Surrender

Ever wondered what a surrender looks like? The image below is the document signed by the man in charge of Argentine forces in the Falkland Islands, thirty years ago today. It’s a fairly bland and insignificant looking piece of paper. I’m sure it was painful to sign. A flourish of ink signalling the end of a dream. It also meant that the hundreds of Argentines killed in the conflict died in vain. Not that he had any choice other than to sign it. His poorly trained, equipped and supported conscripts may have held numerical superiority, but they had been routed at every turn by a professional army.

They had probably been a little demotivated by what they had found on the Islands too. I know from speaking to Argentines, that they have been mislead, to put it politely, by successive governments. They still are. And many of them still believe the lies they are told. That the Islanders want to either be independent or to be Argentine. And that they most certainly don’t want to be British. The soldiers would have discovered the truth as soon as they marched into Port Stanley.

Cristina de Kerschner might have a good point when she referred to David Cameron as being ‘mediocre, bordering on stupid’. Or words to that effect. But it’s definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black. As little respect as I have for Cameron, and it really is little, I’d pick him in an instant over dear Cristina in an election. She seems hell bent on keeping the Falklands as a British territory for an extra generation or two. I’m sure she’s aware that that is how her actions will play out. Mediocre and and bordering on stupid might be paying her a compliment. One might also ask what sort of moral authority is held by a descendant of  German/Spanish immigrants, who wiped out 99% of the native inhabitants of Argentina, when it comes to criticising colonial history.

I have met others around the world, particularly from the US, who also look disapprovingly at this relic of Empire. I have often wondered just how many of them have stopped long enough to ponder that their part of North America has actually been a part of the US for less time than the Falkland Islands have been British? That their ancestors have been on those lands for less time than the ancestors of the Falklands Islands have been on theirs. And that their lands were taken by force at the cost of thousands of lives, whilst the Falklands have only ever really had one significant settlement – the current one. Have they given much thought to handing back huge chunks of the US of A to Mexico and to the ‘native’ populations? Probably not.

This will probably be my last post on the Falklands, for a while anyway. This is the last major anniversary of the conflict for a while. As you may have guessed, I strongly support the inhabitants of the islands to be allowed the final say on their governance. But more significantly, the Falklands have played an important part of my life. I was ten years old during the war. It was then that I began to learn about Britain’s place in the world and our relationship with different nations. It was that conflict that brought the British Empire into my classroom at school as a hot topic.

It also shaped how subsequent British governments saw our future in the world, and how they funded and utilised our military forces up to the present day. It also reinforced and reinvigorated the authority of a prime minister who, in 1982, was weakened and potentially on her way out. It allowed her to force through massive political and economic changes. It’s fair to say that the Falklands War has had a huge but often over looked or under appreciated impact on our lives up to this very day.

4 thoughts on “Surrender

  1. I was a bit older when the Falkland war broke out. But I never had any doubt about my sympathies. I was a bit disappointed when my government tried to play the neutrality card — when we all knew certain agencies were feeding fresh intelligence to your task force. As they should have.

    I understand a plebiscite is in the offing. Not that Argentina cares. Democracy is still simply a tool for the widow Kirchner and her lot.

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    1. From what I’ve read, the US govt was pretty split. There were some pretty senior voices arguing in Argentina’s favour. But when it came to it, we did get US support. The French gave us support too, giving advice on Exocets. But then, they helped Argentina in other areas….

      British governments had been generally open to negotiating sovereignty until 1982. Which would have been a disgrace – handing over a population to a bunch of homicidal despots would not have been very ‘British’. The invasion ensured it didn’t happen, and wouldn’t happen for generations.

      Kirschner is setting back any hope of Argentine sovereignty further. There will be a vote next year, as you say. And the Falkland Islanders will vote to stay British, that’s for sure. The sooner Argentina realises that they are the guys they need to win around, and not UN members or Latin American countries, the better.

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  2. The Generals needed a whipping boy at the time to get the peoples’ minds off how bad they were running things, so they started a war. You could say the Kerschner government is playing the same card.
    As to Americans backing Argentina: some of us are still pissed-off over the Brits burning Washington in 1812…

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    1. I’d say Kirschner is doing exactly the same thing.

      As for 1812….you guys started it 🙂

      I visited New York in the summer of 2003, when there was a huge power blackout across the east coast? Anyone remember it? The next day I did the Staten Island Ferry trip with an Aussie girl staying at my hostel. We got chatting to a university prof, who ended up giving us a walking tour up the length of Manhattan as far as Harlem. He pointed out so much history that we’d never have otherwise noticed or understood, starting with forts along the docks. He introduced me to the 1812 war. He explained how there was an incredible paranoia in the US that the Brits would come back one day, and how these forts were built solely for that event. The paranoia built itself into such a fervour, that the US took pre-emptive action, invading Canda. The Brits, it turned out, didn’t actually have plans to invade. But we ended up burning Washington, and others.

      So many other wars start the same way. No one ever learns.

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