Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

14 June 2007

Should Britain Be Proud Of the Falklands War?

Today is the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the Falklands Islands (or Malvinas, as the Argentineans call them) from military occupation by Argentina. It’s the kind of day when one should refrain from political point scoring; rather, it’s a day for reflection and sorrow at the loss of so many young lives.

This morning, there has been a remembrance service at the Falklands War memorial church somewhere in Berkshire, England. This was attended by the Queen and Prince Philip, by the now Baroness Thatcher (the British prime minister at the time of the war, of course), and by Tony and Cherie Blair.

In order to truly do justice to the memory of those who lost their lives, an effort has to be made to understand the reasons and purpose of the conflict. Clearly, those who lost loved-ones wish to be proud of them, and so they should be: there is every honour in having the courage to risk and lose one’s life for the sake of a cause that one believes to be noble.

But on these occasions, there is a tendency for speakers to overstate the righteousness of the British cause in question. The preacher at this morning’s service, for instance, made the almost obligatory comparisons between those soldiers’ ‘sacrifice’ and that of Christ on the cross. But Christ did not carry weapons, nor did he go to war against the Roman occupiers of his homeland. That would have made him more like the Jewish Messiah that people were expecting at the time.

Lady Thatcher, in a speech to the islanders broadcast on radio yesterday, praised the way British soldiers have always been prepared to pay the ultimate price in the fight against ‘evil’, and stated that the current generation of British boys engaged in perhaps even more complex and dangerous struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan could take inspiration from the actions and victory of their predecessors in the Falklands – a victory over which, she asserted, everyone in Britain had rejoiced.

But can the Argentineans in the Falklands War be unambiguously identified with ‘evil’ in this way? Conflict is rarely that simple, and there is often a balance of right and wrong on both sides. The Argentinean soldiers in the Falklands War were mostly ill-trained conscripts: young lads who’d been whipped up since early childhood into patriotic indignation at the supposed ‘occupation’ by the British of territory that was ‘rightfully Argentinean’, and were effectively sent in by an incompetent military junta seeking to divert attention from troubles at home – lambs to the slaughter, indeed, against the professional British Army.

Historically and legally, Argentina probably has a reasonably valid claim to the islands, which were in fact taken by force by the British in 1833. However, clearly, the islands’ inhabitants are all of British descent and nationality, and wish to remain so; and trying to resolve the issue by force in their turn was obviously not a smart or justifiable move on the Argentineans’ part. It was almost inevitable that the British would send in a rescue force across the seas; that same Britain in whose heart still resonates the refrain:

‘Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves,

Britons never never never shall be slaves!’

But does that make it a just war? It’s hard to argue against it, especially on a day like this. But, also especially on a day like this, we should remember all those Argentinean mothers whose boys were gunned down by the British in a war for which their leaders had ill equipped them. Or those lads who were on the Belgrano: the Argentinean ship that was heading out of the British-imposed ‘exclusion zone’ around the islands when it was sunk on Margaret Thatcher’s orders.

Heroic things and evil things are done in war in the name of justice. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell them apart. So we should pray for all responsible: the Argentinean conscripts and the British professional warriors; the military dictators in Argentina and the Thatcher government, both of which made political capital out of the conflict. Christ died for them all.

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13 Comments »

  1. The islanders are British citizens and they are entitled to the protection of the British state, so yes we were right to liberate the Falkland Islands.

    As for the Belgrano it was a ship of war of an Enemy, and ships of war do not travel in straight lines, just because at the moment it was sunk it was travelling away, does not mean it was not heading towards some where where it could be a danger

    Comment by revinkevin — 18 June 2007 @ 6.58 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t entirely disagree with you: our political leaders do indeed have the duty to defend British citizens whose liberties and lives are under threat. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have taken the same decision had I been in Margaret Thatcher’s position. However, I do reproach her for the apparent patriotic relish with which she saw through the Falklands War; and for the massive political advantage she made sure she gained from it. It was what got her re-elected in 1983, after all.

    Comment by britologywatch — 19 June 2007 @ 12.28 pm | Reply

  3. Argentina has no coherent and legitimate claim to the islands. Just because they are nearer to Argentina than they are to Britain has no bearing on this matter. The Islanders are nearly of 100% British descent. Basically, they are OUR PEOPLE and Mrs Thatcher was right to send our armed forces to liberate them from foreign rule. However, saying that, Argentina probably wouldn’t have invaded them if Mrs Thatcher’s Foreign Office hadn’t proposed a disgraceful ‘lease-back’ agreement in 1981 along with huge cuts to the Royal Navy. This no doubt communicated an indifference to the islands on the part of the British government and made the Junta decide it would be worth the risk to invade them.

    Comment by Barry — 16 December 2007 @ 6.14 am | Reply

  4. Well, I am not one who can speak without some bias, since I was a Royal Marine and fought there, and saw some mates lay down their lives, for really each other! So I am proud of the sweat, blood and even tears! Semper Fi as the American Marines have it!

    Comment by irishanglican — 12 April 2008 @ 12.35 am | Reply

  5. I ´m Basque and I was a teenager during that war. My father was a strong anglophile and we together watch by tv all the operations and Spanish Goverment ´s anti-english propaganda. I think was something glorius to see the oldest democracy in the world destroying the hopes of a military dictatorship. God Save England!

    Comment by betiengland — 23 July 2008 @ 9.46 am | Reply

  6. Mrs Thatcher, as well as Galtieri (Leader of the Militar Junta in Argentina) was also going through a difficult stage in her polical carreer because of her lack of popularity caused by her administration which devasted the working class. She was said to be the worst prime minister the UK ever had since during her administration, more factories were closed than those that were destroyed in WW2.
    At that very moment, she neeeded something to improve her popularity; the opportunity to have a war was perfect to divert the public opinion in Britain, save her political carreer and ,of course, be reelected.

    In April 2, Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands, a fact which was seen as an invasion by the UK and deployed the british Task Force to ‘solve the issue’

    It had been one month since the argentine invasion/occupation on the Falklands and there weren’t any british death, the argentine occupation remained as a Conflict until May 2, when the Belgrano was sunk by the nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror outside the Exclusion Zone without the existence of a formal Declaration of War – not even an unilateral Declaration of War in the UK- causing the death of 316 argentinians, a fact which leaded to a controversy in later years allowing the relatives of those who were murdered in the Belgrano to fill a lawsuit against Mrs Thatcher in the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that she commited a murdering since killing people without a declaration of war is not legal (the case has been rejected only because it was submitted too late in relation to the event, otherwise, Mrs Thatcher was going to be liable to be tried).

    According to Thatcher, the sinking of the Belgrano was meant to protect her soldiers (“our boys”) and to make Argentina step back.

    The sinking did nothing but escalate the conflict to an unavoidable war and triger the Argentine Air Force to strike back sinking 7 british ships causing many british deaths a fact which refutes her statements in a TV Program where she faces Diana Gould, Mrs Thatcher states:

    – “That ship was a danger to our boys”
    (When it was actually sailing away)

    – “The job of a prime minister is to protect the life of our boys, our ships, our navy and that’s exactly what I did”

    What is even more curious is the fact that the Peruvian Peace Proposals were sent 14 hours before the sinking of the Belgrano and that the Conqueror, according to the documents leaked by Cive Ponting, had been shadowing the Belgrano a day earlier than officialy reported.
    Clive Ponting was later arrested for revealing classified information.

    I am sure that the sinking was not meant what it was said to be by the british polititians and that it was used as something to ensure this war destroying the possibilities of a peaceful agreement by sacrifying british lives by exposing them knowingly to be attacked by the argentine air force in response to an attack.

    In addition, the Royal Navy refuses to release the secret documents regarding the sinking.

    In my opinion, there is nothing to be proud of…

    Sources:

    1) Royal Navy refuses to release secret documents regarding the sinking of the Belgrano:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jun/27/freedomofinformation.military

    2) Clive Ponting arrested for revealing Secret Information:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/216868.stm

    3) Legal Suit against Thatcher
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/813118.stm
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1345683/Belgrano-families-to-sue-Britain.html

    4) Interview with Diana Gould: Transcription and Video.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Diana_Gould
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cxe0hZXDR8

    Comment by Sonnyk88 — 28 November 2008 @ 12.50 am | Reply

  7. Sonnyk88

    I would suggest you stop reading the “lack of knowledge” web sites and get the facts about the conflict your command of history is sadly lacking in credibility.

    As I was one of the Brits based on the Island at the time of the invasion the war started that day, if it did’nt then someone was firing at us pretty severely if it was not the argies.
    The Argies had planes following the task force on its journey south which were not fired on by our guys due to diplomatic efforts still going on. The airfield at Stanley was bombed and an Argie submarine attacked at South Georgia, plus many more actions well before the Belgrano was sunk.

    A great number of their guys were conscripts but by no means all, the hand to hand fighting that took place is testemony of that, some of their fighters were from excellent units who did not just surrender beleive me.

    In hind sight its easy to look at what some write as fact but please research a little better and stop reading the ridiculous conspiracy theories into everthing you will get on much better and might actually learn something.

    Comment by Brian — 23 January 2009 @ 5.53 pm | Reply

  8. Only if you have a strong confidence that you have the true it is possible to see how the argentines pilot was fighting with old planes the most modern weapon in the world. This man really belive in Gog. I imagine that a more strong moral position to discuss in international court the Argentina wrights is not present to much in British peopel. And the war happened for this. The Irak and Afganistan war show how the lies is used to conquer a good oil affair, in Malvinas was the same story.

    Comment by Mr Doso — 30 June 2009 @ 12.18 am | Reply

    • Except the Malvinas has been inhabited by British citizens for over a hundred years; and a government has the duty to protect the freedom and safety of its people.

      Comment by David — 30 June 2009 @ 4.45 am | Reply

  9. It absolutely astounds me how many lambs emerge during times of national emergency and like Tam Dalyel and his ilk put their efforts into whining about what the British are doing whilst simultaneously covering their eyes and ears to what are at that time enemy actions. People like this, and I include Diana Gould here, the Geography teacher who certainly was no history teacher (what she would have made of the Bismark or Tirpitz I have no idea other than to wait and see if they became a threat or not…. what a buffoon), are opportunists. They see a short route to infamy by taking the counter argument no matter how idiotic, then convince themselves by their own daft argument that they are actually right.

    It is the height of naval stupidity to think that just because a ship is heading away from a danger zone that like a train on tracks it cant turn around and go back, closing the distance under diversion. People like Gould think that because they are shown a ship on a map, that ships position was and would be perpetually known. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Falklands war was an absolute neccesity. It sent a signal that armed aggression would be met with armed defence and aggression. You cant smack someone around then complain when they hit you back, much harder than you have hit them. It is entirely irrelevant who owns the Islands, what mattered was that Argentina embarked upon an armed conquest of the people who live there. How Argentina, people of Latin descent, can claim ownership of a land a long way from Anglo Saxon Britain in one breath, and ignore the fact that they are a colonial country in themselves, is ludicrous. Argentinians are not autochthonous people, any more than the Falkland Islanders are. I think we should abandon the Islands to the emptiness of their natural state, the same day that every Latin leaves South America, a place they took by force barely a few hundred years ago.

    Any conflict that takes human life is regretable, but to say the war need not have happened is to ignore its many aspects and to treat those who died or were wounded there (on both sides) with disrespect. My respect for the combatants is enormous, my respect for the British Government and M. Thatcher for doing the right thing, contrary to Chamberlains hand wringing and ignorance much earlier in our nations history, is also enormous. My respect for the fascist Junta that spent the lives of its citizens in invading an island for political deflection is nil. Squatters in one house cant claim the house next door even if there are squatters in that one!

    Comment by Mark Kent — 11 January 2010 @ 11.33 am | Reply

  10. The following view focuses on the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church rather than the British:

    Over the years the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina has made apologies of sorts for its role in the “Dirty War,” the designation given to the thousands of Argentines that were tortured and murdered by the military junta that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983.

    In 1982, on the other side of the world, the first ever papal visit to Britain occurred in dramatic circumstances. When the proposed visit was first announced in 1980, no one could have foreseen that the visit would take place in the midst of a war between Britain and Catholic Argentina over some islands in the South Atlantic.

    These events provided the Vatican with an enormous dilemma. It regarded the British trip as a significant step towards bringing the Anglican Communion back into its fold. However if the visit was to proceed it risked undermining the Vatican’s base in Latin America, no small consideration when that continent comprised such a large proportion of the world’s Catholic population.

    The Vatican’s solution was to hastily arrange a papal visit to Argentina to take place almost immediately after the British visit. This required the cooperation of the murderous military junta then headed by General Galtieri.

    Readers may be interested in a recently published article on this episode of church history. The article contains two photos from the Argentine papal visit which are of particular interest. Both feature Pope John Paul II and the head of the military junta, General Galtieri. One photo shows the Pope nursing Galtieri’s granddaughter while seated on a couch between the General and Mrs Galtieri. The other photo records Galtieri kneeling before the Pope as the pope leans over to embrace and kiss him –

    http://www.wallsofjericho.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=68

    These days the history of institutions that lay claim to moral leadership tends to be scrutinised closely to see if their past conduct supports their claim. So far as the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church goes, their conduct in relation to the Argentine military junta 1976-83 warrants such scrutiny.

    Comment by T Crosthwaite — 21 October 2010 @ 9.03 am | Reply

  11. I must say that the misconception that the Argentineans were ill-equipped conscripts is an unfortunate one. The units were actually often better equipped than their British counterparts, as the stock piles of arms in Stanley proved, when the British forces marched in. Secondly while there were some badly trained units fighting on the Argentinean side, the majority were effective and well trained units, who had the misfortune to come up against the special (SAS/SBS) and pseudo-special (Royal Marines, The Paratroop Regiment, The Gurkhas etc) forces of the UK.

    Comment by M Kuhnke — 23 March 2011 @ 4.06 pm | Reply

  12. I have a Petition to Expose the Truth of Thatchers role in the BAE/Saudi deal. She is still kicking and shoud answere some Questons, http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41746.html

    Comment by keith wicks — 29 March 2011 @ 2.34 pm | Reply


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