Almost 30 years after the invasion of the Falkland Islands it is simply laughable that Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has accused the UK of ‘militarisation’ of the South Atlantic.
Argentina must realise that the right to self-determination of those that live on the Falklands (many for nine generations) is the overriding principle in deciding their future.
It also continues to disappoint me that, for the most part, this important factor is neglected by some on the left.
Defending the islanders’ freedom from interference and invasion should not be seen as rightwing; it was the same important principles that underpinned opposition to the Iraq War.
It is clear that Argentina’s claim to the Falklands is tenuous at best. The Falklands were discovered and rediscovered by Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and Spain at various points and it was only from 1833 that continuous occupation of the originally uninhabited islands began by the British.
Having never fully inhabited the islands the Argentine claim is based almost solely on its own colonial history –much of it on the basis of Spain’s ostensible imperial ownership.
Our own colonial history is hardly glowing, but Argentina is in no position to lecture us on imperialism, particularly given their continued suppression of indigenous rights at the very time they invaded the Falklands.
Their own 100 peso bill commemorates the ‘Conquest of the Desert’ – a bloody campaign that seized Patagonia from the native population, a milestone in their history of repression of the indigenous population.
With 86 per cent of Argentines being of colonialist European origin it seems odd that they are so keen to play the ‘coloniser’ card against us. The closest thing the originally empty Falkland Islands has to a native population is the current inhabitants, a people whose rights Argentina is happy to ignore.
While international and historical lawyers can legalistically nitpick on the competing claims, surely the most important issue, and the one that the left should identify with the most, is the right to self-determination.
The United Nations was founded on the principle of self-determination and should rightly throw Argentina’s claim to the wayside.
An article in the Guardian recently highlighted the huge cultural gulf between Argentina and the Falkland Islands and this is compounded by the fact that consistently the islanders have voiced their desire to remain British.
Pre-war negotiations failed because the inhabitants had no desire for joint-sovereignty. Nonetheless in 1971 an airlink was set up and Argentina’s YPF was granted a monopoly over the energy needs of the Falklands.
A peaceful and mutually beneficial outcome was scuppered by a dictatorial junta’s invasion of free islands while it waged its own ‘dirty war’ of repression at home.
Like Michael Foot, I too am grateful for the sacrifice of our forces in securing the liberty of the Falklands. Thatcher revelled in the militarism despite the fact her own defence incompetence had lain the islands open to invasion.
Her association with the war and its tactics go a long way to explaining why many see a pro-Falklands position as rightwing but one cannot brush over the rights of a people simply out of dislike for Thatcher. The regrettable sinking of the Belgrano cannot justify ignoring the obvious need to let the Falklands decide their own fate.
Given that, to this day, the Islanders overwhelmingly desire to remain British, how can anyone (particularly those on the left) overrule this most basic right in favour of Argentina’s dodgy historical claims and history of militarism?
The idea that their distance from the UK makes the island more Argentine than British is an infantile one and is easily refuted by meeting anyone from the Falklands or comparing Stanley to Buenos Aires.
Just as the left can stand up for Kosovo and the Kurds so too must we be consistent in affirming the right of the Falkland Islands to remain British.
As we approach the war’s 30th anniversary and with the memory of the illegal invasion refreshed, I implore all on the left to stand with the Falkland Islanders. How can Argentina ignore their voices and claim that we are the imperialists?
The Falkland Islanders desire only peace and the right to remain British. Who is Argentina to deny this, and how can we?
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• Alexander: All Cameron’s ‘phantom veto’ did was undermine British influence – Shamik Das , January 31st 2012
• Occupy and its Indian sister movement are fighting the same battles – Kailash Chand OBE, January 20th 2012