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Arrow Right US Invasion of Grenada-Reagan's Apology to PM Thatcher Revealed

'If I Were There, Margaret, I’d Throw My Hat in the Door Before I Came In':
-How Ronald Reagan Charmed Furious Margaret Thatcher after US Invasion of Grenada


  • Tapes have been revealed 18 years after Freedom of Information request
  • Reagan called Thatcher one day after U.S. troops landed on the island
  • Britain had opposed the invasion and told Washington not to intervene
  • Another tape reveals Reagan once kept Syria's president waiting for 13 minutes while he finished riding his horse
Daily Mail UK, 10 November 2014





True romance: Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The U.S. President made a grovelling apology to Thatcher over the invasion of Grenada



Ronald Reagan tried to charm a furious Margaret Thatcher after the U.S. invaded a British Commonwealth country, newly declassified recordings have revealed.


Mrs Thatcher was left livid after the U.S. marched into the Caribbean island of Grenada in October 1983 to overthrow a Communist government.

Embarrassingly, the invasion came a day after then foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe announced to the House of Commons that he had no knowledge of any possible U.S. intervention.

So when Reagan called Thatcher on October 26, 1983, one day after U.S. boots had landed on the tiny island, he had a lot of making up to do with his closest ally.

'If I were there, Margaret, I’d throw my hat in the door before I came in,' says the U.S. president, referring to the Wild West custom of a visitor unsure how he'd be welcomed.

'There’s no need to do that,' replies Thatcher politely.

'We regret very much the embarrassment that’s been caused you,' begins Reagan, before explaining how a security leak had led to concerns plans for the invasion might fall into the wrong hands.
'We were greatly concerned, because of a problem here — and not at your end at all — but here. We’ve had a nagging problem of a loose source, a leak, here.'

The tape was among five recordings of conversations between Reagan and different world leaders unearthed by author William Doyle after a Freedom of Information request. Providing an insight into Reagan's varied relationships with his counterparts of the time, the tapes are the first White House Situation Room telephone conversations ever to be released. It is unclear whether or not Thatcher, or the other leaders featured, knew that they were being taped.

Sounding anxious, Reagan explains to Thatcher how his officials hadn't even been able to give their Caribbean allies 'a firm answer' over the invasion because of the fears word could get out.

'When word came of your concerns — by the time I got it — the zero hour had passed, and our forces were on their way. And of course the time difference made it later in the day when you learned of it.
'For us over here it was only 5:30 in the morning when they finally landed and at last we could talk plainly. But I want you to know it was no feeling on our part of lack of confidence at your end. It’s at our end.'

The invasion of Grenada, the U.S. military's first major operation since the end of the Vietnam War, began at 5am on October 25, 1983.
Nearly U.S. 8,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines were deployed in what was called Operation Urgent Fury, alongside 300 or so soldiers from nearby Caribbean countries.
They quickly squashed resistance from about 1,500 Grenadian soldiers and 700 Cubans.




American soldiers in Grenada during the invasion: Nearly U.S. 8,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines were deployed in what was called Operation Urgent Fury, alongside 300 or so soldiers from Caribbean countries


U.S. forces sustained 19 killed and 116 wounded; Cuban forces sustained 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 combatants captured. Grenadian forces casualties were 45 killed and 358 wounded; at least 24 civilians were killed, 18 of whom were killed in the accidental bombing of a Grenadian mental hospital.


The action was strongly condemned by the United Nations and the Commonwealth, which Grenada asked for help following the invasion.



Thatcher had sent a message to Reagan just after midnight on the day U.S. troops rolled in. Most of it remains classified, but part has been released.

It reads: 'This action will be seen as intervention by a Western country in the internal affairs of a small independent nation, however unattractive its regime.
'I ask you to consider this in the context of our wider East/West relations and of the fact that we will be having in the next few days to present to our Parliament and people the siting of Cruise missiles in this country.

Scroll down for transcript

'I must ask you to think most carefully about these points. I cannot conceal that I am deeply disturbed by your latest communication.
'You asked for my advice. I have set it out and hope that even at this late stage you will take it into account before events are irrevocable.'

Talking to that message in his subsequent call to Thatcher, Reagan says:

'When word came of your concerns — by the time I got it — the zero hour had passed, and our forces were on their way.
'And of course the time difference made it later in the day when you learned of it. For us over here it was only 5:30 in the morning when they finally landed and at last we could talk plainly.
'But I want you to know it was no feeling on our part of lack of confidence at your end. It’s at our end.'

The Thatcher recording is one of a number which have been revealed by the author William Doyle, who was finally given access to them 18 years after he filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Speaking about Reagan's conversation with the British PM, Doyle said:

'It is a remarkable, secret presidential call, as Reagan is in the middle of a major presidential crisis, thousands of US troops are in motion into combat and he is talking without a script.'







Riding: The recordings also include a conversation with Syrian president Hafez al-Assad (right), the father of Syria’s current dictator, Bashar, in 1985 whom he kept waiting for 13 minutes to finish a leisurely horse ride at his ranch in California



They were first published in the New York Post, which quoted Doyle as saying Reagan recorded many, but not all, his phonecalls with foreign leaders through the Situation Room switchboard.

The recordings also include a conversation with Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syria’s current dictator, Bashar, in 1985 who he kept waiting for 13 minutes to finish a leisurely horse ride at his ranch in California.
The recording begins with a White House official asking Mr Assad to wait by the telephone until Reagan was ready to speak to him. Mr Assad's translator, however, does not extend Reagan's exact excuse for being late, telling him only that the US president was 'on a farm'.

When Reagan finally picks up the phone, he congratulates al-Assad on his recent election win which, Doyle notes, was ironic given Syria was a one-party dictatorship and police state with rigged elections.

Reagan goes on to try and pressure al-Assad to use his influence in the region to end the Lebanon hostage crisis.

Another tape hears Reagan attempting to convince Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin to delay pulling out Israeli troops from Lebanon in 1983 until Lebanese forces could replace them.
Another hears him discussing the release of western hostages in the Middle East with Pakistani president Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.


Quote:
A TRANSCRIPT OF REAGAN'S CONVERSATION WITH THATCHER

Reagan: If I were there, Margaret, I’d throw my hat in the door before I came in.
Thatcher: There’s no need to do that.

Reagan: We regret very much the embarrassment that’s been caused you, and I would like to tell you what the story is from our end out here. I was awakened at 3 in the morning, supposedly on a golfing vacation down in Georgia. And was there with the secretary of state [George Shultz], so we met in pajamas out in the living room of our suite because of this urgent plea from the Organization of East Caribbean States pleading with us to support them in this thing in Grenada.

We immediately got a group going back here in Washington, which we shortly joined, on planning and so forth. It was literally a matter of hours. We were greatly concerned, because of a problem here — and not at your end at all — but here. We’ve had a nagging problem of a loose source, a leak, here. At the same time we had immediate surveillance — as well as we could without their knowing it was happening — on Cuba to make sure that we could get ahead of them if they were moving and indeed, they were making some tentative moves. They sent some kind of command personnel into the island there.

Incidentally, let me tell you that we were being so careful here that we didn’t even give a firm answer to the Caribbean States. We told them that we were planning, but we were so afraid of this source and what it would do; it could almost abort a mission, with the lives that could have endangered.

When word came of your concerns — by the time I got it — the zero hour had passed, and our forces were on their way. And of course the time difference made it later in the day when you learned of it. For us over here it was only 5:30 in the morning when they finally landed and at last we could talk plainly. But I want you to know it was no feeling on our part of lack of confidence at your end. It’s at our end.

And so, I guess it’s the first thing we have done since I’ve been president in which the secret was actually kept until it happened. But our military and the planning only had — I really have to call it a matter of hours — to put this together. I think they did a magnificent job. Your governor general [Sir Paul Scoon] there, we have him safe, and his wife. That was one of our primary goals was to immediately sequester him for his safety. So he is safe in our hands down there.

Thatcher: I know about sensitivity, because of the Falklands. That’s why I would not speak for very long even on the secret telephone to you. Because even that can be broken. I’m very much aware of sensitivities. The action is underway now and we just hope it will be successful.
...
Reagan: I tell ya, those people on those other islands, they’re pretty remarkable. We’ve had here, when I made the announcement to the press here, that OK they’re on shore and D-Day has happened. And I had with me, Prime Minister Charles.

Thatcher: I know her. She’s a wonderful person.

Reagan: She certainly is. She’s captured our city by storm. She’s right up on the Hill meeting with some of our Congress right now. And then, Adams, from Barbados, we are getting him up here. We’ve got both of them on some of our television shows so they can talk to the people. We are getting him on, we’ve had her on. He’s a remarkable man also.

Thatcher: He’s a very remarkable man. He is a very cultured man and very wise. He’s been in politics a long time.

Reagan: Yes. You know she doesn’t have an army. She did away with an army completely. She has a police force. She told me that her constables in her police force were coming in from out in the country and asking her if they couldn’t go with the forces over there.

Thatcher: They wanted to help.

Reagan: They all feel — and dating from the days when they were under the Crown — she used the expression: kith and kin. I don’t know if that’s one of our expressions or one of yours.

Thatcher: It’s one of ours.

Reagan: Well, we still use it here. We still have the heritage. She used that several times to describe their feelings. They have no feeling of the people on the other islands being foreigners. They still think of themselves as all one group. We want to put them out ahead in helping with the restoration of a government, so there will be no taint of big old Uncle Sam trying to impose a government on them.

Thatcher: There is a lot of work to do yet, Ron.

Reagan: Oh, yes.
...
Thatcher: I must return to this debate in the House. It is a bit tricky.

Reagan: All right. Go get ’em. Eat ’em alive.
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