Cristina Kirchner has once again repeated Argentina’s erroneous claim to the Falkland Islands.
Really. What is it with Argentina and Spain that they want to claim territory that quite frankly is not theirs?
Unless the forthcoming Falkland Islands referendum proves otherwise, it seems to me that Falkland Islanders are quite happy being British. As are Gibraltarians.
So that should be the end of the story.
Or maybe Britain should say that it wants to recolonise America, Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan, Mauritius, Ceylon, South Africa, New Zealand, half of France, Belize, British East Indies, Malaysia etc etc
In cabinet papers released at the end of 2012, more information has been revealed about the Falklands War.
I do think this silly insistence on calling it a conflict is ridiculous. When one country invades another, people are killed, and a lot of armed forces are deployed, that strikes me as a war. Just because war hasn’t been ‘declared’ doesn’t alter the facts.
Unsurprisingly, our local newspaper, the Gib Chron, includes news from three parts of the world. Gibraltar, the UK, and the Falklands – because of the similarity in our status, ie British overseas territories claimed by a Spanish-speaking country. Because you know, we are nearer to them than we are to the UK.
There is a great comment in this Yahoo answers page about territorial integrity which is the phrase used by aggressive countries who want to expand – and colonise? invade? take over? – the nearest possible place.
The main items in the Chron were about :
1) Supply of arms from various countries to both sides
2) Reagan’s plea to Thatcher to hand over the Falklands to ‘international peacekeepers’ (my quote marks as I have no high opinion of peacekeeping)
3) Thatcher’s fear that Spain would invade Gibraltar
My personal memories of the Falklands War are limited. Although I was working in journalism at the time, our stories were limited to the ‘human interest’ ones. Who was going to sail to the Falklands, and what their families were feeling. Invariably pride that they were serving their country and hope that they would return safely.
I also remember the Gotcha headline. This, for anyone who doesn’t know, was published by The Sun newspaper when the Argentinian ship, the Belgrano, was sunk by British forces.
The sinking was controversial, apart from the huge loss of lives, because the Belgrano was outside the 200 mile exclusion zone (sounds a bit like fishing limits) and allegedly sailing away from the Falklands.
However, reading around, it seems that the British had changed their military rules to ‘attack anything that is a potential threat.’ And, the captain of the Belgrano later said that he was to attack anything that came within firing range. Seems the Belgrano was also preparing to return to the zone for a rendezvous, and not going home at all. A report at the time about the true destination of the Belgrano wasn’t made public by the British government as Thatcher didn’t want to compromise British intelligence.
Kirchner, of course, referred to it as a war crime last year. I ask you. Apparently the Argentinian government was considering taking the UK to the International Court of Justice. I mean that’s a bit rich isn’t it? Invade somewhere and complain when your ship gets sunk?
On the other hand, the Argentinian navy has always regarded the sinking as a legitimate act of war. (Even though we weren’t at war of course).
At least the military was honest about what was going on, even if politicians weren’t – and still aren’t.
I confess to not being pro the war at the time. I saw it as nothing more than Thatcher being desperate to be re-elected, and willing to risk military lives. Now I’m living in Gibraltar with continual claims from Spain to repossess Gibraltar, I have a somewhat different view.
So the release of the three documents I mentioned all look at very different aspects of the war.
1) Apparently Libya, ie Gaddafi, was planning to supply arms to Argentina. I read elsewhere that this was a route used by Russia, to save them getting directly involved.
2) Argentina was using a Brasilian airport as a staging post to receive weapons and then ship them into Argentina. And Reagan suggested sending a joint US/Brasilian peace-keeping mission to the Falklands? Seems not only America, but Brasil (allegedly in favour of the British) were both sitting on the fence, or jumping on and off as convenient.
But what about the American involvement in the war? Again, my memories of that, are that America didn’t help, and was initially sticky about letting ‘planes refuel at the American base on Ascension Island (which just happens to be British, I might add). Reading around however, it seems that America did provide significant help in terms of weapons and political support in the end too.
It’s interesting what a distorted view we have of international events. I didn’t realise how split the Reagan government was regarding the issue, with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick both in favour of a settlement on the side of Argentina. Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger, however, leaned towards Britain.
And yet, even when the British were entering Port Stanley, Reagan asked Thatcher to hand over the Falklands to avoid humiliation for the Argentinians. Uh?
Thatcher was having none of it. The United Kingdom, she said, could not contemplate a ceasefire without Argentinian withdrawal. According to the official No 10 note, she told him: “Britain had not lost precious lives in battle and sent an enormous task force to hand over the Queen’s islands to a contact group. “As Britain had had to go into the islands alone, with no outside help, she could not now let the invader gain from his aggression. The prime minister asked the president to put himself in her position. “She had lost valuable British ships and invaluable British lives. She was sure that the president would act in the same way if Alaska had been similarly threatened.”
Got to say, Good one there, Maggie.
And the British ambassador in Washington at the time, Sir Nicholas Henderson, had this to say:
“For a long time Britain has been identified with decline in the American press and in the mind’s eye of many people here – a deterioration not just in industrial output but in national will, in the essential dash and doggedness that were regarded by Americans as a hallmark of the British character,” he wrote. “Well, the Falklands have corrected that.”
3) Perhaps the most interesting document from my perspective is the concept of Spain invading Gibraltar as a result of the Falklands war.
Margaret Thatcher feared a Spanish military assault on Gibraltar in the wake of the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, previously secret papers have revealed.
Three days after Argentina’s ruling military junta seized the British dependency in the South Atlantic; the Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher called for an “urgent assessment” of Britain’s ability to defend Gibraltar, prompted in part by the “jubilant reaction” to the invasion in the Spanish press.
“Are we READY should such an invasion occur?” In secret evidence to the Franks inquiry into the Falklands crisis in October 1982, which has been declassified today, Mrs Thatcher admitted that the threat to Gibraltar had left her living “on a knife edge”.
And at the same time, negotiations were ongoing to lift the border closure imposed by Spain.
Despite a delay, caused by the Falklands crisis, the land border with Spain was opened to pedestrians on 15 December, 1982.
After Franco died November 20 1975 Spain worked towards democratic government and Britain tried to encourage the opening of the border by offering discussions on Gibraltar issues, including allowing sovereignty to be raised, through the Lisbon Agreement in 1980. When Spain joined NATO in 1981 it aspired to have use of military facilities on the Rock, but the 1982 Argentinean invasion of the Falklands saw negotiations suspended.
Can’t say I’m too happy about the raising of the sovereignty issue. Why defend the Falklands and allow sovereignty discussions about Gib? Politics, politics.
Browsing around, I also found out about Operation Algeciras. An Argentinian plot to blow up a Royal Navy ship in Gibraltar, the theory being that if the UK was having problems in Europe they wouldn’t send so many ships down to the Falklands. Simple enough operation. Divers leave Algeciras, attach mines to ship in Gib and swim back before detonation.
The operation failed, fortunately, and the Argentinian agents were arrested by Spanish police, and discretely flown back to Argentina without charges or trial to avoid any international repercussions.
But onto a totally different topic. Gibraltar celebrates Three Kings with a parade – cabalgata – on the evening of 5 January.
This is clearly a Spanish custom, which is ironic, as the UK certainly never did anything like that in the 40 years I lived there.
Traditionally in Spain, children would get their gifts on the eve of Three Kings, rather than Christmas Eve. Now of course, they get presents on both nights. We have a similar parade in my Spanish pueblo, where they use real horses, but in Gib the animals are fake and mounted on floats. Having said that, it is a spectacular parade. It starts in Casemates, and finishes a couple of minutes away from my house at the southern end of Main Street, giving me chance to go back and take extra pix when the floats grind to a halt.
This float was a well-deserved first prize winner with a Brasilian theme and lots of samba music. What a great effort.
My Christmas cards (all nine of them) are now down, and the festive season is truly over. But it’s nice to mark the culmination with a parade, with lots of happy people and a good-natured atmosphere. So more pix on the slideshow.