Exactly 40 years ago today, on April 2nd 1982, Argentinian forces invaded the Falkland Islands. I remember it well. Many of my friends had joined the armed forces on leaving school less than two years earlier. I almost joined them. It was truly one of those “sliding doors” moments. One of those friends headed south on board the flag ship HMS Hermes. He was one of only three 17-year-olds in the Royal Navy task force. Technically still not adults but sent off to fight a war on the other side of the planet over a place few people could find on the map.
As the task force was assembled in double quick time there were still those who thought that it might all be resolved through diplomatic means. But the Argentinian leaders at that time were a weird bunch (even by today’s low standards) and definitely stubborn. It soon became apparent that no amount of diplomacy was going to move the Argentines from those islands. The British forces were going to have to travel all that way and push them off.
The war itself lasted only a few weeks once the fighting began. The British victory indirectly brought about an end to the brutal regime in Argentina. It led to something more like democracy and in a sense Argentina came out of it a better country. The Argentinian people ultimately won a different kind of victory.
My friend made it back safely. He has worked happily in a private hospital in recent years. Most did make it back but there were quite a lot of casualties on both sides. War is a real bastard like that.
The Falklands conflict (as it was known – they never really called it a “war”) was, I believe, a just one. Certainly when compared to pretty much every other war British troops have been involved in since. Foreigners had invaded a British dependency and needed to be taught a lesson. At that time Britain never really had the full backing of its NATO allies. Not in the same way as we hear it said these days; in that if any NATO country is attacked they are all in it together.
Today we seem to be staring down the barrel of a gun again. But not for a NATO ally. There are wars in several parts of the world. The one the media will not stop talking about as well as those that they prefer to not even mention. The end result is always the same however. More human suffering.
Back in the early 1980s we were always told how money was so tight and there was never enough for old age pensions, schools and hospitals. Yet it was amazing how there was suddenly enough to equip a full blown task force, send it across the globe and fight a war. Losing many huge and expensive ships, planes, helicopters and of course lives. The exact same scenario exists now. After two years of total mismanagement, the government will decide that money will not be a problem and they will pour money you never knew existed into another war.
For me, this raises a serious question: If they can find all of this money for these wars seemingly out of thin air, why do we have to pay taxes?
All of those forty years ago I remember that some people thought it was a delayed April Fools joke. Most people thought that the Falkland Islands were off the coast of Scotland – which of course they are. Just some 8,000 fucking miles off the coast of Scotland. But it remains proudly British. Perhaps more so than ever.
I have visited Argentina a few times in more recent years. It’s a country I love and a place where I made an unusual observation. It is only my own personal view, but of all of the places I have been, I have never seen another country where the people are so similar to my own fellow countrymen. I think the two peoples have more in common than most any other pair of countries. Odd that eh?