Falkland Islanders: heads in the sands, or desperate not to rock the boat?

I’ve previously flagged up an editorial from the Falkland Islands, disparaging UK media for exaggerating the Argentine military threat to the Falklands. Yesterday another similar article was published, both being by a correspondent of SARTMA – the South Atlantic Remote Islands Media Association – Juantita Brock.

In her latest, Admiral Sandy Woodward’s recent letter to the Telegraph comes in for criticism: “the 79 year-old, retired for approximately 20 years, doesn’t have the benefit of information officers of his rank have today. What he gets is from the internet and from the newspapers that have used his outspoken ‘words of wisdom’ to their own devices. I would say now that they are excessively disloyal and could mean the demise of the Falklands if they continue to mislead the British public.”

The US press are equally scorned, for reporting that the USA is moving towards siding with Argentina over Falklands sovereignty.

Admiral Woodward did say that Tornados and not Eurofighters were based in the Falklands – but that apart, his thesis that without a fixed wing aircraft carrier and more submarines the Islands are indefensible is arguably true. It is however certain that Britain could not re-take the Islands were the Argentines to invade..

This leads me to wonder whether the Islanders are desperate to avoid annoying Argentina hence this kind of attitude being prevalent down there; or whether their anxieties are being subsumed into the happy myopia that Juanita Brock reports on their celebration of victory over the Argentines in 1982:

“At the civic reception Islanders and others managed to make contact and have a laugh over drinks and a sumptuous buffet provided by the Falkland Islands’ Government. The venue was packed. In the afternoon small groups met for celebratory parties in their homes or in Pubs open for the occasion. Nothing that UK and US press reports could throw at the Falklands could dampen Islanders’ spirits today – Tuesday, 14 June 2011. Laughing off insinuations that the US sides with Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falklands and Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward’s assertions that the Falklands could not be defended, Islanders attended, in force, a commemoration service at Christ Church Cathedral, a ceremony in honour of the fallen in 1982 at the Battle Monument and a lively reception at the Town Hall. We, as Falkland Islanders, will not be game set.”

With the discovery of oil in Falkland territorial waters, everything changes. Their economy depends on the British military presence: 500 troops, four Eurofighters, and particularly the Hercules aircraft that carries out the maritime patrolling which enables the Falklands government to take revenue from the selling of fishing licenses.

Like the Islanders, I too celebrate the 14th June – as the end of an operation that cost me the lives of several friends, and a legacy of difficulty. I don’t begrudge them their celebration, and am very happy that they have made the most of the their liberation – and count many of them as friends. But I wouldn’t like to see today’s Service men an women having to go back and do it again, particularly if such an action were to be caused by the UK government not taking the Argentine threat seriously – as it was doing in 1982.

I don’t understand J Brock’s position on this, and I hope she doesn’t speak for other Islanders. But I do understand the UK MoD insisting that the Falklands are safe, that Argentina has changed and wouldn’t dare etc etc. The MoD are proven incapable of managing their affairs, and have no choice but to insist that all is well. We must just hope that the Argentines don’t decide to disagree.

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