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Falklands 30 Year Anniversary: I Detest Thatcher But The War Was Justified

by Howard Turner
2 April 2012 29 Comments

On the 30th Anniversary of the conflict and with Thatcher and The Falklands in the news again, it’s time to explode the myth that the 1982 Falklands War was fought to bolster Thatcher’s popularity.

Margaret Thatcher will die soon and when she does, one of the tired old clichés that will be trotted out by all that dislike her (of which I am one) will be that in 1982 she somehow engineered and fought an avoidable war in the South Atlantic to boost her electability and support at home. I see it written down so often, it’s almost become left-wing gospel; it is however, ridiculous fantasy. The fact is that despite our tenuous sovereignty claims on those islands, the Thatcher Government had little choice in 1982 other than go to war or face abject humiliation and the subjugation of British citizens to an aggressive, invading force. The 1982 conflict over the Islands was the most justifiable war fought by this nation since World War Two, eclipsing in validity anything she, Blair, Brown and Cameron have since done in Africa, The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

One by-product of the war was, unfortunately for many (including my friends and family) Thatcher’s re-election. However, this must be balanced against the greater good. The huge bonus of the war’s outcome included the toppling of the repulsive military Junta of Galteiri and the eventual freedom of the people of that noble country from the tyranny of dark oppression. Not forgetting of course, the freeing of British Citizens, the Falkland Islanders, from living under that same regime.

The fact is that despite our tenuous sovereignty claims on those islands, the Thatcher Government had little choice in 1982 other than go to war or face abject humiliation and the subjugation of British citizens to an aggressive, invading force

It was also a bloody nose for the US, who were uncomfortably forced to choose sides over this conflict, compromising forever their creepy special relationships with other suspect South American regimes.  The undying support of the US Government, the laughable UK/US “Special Relationship” was a myth in this conflict.  It’s certainly true that the US Government got behind the UK the minute the tide was turning (around the time of Goose Green) but before they knew which way the wind was blowing, at best they hedged their bets.

The Galteiri Junta was a favourite of the Reagan administration of the time, the US Neocons describing him in 1981 as a “Majestic General” presumably because his Death Squads would help covertly block any form of democratically elected government that did not suit the US political agenda in South America (like the socialist government inconveniently elected in Chile).

During the rule of this “Majestic General” anyone who fitted the bill as a “subversive” loosely including Union Members, Left Wingers, Students, Intellectuals and Journalists simply “disappeared”.  The most terrible totalitarian regimes often make their people disappear.  For example, anyone who threatened the security of the Nazi regime was subject to Nacht Und Nebel (night and fog) where people were also “disappeared”, this being  psychologically much more effective as a warning to others than simply throwing them in prison:

“Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals do not know the fate of the criminal”

Karl-Heinz Keitel, Sturmbannführer Waffen-SS, Memo To Hitler

She took the gamble of sending troops 12,000 miles, against unbelievable odds, to fight and win this war because she had no choice

Giving the Argentinean victims the name “the disappeared “or as they are referred to in Argentina “los desparecidos” somehow dilutes what happened to them and almost cheapens their fate.  The reality is that most were horrifically tortured, then murdered. Between 1976 and 1983 it is estimated that up to 30,000 people were subjected to this fate by the Military Junta. These were people like you and I.

The lucky ones might be heavily drugged and flown high out over the South Atlantic, where they were thrown alive into the Ocean thousands of feet below.  The unlucky ones might find themselves in the torture centre of the Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics:

“Many governments employ torture but this was the first time that the element of Saturnalia and pornography in the process had been made so clear to me. If you care to imagine what any inadequate or cruel man might do, given unlimited power over a woman, then anything that you can bring yourself to suspect was what became routine in ESMA, the Navy Mechanics School that became the headquarters of the business. I talked to Dr. Emilio Mignone, a distinguished physician whose daughter Monica had disappeared into the precincts of that hellish place. What do you find to say to a doctor and a humanitarian who has been gutted by the image of a starving rat being introduced to his daughter’s genitalia”?
Christopher HitchensHitch-22

This is the reality of a regime that the people of the Falkland Islands woke up to one morning in May 1982.  The idea that we could stand by and let this assault happen and later explore diplomatic channels is ridiculous.  You do not start negotiations by machine gunning the Governor’s house and making a terrified tiny population of farmers live under a curfew.

Hate Thatcher for anything you like (there is not exactly a shortage of things here), but saying she fought the Falklands War of 1982 to bolster her popularity or chance of re-election, no matter how much it may have helped, is just lazy and inaccurate. She took the gamble of sending troops 12,000 miles, against unbelievable odds, to fight and win this war because she had no choice. And like Hitchens, Galloway and a whole host of many improbable others, I’m glad she did.

The Best Way To Deal With Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy Is To Destroy It

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

JLF 9:17 am, 17-Mar-2012

Good article, but if the removal of a cruel regime is a valid reason for war, where do you stop? Furthermore, what's the difference with Saddam/Iraq?

cloris leachman 10:05 am, 17-Mar-2012

Prior to the 1982 Falklands War there had been extensive dialogue between the UK and the Junta to SELL back the Malvinas to Argintina! So Howard whilst I agree this conflict seemed unavoidable in 1982 it really could have been but of course if it had been settled quietly without flag waving jingoism wouldn't have had quite the same benefit for unpopular Thatcher Gov now would it! Not quite sure how news of this deal would have squared with the outrage felt by the 30 Falkland Islanders and their 30,000 sheep, who surely have more in common with their South American neighbours, maybe nobody told them. It is a nonsense to cling to the last vestige of Empire some 6,000 miles from the UK or perhaps not now that OIL has entered the picture we can sabre rattle some more and send a royal to patrol this now vital far flung British outpost.

Jack 11:20 am, 17-Mar-2012

Disagree with your comments re: the united states' role in the conflict. Documentary evidence suggests that while they pursued no active role there was extensive sharing of military info from the off

Kev C 12:51 pm, 17-Mar-2012

Just one word BELGRANO,a war ship sailing AWAY from the area and thatcher gave orders to sink it!!! What would Britain have said if the Argentinians had done the same. And Argintina hardly in the Premiership of world armys!!!

potter Ant 1:15 pm, 17-Mar-2012

I was there landed on blue beach 21st may little gunfire ... it is a shit-hole. Not worth the life of one person!

Ferdinand 1:56 pm, 17-Mar-2012

You never talk about the bloody terrorist than killed kids, put bombs in school, kill torture an kidnapping person before de junta get the power ;) I forget UK was one of the mayor weapons suppliers to this killer junta

mark 3:34 pm, 17-Mar-2012

I'm sure thatcher was quite happy to allow the military junta to torture innocent Argentineans, after all some of her best friends were dictators.I don't believe the way the Argentiean population were treated had any bearing on the decision to re-take the falkands -or was the timing just co-incidence?

Harry Futile 8:26 pm, 17-Mar-2012

Good point by Jack. The US was ostensibly neutral and sought dialogue to resolve the dispute, but Ronnie had an AWAC up there from the off. Also, satellite surveillance - vital for the SAS mainland raid that knocked out most of the Argentinian Air Force. Would George Bush Snr (ex CIA head) have done the same?

angsta 9:15 pm, 17-Mar-2012

3 words, general Augusto Pinochet. 3 other words, you are a fucking prick. Sorry that's 5.

Howard 9:49 pm, 17-Mar-2012

Apologies for the delay in responding. Initially US involvement flaky and fragmented at best, Casper Weinberger was the person eventually responsible for ensuring we got the intel. Many others very much more concerned about the relationship with Latin America. Al Haig tried a compromise, to halt the ships mid-atlantic but it was not a deal that could happen. Special Relationship my arse. A very reluctant help. Kev C -Documents released under 30 year rule indicate Belgrano was not moving away. JLF/Mark - Thatcher didn’t give a fuck about the torture and did not invade as a “human rights” issue or as a reason for war. She went to war as reaction to part of the UK being invaded. I totally agree and clearly she loved other dictators eg Pinochet. Angsta, I am a prick and I am glad you can count. Pinochet didn’t put his tanks on our lawn. You have missed the point.

Harry Paterson 10:42 pm, 17-Mar-2012

Three things about this stagger me: 1. The initial premise, which is revisionism of the most derisory character. 2. Slag the Yanks all you like and, believe me, I'll be right there with you BUT they handed Thatch a diplomatic solution on a plate. She spurned it. She wanted war. Now then, class; can anyone guess why that might have been? 3.But this is the clincher, "She took the gamble of sending troops 12,000 miles, against unbelievable odds" Mate, are you even real??? A tin-pot army of mostly poorly-trained, under-armed, terrified teenage conscripts against one of the most professional Armies in the modern world??? Gamble??? Feck, I'd take those odds all day long and twice on Sundays. Get a grip!

Mrs Martin 3:27 am, 18-Mar-2012

Perhaps the Spanish should leave South America?

Howard 7:50 am, 18-Mar-2012

Harry, I disagree with all 3 points, especially 2, & 3 but thanks for your opinion. Point 2 has volumes written about it, but try "The Difficult Relationship" by Richard Aldous to start. Point 3 is an insult to everyone who fought in the conflict who far from coming against a rag tag army came across some of the best fighter pilots in the world, together with a well dug in army that included highly trained special forces as well as conscripts. Ask anyone who was on Longdon, Wireless Ridge, Goose Green how easy it was - Britain could have lost it very easily.

Howard 8:09 am, 18-Mar-2012

Nb I am not denying the US did get fully 100% behind the UK as the conflict progressed, however there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Harry Paterson 10:25 am, 18-Mar-2012

Howard, not come across 'The Difficult Relationship' before. I'll most certainly seek it out and give it a go. Cheers for the steer.And who knows? I might even be, gasp, shock, horror, wrong! *shudder* ;-)

Howard 2:27 pm, 18-Mar-2012

Harry, I've spent 25 years arguing with mates the above case for war (not sovereignty) over the Falklands and it is very uncomfortable for me. That said, I stand 100% by my argument whilst totally respecting yours.

Harry Paterson 6:35 pm, 18-Mar-2012

Howard; for which you have my respect, mate. Like any half-decent writer, I'd like to think I very definitely let the facts get in the way of my prejudices so if I'm wrong in this instance, I'll be saying so. I'll admit, it's been years since I read/researched the matter extensively so if there is new info (30-year release of classified docs etc), then I'll be doing some reading up soonish. One thing that *did* lend your argument an unusual credibility was your position as a self-confessed Thatch hater. Certainly makes your position harder to sneeringly dismiss by raving, frothing commies like yours truly ;-) While I'm still to be convinced, a thought-provoking piece nevertheless and credibly argued.

Howard 6:58 pm, 18-Mar-2012

Father ex miner/steelworker. Easy. Hitchens & Galloway made me understand I was not alone in my stance on the Falklands. I am simultaneously despised by the "Gotcha" crowd for whom she could do no wrong and the other side for whom she could do no right.

Keir 9:11 pm, 18-Mar-2012

All those who would criticise the content of this article would have been of tremendous service here in Munich back in 1938 as the Czechs were sold out to a regime that had shown its true colours. Those same fascists are actually advocating that Britain sells out her own because she is being threatened by a country using the same logic that would have Vancouver island handed out to the US, Guernsey to France, Ireland back to the UK, NZ to Oz etc etc etc. That England, that was wont to conquer others....

Potter any 11:32 am, 19-Mar-2012

... britain sells out her own? We let hong kong go! Would give northern Ireland back but the south do not want it! Thatcher was a cunt. As for America not backing us. U.s. soldiers were on the ground in the Falklands. It was a conflict we could not lose as we had nukes on a sub just off the main land and if it got bad they would have been used. It was a self obsessed un-popular P.M. Who thought little of anyone but herself that sent a force to die not for the county but for herself, kelp, fishing rights and oil wealth.

Potter any 11:39 am, 19-Mar-2012

Also this was not a war! War was never declared .

Howard 12:16 pm, 19-Mar-2012

Hong Kong was agreed to be let go in the 1800s. We honoured the deal. You are right about two US soldiers being allegedly on the ground in the Falklands (Mt Longdon, to be precise), but they were not on our side! No PM would have used Nukes, that was never going to happen. "When the fleet set sail it seemed impossible that the Argentinians could win, after it was over, it was difficult to see how they could have lost. They had two months to prepare their defences, and at the start they outnumbered their attackers 3-1, a direct inversion of the conventional military odds for success." John Witherow/Patrick Bishop Sunday Times. War or Conflict, it matters not, it was justified, sorry.

Andy 12:20 pm, 19-Mar-2012

The best article I've read on sabotage Time reference the Falklands. You managed to get Harry Patterson to think - well done.

Harry Paterson 10:39 am, 22-Mar-2012

Shame it didn't make you think as well, though, Andy. Instead, uncritical, predictable, knee-jerk support for the right-wing's totem from a far-right dogmatist.

Pete 8:45 pm, 21-Apr-2012

Quite an interesting article but not factually correct. I was actually in the war on HMS Plymouth, Thatcher was warned months prior to the invasion but took no action, a similar build up happened under Jim Callaghan in I think 1974, he sent a couple of extra ships and a sub South and that was the end of that. The Americans did help us supplying us with sidewinder missiles and yes the Argentines were gutted as they thought that the US would help them, instead the had the help of our friends The French who sent advisors to the Argentine mainland advising them how to use and set up their Exocet Missiles. In the end we were very lucky and pulled it off, we couldnt with todays fleet. In 1982 we sent some 20 Naval ships down to the South Atlantic, we now have something like 18 left in the whole Royal Navy!!!

Howard 9:04 am, 22-Apr-2012

Pete - I've said all I want to say on the Yanks and backed it up quoting with new evidence and sources, I think I am factually correct but we could go on forever. Incidentally, the yanks were so much our friends in this period that one year later they invaded a British Protectorate (Grenada) without telling us! When asked why he didn't inform his best mate Thatcher, Reagan said "I thought she might say no". It would appear that the French wanted to Hunt with The Hounds and run with The Fox on this one - up until a month ago I thought they were blameless but again new evidence backs up what I thought was a myth and their engineers hung around. In 1979 or 1980 arch hypocrite Nicholas Ridley went to the Falklands to persuade them to live under the Junta, they told him to Fuck Off (literally by all accounts). He said "very well but we won't be sending gunboats if it all goes wrong". It did go wrong, we did send gunboats and it sounds like you were on one. Respect to you for playing your part in history.

Howard 8:51 am, 28-Dec-2012

Today's headline: US wanted to warn Argentina about South Georgia.

Mel 5:17 pm, 3-Apr-2013

You seemed to have overlook the fact that the with British Nationality Act 1981, a resident of the Falkland Islands was classed as a British Dependent Territories citizen unless he or she also had a connection with the United Kingdom itself (such as through having a UK-born parent or grandparent). British Dependent Territories citizens were restricted in their right to enter and stay in the UK. This together with the plans to decommission HMS Endurance, the navy’s only Antarctic patrol vessel. These moves may have lead the Argentinian Junta to believe the UK had little interest in keeping the Falklands. The Falkland Islanders where clearly of no great importance at the time just another cost to be slashed , and of course Maggie & Co couldn't 'face abject humiliation and the subjugation of British citizens to an aggressive, invading force' even if her government had given sufficient signals that they were not so interested in the Falklands any longer.

Stephen 6:41 am, 16-Aug-2013

I visited the Falklands in 85, as radio operator on a sub. as I understood the yanks did help with communication links during the conflict. But, although i agree Britain had to respond to invasion, i am confused why we didnt drop one non nuclear bomb of small explosive power into Buenos Aires, with the threat of stronger ordnance if the Argentinians didnt withdraw. It seems to me all parts of the forces were given a peice of the `tally ho`action, and a way to test and report on ships, systems etc.

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