13 Jun 2007

Celebration and remembrance.

Copyright - Imperial War Museum Image ref002028

25 years ago today, peace returned to the Falkland Islands following a short but bitter conflict that left dead and injured on all sides.

I remember this date every year as it is also my birthday..

Following this UK government statement, I was moved to write to the governor of the Falkland Islands - this exchange sums up the mixture of feelings I have for this period of history...

email to Alan Huckle( Governor, Falklands Island)Tuesday, 3 April, 2007 9:44:01 AM

Subject - Falklands war commemoration - some thoughts expressed.

Good morning,

I am no-one of any consequence in the story of the Falklands war but I felt I needed to express some thoughts to you at this time. I am a British subject, living in the UK.

I neither need nor expect a reply necessarily but I would be grateful if some effort is made to pass this to the Governor for his perusal.

I was at school when the Falklands war began. It was a huge event in my young life and later in life I have read many books on the subject to try to understand its historical and political underpinnings as well as its more obvious military time line.

When war seemed inevitable in 1982, my instinctive reaction as a 14 year old child was overwhelming excitement at the prospect of warfare playing out on my TV screen - a simple naive, almost animal reaction born of watching 60's war films as I grew up. the first challenge to this reaction came from my father (ex Royal Navy minesweepers) who put me straight on the 'glamour' of the war. As the war unfolded with each day, the twists and turns both tragic and glorious started to mould my understanding of warfare. In particular, the tragic pictures of the captured, defeated and dead Argentine conscripts had a profound affect on me.

Now 40 years old I have a much greater understanding of the full cost of war (in every sense of the word) but this understanding is mixed with the absolute moral certainty that war is sometimes both inevitable and just.

I think I understand why Margaret Beckett said what she did - as only a 14 year old boy ignores the immense suffering of both sides in a war - but the comments she made are surely more appropriate to a long forgotten war not one still so vivid in the memory for all concerned. To express regret for the loss of life is human and totally understandable, but to fail to clearly, demonstrably and publicly commend the efforts of British Forces, and the fortitude of the Falkland Islanders themselves is a great shame for the brave Falkland Islanders and the thousands of men and women who went to the South Atlantic 25 years ago to protect British territory.

In my view, it remains an absolute right to go to war to protect subjects of the crown - without exception. The fact that the Falklands islands are many thousands of miles from 'home' make no difference in my view.

I wish all residents of the Falklands islands a peaceful and prosperous future as British subjects for all long as you choose and please remember that there remains many of us in the UK that have nothing but total respect and admiration for the fortitude of the Falkland islanders and will continue to defend their rights should we be called upon now or in the future.

With warmest regards,

He replied as follows :-

I aoplogise(sic) for not replying sooner to your e-mail, but I have only just returned from my first visit as Commissioner to South Georgia (and surfaced from the recce visit for the June commemorations).

I am pleased that you felt moved to write about issues that are still important to Falkland Islanders (and to those involved in the Falklands conflict in 1982).

I must reassure you that the UK Government remains committed to the defence of the Falkland Islands and to the protection of the right of the Islanders to determine their own future. Whilst the UK Government seeks to maintain good bilateral relations with the Argentina, it is always made clear to the Argentine Government that the UK Government will not enter into discussions about the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands unless the Islanders so wish. The UK Government has no doubt about UK sovereignty over the Falkland Islands - and UK policy towards the islands is based firmly on the Islanders' right to self determination, a principle enshrined in the UN Charter.

The events in June, in both the UK and in the Falklands, will commemorate the courage and sacrifice of the British forces that liberated the Falklands and South Georgia in 1982, as well as the professionalism of the civilians who supported the Task Force in doing so. The anniversary will also allow the Islanders to showcase the socio-economic and developmental progress made since the conflict in the hope that the UK public will feel that the sacrifices made in 1982 and the UK Government's continued commitment to the support of the Falklands since then was and is not in vain.

The Argentine Government was invited to take part in a low key commemorative event in London in June - but they refused. They have since accepted an invitation made on behalf on the Falkland Islands Government for next of kin and family members of Argentine servicemen killed during the conflict in the Falklands to visit the Argentine cemetery in Darwin in November.

Alan Huckle Governor, Falklands

I just wish I could reconcile my commitment to the compassion that is central to Buddhism with the equally strong commitment to self-determination and freedom.

War is wrong but so is barbarism and tyranny - is that still compassion?

Remember 25 years ago here and in particular, the British Forces roll of honour here.

'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.'
Sir Winston Churchill


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to you!!! Enjoy a wonderful day, today!!!

You are a very noble person ...

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Excellent post. It is indeed hard to reconcile compassion with the knowledge that sometimes war is necessary. Some things just can't be reconciled. "Accept the things we cannot change" I love the Churchill quote!

karoline in the morning said...

happy birthday to you..i wish you much success on both of your journeys..

i think, the hardest thing one will ever do, is reconcile with himself that one's self that he is the only one he can ever change. that is often times a lonely outpost to stand at and defend, in the light of all atrocities that are going on...


Jojo said...

The trick of course is to convince everyone that war is not an option.
Happy birthday man! jojo

Anonymous said...