Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Falklands/Las Malvinas
The rumpus over the Falklands brings back some memories, mostly from the year of the conflict 1982, and then when I was in Argentina with Mrs B in 1991. Nine years seemed like a lifetime then, it's gone in a flash now.
The weekend in 1982 that the Argentinian invasion was being discussed in Parliament I was at a Freedom Association meeting at the Commonwealth Club in London. One of the senior figures, a retired Rear Admiral I think, kept popping back from the House of Lords to update us on the debates. It was incredibly exciting and all of us there sensed being at the heart of a great event that would live long in our history.
Soon after I was responsible for organising a counter demo to an anti-war demo in Manchester led by, amongst others, the then MP for Manchester Central Bob Litherland, one of their more left-wing MPs as I remember. There were some pretty unsavoury characters on the anti-war march including Sinn Fein and the National Union of Mineworkers and scuffles were breaking out all along the route of the march as counter demonstrators, our numbers swelled by sympatetic members of the public, became increasingly angry and vociferous. Several arrests were made, even among our Young Conservative ranks!
Now it's time to fast forward to 1991. We had been working in Mexico in 1990 then set off travelling, mainly overland, down Central and around South America. We had been warned by other travellers that British tourists were still being given a hard time in Argentina over 'Las Malvinas'. But we wanted to see the country so decided to go anyway.
We took an overnight train from La Paz in Bolivia and the following day arrived in Argentina to be greeted, at the border, by huge billboards proclaiming 'Las Malvinas son Agentinas'. Of course they aren't, and never will be, unless our forces are so overstretched fighting illegal wars of aggression we can no longer defend our own territory. The next time we saw the Malvinas billboards were round the docks of Buenos Aires.
We spent about three weeks in Argentina and came across absolutely no animosity at all from anybody, be that local people, immigration officials, hotel staff or anybody else. The people were without exception friendly and hospitable, and the steaks are the best you will find anywhere in the world, worth the trip for the steaks alone.
We met one man who, we discovered during a conversation, had been taken prisoner in the Falklands by the Paras. I must admit this information did make me gulp as I wondered how he felt then about his experience nearly 10 years earlier. He just smiled and told me that they should never try anything like that again if for one reason only. His only reason was that in his view we British are all crazy people. He meant it in the nicest possible way, after all who expected us to send a taskforce to the South Atlantic and kick the arse of a military dictator? Not the Argentinians that's for sure.
So its with a strange sense of deja vu that many of us are keeping an eye on the current developments in the South Atlantic. It's amazing what hated, authoritarian governments will do when there is oil about and they are suffering in the opinion polls. Isn't it Tony and Gordon?
Wonder who more resembles the deperate despot General Galtieri, Gordon Brown or Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner? It's Gordon Brown for me.