Friday, 28 December 2012

Mission Impossible

Bing Crosby is in deep, white shit right now, for dreaming up the mother of all white Christmases - right across the USA from north to south.

Yesterday, the government here released some 30 year-old papers which record the shock and surprise of Margaret Thatcher upon hearing that the Argentinians had invaded the Falkland Islands.

This was real news to me because I - like many other people - thought at the time that the invasion was carefully monitored and expected by the British government, and maybe even allowed it to take place for the sake of popularity in the sagging political ratings. Having spoken to some serving Argentinian soldiers a few years later, it turns out that they thought exactly the same thing about the motives for the invasion, as Galtieri was not too popular in Buenos Aires at the time either.

Why would I think such a cynical and unworthy thought? Because Thatcher herself said - long before the invasion itself - that military satellite technology was so advanced that we were able to read the number-plate of a single Argentinian car through thick cloud, so the movements of an armoured invading force would be as easy to spot from space as the Great Wall of China. We didn't know at the time, that spotting the Great Wall from space without a telescope was - in fact - not possible, but the myth was allowed to continue so long as NASA stood any chance of increased funding from the US government. It also turns out that Thatcher grossly underestimated the determination of Galtieri.

Of course, it was very dangerous to openly voice such opinions at the time, because hundreds of men,  women and children were waving off a massive task force from the docks of Southampton with Union Flags, in the same way as they waved off millions of conscripts to fight in the muddy trenches of WW1 - fathers, husbands and brothers who would never return.

So who was/is lying, when did they lie, and if lies there were, were they in the national interest, or for some lesser, shabbier motive? The US government went into overdrive in order to help, even offering to lend us the biggest aircraft-carrier in it's fleet - talk about David and Goliath.

At the outbreak of the second Gulf War, I did not meet or hear of one, single, intelligent person who genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, and at the outbreak of the first one, I was on a plane to the USA - much to the incredulity of all the people I met after I had arrived, who would not have dared to get on an airplane to cross the Atlantic, despite the massively increased security before boarding.

I sat in my hotel room, watching SCUD missiles flop onto streets in Kuwait; watching CNN reporters have nervous-breakdowns in public; watching US missiles enter different hotel windows from the comfort of an armchair.

No matter what anyone thought about the US involvement in the first conflict, everyone - right or wrong - supported the troops. There was a 25 year-old, festering, national guilt about the way Vietnam vets had been treated upon their return, and this was an ideal opportunity to exorcise it.

The Governor of The Falkland Islands died a few weeks ago. I believe he was a nice man. I have a friend who is an ex Marine (though you would not believe it - he is small, with shoulder-length hair and a soft voice), and he was one of the few British soldiers who was taken prisoner by the Argentinians, before the Vulcan dropped bombs on the airstrip.

He belonged to a small force which tried in vain to secure the island against invasion, and when all hope was lost, he found himself hiding under a kitchen table in Government House with the Governor himself. He offered the Governor his 9mm pistol for self-defence, but the Governor refused it.

I think he made the right choice. He was able to die an old man in peacetime, thirty years after the event. 'Stormin' Norman died today as well - also with his boots off.


  1. If the Argies had waited for a Socialist government, they could have just walked in without any recourse. Silly Argies.

    1. Don't be silly - it would have been a long wait, then they would have ended up with Thatcher's progeny - Tony Blair, the under-prosecutor of the second Gulf War. He would have loved the opportunity offered by the Falklands.

    2. I seem to remember that they were totally against our re-taking the islands. Or at least that's what they said at the time!

    3. That was before they actually attained power by blurring themselves into Conservatives and calling themselves 'New Labour'. All that was made possible by Thatcher herself - with a little help from Arthur Scargill, who has recently had his benefits cut by New Labour.

    4. Actually, it was a grateful National Union of Miners who cut his massive allowance, even though dear Arthur will remain it's president until death.

    5. Poor old Arthur. He now has to survive on a Pit-tance.

    6. My lingering memory of the Falklands was my mother sobbing (admittedly after several LARGE gins)
      She kept repeating that she couldn't watch her baby (me) being conscripted into the army

    7. Cro - HA HA!

      Mr Gray - (thanks for not wasting threads, btw) AS IF!!

    8. P.S. - I felt safe at the time because - even then - I would have been too old for the first draft.

  2. Enjoyed this very philosophical blog Tom - made me think too (always a good idea just after Christmas when the mind is a bit fogged.)