1983: Invasion of Grenada

Joe Biden supported the deadly U.S. invasion of the tiny Caribbean island based on dubious intelligence and helped the CIA win backing from other senators.

Blindfolded members of the People's Revolutionary Army captured by U.S. troops during the multinational Operation Urgent Fury stand huddled together. Grenada, 1983. | Location: Grenada. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Suspected members of the People’s Revolutionary Army captured by U.S. troops during the multinational “Operation Urgent Fury” stand blindfolded and huddled together in Grenada in 1983. Photo: Corbis via Getty Images

On October 25, 1983, President Ronald Reagan authorized a secret invasion of the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada. The U.S. had consistently claimed that leftist President Maurice Bishop’s construction — with Cuban assistance — of a new airport on the island would assist the Soviet Union in placing attack aircraft capable of bombing the U.S. in the Caribbean and had agitated for Bishop’s removal. Within days of Bishop being deposed and ultimately killed, U.S. troops descended on the country. Reagan’s justification boiled down to a claim that the invasion prevented Cuba and the Soviet Union from taking control of another country in the Western Hemisphere. Some 19 U.S. military personnel were killed in the invasion, as were 25 Cuban nationals and more than 60 Grenadians. In one Navy airstrike early on in the invasion, the U.S. bombed a civilian hospital, killing at least 12 people and possibly as many as 47. The U.N. Security Council condemned the invasion as “a flagrant violation of international law” by a vote of 11-1, with the U.S. vetoing the measure.

In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, Joe Biden emerged as one of the Reagan administration’s strongest defenders among Democrats. After receiving a classified briefing from William Casey, Reagan’s CIA director, Biden said, “I’ve now seen facts sufficient to put me in a position of saying I think the president was right” to invade Grenada. On Day Three of the invasion, Biden voted in favor of invoking the War Powers Act to limit the timeframe that U.S. forces could remain in combat in Grenada without further congressional authorizations.

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