International Writers Magazine:The Writer
2nd, 2007 will mark the 25th anniversary of the invasion of the
Falkland Islands by the Argentine armed forces that led, eventually
to the infamous Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina.
Half way through the first decade of the XXI century, this obscure
and almost forgotten war will hardly be remembered.
The bellicose actions
over the past 25 years, from Kosovo to Rwanda, from Dafur to Lebanon,
from Iraq to Palestine whereby millions of people have died, will dull
the minds of most of todays generations on the events in the South
Atlantic in 1982. But those of us who were directly or indirectly involved
at the time still vividly remember the 4 months or so of purgatory suffered
by two nations that had been friends for years, suddenly embarking on
a military rampage that could only be described as ridiculous and bizarre.
But then arent all wars the same?
The Falkland Islands history is brief and uneventful. Far from
the rich and bustling accounts from most other parts of the world, this
forgotten piece of land only came into the limelight because of the
constant claim by Argentina as forming part of their territory. To a
certain extent, they are right. The constant struggle by Britain to
maintain the argument that the right and will of the people (the
local inhabitants) to decide their future, is paramount in the
British governments decisions of sovereignty versus those territorial
claims due to historical rights by a neighbouring country (the example
of Spains claim over Gibraltar is identical) is at the heart of
the matter in many disputes around the world in which the remnants of
British colonial territories are at stake. But the original Falkland
islanders were British implants anyway! The historical events that lead
to this eternal impasse between Argentina and Britain were quite daft!
The islands were first discovered by a Captain John Strong in 1690 who
stumbled upon them as he travelled back from Chile en route to the Cape.
Many others from France, Britain and Spain continued to visit them until
finally an agreement was reached known as the infamous Treaty of Utrecht,
signed in 1713 that gave Spain control over the islands as part of their
colonies of the South American continent. Nobody however bothered to
settle there, that is until a French nobleman; Antoine de Bougainville
claimed the islands in the name of Louis XV. What happened over the
next few decades is more like a script out of a Gilbert & Sullivan
opera. Although theoretically Spanish, the British sent a gun-boat
captained by John Byron to evict the French and build a fort. The Spaniards
reacted waving their treaty at both governments. It took another two
years before they did something about it by sending in the troops
and kicking the Brits out. Yet they came to a ridiculous agreement that
allowed the Brits to return and use the fort they had originally built.
This weird co-habitation lasted for three years. An agreement was finally
signed in 1790 whereby Britain renounced all colonial ambitions in South
America, including the Falkland Islands. Spain remained in possession
until Argentina and other South American nations were granted independence.
Thus, by 1820 the Falkland Islands were theoretically Argentine and
the government sent a frigate to take possession of their new born sovereign
territory. By 1823 Puerto Soledad the capital, as Port Stanley was named
received its first Argentine governor, Don Luis Vernet. All wouldve
been dandy had he not made one mistake. In 1929 he imposed fishing rights
around the islands and arrested an American vessel, the Harriet for
poaching and slaughtering a bunch of seals. Fortuitously the Americans
were brought into the act.
Enter the Pirates of Penzance and their joint captains.
Woodbine Parrish, the British consul in Buenos Aires seized on the opportunity
and in connivance with his American colleague immediately sent the USS
Lexington that was in the vicinity to sort the matter out. Not only
did the seaborne 7th Cavalry lead by Captain Silas Duncan free the seal
poachers. He blew up the Argentine settlement, arrested the inhabitants
and more or less left the islands up for grabs for whoever wished to
claim them. Back in London the British Admiralty, true off the mark
sent two warships, the Tyne and the Clio under Captain James Onslow
to take and hold the islands for Britain. Up until the invasion
in 1982, the islands had remained British.
Thus is the brief but significant history of how the whole conflict
I was in Washington D.C. when Port Stanley was invaded. I remember quite
vividly the headlines and articles in the Post that spoke
of nothing else as Margaret Thatcher began to rally her troops to send
them off to the rescue. At first, it all appeared as one big joke. The
Americans were taking it quite light-heartedly whilst Alexander Hague,
the then US Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan flew backwards and
forwards between Buenos Aires and London and tried desperately to reach
a settlement. As an Anglo-Argentine, I felt quite differently. Why
the hell is this all happening? How is it going to affect my family?
My son was around 19 at the time and studying in Spain. Had he been
in Argentina he was of the ripe old age to do military service and would
undoubtedly have been called up to fight the Brits. What was even more
frightening was my cousins situation. One was an officer in the
Argentine army and the other, about my age was in Washington with a
son who was an officer in the US Navy. The USA eventually sided with
Britain in the war by giving the Royal Navy all the Argentine naval
movements captured by satellite and other secret information. Two brothers
Another frightening thought was the hundreds of thousands of Anglos
out in Argentina. Maggie Thatcher had sent a warning out to the British
Embassy in Buenos Aires that all British citizens should, for their
own safety leave Argentina immediately. But my grandmother is
92 and lived here all her life! said one Anglo to the press, where
the hell is she going to go? The President of the Anglo-Argentine
society pleaded over a radio broadcast to the British people in the
UK to stop the onslaught by the Task Force now under way towards the
South Atlantic and to find another peaceful solution. It was aired over
one of the BBC channels at 08:00 in the morning!
These are the minute details of war that unfortunately affect humanity.
It happened in the USA after the Pearl Harbour attack by Japan in 1942.
Hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans living in the USA were caught
unaware and unable to react. Other humongous wars such as WWII, not
to mention the horrors of civil wars like the Spanish one between 1936
and 1939 whereby brothers and sister were caught slaughtering each other
remain in the anonymous annals of history as politicians and other ignoramuses
continue to indulge in bellicose activities. Why?
What about the rabble rousers, especially the press? Coming back to
the Falklands conflict, whilst all the Latin American press was condemning
Britains actions against the Argentine, the British press lambasted
Argentinas generals with all kinds of headlines such As CARRY
ON ARGIE BASHING or GO FOR BROKE, GUYS! Thousands
of journalists at the time, from all parts of the globe were pouring
gallons of ink dissecting the conflict. Hell, man! It all boils down
to the same. War is war. Its brutal, its stupid and there
should be no reason for it. Happy New Year 2007! and what
have we got to offer? More of the same old crap all over the globe.
Ive written a historical novel about Argentina and the internal
political conflicts that lead to the Falklands War. Its called
The Goa File and should be
on sale through www.cyberwit.net
just before Christmas. It has taken me 5 years to piece the story together
and during my research I began to realise how stupid as well as vicious
unscrupulous human beings can be when they are in power. Throughout
history, villains and heroes have walked side by side but the end result
has always been the same: conflict! The historical facts in my novel
should, I hope highlight this issue as do so many other novels, plays
and films whereby good is confronted with evil and the fight begins.
Unfortunately, in true life, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish
between who is right and who is wrong.
© James Skinner. December 2006.
You can soon buy James Book here The Goa File
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