Monday, 18 June 2007

Falklands 25 Years On

25 years ago I was doing my A levels. History was my thing, and I was thoroughly immersed in the nineteenth century. So when the Falklands came along, the parallels with Palmerston and his era of gun-boat diplomacy were immediate. The policy of embarking on colonial adventures whenever things got a bit sticky on the domestic front seemed to be the inspiration for Thatcher's thinking.

Only a year or so earlier I had been in the cadets and suffered from an obsession with all things military; a couple of the older lads from my unit actually served in the Falklands (and happily returned). But by the time of the war, I couldn't believe that so many people weren't able to see the connection with the mounting anger at unemployment and recession, and the off-setting feel-good factor of a war.

So the Falklands were a defining moment for me, when I first really became aware of politics. I was by then already a CND supporter, and my family background provided a vaguely socialist influence. Even so, it wasn't until the war engulfed the country in a tide of jingoism that I realised what it was to stand up and argue against the mainstream.

There is a danger that at its 25th anniversary the Falklands war seems like an echo from a 'cleaner' more innocent age. A war where civilian 'collateral' damage consisted of a few wounded sheep; there were even bayonet charges. Contrast this with Iraq and its daily news of suicide bombings and torture allegations .

But this is to ignore the sinking of the Bellgrano and the cynical manipulation of public opinion - (remember The Sun's "Gotcha" ?).
Still, the biggest war crime of the Falklands was in facilitating Thatcher's re-election in a frenzy of flag waiving. Without this Britain would now be a very different place. Who knows, there might never have been Blairism, we might even still have a Labour Party worthy of the name.

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