I’ve been hearing all day on the news about Margaret Thatcher’s “shock” on being told of the intelligence about the imminent Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
Why is this being presented/spun as being to her credit? She is said not to have believed that the Argentines would invade. Yet this is despite the fact that she must have had advisers who had warned her of the possibility.
It was only some months after the war, during the Franks inquiry, that she said the things being quoted. She certainly professes shock. But then she had to. She also told the inquiry that immediately after the invasion no-one knew whether Britain could retake the islands. “We did not know – we did not know,” she said.
May I provide a translation? “I’m afraid for my job here. If I don’t wriggle out of this I’ll have to resign.”
Never forget that it was her Government’s decision, for reasons of economy, to withdraw prematurely the Antarctic Survey ship HMS Endurance that sent the signal to the Argentines that Britain was no longer interested in its southern domains and gave them cause to believe the Falklands were theirs for the taking (and keeping.)
Many people at the time (some, like the good lady, still to this day) saw this as Thatcher engineering the conflict. If she is innocent of this charge and that act was simple incompetence then she was – and is – still culpable. I well remember David Owen, Foreign Secretary in the previous Labour Government, saying in a television interview that they had at one time despatched a nuclear submarine to the South Atlantic to warn the Argentines off – a fact which must have been in the minds of Civil Servants in Thatcher’s time.
I also remember Mrs Thatcher quoting the Franks Report in her contribution to the Parliamentary debate following its publication that, “No-one could have foreseen that the Argentines would attack at that time and on that day.”
As I said at the time to whoever would listen: I cannot foresee the exact time and day that it will rain again; but I do know that it will.