viewed the post-coup regime as illegitimate, it was criticized by the United Kingdom, Canada and the United Nations General Assembly, which condemned it as "a flagrant violation of international law".
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