The Falklands War is remembered today as the last great triumph of a once mighty Britain. The reality is somewhat different, and for once, the extreme left have got it right.
The Socialist Workers Party has little or no credibility with the political establishment, even though it has for years made a comfortable living out of peddling the Nazi menace through various front organisations. The reasons it is not taken seriously are not far to seek, for one thing, this Trotskyite organisation has always had a dearth of actual workers, it was founded and run by the usual intellectuals who have always made up such movements, like Trotsky and indeed Karl Marx himself, but one thing it got bang to rights was the Falklands War. Take for example, this article, written twenty years after the conflict. It has often been said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and this was played out by the leaders of both Argentina and Britain. As Trotsykite Charlie Kimber points out, the British Government didn't give a stuff about what the Argentine dictatorship was doing to its own people, but as soon as it invaded a far flung British colony many Britons had not even heard of, the government of the day began waving the Union Jack, and suddenly it was Rule, Britannia!
In 1982, Britain was still a third rate power rather than the fifth rate one it is today, even so, and allowing for the distance involved, Argentina was absolutely no match for even a third rate Britain. This senseless conflict led to the deaths of 255 British service personnel, and over 800 on the other side, on top of the wounded. Yet the entire debacle could have been avoided.
For one thing, it is clear from this chronology that the Argentine invasion was not something that happened over night, and that there had been discussions between Britain and Argentina for some time. Even the actual invasion was relatively bloodless, with 3 fatalities on the Argentine side. International law was also on our side, General Galtieri and his military junta didn't have a leg to stand on; Britain should have gone to the United Nations, Argentina would have come under intense pressure, and he would have backed down. In March 1981, Galtieri met Ronald Reagan and was given a warm welcome by both the man and his administration; this it should be remembered was when the former Soviet Union was very much the Evil Empire, and Galtieri was a staunch anti-Communist.
Most people listen to their friends, and pressure from Washington would have been effective, probably more so than from the UN. If he had not backed down, Galtieri would have lost popular support and been overthrown. The Reagan Administration did intervene in any case, on the eve of the invasion, but Galtieri ignored the American proposals, and after both a tremendous surge in popular support for his dictatorship and his own 15 minutes of fame on the world stage, he resigned in disgrace on June 17.
As the victor, Margaret Thatcher could expect better, and it would be another eight years before both the country and her own Cabinet would have enough of her. So what was the point of the Falklands War?
It was summed up by a topical joke on the BBC radio comedy programmeThe News Huddlines that went something like this:
I say, I say, I say, what do you get when you cross the Atlantic with a task force?
I don't know, what do you get when you cross the Atlantic with a task force?
In view of ongoing and subsequent developments in Britain, the notion that we went to war in the name of freedom for the Falkland Islanders is a sick joke. All through the 1960s up to the Thatcher era, we saw successive waves of immigration into Britain. Those who objected to it were shouted down as Nazis and later as simply racists, and many were suppressed by law from expressing even moderate opposition.
Then, when America, Britain and the West had an enormous wake up call with 9/11, instead of addressing genuine grievances and dismantling what many especially Moslems regard as an evil empire, we have seen more and more repressive laws and intrusive surveillance directed not only against terrorists but against extremists - which means what? - against hate groups - again which means what? - and police patrolling the streets of Britain armed with automatic weapons, something that would have been unthinkable even in the 1970s.
At this very moment, the Coalition Government is pressing ahead with legislation to spy on all our e-mails and Internet browsing without warrant, again on the pretext of fighting terrorism.
In addition to the destruction of civil liberties, the selling off of the family silver as the mass privatisations of the 1980s onwards has been called, has benefited primarily the better off, and those misnamed speculators known as institutional investors. As Britain and the world sinks into recession, and the taxpayers continue to bail out the banks, we have to ask in what sense is Britain a better place than it would have been if we had not sent a task force to the South Atlantic?
If you were expecting an answer to that question, you will have a long wait.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com