03/25/06 — Good grief! Some Dominicans grousing over aid

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Good grief! Some Dominicans grousing over aid

The Associated Press recently reported that activists in the Dominican Republic were protesting the presence there of “large numbers” of American troops.

Demonstrators had marched in Santo Domingo — the Dominican capital — chanting “Yankees out!” Some contended the troops there might be a forerunner of the establishment of a U.S. military base there.

Actually, the troops were there as guests of the Dominican government in connection with “Operation New Horizons,” a joint project in which American troops were providing humanitarian aid and training programs.

U.S. troops will be building four clinics to serve the poorer regions before departing later this spring.

Perhaps the protesters need to be reminded that this isn’t the first time U.S. troops have shown up to help the Dominican people.

Some 40 years ago, a rebel group tried to take over the country. President Lyndon Johnson dispatched American land, sea and air forces to prevent the resurgent takeover.

It was a North Carolina show. The air power was provided by the 19th “Suitcase” Air Force from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Land troops were provided by the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg and the 2nd Marine Division from Cherry Point.

The 82nd moved in from the north while the Marines came ashore from the south. They linked up, forming a two-block wide corridor dividing the country and putting an end to the revolt.

President Johnson had moved not only expeditiously but with sufficient force to do the job.

His concern was that within a few days, the Dominican Republican could become another communist outpost in the Caribbean.

We were reminded that while the world had been trying to figure out whether Fidel Castro might be a communist — Cuba was! And has been ever since.

Had the U.S. not moved when it did and with the strength it applied, the Dominican Republic could well be a communist nation today. Then, of course, there would be no public demonstrations. But thousands of its citizens likely would be dead, in prison or seeking exile in other countries.

(Editor’s note: Gene Price covered the Dominican Republic revolution on the ground with the 82nd Airborne and later with the 2nd Division Marines.)

Published in Editorials on March 25, 2006 11:30 PM