By John Haylett in Britain:
Colonial knee jerk responses
Friday 04 January 2013
Just when things are going badly for David Cameron over his defence of Britain’s colonial grip on the Falklands, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun comes in to make things worse.
The Sun‘s strident “Hands off” full-page advertisement in an English-language Buenos Aires paper will not convince a single Argentinian that the islands, known throughout Latin America as the Malvinas, are a rightful British possession.
The fact that Murdoch’s rag surpassed itself in the excesses of gutter journalism through its stomach-turning “Gotcha!” headline to celebrate the needless slaughter of 323 naval conscripts by the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano will not be lost on the people of Argentina.
This won’t concern Murdoch or his creature at the helm of the Sun.
News International titles have already demonstrated amply their estrangement from normal standards of decency and the Sun‘s advertising ploy is designed for domestic consumption not as a serious contribution to discussion.
In contrast to the Sun‘s exercise in self-publicity, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner‘s advertisement in two British dailies was a factual and moderate statement inviting discussions between London and Buenos Aires.
Fernandez de Kirchner noted that the UN general assembly passed in 1965, without a single dissenting voice, a resolution depicting the islands as colonial possessions and urging Britain and Argentina to negotiate decolonisation.
The Argentinian president is not a reincarnation of the fascist armed forces junta that sought to win popular support in 1982 through military adventurism, landing troops on the islands.
She is a serious politician who has helped to rescue her country from self-induced immiseration through submission to neoliberal policies.
Fernandez de Kirchner has stood up successfully to vulture investment funds such as NML Capital, which failed in its speculative efforts to impound an Argentinian frigate in Ghana as a means of blackmailing her government into paying defaulted sovereign debts in full.
Argentina has won the backing of all of its neighbours for its stance over the Falklands – unlike in 1982 when Chile‘s military dictatorship, led by Augusto Pinochet, collaborated with Margaret Thatcher‘s government.
Just as Fernandez de Kirchner has no intention of replicating history, the British Prime Minister would be well advised to do likewise.
It is now clear that Ronald Reagan wobbled before putting US intelligence resources behind his close British Tory ally Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago.
Washington is nowhere near as powerful now as it was then.
It is engaged in efforts to retain influence in the western hemisphere, where the election of a succession of progressive anti-imperialist governments has enhanced regional unity and reduced US capacity to intervene directly in individual states.
Defeat for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the US presidential election in November was a setback for political forces whose approach has not moved on since the Monroe doctrine was formulated in 1823.
Dissatisfaction with Barack Obama’s failure to build bridges with Cuba and Venezuela should blind no-one to the gulf between the US approach under his presidency and what it could have been under Romney.
It’s nearly two years ago since US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Argentinian president in response to a request for US mediation.
Clinton did not touch on mediation, but she said openly: “We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.”
She added: “We will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place.”
Cameron’s wooden reiteration of Gordon Brown’s jaded formulas about “self-determination” for the islanders being the key issue will convince no-one.
There is no Falkland Islander nation. The current population of the islands consists of 3,000 settlers from Britain living 8,000 miles away from their native land.
The idea of a self-determination referendum being held among these settlers, all but a tiny handful of whom were born in Britain, is preposterous and will leave international opinion cold, as will Cameron’s patronising advice that Fernandez de Kirchner should “listen” to its result.
Two events have coloured British government since the 1965 UN general assembly vote – the 1982 war and the more recent discovery of likely oil and gas reserves in the North Falkland Basin, north of the islands.
After Afghanistan and Iraq, it is difficult to believe that any British government could get away with a proposal for military action in defence of 3,000 British citizens’ right to fly the union flag 8,000 miles away, especially since the widespread suspicion would be that war was being waged at the behest of British-based oil transnational corporations.
Economic exploration of the mineral wealth around the Falklands can only be carried out with regional co-operation not by confrontation with Argentina and its regional allies.
Cameron’s “100 per cent backing” for the right of Falkland Islanders to “stay with the United Kingdom” may play well with members of his party who believe, or wish, that Queen Victoria was still on the throne.
But it does no service to anyone involved. The British government should swallow its imperial pride and agree to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution to the problems posed by this relic of empire.
The example of the Chagos Islands shows the government cares nothing for ‘self-determination’ in the Falklands: here.
- Argentinian leader demands Falklands/Malvinas islands back (irishcentral.com)
Will be in BA in five days. Awesome city. Awesome post!
I was in Buenos Aires years ago.
A hightlight was the Costanera Sur nature reserve:
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Referendum solves nothing
Tuesday 12 March 2013
David Cameron must be more gullible than he seems if he really believes that the world will “respect and revere this very, very clear result” to the Falkland Islands referendum.
He must know that the idea of national self-determination for a transplanted population of little more than 1,500 people is nonsense.
And the islanders now wrapping themselves in the union flag in their belief that their occupation of what the entire region calls the Malvinas is secure should develop a sense of history.
Not the fairy tales trotted out about British sovereignty over the Falklands but the actual history of other island outposts acquired by Britain’s empire.
For example, the Chagos islanders could have demonstrated a similarly overwhelming vote in favour of remaining on Diego Garcia rather than seeing it converted into a US airbase while they were expelled to an uncertain future in Mauritius.
Their interests were not allowed to interfere with the British government’s prime responsibility of ingratiating itself with Washington by offering the US an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean.
Similarly, when Britain no longer has the capacity or desire to frustrate the ambition of the Argentinian people to secure the islands’ return, those currently living there will find how little their views matter.
Cameron asserts that the Falklands “may be thousands of miles away but they are British through and through and that is how they want to stay. People should know we will always be there to defend them.”
The islands are not British through and through even though the people living there clearly are, which isn’t surprising since they are full UK citizens.
The very geographical location that Cameron describes indicates how idiotic it is to refer to them as British and it illustrates the emptiness of his military threat.
When the Falklands war took place 30 years ago, both Argentina and Chile, which collaborated with Britain, were military dictatorships. Both are democracies now, united in demanding the decolonisation of the islands.
Britain doesn’t have a single ally in Latin America for its flag-waving adventurism in the South Atlantic, which would hamper any efforts to seek a military confrontation over the islands.
However, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made clear that there will be no repetition of 1982. Her country will rely on the power of argument, global opinion and regional solidarity.
Cameron, together with both Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander, should move beyond the Falklands war mindset and accept the need to open negotiations with Buenos Aires.
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