Commentary

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1983 Oct 25 Tu
Thatcher memoirs

Grenada: Thatcher letter to Reagan ("deeply disturbed" at US plans) [memoirs extract]

Document type:commentary
Document kind:Memoirs
Venue:No.10 Downing Street
Source: Downing Street Years (HarperCollins, 1993), p331.
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:MT's original letter remains classified on both sides of the Atlantic.
Importance ranking:Key
Word count:490 words
Themes:Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (USA), Monarchy, Law and order, Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USSR and successor states)

At 7.15 in the evening of Monday 24th October I received a message from President Reagan while I was hosting a reception at Downing Street. The President wrote that he was giving serious consideration to the oeCS request for military action. He asked for my thoughts and advice. I was strongly against intervention and asked that a draft reply be prepared at once on lines which I laid down. I then had to go to a farewell dinner given by Princess Alexandra and her husband, Angus Ogilvy, for the outgoing American Ambassador, J.J. Louis, Jnr. I said to him: "do you know what is happening about Grenada? Something is going on". He knew nothing about it.

I received a telephone call during the dinner to return immediately to No.10 and arrived back at 11.30pm. By then a second message had arrived from the President. In this he stated that he had decided to respond positively to the request for military action. I immediately called a meeting with Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine and the military and we prepared my reply to the President's two messages, which was sent at 12.30am. There was no difficulty in agreeing a common line. My message concluded:

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. 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.

I followed this up 20 minutes later by telephoning President Reagan on the hotline. I told him that I did not wish to speak at any length over the telephone but I did want him to consider very carefully the reply which I had just sent. He undertook to do so but said, "we are already at zero".

At 7.45 that morning a further message arrived, in which the President said that he had weighed very carefully the considerations that I had raised but believed them to be outweighed by other factors. In fact, the US military operation to invade Grenada began early that morning. After some fierce fighting the leaders of the regime were taken prisoner.