Dear President Obama,
We’ve got every one of us 3200-odd Falkland Islanders to sign this petition. A few couldn’t be bothered as they couldn’t see the point. But the rest of us feel you should understand a few very basic things, in your consideration of foreign policy and your other South American neighbours.
Even though you have more people sightseeing at the White House every day than live in our Islands, we are a country in our own right, with our own democracy, laws and values. If you compare us to our neighbours, we have far more in common with the USA in terms of democratic values, language and culture. We are also similar to the USA in its founding years, the product of emigration from the UK. At one point in our history we were even defended from Argentina by the US Navy!
The reason for sending you this petition right now, is in order that you can do something about the harassment we’re receiving from Argentina. As in 1982, they have their own political reasons for increasing pressure on us – plus of course the additional lure of oil dollars. In 1982 the USA created the impression that it would not oppose an Argentine move to take us over – an impression which astonishingly the British Foreign Office and Government of that time seemed also to be giving. Argentina knows our attitude well enough, but as that has never been a factor in their consideration, they invaded us and the rest is history.
The situation is similar today – with oil as an added Argentine incentive.
They don’t actually want these islands – not really. As we saw in 1982, they’re too bleak, windswept and remote for warm-blooded Latins to do anything other than take photos of penguins. Argentines aren’t going to settle here, unless of course their government enforces a resettlement programme – or as they tried to do in the 19th century, use the Islands as a penal colony.
We’re a vibrant, independent nation, and a very tight-knit community, practicing the sort of values that the USA encourages with varying degrees of success in other countries throughout the world.
Our only fault appears to be numbers. It would seem in the eyes of many people in Washington (and elsewhere too), the extent to which the principle of democracy should be protected is related to the numbers of people affected. It would perhaps be helpful if the numbers could be clarified. Exactly how many democratically-determined people are needed to qualify for US support against tyranny?
At the moment the UK pays for our defence, which if there is revenue from oil, we intend to pay for ourselves. The only reason for this is NOT that we’re a British colony or that the UK wants us as a possession, but that it’s the only way we can retain our independence against the Argentine Leviathan. (More like the Luo were they to be turned off their lands by the Kikuyu; than some part of Kenya desiring to remain under British rule.)
The UK’s colonial aspirations with regard to us are very much worse than non-existent. Within the confines of the UK Treasury, there will be mandarins privately wishing that we were not under British protection so that the cost of our defence might become a saving. But for the moment, while the memories of the 255 British servicemen killed and 777 wounded are still a political factor, UK governments will continue to pay.
But with the UK no longer having an aircraft carrier, there’s the risk that Argentina may well be tempted to try a second invasion. Even in late March 1982, that last invasion was considered by all the so-called experts, to be a ridiculous improbability.
Today, with only four Typhoon fighter bombers to block the 300 mile gap between the Falklands and Argentina, another invasion might well seem like a reasonable risk; send in several large civilian-marked passenger jets full of special forces, then confuse the RAF by launching a huge wave of fighters. The ensuing melee stands a good chance of landing troops into the Mount Pleasant military airfield; at which point it’s game over with no chance of a military re-invasion by Britain.
So at this point Argentina assumes that you, Mr President, are not going to insist on an Argentine withdrawal. Britain’s only military option would be to patrol Falkland waters with submarines, imposing a blockade that will damage the Islanders as much as the invaders. The international outcry whenever the Royal Navy sinks Argentine ships would pretty much preclude that option.
The likelihood is that increased rhetoric from Argentina will lead to something unfortunate – possibly involving Argentine attacks on shipping, leading to actions by Royal Navy submarines – and further escalation. Not helpful. All a massive waste of time and money – and very dangerous. And all in your backyard Sir.
So I hope you can see Mr President, our situation is one for which you as the leader of the free world could do a lot to promote American values of democracy, freedom and justice – simply by being supportive of our desire to remain an independent nation. Oil isn’t an issue for us; we didn’t come here because of oil, but we don’t want to be forced out because of it. We are one (albeit it very tiny) nation, and very much a part of your Americas. We have our motto “Desire the Right”, and the support of the UK 8000 miles away. It would be very helpful if we could also have a touch of support from you as well. It doesn’t have to be overt.
Your quiet, behind-the-scenes support of our right to freedom would pre-empt further difficulties for everyone in this region. It would also make clear that the rights of people take precedence over the demands of nations or the bargaining of diplomats. There are so few opportunities to do this without spending billions of USD’s, killing people, and suffering complicating reverberations. Not to do so now seems to be missing a trick.
PS: We’re democrats.