Begin took Beirut
Galtieri took the Union Jack
And Maggie, over lunch one day
Took a cruiser with all hands
Apparently, to make him give it back
In "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert" above, Roger Waters implies that the United Kingdom expended lives and resources for a Phyrric victory in regaining the Falkland islands after Argentina's then-dictator Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the place in 1982. The aftermath is well-known: British Prime Minister increased in stature over this display of strength while Galtieri was bounced after this misadventure.
Tensions over the Falklands between the UK and Argentina never seem to have entirely dissipated. A case in point is the never-ending British whingeing over Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal [clip here] during the UK versus Argentina quarterfinals of World Cup 1986 held in Mexico City. Old enmities die hard indeed.
And so we find ourselves in another situation in which matters which haven't entirely healed are coming back to the fore. Contrary to Roger Waters' perception of the Falklands as a barren wasteland, the British--among the very best in the world at the semi-dark arts of oil exploration--are planning to do so in the vicinity of the Falklands. In the past, the Falklands have served as a a naval outpost for the Empire and a site for fishing and whaling. With the North Sea oilfields' declining production and imminent marginalization as a productive source, every little helps if the UK can source oil from elsewhere.
The potential onset of oil drilling has occasioned much bellyaching from the Latin left, with even somewhat more moderate voices like Brazil's Lula asking for Britain to give these islands back to Argentina. All 32 Latin American nations have signed on to the request. Still sore about the British Empire's dominions after all these years, eh, socialistas and the rest? Henry Mance of the Guardian makes a valid point that, instead of a military conflict, the best thing for the parties involved to do would be to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and sort this matter out for good. I doubt the Foreign Office would countenance such an action, however.
In the meantime, here's the transcript of a recent Sky News interview of Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant telling the Argentinians to, er, lay their hands of Britain's filthy desert:
Sarah Hughes [of Sky News]: Foreign Office Minister, Chris Bryant, joins us now live, good afternoon to you Mr Bryant. Firstly can I ask you your reaction to that statement from the Venezuelan President?The concern overseeing plans to drill the Falklands, Desire Petroleum plc, has much technical information about the Falklands apparently welcome prospects if you're so inclined. As Roger Waters once sang, "Ooh...Maggie, what have you done?"
Chris Bryant: We have absolutely no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and I’m slightly surprised that Hugo Chavez, with whom we work quite closely on some issues like counter narcotics because they have a big problem in Venezuela and we work with them on that, why he should now be arguing this case given that the, he often argues about self determination for the people of Latin America. We believe, wholeheartedly, in the self determination of the people in, people of the Falklands and I know what Falkland Islanders believe and I think they’re quite right that they have every legal right, to be able to drill for oil in the Falklands.
SH: None the less Argentina is rallying support particularly in Latin America, the Argentinean Foreign Minister is meeting Ban Ki-moon tomorrow to state their claim for sovereignty. How concerned are you about that?
CB: Well, obviously, we monitor the situation closely but this is nothing new. There have been discussions like this in previous years, there have been motions carried by different groups over different years in Latin America and, and I suppose it’s not to be unexpected that some Latin American colleagues would adopt this kind of position. But that doesn’t undermine that work that we can do with our friends in Brazil or in Uruguay or in Chile or in any of the other countries of Latin America. And nor for that matter does it undermine that work that we can do with Argentina with whom, you know, we forged a very close, close alliance last year working in the G20 to make sure that there was a proper response to the world wide economic crisis.
SH: Lord West described it this morning as sabre rattling said there was no threat to oil drilling there, is that your position?
CB: As I say we monitor the situation very closely but, and we have no doubts about our sovereignty. We, we, I mean it’s to be expected in a sense that the, the Argentinean Government would make these noises but I do note that they’re saying very clearly that they’re not talking about any kind of abandonment of the, of the peaceful discussions that they’ve been engaged in and I, I think that that’s the right way to go.
We have no interest in escalating the, the kind of rhetoric that some people have been engaged in, we’re just very certain that the Falklands are British, the Falkland Islanders want to be part of the United Kingdom and we welcome that and we stand by them.
SH: No interest you say in escalating that rhetoric, what’s Britain doing to try and calm these waters then?
CB: Well we’ve just been, we, we’ve made very clear, we’ve talked to, sometime before, to both our Argentinean counterparts and to the other Governments across Latin America to make sure that they understood what was going to happen when the rig arrived off the Falklands, make, to make sure that everybody understood the legal position. And we, we’re not going to chase every headline that, that some politicians may want to engage in we’re just very resolute, very calmly determined about our position in the Falklands; standing by the Falklanders, standing by their right to exploit the hydrocarbons if there are any there, we don’t yet know whether there will be a commercially viable operation there. And making sure that everybody understands our legal right both across the, in the United Nations and across Latin America.
SH: Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant thanks very much for your time.