Margaret Thatcher: imperialism personified

April 10, 2013

Cops repress 1984 miners’ strike in Britain.
Photo: Alamy

While the ruling class mourns the death of one of their most loyal politicians and mouthpieces, the British and Irish working classes and oppressed peoples the world over are certainly not mourning Margaret Thatcher’s passing. From the streets of Belfast to the streets of Brixton, we are seeing a different response from working-class communities who remember all too well the “festival of reaction” that Thatcher reigned over.

Thatcher’s term as prime minister and Ronald Reagan’s as president symbolized U.S. and British imperialism’s brutal offensive against the working classes of their two countries and increased military aggression abroad. “Thatcherism” and “Reaganism” represented union-busting, greater poverty and an enriched elite.

Thatcher’s track record included the intense suppression of the Irish liberation movement, military invasion in Latin America and a war against the interests of British workers.

Ireland—the oldest colony in the world

Nowhere was Thatcher more hated than in Ireland, meaning that she believed the six northern counties of Ireland were part of the United Kingdom. Ireland was in fact divided by British imperial dictate in 1921, leaving the six northern counties under the jurisdiction of the British crown.

When Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, “the Troubles” had already raged for over 10 years. She continued the repression against the Irish Republican forces. Republicans in Ireland are those who advocate an Irish Republic free from British control.

The “Troubles” refers to the two decades of intense violence that began in 1968 when the oppressed Catholic population in northern Ireland—who began massive civil rights marches to demand the end of systematic repression and discrimination—were brutally attacked by the fascist Royal Ulster Constabulary. Armed resistance arose by the republican forces against the pro-British terrorist paramilitaries.

Thatcher refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Irish resistance, the fighters having been stripped of their political-prisoner status in 1976. She infamously stated: “Crime is crime is crime. It is not political.”

In 1981, the Republican prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest being treated as criminals and not prisoners of war. Thatcher stood by callously as one by one, the beloved Irish revolutionaries died in a series of 10 continuous hunger strikes that popularized Ireland’s struggle across the world.

In retaliation, the Irish Republican Army narrowly missed killing her in 1984, exploding bombs at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton, killing four other Conservative Party delegates and seriously wounding members of Thatcher’s delegation.

In 1988, she introduced a broadcasting ban in the six counties making it illegal to broadcast the views of the political party Sinn Fein “to deny terrorists the oxygen of publicity on which they thrive.”

Despite her best attempts to break the back of Irish resistance, that freedom struggle pushed on with hundreds of thousands of people coming into the streets in support of the hunger strikers. Before his death, Bobby Sands said: “They won’t break me, because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then that we will see the rising of the moon.”

An imperialist abroad, a racist at home

Thatcher oversaw Britain’s role in its war with Argentina over the Malvinas islands, which are situated 8,000 miles away from London in the south Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Argentina. Britain first claimed the islands in 1833 as part of its global empire.

In April 1982, the Argentinian ruling junta under fascist general Jorge Rafael Videla ordered the military to retake the Malvinas in an attempt to distract workers from the dictatorship’s repression and tap into long-standing Argentinian anger at Britain’s claim on the islands. Despite having helped the Argentinian dictatorship come to power, U.S. imperialism sided with its British imperialist ally by providing intelligence and transport help.

Thatcher gave direct orders for the British nuclear-powered submarine called “The Conqueror” to attack an Argentinian naval vessel even though it was outside the area of conflict. In that attack, 323 Argentinian sailors were killed. Britain continues to claim the Malvinas because of their interest in plundering the oil in the region.

The 1980s represented a sharpening of global class war from Nicaragua to Mozambique to Moscow. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan worked hand in hand to carry out a neoliberal agenda and quell liberation movements worldwide.

The 1980s represented a sharpening of global class war from Nicaragua to Mozambique to Moscow. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan worked hand in hand to carry out a neoliberal agenda and quell liberation movements worldwide. Thatcher was a close ally of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile and other infamous fascist dictators. She allowed the U.S. Air Force to bomb Libya from airbases in England. She supported Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev, who would oversee the restoration of capitalism in Russia. She supported apartheid in South Africa even as governments around the world began to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime. She labeled the freedom-fighting African National Congress “terrorists.”

Within Britain, Thatcher’s role was to carry out a vicious ruling-class agenda to dismantle the social safety net and crush the voices of oppressed sectors of British society.

In 1981, a social rebellion swept across Britain sparked by high unemployment and unequal social conditions. The racist police brutality against the Black Caribbean population of Brixton in South London was the spark that led to months of insurrection. When confronted with this pressure from below to address segregation and provide opportunities to youth, Thatcher rejected the idea that social conditions had anything to do with the unrest. In her typical inhumane, cold-blooded fashion she stated: “What absolute nonsense. … No one should condone violence. No one should condone the events. … They were criminal, criminal.”

Thatcher sought to break the power of labor unions—attacking nationalized industry, upholding the “free market” and waging a war against the “welfare state.”

Thatcher presided over the 1984 privatization of the coal mining industry in Great Britain. The denationalization meant that 20 coal pits were shut down resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs. Many families in the north of England, Scotland and Wales lost their primary source of work

On June 18, 1984, near Rothertham, thousands of police brutally attacked striking miners in what was dubbed “The Battle of Orgreave.” Seven miners were killed in the conflict by the police who functioned as the shock troops for capitalist interests.

While Thatcher herself has died, Thatcherism, the legacy of unfettered attacks on workers and their right to live in peace continues. There is still saber rattling against Argentina over the Malvinas. Irish Republicans continue to be targeted for harassment and violence by the British state. Oppressed communities continue to be scapegoated and ruined.

We should not be misled by the Obama White House’s statement: “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” The truth is that the pillagers and looters of the world lost one of theirs. We have no reason to mourn the loss of this loyal servant of our exploiters.

Source

 

Argentine_A-4C_parked_during_Falklands_War_1982.jpeg

Yesterday morning, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed from a stroke at the age of eighty-seven. Many have marked the passing by noting (for good or ill) her leadership during the 1982 Falklands War. Victory in that war helped cement her government, while dealing a deathblow to the military junta that governed Argentina.

Lyle Goldstein, Christopher Yung, and The Diplomat’sJames Holmes have all gone over the many lessons the PLA Navy (PLAN) may have drawn from the Falklands War. Unlike many countries, China is in a position to draw lessons from both the British and the Argentine experiences during the war.  The effectiveness of British naval aviation surely impressed upon the Chinese the need for intrinsic air support for maritime operations, while at the same time providing grist for the need to improve the anti-access system of systems. Submarines had long played an important role in PLAN doctrine, but the destruction of General Belgrano by HMS Conqueror put an exclamation point on the vulnerability of surface ships to undersea attack.  Perhaps more importantly, the sinking deterred the Argentine Navy from any further serious sorties during the conflict. The Argentines were unable to reply in kind due to their small and obsolescent undersea force.

All this said, the war is now more than thirty years past, meaning that many of the operational details can no longer provide useful guidance. Nevertheless, some strategic lessons endure:

States will fight for pointless rocks, especially when they’re not pointless: Unlike many of the rocks currently at dispute in East Asia, the Falklands support a small but enthusiastic population of British citizens.  The Argentines fooled themselves into thinking that, despite this population, the British would not fight.  China, Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines should take care not to make similar disputes in the South and East China Seas.

Mirror imaging is a difficult problem, but do try to figure out the logic of the other side:As John Cassidy has written, “Seemingly the only two people who doubted that Mrs. Thatcher would send a military force to retake the tiny islands in the South Atlantic, whose two-thousand-odd residents were mostly of British descent, were the Argentine dictator and the U.S. Secretary of State, Alexander Haig.” The Argentine junta saw the war as a way out of its domestic problems, without recognizing that Thatcher would, because of her own domestic troubles, have no choice but to fight.

The allies we have aren’t the allies we want: War often involves wishful thinking, and in the case of the Falklands both the Argentines and the British hoped for considerably greater support from the United States than they ended up receiving. Disputants in the South China Sea should take extreme care before embarking on risk behaviors under the assumption that the U.S. Navy has their back.

Negotiations require a divisible good: While mediators tried to push both the Argentines and the British into cease-fire negotiations prior to the sinking of the Belgrano, these efforts foundered on a problem basic to the dispute; Argentina had no incentive to give up the islands prior to the arrival of the Royal Navy task force, and Britain had no incentive to negotiate after its arrival.  The points at which negotiation could prevail did not line up with the moments at which each state could seek an accommodation.

The war could have turned out much differently.  Had Argentine ordnance performed better, Thatcher might have been thrown out of power and the Malvinas might belong to Argentina today. We can hope that, despite the strategic uncertainty associated with island chain control in East Asia, the Falklands will remain the last major maritime conflict for a while longer.

Diana Gould (born 18 April 1926 – 3 December 2011)[1] was a Geography schoolteacher from Cirencester, Gloucestershire who came to public attention in 1983 when she was picked to ask a question to Margaret Thatcher on BBC TV’s Nationwide, hosted by Sue Lawley. She tackled the Prime Minister on the decision to sink the Argentine warship General Belgrano during the Falklands war. Mrs Gould’s badgering greatly annoyed Mrs Thatcher, who “had to bite back her evident anger” (according to Martin Harrison in The British General Election of 1983). After the interview her husband Denis muttered that the BBC was , as he’d always thought, in the hands of ‘a load of pinkos.’ Subsequently both the Belgrano’s captain and secret British intelligence confirmed that the General Belgrano was in fact just manoeuvring prior to a pincer movement. [2][3]

Sourced

  • Gould: Mrs Thatcher, why, when the Belgrano, the Argentinian battleship, was outside the exclusion zone and actually sailing away from the Falklands, why did you give the orders to sink it?
    Thatcher: But it was not sailing away from the Falklands — It was in an area which was a danger to our ships, and to our people on them.
    Lawley: Outside the exclusion zone, though.
    Thatcher: It was in an area which we had warned, at the end of April, we had given warnings that all ships in those areas, if they represented a danger to our ships, were vulnerable. When it was sunk, that ship which we had found, was a danger to our ships. My duty was to look after our troops, our ships, our Navy, and my goodness me, I live with many, many anxious days and nights.
    Gould: But Mrs Thatcher, you started your answer by saying it was not sailing away from the Falklands. It was on a bearing of 280 and it was already west of the Falklands, so I’m sorry, but I cannot see how you can say it was not sailing away from the Falklands.
    Thatcher: When it was sunk ..
    Gould: When it was sunk.
    Thatcher: .. it was a danger to our ships.
    Gould: No, but you have just said at the beginning of your answer that it was not sailing away from the Falklands, and I am asking you to correct that statement.
    Thatcher: But it’s within an area outside the exclusion zone, which I think is what you are saying is sailing away ..
    Gould: No, I am not, Mrs Thatcher.
    Sue Lawley: I think we are not arguing about which way it was facing at the time.
    Gould: Mrs Thatcher, I am saying that it was on a bearing 280, which is a bearing just North of West. It was already west of the Falklands, and therefore nobody with any imagination can put it sailing other than away from the Falklands.
    Thatcher: Mrs – I’m sorry, I forgot your name.
    Lawley: Mrs Gould.
    Thatcher: Mrs Gould, when the orders were given to sink it, when it was sunk, it was in an area which was a danger to our ships. Now, you accept that, do you?
    Gould: No, I don’t.
    Thatcher: I am sorry, it was. You must accept ..
    Gould: No, Mrs Thatcher.
    Thatcher: .. that when we gave the order, when we changed the rules which enabled them to sink the Belgrano, the change of rules had been notified at the end of April. It was all published, that any ships that were are a danger to ours within a certain zone wider than the Falklands were likely to be sunk, and again, I do say to you, my duty, and I am very proud that we put it this way and adhered to it, was to protect the lives of the people in our ships, and the enormous numbers of troops that we had down there waiting for landings. I put that duty first. When the Belgrano was sunk, when the Belgrano was sunk, and I ask you to accept this, she was in a position which was a danger to our Navy.
    Lawley: Let me ask you this, Mrs Gould. What motive are you seeking to attach to Mrs Thatcher and her government in this? Is it inefficiency, lack of communication, or is it a desire for action, a desire for war?
    Gould: It is a desire for action, and a lack of communications because, on giving those orders to sink the Belgrano when it was actually sailing away from our fleet and away from the Falklands, was in effect sabotaging any possibility of any peace plan succeeding, and Mrs Thatcher had 14 hours in which to consider the Peruvian peace plan that was being put forward to her. In which those fourteen hours those orders could have been rescinded.
    Thatcher: One day, all of the facts, in about 30 years time, will be published.
    Gould: That is not good enough, Mrs Thatcher. We need ..
    Thatcher: Would you please let me answer? I lived with the responsibility for a very long time. I answered the question giving the facts, not anyone’s opinions, but the facts. Those Peruvian peace proposals, which were only in outline, did not reach London until after the attack on the Belgrano—that is fact. I am sorry, that is fact, and I am going to finish—did not reach London until after the attack on the Belgrano. Moreover, we went on negotiating for another fortnight after that attack. I think it could only be in Britain that a Prime Minister was accused of sinking an enemy ship that was a danger to our Navy, when my main motive was to protect the boys in our Navy. That was my main motive, and I am very proud of it. One day all the facts will be revealed, and they will indicate as I have said.
    Lawley: Mrs Gould, have you got a new point to make, otherwise I must move on?
    Gould: Just one point. I understood that the Peruvian peace plans, on a Nationwide programme, were discussed on midnight, May 1st. If that outline did not reach London for another fourteen hours, ..
    Lawley: Mrs Thatcher has said that it didn’t.
    Gould: .. I think there must be something very seriously wrong with our communications, and we are living in a nuclear age when we are going to have minutes to make decisions, not hours.
    Thatcher: I have indicated what the facts are, and would you accept that I am in a position to know exactly when they reached London? Exactly when the attack was made. I repeat, the job of the Prime Minister is to protect the lives of our boys, on our ships, and that’s what I did.

Margaret Thatcher’s Part in the Sinking of the General Belgrano

The documents relating to the Falklands War in 1983 have a 30-year blackout until 2013 but mark my words this will be extended. For Margaret Thatcher ‘the Iron Lady” was nothing of the sort and far from being the great patriot she was just another political fifth columnist.
The sinking of the Argentine warship the “General Belgrano“, which was outside the 200-mile exclusion zone and sailing away from the Falklinds when sunk, was an act that Thatcher never lived down.
However, it was not Thatcher’s decision to sink the General Belgrano. For as with all politicians the same dark players were in the background pulling strings to shape what we now know as history.
According to his security file ex French President Georges Pompidou was employed by the Rothchilds from 1953, he later went on to become the head of France in the late sixties but was known first and foremost as a Rothschild man. Similarly Rothschild appointed Margaret Thatcher as British prime Minister, as the Rothschilds wanted a quisling in place to oversee the transfer of large sums invested in Britain for reinvestment to India and the Far East.
Of the 20 positions in Thatcher’s cabinet Jews held the five most important positions, with Lord Victor Rothschild as security advisor.
So serious was this seen in MI6 that a Foreign Office memo was sent to Thatcher saying she must be seen as “even handed and not totally pro Jew”. Lord Victor Rothschild oversaw all domestic and foreign intelligence, and it has been said that it was his decision to sink the General Belgrano and Thatcher simply did as she was told. Remember Rothchild had investments in the mining of minerals in the Falklands region and he was not going to let those investments be shared with Argentina
The British nuclear submarine the Conqueror on May 2 1982 sunk the General Belgrano with the loss of 323 lives, just when Peru was co-hosting a peace initiative between the 2 countries. Thatcher told her cabinet that the Argentine battleship was a danger to British forces, although contemporary intelligence suggests that the sinking was intended to sabotage Peruvian peace plans and prevent the region’s mineral wealth being shared with Argentina.
Also on the advice of Rothschild’s ‘advisors’ Sir Keith Joseph and Milton Friedman, Thatcher began shutting down large sectors of British industry in the name of efficiency. Jobs in coal mining, shipbuilding, motorcar and motorcycle manufacturing, steel and much heavy industry were all brought under threat. While a crippling VAT tax on small businesses forced many to close virtually overnight.
This was called the Open Market economy and it ultimately led to the export of many hard won British jobs as Rothschild reinvested huge sums in industries in the Far East.
Nonetheless, in the Falklands campaign the U.S. refused to loan Britain the early warning AWACS aircraft, which would have saved its ships as telephone intercepts reveal the then ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kilpatrick wanted Britain to negotiate with Argentina in a share of the Falklands. So India and particularly New Zealand took up the slack and forwarded radio signals to their former colonial overlords.
The USA saw both Argentina and Britain as allies and refused to take sides. For her part, Thatcher was said to have been furious with U.S. ambivalence and when she allowed the bombing of Libya to take place from U.S. air bases in Britain it was on the proviso that President Reagan stopped funds collected in the USA from reaching the IRA.
The Americans broke this agreement soon after, in November 1982
So you can bet all freedom of Information requests on the Falklands war will be redacted and vetted before anything is released in 2013 and contain nothing of significance.

No incident in the Falklands War divided opinion so bitterly. Some even called it a war crime. Now a member of the War Cabinet has revealed how Argentine orders intercepted by Chile convinced the British that their enemies’ prize cruiser had to be sunk

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It was the moment which came to define the Falklands conflict, immediately claiming more than 300 lives and setting in chain events which would lead to the invasion of the disputed islands by British troops. Now, as services are held to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the war, a member of Margaret Thatcher’s War Cabinet has revealed details of how intelligence received from the Chilean regime of fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet led to the decision to sink the Argentine warship General Belgrano.

The sinking of the former US warship was controversial because at the time it was outside a British 200-mile Total Exclusion Zone around the Falklands and was steaming away from the UK Task Force. The cruiser went down with the loss of 323 lives – more than half of the total Argentine losses in the war.

In an exclusive interview for a forthcoming book on the history of Britain, Real Britannia, Lord Parkinson discloses that the War Cabinet took the decision after receiving secret intercepts from Chilean intelligence services revealing the orders from the Argentine junta to the warship’s captain, Hector Bonzo.

Lord Parkinson, one of Lady Thatcher’s closest allies, said: “They [Chile] had intercepted the Argentinian command’s instructions… We had been discussing what we would do if we found it [the Belgrano] because we knew the Belgrano was out to sink a carrier. The fact that it was going one way or the other, it was manoeuvring to avoid a torpedo.”

The Independent has learned from defence sources that the Chilean information also showed the staff of Admiral Jorge Anaya, the head of the Argentine Navy, had been directing orders to the Belgrano and a destroyer, the Hipólito Bouchard, to continue engaging in combat while taking all measures necessary to avoid coming under attack. This was interpreted by the British high command as signifying that movement towards her home port by the two ships may well have been acts of subterfuge.

The sinking took place 14 hours after the President of Peru, Fernando Belaúnde, proposed a peace plan which included regional states playing a role. After the sinking, Argentina rejected the plan but the UK indicated its acceptance on 5 May. It is not well known that the British continued to offer ceasefire terms until 1 June.

The War Cabinet took the decision to sink the Belgrano on 2 May 1982, after being briefed at a meeting at Chequers with Mrs Thatcher and Sir Terence Lewin, Admiral of the Fleet. Lewin told the Cabinet that Commander Chris Wreford-Brown, the captain of British nuclear submarine Conqueror, had the Belgrano in his sights and was seeking permission to attack. The ship was part of a small battle group, flanked by two Argentinian destroyers.

The War Cabinet authorised Lewin to proceed. The order was sent through Northwood, the Navy’s command centre in west London, to the Conqueror. Wreford-Brown fired two non-guided torpedoes, which blew off the ship’s bow.

Lord Parkinson said: “We discussed the Belgrano ad nauseam and what it was up to. Then up comes the Captain and says the Belgrano is going into shallower water and I can’t follow it. Something as big as a nuclear submarine in shallow water was easy to hit. You couldn’t allow that risk.”

Pictures taken by survivors of the warship listing to port, before sinking, with orange rafts floating nearby, became one of the lasting images of the war, prompting the Sun headline: “Gotcha!”

Protests about the action were led by Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP, who claimed the sinking had been ordered for political reasons by Lady Thatcher to destroy the last hopes of a peace plan being pursued in Peru by Perez de Cuellar, the Peruvian Secretary General of the UN, and Al Haig, the US Secretary of State.

Lord Parkinson denied this. “It was nothing to do with that. It was unanimous that if we had let the Belgrano go and it had sunk a carrier, we would all have been finished. We would all have had to stand down, if we had presided over the death of hundreds of British sailors and had the chance to avert it.

“What we didn’t realise [was] the Argentinian destroyers took off immediately and they didn’t search for survivors. They thought they would all get sunk… When we finally got the satellite pictures, we had pictures showing all the Argentine fleet in port.”

Lord Parkinson also dispelled one of the myths of the war, that Britain relied heavily on surveillance from US satellites. The system was so slow that the US only supplied the photographs of the Argentine navy back in port the day after the conflict ended.

His disclosure that Britain received vital intelligence reports directly from Chile explains why Lady Thatcher supported General Pinochet when he was arrested in Britain for alleged war crimes, when he later came for treatment in a private London clinic. She said at the time that Britain owed a debt of gratitude to the Chilean leader for helping it win the war.

It became known later that General Pinochet had permitted a secret SAS surveillance team to use a long-range radar facility in Chile to monitor movements by the Argentine air force from its Comodoro Rivadavia air base – but until now, it was not known that Lady Thatcher was also supplied by the Pinochet regime with more vital raw intercept data revealing the orders to the Argentine commanders in action around the Falklands. The Cabinet records, which may confirm these details, are not due to be released under the 30-year secrecy rule until December.

However, it was not Thatcher’s decision to sink the General Belgrano. For as with all politicians the same dark players were in the background pulling strings to shape what we now know as history.
According to his security file ex French President Georges Pompidou was employed by the Rothchilds from 1953, he later went on to become the head of France in the late sixties but was known first and foremost as a Rothschild man. Similarly Rothschild appointed Margaret Thatcher as British prime Minister, as the Rothschilds wanted a quisling in place to oversee the transfer of large sums invested in Britain for reinvestment to India and the Far East.
Of the 20 positions in Thatcher’s cabinet Jews held the five most important positions, with Lord Victor Rothschild as security advisor.
So serious was this seen in MI6 that a Foreign Office memo was sent to Thatcher saying she must be seen as “even handed and not totally pro Jew”. Lord Victor Rothschild oversaw all domestic and foreign intelligence, and it has been said that it was his decision to sink the General Belgrano and Thatcher simply did as she was told. Remember Rothchild had investments in the mining of minerals in the Falklands region and he was not going to let those investments be shared with Argentina
The British nuclear submarine the Conqueror on May 2 1982 sunk the General Belgrano with the loss of 323 lives, just when Peru was co-hosting a peace initiative between the 2 countries. Thatcher told her cabinet that the Argentine battleship was a danger to British forces, although contemporary intelligence suggests that the sinking was intended to sabotage Peruvian peace plans and prevent the region’s mineral wealth being shared with Argentina.
Torpedoed ... the Belgrano sinking during the Falklands War

Torpedoed … the Belgrano sinking during the Falklands War
By VIRGNIIA WHEELER
Published: 27th December 2011

THE Argentine warship the Belgrano WAS heading into the Falkland Islands’ exclusion zone when it was sunk by a Royal Navy sub, a new book reveals.

 

Decision ... Maggie Thatcher

Decision … Maggie Thatcher

The book — based on a top-secret report made a few months after the 1982 war — reveals the Argentinians LIED about the position of the cruiser.

For decades they claimed it had been returning to its home port and was OUTSIDE the 200-mile exclusion zone when it was torpedoed with the loss of 323 lives.

But British Major David Thorp — ordered to compile the report by then-PM Margaret Thatcher — found an intercepted message from the Argentine navy that ordered the Belgrano to head to a grid reference INSIDE the zone.

In his new book The Silent Listener, Major Thorp said: “For some reason they decided on a rendezvous point still in the zone.”

When famously confronted on TV about the sinking by a teacher, Mrs Thatcher said: “One day all the facts will be published.”

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4022429/The-sinking-of-the-Belgrano-We-were-right.html#ixzz2QA7L7XdU

So,who’s territory was?And WHO invaded Whom?

Falklands War: the untold story

Newly released papers reveal a startling lack of unity in Government circles over how to respond

to the 1982 Argentine invasion

22 March 2013

Six months before the invasion of the Falkland Islands, British intelligence looked at the situation and – not for the last time – made a wrong call. “The Argentine government would prefer to pursue their sovereignty claim by peaceful means,” they reported.

That unhelpful advice from the spooks is one of many revelations in the latest batch of Margaret Thatcher’s private papers, released today, which also shed light on the political turmoil that the invasion created among Conservative MPs and the contradictory advice given to Mrs Thatcher – ranging from a demand for blood to be split, to a suggestion that the islanders should be generously bribed to accept Argentinian rule.

 

Top brass were happy to hear that they need not fear a military invasion of the islands, because they worried that they would not be able to get them back by force. “Such a deployment would be very expensive,” a secret memo from the defence chiefs warned in September 1981. “Their geographical advantage and the relative sophistication of their armed forces would put our own task group at a serious disadvantage.”

 

In January 1982, Mrs Thatcher wrote to the Tory MP Richard Needham, defending the decision to scrap the only British warship in the vicinity of the Falklands, HMS Endurance. The government needed to save money.

 

Three months later, with Endurance in the wrong place and the Falklands under Argentine occupation, her government was plunged into what contemporaries saw as the worst overseas crisis since the loss of the Suez Canal.

 

Over the next few days, Mrs Thatcher received three memos from the Chief Whip, Michael Jopling, keeping her informed of how Tory MPs were reacting to the crisis. They ranged from “my constituents want blood”, from the late Peter Mills, MP for Devon West, to “please no blood”, from another MP, David Crouch – whereas the late Robert Rhodes James, a historian turned Tory MP, was apparently “hopelessly defeatist, depressed and disloyal”.

 

Kenneth Clarke, then a junior minister, said he “hopes nobody thinks we are going to fight the Argentinians. We should blow up a few ships, but nothing more.” One of his aides said: “His actual view was that he supported the invasion and very much hoped that there wasn’t going to be a full-scale war with Argentina.”

 

Chris Patten, now chairman of the BBC Trust, promised to “write a supportive article in the press once the situation is clearer”.

 

Later Jopling supplied a breakdown of the various factions forming within the party, from the “no surrender group” headed by Alan Clark, to “the Falkland Islands are not worth all this trouble” and “do not fire a shot in anger” groups, whose leader was the former Cabinet minister Sir Ian Gilmour, and whose members included Stephen Dorrell, now a senior backbench Tory, who was described as “wobbly”.

 

Also among the documents released by the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust are 22 pages of near-illegible notes taken by her parliamentary aide, Ian Gow, during an explosive meeting of backbench MPs the day after the invasion.

 

The members vented their anger at the Foreign Office, particularly the hapless minister Sir Humphrey Atkins, who was accused of giving wrong information to the Commons. He mistakenly told the House that an attack was not imminent, hours after Argentinian troops had taken Port Stanley. “How could even an office boy at the FO say this?” the MP John Carlisle demanded, to “prolonged cheers”.

 

Under attack from fellow MPs and the newspapers, Foreign Secretary Peter Carrington and his two junior ministers promptly resigned. The papers show that Mrs Thatcher did not want to lose Carrington and had to battle to keep her Defence Secretary, John Nott, from resigning as well. One of the ex-ministers, Richard Luce, had a self-justifying session with Gow a few days later, during which he claimed that a former Labour Foreign Secretary, George Brown, had told his Argentinian counterpart that “Britain did not give a damn about the Falkland Islands”.

 

If that was the considered FO’s view in the 1960s, it was not all that different from the privately expressed views of some of Mrs Thatcher’s closest advisers. Alan Walters, her economic adviser, urged her to avoid conflict by getting Argentina to pay compensation to the islanders. “This jingo mood will pass,” he forecast.

 

A lengthy memo from her Chief of Staff, David Wolfson, suggested the islanders be given a “US-backed guarantee” that if they did not like living under Argentine rule, they could at any time take British, Australian or New Zealand citizenship, and receive a resettlement grant equivalent to $100,000 per family, index-linked.

 

Those closest to Mrs Thatcher also wondered how she could ever survive the crisis. Gow wrote to her on 8 April, six days after the invasion, to say that “whatever the future holds” he would always be glad he had the chance to work with her. “It would be sad if Falkland precipitated the downfall of the Thatcher government,” her chief policy adviser, Sir John Hoskyns, wrote on the same day.

 

Ten weeks later, the Falklands had been retaken, and Mrs Thatcher was riding a surge of popular adulation. Congratulations poured in from around the world – although oddly there were none from EU governments.

 

But she did receive – and seemingly appreciated – flowers from the Revolutionary Democratic Front of El Salvador, the political wing of a Cuban-backed guerrilla army fighting to overthrow a US-backed dictatorship. The Argentine junta had been the only South American government to lend troops to help suppress the guerrillas. The message that came with the flowers said: “You have succeeded where we failed. Since the dispatch of the Task Force to the Falkland Islands, 266 Argentine military advisers have been withdrawn from Central America. Thank you.”

 

Hawks and Doves: Where senior Conservatives stood on the eve of war

 

A note from the Chief Whip detailed the reaction of Conservatives to events in the Falklands as follows:

 

John Wheeler; MP for Westminster North

 

“Believes the moment of truth will come when the blood of our own troops is shed. Then he thinks the country will forsake us.”

 

Viscount Cranborne; MP for South Dorset

 

“Says his friends in Washington warned us last month. He is not sure how we can win outright victory quickly.”

 

Chris Patten; MP for Bath

 

“Will write a supportive article in the press once the situation is clearer.”

 

Kenneth Clarke; MP for Rushcliffe and junior minister

 

“Hopes nobody thinks we are going to fight the Argentinians. We should blow up a few ships, but nothing more.”

 

Peter Mills; MP for West Devon

 

“‘My constituents want blood’. He wants us to invade as quickly as possible.”

 

 

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