Monday, April 24, 2023

Guest Post: NATO invasion of Dominica - October 1982

This post courtesy of Sea Lion Press.

The small and poor island of Dominica in the Caribbean had lunged from crisis to crisis since independence in 1978. Its initial prime minister was the incompetent and brutal Patrick John of the Dominica Labour Party, who in his first year oversaw civil service strikes, loss of banana crops due to the banana board's failure to provide antiviral sprays, and a bitter fight with a gang of Rastafari criminals known as the Dreads who grew marijuana in remote farms and raided nearby towns and plantations for food, money, and young girls they kidnapped and whose attacks on tourists had reduced tourism. John had four years earlier passed the the Prohibited and Unlawful Societies and Associations Act, better known as the Dread Act, which made it illegal to be a Rastafari, to have dreadlocks, or to support the political philosophy of the Dreads, who had openly talked about burning down Dominica's towns. More than that, anyone who was covered by this law could be arrested without cause and, if killed or injured by anyone within a dwelling, the person who assaulted them was immune from prosecution. Essentially, John had made it legal to kill anyone with Dreadlocks, despite committees he appointed to look into this confirming that the vast majority of Rastafari on the island were peaceful activists with the violent criminals being a small minority.

He had also created a full-time professional army called the Dominica Defense Force, which John was personally in charge of and which was de facto a militia of men loyal to Patrick John as a person rather than the government he represented. In May 1979, John banned public gatherings, protests, and strikes altogether, a desperate attempt to silence his critics. It didn't work. Huge crowds gathered outside the Government Headquarters, and, when the DDF came to move them on, they threw rocks at them. The DDF then opened fire, wounding several protestors and killing Phillip Timothy, a nineteen-year-old. This led to the collapse of John's government due to outrage and, at the next election, Eugenia Charles of the Freedom Party became Prime Minister.

Charles's government would not last long. In May 1981, the DDF, whose leaders were publicly suspended due to accusations of drug dealing, launched a surprise attack against the Dominican police force in an attempt to overthrow Charles's government. The police had the better of the early fight, but the DDF had unexpected reinforcements from a band of American and Canadian mercenaries led by Mike Perdue and recruited primarily from racist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. While the mercenaries were poorly trained and suffered large casualties, with the likes of Don Black dying early, they were well armed and added extra bodies to the fight. Soon, the DDF were able to accept the surrender of Charles and her government, with them leaving the island at gunpoint to go into exile. Charles would ask for support from Ronald Reagan to overthrow the regime, support that was initially hesitant as the USA came to grips with what exactly the second John government would look like.

However, things had not gone all the way of the DDF. Their plan had also involved an alliance with the Dreads, but the Dreads had double-crossed them and, forewarned about the battle, had attacked both sides, further reducing the number of armed men available to John. Thus when the socialist firebrand Rosie Douglas retreated to the northern town of Portsmouth and declared a shadow government there, John couldn't immediately attack him. Moreover, John quickly fell out with his mercenary allies who treated him with contempt and demanded large amounts of money and for him to let them run the island as a criminal's paradise, a center for cannabis and cocaine production and trafficking, to meet the increasing demand in American cities as well as a hub of the arms trade and a gambling center where dirty money could be spent in casinos, something that John felt would lose him his allies on the island who viewed him as a tough on crime leader.

The island quickly spiraled into chaos with Perdue, Douglas, and John vying for control and the Dreads thriving in this chaos. The increase in crime also burdened John's remaining international reputation, especially when he allowed the Barbadian arms dealer Sidney Burnett-Alleyne to use the island as a depot to sell to Apartheid South Africa, which was condemned by Fran├žois Mitterrand, who had Dominica surrounded by two French islands. While the Reagan administration had hoped to come to a deal with John and wanted any intervention to be against the Communist rulers of nearby Grenada, the possibility of Libyan-backed Douglas gaining control scared them enough that they soon openly supported a restoration of the rightwing Eugenia Charles. In October of 1982 NATO forces invaded the island to restore order.

Note: In real life, the plan to restore John was discovered and stopped prior to it being carried out.

Provine's Addendum

Vice President George H.W. Bush had already been hoping to expand the CIA and U.S. military in the growing international drug war, but seeing all of NATO step in promoted ideas of stronger, Western-capitalism-driven involvement. Through international anti-drug treaties, the U.S. and allies could find open doors into just about any third world country to step in militarily to crack down on drug operations. While many supporters praised successful operations, critics accused it of being a new wave of colonialism or simply a waste of taxpayer money and soldiers' lives. Efforts at home to dry up demand for drugs such as the DARE program proved largely ineffectual. By the time of the Obama administration, it was evident that a change was needed leading to the legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of harder drugs, instead focusing on addiction treatment.

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