The following investigative analysis was derived from countless hours of ‘reverse engineering’ purposefully vague historical references hidden in the dark corners of Cold War historical materials.—Iassen
What if I told you that in the mid-1980s, President Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. Army and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to lead and plan a full-scale military invasion against the smallest sovereign South American nation, Suriname? Hard to believe this was something most of us have never even heard about. And don’t be embarrassed, I also had to Google where the country was.
President Reagan was prepared to send good men to fight and die for their country over aluminum production. More specifically, bauxite—the ore that alumina is extracted from. The catalyst of this almost-conflict was a company known as ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America), a Manhattan-based global aluminum producer with a long and colorful history of hostile takeovers, third-world exploitation, illegal monopolization, and later, a company dissolution demanded by the U.S. Justice Department.
Suriname was a Dutch colony until it gained its independence in 1975. And in late 2010, it was revealed in a surprise announcement that the Netherlands was going to play a large part in the invasion by sending 850 Dutch Marines and 16 helicopters to support the United States. For the Dutch, their last major combat engagement was in the late 1940s during the Indonesian National Revolution, where over 3,000 Dutch soldiers lost their lives.
The Dutch’s participation was primarily motivated by the need to evacuate their own nationals from the country and the goal of arresting then-army chief, now-President, Desi Bouterse. The Dutch would simply be piggy-backing on our already-planned invasion. The training and planning process alone came with a $1 billion price tag.
The composition of the invasion force:
- U.S. Army Delta Force, ~150 soldiers
- U.S. Army 1st Ranger Battalion, ~600 soldiers
- USMC Amphibious Brigade, ~3,000-5,000 Marines
- Dutch Royal Marines, ~850 Marines & 16 Helicopters
- U.S. Navy & Air Force fighters and bombers
As for the United States, our motivation was driven by ALCOA’s greed. In the mid-1980s, the government of Suriname under President Ramdat Misier decided to implement a tax against foreign corporations such as ALCOA, specifically its Suriname-based subsidiary, SURALCO. The company, which had enjoyed tax-free resource exploitation since the 1920s, was outraged and took its concerns and lobbying efforts to the U.S. government, where they were met with sympathy. Thus began the planning of a U.S.-led military invasion to rid Suriname of President Misier and Army Chief Bouterse.
The invasion force was most likely to launch from nearby Antilles and Curacao. American Marines would secure the capital city of Paramaribo to include all major roadways, while JSOC forces and the Rangers would take on the responsibility of securing SURALCO’s bauxite mines and plants while simultaneously hunting down key Suriname government and military leadership. The Dutch Royal Marines were given the task of conducting an air assault against Zanderij International Airport, while Dutch special operations forces would arrest Bouterse. As a former Dutch colony, it was important to have a Dutch face and not an American one on this operation, even though the U.S. would be doing most of the heavy lifting.
In the end, it was the CIA who prevailed, and an invasion was averted. Through direct financial support, the CIA empowered Ronnie Brunswijk to start a revolt against Desi Bouterse. Ronnie formed the Surinamese Liberation Army (aka Jungle Commandos) and thus kicked off the Suriname Guerrilla War. One of their main tenets was being pro-foreign corporations. After two years of fighting, both sides reached an agreement, resulting in President Misier stepping down and the newly elected Ramsewak Shankar taking his place. Shankar immediately repealed any tax laws that targeted foreign corporations or didn’t fit Dutch interests. ALCOA was happy, the United States was happy, and the Dutch were happy.
The guerrilla war would last until 1992. Not many years later, the bauxite mines would all but run dry.
Note: This wouldn’t be the first time that President Reagan entertained a military intervention in Suriname. The first instance was in 1983 when Suriname was on the verge of becoming the next Cuba of South America. But due to incredible diplomacy by his administration, Suriname entered into a strong partnership with Brazil and the West, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You can read about it further here.