Falklands/Malvinas War, 1982

The conflict that erupted in 1982 between Britain and Argentina over the tiny south Atlantic Islands (known to the British as the Falklands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich islands and to the Argentinians as the Malvinas) was a surprise to the international community. The islands, a few hundred miles from Argentina’s southeastern coast, had been British possessions since 1833. Though Argentina had requested on several occasions that the islands be turned over into their possession, Britain retained control, arguing that the vast majority of the islands’ several thousand inhabitants identified as British subjects. In the 1980s, Argentine society was in the midst of economic, political and social upheaval. The government of Argentine president Galtieri saw the disputed islands as an opportunity to whip up patriotic unity and distract from the country’s troubles. An Argentine force invaded the islands on April 2, 1982, and quickly compelled the Falkland’s minimally staffed defense force into surrender. The British, caught off guard by the surprise invasion, quickly assembled a task force to regain control of the islands. For nearly two months, the two countries fought over control of the tiny islands, whose main economic activities were fishing and sheep herding. Nearly 1,000 people were killed on both sides before the British retook the islands and forced an Argentine surrender in June. The defeat devastated Argentina and led to the collapse of Galtieri’s government. The tough resolve demonstrated by Britain’s controversial prime minister Margaret Thatcher, however, solidified her power within British conservative circles and grew her popularity. Although the islands remain under British control, Argentina still claims sovereignty over the islands.

Margaret Thatcher visits Falkland IslandsMargaret Thatcher visits British troops on the islands in 1983.

President Galtieri’s address to the nation, 2 April 1982
Communique of the Military Junta, 2 April 1982
Argentina: Minister of Foreign Affairs Comments before the U.N. Security Council, 3 April 1982
PM Thatcher’s Speech to the House of Commons, 3 April 1982
Statement of Sir Anthony Parsons before the UN Security Council, 3 April 1982
Thatcher: Interview for ITN on the Falklands, 5 April 1982
Communique of the Military Junta No. 18, 7 April 1982
Galtieri’s speech on 10 April, 1982
PM Thatcher’s Statement to the House of Commons, 14 April 1982
Communique of the Military Junta No. 25, 15 April 1982
President Galtieri’s Day of the America’s Speech, 15 April 1982
Communique of the Military Junta No. 26, 16 April 1982
Thatcher’s Speech to Mid-Bedfordshire Conservatives (excerpt), 30 April 1982
Thatcher’s Statement in the House of Commons, 4 May 1982
Thatcher’s Speech to the Scottish Conservative Party Conference (excerpt), 14 May 1982
Thatcher: Radio Interview for IRN, 17 May 1982
Falkland Islands: Negotiations for a Peaceful Settlement, 21 May 1982

President Galtieri’s address to the nation, 2 April 1982 Top

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. “President Galtieri’s address to the nation,” 5 April 1982. Accessed from LexisNexis Academic, 18 September 2012.

Buenos Aires home service broadcast the following recorded speech at 1730 gmt on 2nd April by President Galtieri from the White Room of Government House in Buenos Aires: On behalf of the Military Junta and in my capacity as President of the nation I speak at this crucial and historic moment to all the inhabitants of our territory to inform them of the basis for the resolution adopted and fully assumed by the Commanders-in- Chief of the Armed Forces, who thus interpreted the profound sentiment of the Argentine people. Safeguarding national honour, without rancour but with firmness demanded by the circumstances, we have recovered the southern islands which are a legitimate part of our national territory. This decision was prompted by the need to put an end to the interminable seccession of evasive and dilatory tactics used by Great Britain to perpetuate its domination over the islands and their zone of influence. That evasive attitude was considered by the national government in the present circumstances as conclusive proof of Great Britain’s lack of good will to begin serious negotiations without delay over the central question of the dispute and to recognize once and for all that their alleged rights stem from an act of seizure. The situation which was created originated in the virtual summons to a group of Argentine citizens to abandon the Georgia Islands where they were legally carrying out a joint task under the juridical protection of agreements which had been established between the two countries. The dispatch of a naval force and the peremptory outcome that Great Britain tried to impose are clear demonstrations that that country persists in addressing the question with arguments based on force, and that the solution is sought through the simple refusal to recognize Argentinian rights. In view of that unacceptable intention, the Argentine Government could have no other response than the one it has just made by taking action. The Argentinian position can in no way be considered a form of aggression against the present inhabitants of the islands. Their rights and ways of life will be respected with the same generosity with which we respected those peoples we liberated during our independence movement. Yet we will not yield to the intimidatory deployment of the British forces; far from using peaceful diplomatic channels, they have threatened the indiscriminate use of those forces. Our forces will act only to the extent strictly necessary. They will in no way disrupt the life of the islanders. On the contrary, they will protect those institutions and persons who agree to coexist with us, but they will not tolerate any excesses either in the islands or on the mainland. We have a clear appreciation of the stance adopted and it is in defence of this stance that the Argentine nation has risen, the whole nation, spiritually and materially. We know full well that we have the backing of a people aware of their destiny, aware of their rights and obligations, a people who for a long time aspired for the return of the Malvinas Islands, Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and their zone of influence to the national territory. The important step which we have just taken was done without taking any political calculations into account. It has been taken in the name of each and every Argentine citizen without sectional or factional distinctions and with our minds set on all the governments, institutions and persons who in the past, without exception and for 150 years, have struggled for the defence of our rights. I am aware, and we acknowledge it with great emotion, that the entire country is already experiencing the joy of a new achievement and is getting ready to defend what belongs to it, heedless of the sacrifices which we will possibly have to make, and heedless of sectional problems which, no matter how understandable they may be, will never be placed before the supreme national interests where the existence or nonexistence of the fatherland is at stake. With Christian faith I pray that those who are today our adversaries may understand their error in time and may deeply reflect before persisting in a stance which is rejected by all the free peoples in the world and by all those who had their territory mutiliated and endured colonialism and exploitation. With Christian faith I pray for our men deployed to the southern seas, for your children, husbands, fathers, soldiers, NCOs and officers, who make up the front lines of an Argentine effort that will not stop until final victory is achieved. Invoking the protection of God and His Holy Mother, let us all commit ourselves to complying with our duty, as did the generations of the past century, who did not mind harsh weather, long distances, disease or poverty when it came to defending freedom. By taking part in Belgrano’s liberating mission to Paraguay, in those missions to upper Peru – beyond the mountains – to the Pacific coast with General San Martin as their leader or to the desert, they did not hesitate in leaving their families and comfort, whether they had much or little. Is our generation capable of emulating their example? Or are we not capable of doing so? I believe in you. We must all believe in ourselves and together raise our national banner high as a symbol of freedom so that it can fly sovereignly and definitively over our great fatherland. This will not prevent us from persisting in our tradition as a peace-loving nation and from respecting all world nations, nor will it prevent us from resuming with dignity, through friendly gestures stemming from our natural generosity, diplomatic negotiations which may give an institutional basis to the situation which we have achieved, clearly safeguard- ing those legitimate interests we have always respected. Our arms will always be extended to conclude noble commitments and to forget past offences for the sake of building a peaceful future for the civilized world. Glory to the great Argentine people| May this be God’s will| Note: Buenos Aires radio’s English service for abroad, at 2200 gmt on 2nd April, was devoted to the action in the Falklands and broadcast parts of President Galtieri’s address to the nation (in Spanish and also in English translation).

Communique of the Military Junta, 2 April 1982 Top

Source: Argentina. 1983. “Guerra de la Malvinas y Atlantico Sur: Partes Oficiales Comparatives.” Buenos Aires: Latin American Newsletters (my translation).


The Military Junta, as the Supreme Organ of the State, communicates to the people of the Argentine Nation, that today, at … time, the Republic, through the intervention of the Armed Forces, by the successful completion of a joint venture, as regained the islands of the Malvinas and South Sandwich to the national heritage. It has thus ensured the exercise of Argentine sovereignty over all the territories of the said islands as well as the corresponding maritime and air space.

May the whole country understand the deep and unequivocal national sentiment of this decision, so that the responsibility and the collective strength that accompanied this enterprise, with the help of God, to realize a legitimate right of the Argentine people: postponed, patient and prudent during these 150 years.

Argentina: Minister of Foreign Affairs Comments before the U.N. Security Council, 3 April 1982 Top

Source: Raphael Perl, ed. 1983. The Falkland Islands Dispute in International Law & Politics: A Documentary Sourcebook. New York: Oceana Publications.

Perhaps the beginning of my statement may be considered repetitive, but I consider it none the less useful to state that the reason for the calling of these meetings lies in the Malvinas Islands, which is part of Argentine territory and which was illegally occupied by the United Kingdom in 1833 by an act of force which deprived our country of that archipelago.

The British fleet in 1833 displaced by force the Argentine population and the authorities which were exercising the legitimate rights that belonged to the Republic at that time as the heir to Spain.

Legally speaking, that act of force cannot give rise to any right at all, and politically the events of 1833 were one more reflection of the imperialist policy which the European States carried out in the nineteenth century at the expense of America, Africa and Asia. Hence, we can say today that this is a colonial problem in the most traditional sense of that political and economic phenomenon.

Since 1833, the Republic of Argentina has been claiming reparation from the United Kingdom for the great wrong done. The Republic of Argentina has never consented to that act of usurpation of its national territory, usurpation carried out by unacceptable and illegal means. All the successive Governments of Argentina, regardless of party or faction, have remained united and steadfast in their position during those 149 years of strongly protesting against that arbitrary occupation….

One of the last vestiges of colonialism on Latin American territory ended yesterday. The claims that my country has been making repeatedly since 1833 have enjoyed the support of the decisions of the world Organization, and of the individual assistance of these new nations just emerging from the colonial era.

Despite the Organization’s efforts and my country’s arduous and careful work, time passed and brought with it only continued frustration, resulting from the evasive tactics and time-wasting manoeuvres of Great Britain – and all that despite the many alternatives put forward by Argentina and despite the imagination and flexibility with which we approached negotiations.

Two days ago the Permanent Representative of my country made reference here to the willingness and readiness on our part demonstrated by the facilities offered in 1971 in terms of communications and other concessions to the inhabitants of the islands. Those 1,000 inhabitants, as the United Kingdom representative said yesterday, would fit without difficulty into this chamber. THey have been and are the subject of constant concern in Argentina, which has given them attention that I venture to say, with all due respect, they have not received from their “homeland”. The Government of Argentina is always careful to respect individual rights and physical integrity.

Yesterday Argentina stated that its position did not represent any kind of aggression against the present inhabitants of the islands, whose rights and way of life – and I stress this – will be respected in the same way as those of the countries freed by our liberators’. Troops will be used only when absolutely necessary and they will not in any way disturb the inhabitants of the islands; quite the contrary, they will protect the institutions and inhabitants, since they are part of us. This is a most solemn commitment by the Government of Argentina to the international community.

The United Kingdom has invoked the presence of the inhabitants of the Malvinas Islands as an excuse for its colonial presence in those islands. But I ask members: what, then, is the pretext for that presence in the South Sandwich or South Georgia Islands? I here, as the Times of London said in an editorial of 29 March last, the only natives, according to the Commonwealth and Foreign Offices, were seals – and in the present state of international law seals do not enjoy the right to self-determination?

In view of the fact that my country opened up communications, the British Government did not seem too concerned over the physical and historical isolation in which the inhabitants of the islands lived….

The military preparations and the despatch of warships to the region by the United Kingdom, to which I have already referred, explain and justify the actions taken of necessity by the Government of Argentina in defence of its rights.

Some delegations here have stated that my Government acted hastily. I leave it to the Council to judge, but I must point out that it seems difficult to describe my country as acting hastily when, with the greatest respect for peaceful solutions, it has borne with a situation of continue usurpation of its territory by a colonial Power for 150 years. Argentina has wisely, patiently and imaginatively negotiated on its long-standing claim but the United Kingdom has not given the slightest indication of being flexible nor made a single just proposal. Furthermore, we have been accused in this chamber of violating Article 2(3) and (4) of the United Nations Charter. No provision of the Charter can be taken to mean the legitimization of situations which have their origin in wrongful acts, in acts carried out before the Charter was adopted and which subsisted during its prevailing force. Today, in 1982, the purposes of the Organization cannot be invoked to justify acts carried out in the last century in flagrant violation of principles that are today embodied in international law.

Throughout the years we have celebrated the excellent results of the irreversible march of history typified by decolonization and at the same time, while we were celebrating and taking part in that process, our frustration was growing because of the conviction that the United Kingdom was not ready to give up the territory it had usurped from Argentina. The accession of emerging peoples to international politics and the change in international society are a result of the historic process I mentioned at the beginning of my statement. This is a real force, and this real force in the world order was reflected in the Non-Aligned Movement, which my country joined in 1973 and in which it takes part as an active member. That Movement promotes the eradicating of historical injustices, whether they be political or economic. Members of the Non-Aligned Movement, as our Permanent Representative has already said, have repeatedly recognized and acknowledged the justice of the Argentine claim and our country’s sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, the South Georgia and Sandwich Islands, they have already stated that the principle of self-determination does not apply in this care for special historical reasons I have already explained.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that he had doubts about being able to arrive at an agreement with the representative of my country as to the historical vicissitudes. That is possible, but it would seem difficult for us not to agree on the facts of history which are absolutely indisputable.

The Government of Argentina has not invaded any foreign territory, as the United Kingdom claims. As was stated very simply by the President of my country,

“Safeguarding our national honour and without rancour or bitterness, but with all the strength that comes from being in the right, we have recovered a part of our national heritage”.

The same cannot be said of the United Kingdom Government vis-a-vis our country….

The United Kingdom is the only other party to this dispute. It is the only sponsor of the single draft resolution before the Council. This also is strange. In trying to deny us our territorial integrity and our right to it, the United Kingdom calls for the withdrawal of the Argentine troops which recovered the Malvinas for national sovereignty. If the United Kingdom took those islands through in illegitimate act of force, why has it not withdrawn in the last 149 years on the basis of the same principles that it is today invoking in order to avoid this conflict, which now seems to be of such deep concern to it?

Obviously I am at variance with the draft resolution submitted by the United Kingdom, but I wish to say that I am in agreement on one point. The Republic of Argentina is threatening nobody, the Republic of Argentina is not carrying out acts of aggression or hostility against anyone. It is of no interest to us to have any armed conformation with anybody at all. We are ready to negotiate through diplomatic channels. I would say that again: we are willing to negotiate through diplomatic channels any differences we have with the United Kingdom except our sovereignty, which is not open to negotiation.

PM Thatcher’s Speech to the House of Commons, 3 April 1982 Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
The House meets this Saturday to respond to a situation of great gravity. We are here because, for the first time for many years, British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power. After several days of rising tension in our relations with Argentina, that country’s armed forces attacked the Falkland Islands yesterday and established military control of the islands.

Yesterday was a day of rumour and counter-rumour. Throughout the day we had no communication from the Government of the Falklands. Indeed, the last message that we received was at 21.55 hours on Thursday night, 1 April. Yesterday morning at 8.33 am we sent a telegram which was acknowledged. At 8.45 am all communications ceased. I shall refer to that again in a moment. By late afternoon yesterday it became clear that an Argentine invasion had taken place and that the lawful British Government of the islands had been usurped.

I am sure that the whole House will join me in condemning totally this unprovoked aggression by the Government of Argentina against British territory. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear”.] It has not a shred of justification and not a scrap of legality.

It was not until 8.30 this morning, our time, when I was able to speak to the governor, who had arrived in Uruguay, that I learnt precisely what had happened. He told me that the Argentines had landed at approximately 6 am Falkland’s time, 10 am our time. One party attacked the capital from the landward side and another from the seaward side. The governor then sent a signal to us which we did not receive.

Communications had ceased at 8.45 am our time. It is common for atmospheric conditions to make communications with Port Stanley difficult. Indeed, we had been out of contact for a period the previous night.

The governor reported that the Marines, in the defence of Government House, were superb. He said that they acted in the best traditions of the Royal Marines. They inflicted casualties, but those defending Government House suffered none. He had kept the local people informed of what was happening through a small local transmitter which he had in Government House. He is relieved that the islanders heeded his advice to stay indoors. Fortunately, as far as he is aware, there were no civilian casualties. When he left the Falklands, he said that the people were in tears. They do not want to be Argentine. He said that the islanders are still tremendously loyal. I must say that I have every confidence in the governor and the action that he took.

I must tell the House that the Falkland Islands and their dependencies remain British territory. No aggression and no invasion can alter that simple fact. It is the Government’s objective to see that the islands are freed from occupation and are returned to British administration at the earliest possible moment.

Argentina has, of course, long disputed British sovereignty over the islands. We have absolutely no doubt about our sovereignty, which has been continuous since 1833. Nor have we any doubt about the unequivocal wishes of the Falkland Islanders, who are British in stock 634and tradition, and they wish to remain British in allegiance. We cannot allow the democratic rights of the islanders to be denied by the territorial ambitions of Argentina.
Over the past 15 years, successive British Governments have held a series of meetings with the Argentine Government to discuss the dispute. In many of these meetings elected representatives of the islanders have taken part. We have always made it clear that their wishes were paramount and that there would be no change in sovereignty without their consent and without the approval of the House.

The most recent meeting took place this year in New York at the end of February between my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham, (Mr. Luce) accompanied by two members of the islands council, and the Deputy Foreign Secretary of Argentina. The atmosphere at the meeting was cordial and positive, and a communiqué was issued about future negotiating procedures. Unfortunately, the joint communiqué which had been agreed was not published in Buenos Aires.

There was a good deal of bellicose comment in the Argentine press in late February and early March, about which my hon. Friend [ Richard Luce] the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs expressed his concern in the House on 3 March following the Anglo-Argentine talks in New York. However, this has not been an uncommon situation in Argentina over the years. It would have been absurd to dispatch the fleet every time there was bellicose talk in Buenos Aires. There was no good reason on 3 March to think that an invasion was being planned, especially against the background of the constructive talks on which my hon. Friend had just been engaged. The joint communiqué on behalf of the Argentine deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and my hon. Friend read:
“The meeting took place in a cordial and positive spirit. The two sides reaffirmed their resolve to find a solution to the sovereignty dispute and considered in detail an Argentine proposal for procedures to make better progress in this sense.”

There had, of course, been previous incidents affecting sovereignty before the one in South Georgia, to which I shall refer in a moment. In December 1976 the Argentines illegally set up a scientific station on one of the dependencies within the Falklands group—Southern Thule. The Labour Government attempted to solve the matter through diplomatic exchanges, but without success. The Argentines remained there and are still there.

Two weeks ago—on 19 March—the latest in this series of incidents affecting sovereignty occurred; and the deterioration in relations between the British and Argentine Governments which culminated in yesterday’s Argentine invasion began. The incident appeared at the start to be relatively minor. But we now know it was the beginning of much more.
The commander of the British Antarctic Survey base at Grytviken on South Georgia—a dependency of the Falkland Islands over which the United Kingdom has exercised sovereignty since 1775 when the island was discovered by Captain Cook—reported to us that an Argentine navy cargo ship had landed about 60 Argentines at nearby Leith harbour. They had set up camp and hoisted the Argentine flag. They were there to carry out a valid commercial contract to remove scrap metal from a former whaling station.

The leader of the commercial expedition, Davidoff, had told our embassy in Buenos Aires that he would be going to South Georgia in March. He was reminded of the need to obtain permission from the immigration authorities on the island. He did not do so. The base commander told the Argentines that they had no right to land on South Georgia without the permission of the British authorities. They should go either to Grytviken to get the necessary clearances, or leave. The ship and some 50 of them left on 22 March. Although about 10 Argentines remained behind, this appeared to reduce the tension.

In the meantime, we had been in touch with the Argentine Government about the incident. They claimed to have had no prior knowledge of the landing and assured us that there were no Argentine military personnel in the party. For our part we made it clear that, while we had no wish to interfere in the operation of a normal commercial contract, we could not accept the illegal presence of these people on British territory.

We asked the Argentine Government either to arrange for the departure of the remaining men or to ensure that they obtained the necessary permission to be there. Because we recognised the potentially serious nature of the situation, HMS “Endurance” was ordered to the area. We told the Argentine Government that, if they failed to regularise the position of the party on South Georgia or to arrange for their departure, HMS “Endurance” would take them off, without using force, and return them to Argentina.

This was, however, to be a last resort. We were determined that this apparently minor problem of 10 people on South Georgia in pursuit of a commercial contract should not be allowed to escalate and we made it plain to the Argentine Government that we wanted to achieve a peaceful resolution of the problem by diplomatic means. To help in this, HMS “Endurance” was ordered not to approach the Argentine party at Leith but to go to Grytviken.

But it soon became clear that the Argentine Government had little interest in trying to solve the problem. On 25 March another Argentine navy ship arrived at Leith to deliver supplies to the 10 men ashore. Our ambassador in Buenos Aires sought an early response from the Argentine Government to our previous requests that they should arrange for the men’s departure. This request was refused. Last Sunday, on Sunday 28 March, the Argentine Foreign Minister sent a message to my right hon. and noble Friend [Lord Carrington] the Foreign Secretary refusing outright to regularise the men’s position. Instead it restated Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and their dependencies.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary then sent a message to the United States Secretary of State asking him to intervene and to urge restraint.

By the beginning of this week it was clear that our efforts to solve the South Georgia dispute through the usual diplomatic channels were getting nowhere. Therefore, on Wednesday 31 March my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary proposed to the Argentine Foreign Minister that we should dispatch a special emissary to Buenos Aires.

Later that day we received information which led us to believe that a large number of Argentine ships, including an aircraft carrier, destroyers, landing craft, troop carriers and submarines, were heading for Port Stanley. I contacted President Reagan that evening and asked him to intervene with the Argentine President directly. We promised, in the meantime, to take no action to escalate the dispute for fear of precipitating —[Interruption]— the very event that our efforts were directed to avoid. May I remind Opposition Members —[Interruption]—what happened when, during the lifetime of their Government—

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
We did not lose the Falklands.

The Prime Minister
—Southern Thule was occupied. It was occupied in 1976. The House was not even informed by the then Government until 1978, when, in response to questioning by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce ), now Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) said:
“We have sought the resolve the issue through diplomatic exchanges between the two Governments. That is infinitely preferable to public denunciations and public statements when we are trying to achieve a practical result to the problem that has arisen.”—[Official Report, 24 May 1978; Vol. 950, c. 1550–51.]

Mr. Edward Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil)
The right hon. Lady is talking about a piece of rock in the most southerly part of the dependencies, which is completely uninhabited and which smells of large accumulations of penguin and other bird droppings. There is a vast difference—a whole world of difference—between the 1,800 people now imprisoned by Argentine invaders and that argument. The right hon. Lady should have the grace to accept that.

The Prime Minister
We are talking about the sovereignty of British territory—[Interruption]—which was infringed in 1976. The House was not even informed of it until 1978. We are talking about a further incident in South Georgia which—as I have indicated—seemed to be a minor incident at the time. There is only a British Antarctic scientific survey there and there was a commercial contract to remove a whaling station. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that had I come to the House at that time and said that we had a problem on South Georgia with 10 people who had landed with a contract to remove a whaling station, and had I gone on to say that we should send HMS “Invincible”, I should have been accused of war mongering and sabre rattling.
Information about the Argentine fleet did not arrive until Wednesday. Argentina is, of course, very close to the Falklands—a point that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil cannot and must not ignore—and its navy can sail there very quickly. On Thursday, the Argentine Foreign Minister rejected the idea of an emissary and told our ambassador that the diplomatic channel, as a means of solving this dispute, was closed. President Reagan had a very long telephone conversation, of some 50 minutes, with the Argentine President, but his strong representations fell on deaf ears. I am grateful to him and to Secretary Haig for their strenuous and persistent efforts on our behalf.

On Thursday, the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Perez De Cuellar, summoned both British and Argentine permanent representatives to urge both countries to refrain from the use or threat of force in the South Atlantic. Later that evening we sought an emergency meeting of the Security Council. We accepted the appeal of its President for restraint. The Argentines 637said nothing. On Friday, as the House knows, the Argentines invaded the Falklands and I have given a precise account of everything we knew, or did not know, about that situation. There were also reports that yesterday the Argentines also attacked South Georgia, where HMS “Endurance” had left a detachment of 22 Royal Marines. Our information is that on 2 April an Argentine naval transport vessel informed the base commander at Grytviken that an important message would be passed to him after 11 o’clock today our time. It is assumed that this message will ask the base commander to surrender.

Before indicating some of the measures that the Government have taken in response to the Argentine invasion, I should like to make three points. First, even if ships had been instructed to sail the day that the Argentines landed on South Georgia to clear the whaling station, the ships could not possibly have got to Port Stanley before the invasion. [Interruption.] Opposition Members may not like it, but that is a fact.

Secondly, there have been several occasions in the past when an invasion has been threatened. The only way of being certain to prevent an invasion would have been to keep a very large fleet close to the Falklands, when we are some 8,000 miles away from base. No Government have ever been able to do that, and the cost would be enormous.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Will the right hon. Lady say what has happened to HMS “Endurance”?

The Prime Minister
HMS “Endurance” is in the area. It is not for me to say precisely where, and the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to do so.

Thirdly, aircraft unable to land on the Falklands, because of the frequently changing weather, would have had little fuel left and, ironically, their only hope of landing safely would have been to divert to Argentina. Indeed, all of the air and most sea supplies for the Falklands come from Argentina, which is but 400 miles away compared with our 8,000 miles.

That is the background against which we have to make decisions and to consider what action we can best take. I cannot tell the House precisely what dispositions have been made—some ships are already at sea, others were put on immediate alert on Thursday evening.
The Government have now decided that a large task force will sail as soon as all preparations are complete. HMS “Invincible” will be in the lead and will leave port on Monday.

I stress that I cannot foretell what orders the task force will receive as it proceeds. That will depend on the situation at the time. Meanwhile, we hope that our continuing diplomatic efforts, helped by our many friends, will meet with success.

The Foreign Ministers of the European Community member States yesterday condemned the intervention and urged withdrawal. The NATO Council called on both sides to refrain from force and continue diplomacy.

The United Nations Security Council met again yesterday and will continue its discussions today. [Laughter.] Opposition Members laugh. They would have been the first to urge a meeting of the Security Council if we had not called one. They would have been the first to urge restraint and to urge a solution to the problem by diplomatic means. They would have been the first to accuse us of sabre rattling and war mongering.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
The right hon. Lady referred to our many friends. Have we any friends in South America on this issue?

The Prime Minister
Doubtless our friends in South America will make their views known during any proceedings at the Security Council. I believe that many countries in South America will be prepared to condemn the invasion of the Falklands Islands by force.

We are now reviewing all aspects of the relationship between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The Argentine chargé d’affaires and his staff were yesterday instructed to leave within four days.

As an appropriate precautionary and, I hope, temporary measure, the Government have taken action to freeze Argentine financial assets held in this country. An order will be laid before Parliament today under the Emergency Laws (Re-enactments and Repeals) Act 1964 blocking the movement of gold, securities or funds held in the United Kingdom by the Argentine Government or Argentine residents.

As a further precautionary measure, the ECGD has suspended new export credit cover for the Argentine. It is the Government’s earnest wish that a return to good sense and the normal rules of international behaviour on the part of the Argentine Government will obviate the need for action across the full range of economic relations.

We shall be reviewing the situation and be ready to take further steps that we deem appropriate and we shall, of course, report to the House.

The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right. That will be our hope and our endeavour and, I believe, the resolve of every Member of the House.

Statement of Sir Anthony Parsons before the UN Security Council, 3 April 1982 Top

Source: Raphael Perl, ed. 1983. The Falkland Islands Dispute in International Law & Politics: A Documentary Sourcebook. New York: Oceana Publications.

I have no intention of speaking polemically vis-a-vis the representative of Argentina any more than he did so in his own statement, and any more than my Government has any intention or desire of disturbing the peace in the South Atlantic. I should simply like to make a number of points at this stage in the discussion….

The Foreign Minister of Argentina argued that the people of the Falkland Islands are not a population in international law. Those 1,800 or 1,900 people are not recent arrivals in the Islands. The vast majority of them were born there to families which had been settled there for four, five, six generations since the first half of the nineteenth century. In the judgement of my Government, whether they are 1,800 or 18,000 or 18 million, they are still entitled to the protection of international law and they are entitled to have their freely expressed wishes respected.

These have been the only objectives of my Government in that area for a very long time. I cannot believe that the international community takes the view that Britain in the 1980s has a “colonialist” or “imperialist” ambition in the South Atlantic. The proposition is self-evidently ludicrous. We threaten nobody; we have simply concerned ourselves with the protection of the interests and respect for the wishes of the small population of the Islands.

Finally, it has also been argued that this was not an invasion because the Islands belong to Argentina, a proposition which of course my Government contests. But the fact is that the United Kingdom has been accepted by the United Nations – by the General Assembly, by the Committee of 24 – as the Administering Authority. It therefore flies in the face of the facts and in the face of reason to suggest that this was not an armed invasion.

Thatcher: Interview for ITN on the Falklands, 5 April 1982 Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

Prime Minister, could I begin by asking you about the resignations announced today, particularly the resignation of Lord Carrington? Why did you accept that resignation?

Mrs. Thatcher
Because I had no alternative, I spent a lot of time on Saturday and on Sunday trying to persuade [Lord Carrington] him not to put in his resignation. he felt that he’d been head of the department responsible for the policy, the policy had failed and therefore it was a matter of honour that he should go. If a person says to me ‘it’s a matter of honour and I feel I should go’, that’s the one ground on which I am not at liberty to refuse because it would make it difficult for him. It was with great regret, he’s been a marvellous Foreign Secretary, I’ve been with him on so many occasions, he’s a sturdy and bonny fighter for Britain, a very gallant officer and we shall miss him.

Do you accept nevertheless that there was a major error of judgment in assessing the intentions of the Argentine regime?

Mrs. Thatcher
I don’t know that I could say that there was a major error of judgment. You see, we’ve had similar times from many Argentinian regimes, many times in the last year, many many times, and I suppose you could say we ought somehow to have known this one was different. We’d heard a lot of it before but the fact is that the Argentines this time invaded, we were in charge when they invaded and that’s why Lord Carrington felt so strongly. Indeed, I think we all feel deeply about it, but Lord Carrington felt that he was in charge of the Foreign Office at the time and there is not much point in going back and seeing whether we could have perceived that this was different from all the previous occasions, it turned out to be different and there’s no point in refuting that fact. We now have to stand by the Falkland islanders and try to secure, indeed to secure that island back.[fo 1]

Who is going to be the new Foreign Secretary?

Mrs. Thatcher
I have just appointed and the Queen has approved Francis Pym as new Foreign Secretary. He was, as you know, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for a time and then when we were in opposition he was shadow Foreign Secretary, so he’s not altogether new to this and of course he was Secretary of State for Defence so he’s known in international circles as well, so he’s got wide experience, considerable stature and we have every confidence in him. He also was a very gallant officer.

But this is an hour of crisis. Is it wise to have a new Foreign Secretary with no immediate experience?

Mrs. Thatcher
That of course, I also put to Lord Carrington but in the end, you know, he felt so strongly about the point of honour and after all it is rather a wonderful thing in politics to have people who feel strongly about honour and who resign ….

Are there any more who feel it’s a matter of honour to resign—Mr. Nott for instance?

Mrs. Thatcher
Mr. Nott came to me, he was concerned, but his was not the lead department in policy, it’s the Foreign Office that decides the policy on these matters, and as I pointed out to him his was not the lead department on policy. Also as we have assembled a major fleet to go and to redeem the Falkland islands it really was no time for a Secretary of State to resign and he agreed to stay at his post and that’s where he should be.

Mrs. Thatcher, the crisis to many people seems a little unreal because it’s come upon us so quickly. Are you really going to fight a war with Argentina?

Mrs. Thatcher
Our objective is to recover the Falkland islands. We have to do what is necessary to that … I wouldn’t talk in terms of war. a declaration of war is something different. Let’s not get into the technicalities. We must recover the Falkland islands for Britain and for the people who live there who are of British stock. Let’s not say this is war, it is not a declaration of war is technically different … don’t stress the technicalities, we know what we have to do and there are many different ways of achieving that objective. Let’s hope that it is not the worst one.

There are no technicalities about people losing their lives.

Mrs. Thatcher
That’s exactly …, I entirely agree, I entirely agree. Therefore don’t say “is it declaration of war or not?” What matters is we recover those islands. What matters is that the fleet is on its way. It has a lot of people on board and we shall have to judge the precise situation when they are very much nearer than they are now.

Mr. Nott has said yesterday that Britain was prepared to sink Argentine ships, prepared to storm the islands if necessary. do you agree with that?

Mrs. Thatcher
We have to recover those islands, we have to recover them for the people on them are British and British stock and they still owe allegiance to the crown and want to be British. We have to do what is necessary to recover those islands.

The people themselves may suffer from a British invasion. There are already reports that they’re terrified about the prospect of a British invasion.

Mrs. Thatcher
When you stop a dictator there are always risks but there are great risks in not stopping a dictator. My generation learned that a long time ago.[fo 3]

Is there any chance of averting the confrontation? Is there any chance at all that diplomatic moves may succeed in the meantime?

Mrs. Thatcher
We’ve been trying for many many years. The fact is that the Argentines revived their claim of sovereignty, I think it was about 1966 or 1967. Diplomatic moves have been made until now, they have succeeded until now, all of a sudden now they have not succeeded. No-one has been more active diplomatically than we have in the last three years. After all there was a very very successful conference in New York about it at the end of February. In the communique it was described as ‘cordial and friendly’. there were positive proposals put forward, we always negotiated with members of the Islands Council with us. What I am saying to you is those diplomatic moves have failed and so of course we went to the Security Council and did very well to get a straightforward condemnation by the Security Council of Argentina and a demand for their withdrawal, no-one could have been more active diplomatically than we have—if failed, we shall go on diplomatically, but it’s difficult to see how it could succeed now when it failed before.

Indeed, when it comes to the crunch, can you rely on the support of the United States, when it comes to battle with Argentina?

Mrs. Thatcher
We have to try to recover what is our sovereign territory, we have to recover what is our sovereign territory, that is our problem. In all the diplomatic moves the United States were magnificent, they went in on our behalf diplomatically, Alex Haig was marvellous, and so was President Reagan and he had a very long telephone conversation with the [ Leopoldo Galtieri] President of the Argentine, fifty minutes and even his pleas fell on deaf ears. They have been marvellous diplomatically. To recover British sovereign territory is a British problem and we will tackle it ourselves, we hope diplomatically, to have the support of everyone else and so many other people have openly condemned aggression and this is why I say to you it is important that aggression does not succeed. We’ve seen enough of it already. If this one succeeds there will be other examples of it elsewhere. Therefore we have a duty to our territory, to our people, but also a duty to see that these aggressive moves do not succeed.

Mrs. Thatcher, you’ve stated your objective very clearly, you’ve staked your colours to the mast and you are determined to free the Falklands, if you fail would you feel obliged to resign?

Mrs. Thatcher
I am not talking about failure, I am talking about my supreme confidence in the British fleet … superlative ships, excellent equipment, the most highly trained professional group of men, the most honourable and brave members of her majesty’s service. Failure? Do you remember what Queen Victoria once said? “Failure—the possibilities do not exist”. That is the way we must look at it, with all our professionalism, all our flair and every single bit of native cunning, every single bit of professionalism and all our equipment and we must go out calmly, quietly, to succeed.

Thank you very much.

Communique of the Military Junta No. 18, 7 April 1982 Top

Source: Argentina. 1983. “Guerra de la Malvinas y Atlantico Sur: Partes Oficiales Comparatives.” Buenos Aires: Latin American Newsletters (my translation).


The Military Junta, for the knowledge of the nation, transcribes decree 688 of the Executive National power:
Buenos Aires, 5 of April 1982.

Having been proposed by the Minister of National Defense:

That the international developments arising from the recovery of the Malvinas, Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands, was an act of sovereignty of the Argentine people, that was executed by their Armed Forces, to impose extreme security measures throughout the nation that is the obligation to the PEN.

Such circumstances determined the necessity to convene, all or partially, reserve personnel and the Armed Forces, to have the suitable effectiveness to achieve the ability to respond effectively and promptly to any arising emergency military situation.

The call for the reserves is provided in Law No. 16,970, of National Defense articles 49 and 50 and Law 17,531, of Military Service articles 23 to 30, 32, and 45.

By these,

[Proclamations announcing the calling up of and orders for reserve forces]

Galtieri’s speech on 10 April, 1982 Top

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. “Galtieri’s speech on 10 April,” 13 April 1982. Accessed from LexisNexis Academic, 18 September 2012.

The President, in a speech to a crowd outside the Casa Posada relayed by Argentina Televisora (Buenos Aires), said: (Text) Argentine people [chants, shouts, slogans]. The people want to know what is happening [chants, shouts, slogans]. I repeat: the people want to know what is happening. In May 1810 the people of that time met in this square in front of the town hall (Cabildo) wanting to know what was happening during the birth of the fatherland. Today, as in those other bygone days – days – but with millions of Argentinians in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the town hall – the people want to know what is happening, and this is occurring in all the squares throughout the country [shouts, chants, slogans]. Events have [chants, shouts, slogans] events have caused me to exercise the Presidency, as President of the nation, representing all of you [shouts, chants, slogans]. You can be absolutely certain, each and every one of you, you can be certain, all of you, that in representing all the inhabitants of the nation I am proud and satisfied to say that during this first meeting with the representatives of the US Government [i.e. with the Secretary of State] [chants, shouts, slogans] I have maintained the dignity and honour of the Argentine nation [shouts], the dignity and the honour of the Argentine nation, something that is not being negotiated by anyone [applause, shouts, chants]. The English Government, Mrs Thatcher [apparent booing] and the English people up to the present time have not heard us mention one word that can be considered an attack, or one word insulting their honour and their reputation, that is, up to now, [shouts] but, as President of the nation, I ask the English Government and people [boos] for moderation in their words and moderation in their actions. The Argentine Government and the Argentine people, this open meeting (cabildo abierto) can become inflamed and meet offence with greater offence [applause, shouts, chants]. Workers, businessmen, intellectuals and people from every sector in the country are gathered here in national unity, seeking the country’s welfare and its dignity. Let the world, America, know that a people that have the decisive will that the Argentine people have, then if they want to come, let them come, becuase we will give them battle [sentence as heard] [shouts of ”Galtieri, Galtieri”, chants, slogans]. We have the solidarity of several American countries that have decided to fight shoulder to shoulder with Argentina [applause, shouts]. The nobility, the nobility of the Argentine people, in this square and all the country’s squares, causes us to offer our hand to the adversary, but this must not be taken as weak- ness. If it is necessary, the people, whose feelings I try to interpret as President of the nation, will be ready [shouts, chants] will be ready to offer a hand, a gesture of peace with nobility and in a gesture of peace with honour, but they will also be ready to teach a lesson (escarmentar) to anyone who dares to touch a square metre of Argentine territory [chants, shouts]. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, tomorrow, Sunday, is Easter Sunday: may the Argentine people, who are profoundly religious and Catholic, pray, asking God for peace. But nevertheless, I repeat: peace with dignity, preparing ourselves to confront the adversary. And I ask all of you [chants, shouts, slogans] and I ask all of you, in addition to thanking you for demonstrating your Argentine vocation, that we sing the national anthem.

PM Thatcher’s Statement to the House of Commons, 14 April 1982 Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
It is right, at this time of grave concern over the Falkland Islands and their people, that Parliament should be recalled so that the Government may report and the House may discuss the latest developments.

Our objective, endorsed by all sides of the House in recent debates, is that the people of the Falkland Islands shall be free to determine their own way of life and their own future. The wishes of the islanders must be paramount. But they cannot be freely expressed, let alone implemented, while the present illegal Argentine occupation continues.

That is why our immediate goal in recent days has been to secure the withdrawal of all Argentine forces in accordance with resolution 502 of the United Nations Security Council and to secure the restoration of British administration. Our strategy has been based on a combination of diplomatic, military and economic pressures and I should like to deal with each of these in turn.

First of all, we seek a peaceful solution by diplomatic effort. This, too, is in accordance with the Security Council resolution. In this approach we have been helped by the widespread disapproval of the use of force which the Argentine aggression has aroused across the world, and also by the tireless efforts of Secretary of State Haig, who has now paid two visits to this country and one to Buenos Aires.

On his first visit last Thursday we impressed upon him the great depth of feeling on this issue, not only of Parliament but of the British people as a whole. We may not express our views in the same way as the masses gathered in Buenos Aires, but we feel them every bit as strongly—indeed, even more profoundly, because Britons are involved. We made clear to Mr. Haig that withdrawal of the invaders’ troops must come first; that the sovereignty of the islands is not affected by the act of invasion; and that when it comes to future negotiations what matters most is what the Falkland Islanders themselves wish.

On his second visit on Easter Monday and yesterday, Mr. Haig put forward certain ideas as a basis for discussion—ideas concerning the withdrawal of troops and its supervision, and an interim period during which negotiations on the future of the islands would be conducted. Our talks were long and detailed, as the House would expect. Some things we could not consider because they flouted our basic principles. Others we had to examine carefully and suggest alternatives. The talks were constructive and some progress was made. At the end of Monday, Mr. Haig was prepared to return to Buenos Aires in pursuit of a peaceful solution.

Late that night, however, Argentina put forward to him other proposals which we could not possibly have accepted, but yesterday the position appeared to have eased. Further ideas are now being considered and Secretary Haig has returned to Washington before proceeding, he hopes shortly, to Buenos Aires. That meeting, in our view, will be crucial. 1147
These discussions are complex, changing and difficult, the more so because they are taking place between a military junta and a democratic Government of a free people—one which is not prepared to compromise that democracy and that liberty which the British Falkland Islanders regard as their birthright.

We seek, and shall continue to seek, a diplomatic solution, and the House will realise that it would jeopardise that aim were I to give further details at this stage. Indeed, Secretary Haig has been scrupulous in his adherence to confidentiality in pursuit of the larger objective. We shall continue genuinely to negotiate through the good offices of Mr. Haig, to whose skill and perseverance I pay warm tribute.

Diplomatic efforts are more likely to succeed if they are backed by military strength. At 5 am London time on Monday 12 April, the maritime exclusion zone of 200 miles around the Falkland Islands came into effect. From that time any Argentine warships and Argentine naval auxiliaries found within this zone are treated as hostile and are liable to be attacked by British forces.

We see this measure as the first step towards achieving the withdrawal of Argentine forces. It appears to have exerted influence on Argentina, whose navy has been concentrated outside the zone. If the zone is challenged, we shall take that as the clearest evidence that the search for a peaceful solution has been abandoned. We shall then take the necessary action. Let no one doubt that.

The naval task force is proceeding with all speed towards the South Atlantic. It is a formidable force, comprising two aircraft carriers, five guided missile destroyers, seven frigates, an assault ship with five landing ships, together with supporting vessels. The composition of the force and the speed with which it was assembled and put to sea clearly demonstrate our determination.

Morale on board the ships in the task force is very high. The ships and aircraft are carrying out exercises on passage, and by the time the force arrives off the Falklands it will be at a very high state of fighting efficiency.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Am I right in thinking that if the task force arrives off the Falklands there will be sufficient air cover against a land-based air force from the Argentine?

The Prime Minister
I shall have something to say about air cover in a moment. I have every confidence in all aspects of this task force.

A number of civilian ships have now been chartered or requisitioned. These include the “Canberra” for use as a troop ship and the “Uganda”, which will be available as a hospital ship. Recourse to the merchant marine is traditional in time of naval emergency and its response has been wholehearted on this occasion as in the past.

Men and equipment continue to be flown out to Ascension Island to meet up with the task force. These additional elements will enhance the fighting capability of the force and the range of operations which can be undertaken. Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft are now patrolling the South Atlantic in support of our fleet.

Sustaining a substantial force 8,000 miles from the United Kingdom is a considerable undertaking. As the Ministry of Defence announced this morning, additional measures are now in hand to provide extra capability for the force over an extended period. In particular, the second assault ship, HMS “Intrepid”, is being recommissioned for operational service. She will significantly add to the amphibious capability of the task force now entering the South Atlantic, which already contains her sister ship HMS “Fearless”.

Arrangements are in hand to adapt a large cargo ship for the sea lift of additional Harriers. This will nearly double the size of the Harrier force in the South Atlantic. All these aircraft have a formidable air combat and ground attack capability.

Our diplomacy is backed by strength, and we have the resolve to use that strength if necessary.

The third aspect of our pressure against Argentina has been economic. We have been urging our friends and allies to take action parallel to our own, and we have achieved a heartening degree of success. The most significant measure has been the decision of our nine partners in the European Community to join us not just in an arms embargo but also in stopping all imports from Argentina.

This is a very important step, unprecedented in its scope and the rapidity of the decision. Last year about a quarter of all Argentina’s exports went to the European Community. The effect on Argentina’s economy of this measure will therefore be considerable and cannot be without influence on her leaders in the present crisis. I should like warmly to thank our European partners for rallying to our support. It was an effective demonstration of Community solidarity.
The decision cannot have been easy for our partners, given the commercial interests at stake, but they were the first to realise that if aggression were allowed to succeed in the Falkland Islands, it would be encouraged the world over.

Other friends too have been quick to help, and I should like to thank Australia, New Zealand and Canada for their sturdy and swift action. They have decided to ban imports from Argentina, to stop export credits and to halt all sales of military equipment. New Zealand has also banned exports to Argentina. We are grateful also to many other countries in the Commonwealth which have supported us by condemning the Argentine invasion.

What have the Argentines been able to produce to balance this solidarity in support of our cause? Some Latin American countries have, of course, repeated their support for the Argentine claim to sovereignty. We always knew they would. But only one of them has supported the Argentine invasion, and nearly all have made clear their distaste and disapproval that Argentina should have resorted to aggression.

Almost the only country whose position has been shifting towards Argentina is the Soviet Union. We can only guess at the cynical calculations which lie behind this move. But Soviet support for Argentina is hardly likely to shake the world’s confidence in the justice of our cause and it will not alter our determination to achieve our objectives.

One of our first concerns has been and remains the safety of the British subjects who have been caught up in the consequences of the crisis. They include, apart from the Falkland Islanders themselves, the marines and the British Antarctic survey scientists on South Georgia and the British community in Argentina. In spite of all our efforts, we have not been able to secure reliable information about the 22 marines who were on South 1149Georgia and the 13 British Antarctic survey personnel who are believed to have been evacuated from Grytviken at the same time.

According to Argentine reports, these people are on a ship heading for the mainland. There are also reports that the six marines and the one member of the crew of “Endurance” who were captured on the Falkland Islands are now in Argentina.

Finally, there are 13 members of the British Antarctic survey team and two other British subjects who remain on South Georgia. The survey team’s most recent contacts, on 12 April, with their headquarters in this country indicate that they are safe and well.

On 5 April, we asked the Swiss Government, as the protecting power, to pursue all these cases urgently with the Argentine Government. We trust that their efforts will soon produce the information which we and their families so anxiously seek.

On the same day we also sought the assistance of the International Red Cross with regard to the position of the population in the Falkland Islands. So far the Argentine Government have not responded to its request to visit the islands.

Last night, a party of 35 people from the islands, including the Chief Secretary, arrived in Montevideo and a report from the Chief Secretary on conditions in the islands is expected at any moment.

Recently the Government received a message from the British Community Council in Argentina urging a peaceful solution to the present conflict and asking that due consideration be given to the strong British presence in Argentina and the size of the British community there. We have replied, recognising the contribution which the British community has made to the development of Argentina—but making it plain that we have a duty to respond to the unprovoked aggression against the Falkland Islands and insisting that Argentina should comply with the mandatory resolution of the Security Council calling upon it to withdraw its troops.

Mr. Dalyell
Before the right hon. Lady comes to the end of her speech, I wish to repeat my question about air power. Does the right hon. Lady not remember what happened to “Prince of Wales” and “Repulse”? Does she not know that there are at least 68 Skyhawks as well as the Mirages and R5–30s in the Argentine Air Force? That is a formidable force if the task force is to go near the Falkland Islands. Will the right hon. Lady answer my question?

The Prime Minister
I have indicated to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and to the House that we have taken steps to double the provision of the Harriers. We believe that that will provide the air cover that the hon. Gentleman and the House seek. I trust that he and the House will express confidence in our naval, marine and air forces. That is what they are at least entitled to have from the House.

We are also being urged in some quarters to avoid armed confrontation at all costs and to seek conciliation. Of course, we too want a peaceful solution, but it was not Britain that broke the peace. If the argument of no force at any price were to be adopted at this stage it would serve only to perpetuate the occupation of those very territories which have themselves been seized by force.

In any negotiations over the coming days we shall be guided by the following principles. We shall continue to insist on Argentine withdrawal from the Falkland Islands and dependencies. We shall remain ready to exercise our right to resort to force in self-defence under article 51 of the United Nations charter until the occupying forces leave the islands. Our naval task force sails on towards its destination. We remain fully confident of its ability to take whatever measures may be necessary. Meanwhile, its very existence and its progress towards the Falkland Islands reinforce the efforts we are making for a diplomatic solution.
That solution must safeguard the principle that the wishes of the islanders shall remain paramount. There is no reason to believe that they would prefer any alternative to the resumption of the administration which they enjoyed before Argentina committed aggression. It may be that their recent experiences will have caused their views on the future to change, but until they have had the chance freely to express their views, the British Government will not assume that the islanders’ wishes are different from what they were before.

We have a long and proud history of recognising the right of others to determine their own destiny. Indeed, in that respect we have an experience unrivalled by any other nation in the world. But that right must be upheld universally, and not least where it is challenged by those who are hardly conspicuous for their own devotion to democracy and liberty.

The eyes of the world are now focused on the Falkland Islands. Others are watching anxiously to see whether brute force or the rule of law will triumph. Wherever naked aggression occurs it must be overcome. The cost now, however high, must be set against the cost we would one day have to pay if this principle went by default. That is why, through diplomatic, economic and, if necessary, through military means, we shall persevere until freedom and democracy are restored to the people of the Falkland Islands.

President Galtieri’s Day of the America’s Speech, 15 April 1982 Top

Source: BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. “President Galtieri’s Day of the Americas speech,” 16 April 1982. Accessed from LexisNexis Academic, 18 September 2012.

President Galtieri’s Day of the Americas speech was transmitted (0015 gmt 15 Apr 82) by the Argentine agency in a dispatch from Buenos Aires on 14th April. The President had issued the text of the speech to the media because the pressure of his ”many duties” prevented him from broadcasting it, according to the agency. The text is as follows:

Today, the Day of the Americas, we celebrate the unity and solidarity of the nations of our continent. The feelings and values which nurture those ties were born of the stimulus that drove our nations to gain their sovereign status. With the same inspiration, the free Americans then told the world that their arms were open to all the peaceful men who wanted to live with them. It is the same spirit which built an America for the Americans so that it would also, at the same time, be an America for humanity. It is the same spirit which guided the noblest epic, the most generous of conduct and the most open policies. It is the spirit of San Martin, Bolivar, Washington and of many other men that echoes again when the times comes to speak of the freedom of nations. More than any other circumstance, they understood the future. They realized that with the freedom of the Americas, the world would no longer be the same and that the independence of all our national communities was the most effective guarantee for projecting and securing an emerging continent. That is the reason why they believed that our influence would inevitably end the colonial regimes. That is the lesson they left for their descendants. And our forefathers, and our nations acted according to those high principles. That is why they provided their support and strength to their brothers’ heroic struggle for freedom. That is why the nations of our Americas repelled attempts to impose colonial domination on us. Foreign military interventions were confronted and the struggle against colonialism continued in every form. Based on those ideas, the inter-American system and the treaties expressing the will of the continent were forged. Our nation only recently had to act on the basis of that historic principle. The nation, after bearing for a century and a half the reply of silence to its legitimate claims; after tolerating ambiguous answers, backward steps and delays, has decided effectively to reintegrate into its sovereign domain territories which belong to it by irrevocable rights. This was achieved through the limited, prudent and humanitarian use of the nation’s forces, even to the point of sacrificing Argentinian blood to prevent the blood of others from being shed. That is how one of the last chapters of colonial history in the continent ended. A flag of the Americas, Argentina’s blue and white flag, is now flying in a land where once it was hauled down by an act of aggression. Now, even under the threat of all-out aggression by an ousted extra-continental power, we are working to ensure the best living conditions for the few inhabitants of the recovered territories and all the men who want to help in the progress and growth of this part of our nation and the Americas. Our people are assuming the defence of our sovereignty and confirming their unyielding dedication to peace and their historic commitment to negotiated solutions for international conflicts. Because of the difficulties we are still facing, we have received emotional signs of support and offers of effective aid from our brothers of the Americas and other nations. These fully make up for the lack of understanding, criticism and ignorance shown by countries and groups of countries which usually boast allegedly progressive ideas, ones that in reality demonstrate that they are the best defenders of the survival of unjust privilege and past colonial discrimination. But America is what counts. Argentinians will always remember every word and gesture of unity and solidarity telling us that the essential spirit of the Americas continues to shine in the soul of their people. Nor will we be able to forget the attitude of those who, by searching for rewards similar to the 30 coins of Judas, deny the ideas they say they believe in and, in practice defend imperialist privilege. We will record in our history, with words cast in steel, the story of what is happening. Our future generations will read that, because of our vindicating efforts, the Americas – of sovereign tradition – have answered: ”Here I am (Spanish: presente)”.

Communique of the Military Junta No. 26, 16 April 1982 Top

Source: Argentina. 1983. “Guerra de la Malvinas y Atlantico Sur: Partes Oficiales Comparatives.” Buenos Aires: Latin American Newsletters (my translation).


The Military Junta communicates to people of the Argentine Nation, that we have received through the Swiss Embassy, reports which note the British government’s decision to attack any aircraft, ship or submarine Argentine affecting the fulfillment of the mission of the British fleet in the South Atlantic, to extend its threat to commercial aircraft. Therefore the military junta has decided:

1. Consider that this attitude violates the most elementary norms of international law, which indicates the contempt that they feel the government of Great Britain.
2. Present the relevant complaint to the competent international organizations.
3. Appeal to the good sense of the British government, urging it to end this long series of provocations, unbecoming of a civilized nation that do not help the diplomatic solution to our differences and who are reaching intolerable levels.
4. That the Argentine armed forces respond to any British aggression in the right of self defense cation provisions of Art. 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Thatcher’s Speech to Mid-Bedfordshire Conservatives (excerpt), 30 April 1982 Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

….And then it came to our present crisis. Now I must tell you, um, there is what is known as Thatcher’s law of politics (laughter). I’ll tell you what it is. It is that the unexpected always happens (laughter). I didn’t expect it to be proved as vividly as … (laughter). But the unexpected happens. The Falkland Islands crisis. But you see the unexpected happens in far more senses than the Falklands crisis. It awoke in Britain a fantastic pride of country (hear, hear) (applause). And people of all politics, of all backgrounds, we weren’t going to have this. This country was a free country and we weren’t going to have other people walking all over British citizens even though they were 8,000 miles away (applause). We, the British people, were fed up with the abuse of power, whether it happened at home or it happened internationally and someone had to say stop and who better than the British? (Hear, hear.) Once again this great thing, we not only stood for might, but we stood for right. Oh yes, of course, we depend greatly, and are very grateful for the support of the United Nations. But we live in a real world and we know that Afghanistan is still occupied in spite of United Nations resolutions, that Vietnam and Cambodia are still in very great war and trouble in spite of United Nations resolutions, and Iran and Iraq. And with that United Nations resolution behind us we know we either have to persuade Argentine (sic) to withdraw or we in fact have in the end to be prepared to use force for those things which I said, liberty and justice and duty. And it was in that spirit that we set out and in that spirit we got not only the support of government, because they are government decisions, not only support of our own party, but the support of the men and women of this country, who feel exactly the same way as we do about our citizens the other side of the world….

Thatcher’s Statement in the House of Commons, 4 May 1982Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

Mr. Roberts
In view of the terrible loss of life in the South Atlantic and the rapidly escalating military confrontation, will the Prime Minister make a further effort today to reach a peaceful solution to the situation, involving probably the United Nations?

The Prime Minister
We all regret the loss of human life in the South Atlantic, but our first duty is to protect, and to minimise the danger to, our own forces in the South Atlantic, who are there because we all agreed that we should send a task force——

Mr. Cryer
I did not, so do not start dragging me into your rotten schemes.

Mr. Foulkes
I did not.

The Prime Minister
—because we all agreed that we must stop the invader, and because the vast majority of people in the House recognise that the best way to stop the trouble is to withdraw the forces from the Falkland Islands. Of course, the effort to seek a peaceful solution continues, and will continue vigorously. My right hon. Friend [ Francis Pym] the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be reporting later on his visit to the United Nations. We shall pursue a peaceful settlement either there or through other means.

Sir Peter Emery
Will my right hon. Friend say over and over again that until the Argentine Government withdraw their troops from the Falkland Islands, every injury and fatality in the Southern Atlantic is absolutely due to the action of the Argentine junta?

The Prime Minister
Yes, it was the Argentines who broke the peace with unprovoked aggression. They are on British sovereign territory and there are British people under the heel of the junta. We sent the task force to rectify that situation. We hope to do so by all peaceful means and shall continue to try to do so. In the meantime, our first duty must be to protect our boys.

Mr. Foot
May I press the right hon. Lady on the question of the sinking of the cruiser and the tragic loss of life involved? We are all deeply concerned about it, just as we all are deeply aware that the origin of the crisis was the aggression by the Argentine. None the less, the Government have direct responsibilities in this matter, and the right hon. Lady especially so. Can she tell us what political control there was over this development, which was a major development? Can she say what calculations about the minimum use of force entered into those considerations?
Returning to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts), can the right hon. Lady tell us exactly what are the next steps that will be taken by the Government to try to deal with the situation? There is always the danger that such an event as the sinking of the ship will recur and that it can put our Service men in danger. We on the Labour side of the House are as determined to protect them as anybody in the country.

The Prime Minister
I wholly share the right hon. Gentleman’s view that we must protect the lives of our own Service men, whose great skill and courage we applaud and admire. With regard to that particular event, and all events other than the mere tactical ones in the South Atlantic, the task force clearly is and was under political control. I want to make it perfectly clear that after the announcement of the maritime exclusion zone—I referred to the matter in the House last week—there was another announcement on 23 April, which was communicated to the Argentine Government and also to the United Nations. It may help if I read it in full:
“In announcing the establishment of a maritime exclusion zone around the Falkland Islands, Her Majesty’s Government made it clear that this measure was without prejudice to the right of the United Kingdom to take whatever additional measures may be needed in the exercise of its right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. In this connection, Her Majesty’s Government now wishes to make clear that any approach on the part of Argentine warships, including submarines, naval auxiliaries, or military aircraft which could amount to a threat to interfere with the mission of the British forces in the South Atlantic will encounter the appropriate response”.
The warning was given to the Argentine Government, I repeat, on 23 April. It was reported to the United Nations on 24 April.

Mr. Foot
All of us can understand the documents that have been put in the Library on this matter, but the right hon. Lady has not fully explained why such a development as this occurred in the circumstances in which it did occur, nor has she explained why the maximum amount—or, at any rate, a considerable amount—of force was used to carry it out. None of these things has been explained. They will need to be explained much more fully to the country and to others. Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that these are important matters for our own Service men, whom we wish to protect as much as anyone? They are also important for the support that this Government may command throughout the world in these matters. If the 16right hon. Lady and the Government do not appreciate that the sinking of the cruiser raises great questions of this kind, she does not understand the situation.

The Prime Minister
May I make it perfectly clear that the worry that I live with hourly is that attacking Argentine forces, either naval or air, may get through to ours and sink some of our ships. I am sure that that will also be in the right hon. Gentleman’s mind. There was clear aggressive intent on the part of the Argentine fleet and Government. It could be seen first in their claims. They previously claimed that they had sunk HMS “Exeter”, that they had damaged HMS “Hermes”, leaving it inoperative and badly damaged, and that they had brought down 11 Harriers. That was clear evidence of Argentine aggressive intent. The right hon. Gentleman may also remember the persistent attacks throughout the whole of Saturday on our task force, which were repelled only by the supreme skill and courage of our people. He may also know, or will hear from my right hon. Friend, of the very heavy armaments that the cruiser carried, and, of course, the cruiser was accompanied by two destroyers, which were not attacked in any way.

Mr. Mates
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, of all the uses to which the word has been put in the last weeks, the word “paramount” applies most of all now to the safety and lives of our Service men in the south Atlantic? Will she further agree that the House of Commons, having agreed to send the task force to back up our diplomacy, cannot now flinch from the consequences that may occur, however serious they are?

The Prime Minister
I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. Our first duty is to our own forces, who are there on our orders and with our support. We must look after their safety. Our second duty is to see that we try to use minimum force. However, that cruiser and the associated destroyers—and, of course, there are other task forces of the Argentine Navy also at large in the South Atlantic, not far from the exclusion zone—posed a very obvious threat to the men in our task force. Had we left it any later it would have been too late and I might have had to come to the House with the news that some of our ships had been sunk.

Q2. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on the Falkland Islands.

The Prime Minister
My right hon. Friends [ Francis Pym] the Secretaries of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and [ John Nott] for Defence will be making full statements after questions on recent diplomatic and military developments respectively.

Mr. Dalyell
When the Prime Minister referred to political control, did she herself, personally and explicitly, authorise the firing of the torpedoes at the “General Belgrano”?

The Prime Minister
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the task force is and was under full political control.

Sir John Biggs-Davison
Would not some of the ignorant and irresponsible questions coming from the Opposition have been avoided if the Leader of the Opposition had done his duty to his party, to the country, and as a Privy Councillor, by availing himself of the 17invitation from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to acquaint him with matters to which we, who are not sworn of the Privy Council, do not wish to have access because we have confidence in her handling of this affair and in Her Majesty’s Forces?

The Prime Minister
It is for the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he will avail himself of any offer to talk on Privy Councillor terms.

Mr. William Hamilton

The Prime Minister
It is for the right hon. Gentleman to decide whether he will avail himself of the invitation.

Mr. Hamilton
It is for us, too.

The Prime Minister
Apart from that, it may concern right hon. and hon. Gentleman on that side. He did not wish to do so. In the meantime, I beg him to have some regard for the practical considerations that affect our operations in the South Atlantic.

Mr. Foot
Would the right hon. Lady care to read to the House what she said about the matter of consultations on “Panorama” a few days ago? Will she also repeat to the House what I think she understood well before, namely, the attitude that has been taken by many Opposition leaders in previous times, who thought that they would be failing in their duty to the House of Commons if they were to gag themselves? If the leader of the Liberal Party wants to do it, he is perfectly entitled to do so. I should be very happy if the right hon. Lady would read to the House and country her own words on this subject.

The Prime Minister
I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman’s decision in any way. I made an offer available to him on the same basis as I did to the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal Party and to the leader of the SDP in this House. Whether he takes it up is a matter for him. I have been in a similar position. There have been times when I have taken the offer up and times when I have not.

Sir Anthony Kershaw
On the subject of the cruiser, how can anyone maintain that such a ship, armed in that way, and accompanied by those destroyers, was not a threat to our forces? Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that the first communiqué about the sinking from the Argentine side said that the ship was all right, except for damage to its steering? If that were true, does it not show that minimum force was then used?

The Prime Minister
I agree with my hon. Friend. The cruiser posed a real threat to our forces then, and would
have continued to do so in the coming days.

Mr. Grimond
In view of these events in the South Atlantic, has not the time now come for a fresh, direct approach by Her Majesty’s Government to the junta proposing that the Argentines evacuate the Falkland Islands, so that negotiations can then be entered into directly between us? After all, we are still not at war with the Argentine.

The Prime Minister
At the moment we prefer to make our approaches through a third party. Mr. Haig did valiant work, and it is clear that he is still interested in trying to bring about a solution, both through his own efforts and, as the right hon. Gentleman may have read, through certain initiatives that are being undertaken by Mr. Haig through the Peruvian Government, and which we are pursuing vigorously. We have not gone through the junta itself. It is not easy to see with whom one would be negotiating, whether it would be the president, other members of the junta or the generals behind it. Throughout, that has been a very difficult problem.

Q3. Mr. Brinton
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 May.

The Prime Minister
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Brinton
Is my right hon. Friend aware that she still has massive support for her Government’s policies on the Falkland Islands? Is she also aware that there are two former colonies in the world today with populations of fewer than 8,000 and about 20 countries which have less land area than the Falkland Islands? Will she ensure that Britain does not deviate from its determination to demonstrate that armed, unprovoked aggression must never pay?

The Prime Minister
I believe that what my hon. Friend says about there being small countries in the Commonwealth and countries with smaller areas than the Falkland Islands is correct. I entirely agree that unless Britain manages to stop and undo the Argentine aggression, many other small countries and territories will go in fear that they may suffer the same fate.

Thatcher’s Speech to the Scottish Conservative Party Conference (excerpt), 14 May 1982 Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

….Now I said that we are gathered tonight in the shadow of great events. Events with which we were confronted through no choice of ours but in which we have been called, as so often in our Island’s story, to stand for freedom and the rule of law, both challenged by the unprovoked aggression of the Argentine. The task has fallen to us but our service is to all who cherish liberty. Let us turn our minds back to that grey morning, in the South Atlantic, six weeks ago today, where the Argentine forces carried out a coldly calculated invasion of British territory. The reaction of the British Parliament and people was spontaneous and clear. The invasion was unlawful and unprovoked. It contravened every code of international conduct, it was in defiance of a United Nations Security Council call for restraint. It was directly contrary to the freely expressed wishes of the Islanders. It must be ended and it will be ended.

The Government responded at once by sending a Task Force, the largest that’s ever been assembled in peace time to the South Atlantic, to back up intense diplomatic efforts to compel the Argentines to withdraw in accordance with the mandatory resolution which had been passed by the United Nations Security Council. The speed with which that fleet was gathered and the courage and the skill of those who repossessed South Georgia fill us all with pride, and a special pride in our young people who rose to that occasion in the very best of all our traditions throughout history.

Why were people and Parliament so united? Why in the days that followed did Britain receive such widespread international support? Our fellow members of the European Community plus Canada, Australia and New Zealand, always so robust, and many other countries across the world, came out in clear condemnation of the Argentine aggression. And so many helped us by imposing an Import Ban on Argentine goods. They all knew that the principles we were defending went far wider than the future of the 1,800 British people on the Falkland Islands, although the cause of but one person, if it is just, should be enough to take action. They knew that this invasion was one of those insidious tests, which throughout history evil has used to undermine the resolve of the good, and the world wondered would the good and the true respond? And the good and the true did. Nevertheless, our first duty is to the Falkland Islanders themselves. We must uphold their right to live their lives in their way. We must respect their loyalty, the wonderful loyalty they have shown. Their freedom of choice and their independence of spirit. After all, Mr. President, that’s what being Scottish and British is all about.

But there are even larger issues at stake. The right to self-determination is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. If that right is weakened, small countries the world over would be at risk. And nor must aggression be seen to triumph for it grows by feeding on example. And our men and ships now facing all the rigours of the South Atlantic in mid-winter are there not only to secure the withdrawal of Argentine troops from territory which is not theirs. They are there also that others may mark and learn that land they take by force they shall not hold.

For nearly 150 years now, the United Kingdom has been in peaceful and continuous possession of the Falkland Islands. The administration of the Islands has been British and until the invasion, out of the total population of the Islands, the Argentinians numbered only forty. The rest were British and mainly of Island stock. Families which have been there for four or five generations, longer than the ancestors of some of the Argentinians who came from Spain and Italy. Argentina claims that theirs is an act of decolonisation. Ladies and gentlemen, that simply isn’t true. No nation in the world has a longer or prouder record of bringing colonies to true independence than our own. What Argentina wants is not to decolonise the Falklands but in fact to put them again under a different colonial control, and one which has not had the respect for liberty and democracy which the Islanders have come to love.

Over the years, successive British governments have sought always in company with the Islanders, to reach agreement with the Argentine over the long term future of the Islands. The last of those meetings took place in New York at the end of February, less than three months ago. Yet only three weeks later, an Argentine Navy ship landed sixty Argentines on South Georgia without permission from us. We sought to solve that problem by diplomatic means, but it was the [ Nicanor Costa Mendez] Argentine Foreign Minister himself who, on the very eve of their invasion, told us that the diplomatic channel was now closed. That same day President Reagan’s personal appeal was spurned by the [ Leopoldo Galtieri] President of Argentina. Mr. President, they didn’t want a peaceful settlement then because the next day the Argentines invaded and the Falklands were occupied. The Security Council called for Argentine withdrawal and since that mandatory instruction the government of Argentina throughout these six weeks has made no move to comply. On the contrary, they have poured in additional troops and additional equipment. Mr. President, there can be no doubt where the guilt lies. It lies in Argentina. And after six weeks we need to remind other nations that if they believe in justice at all they cannot be even-handed between the aggressor and the aggrieved. We welcome the support we have had from many of those nations. We hope and trust that support will continue until the invader is thrown off the Islands.

Of course we will continue to negotiate. We’ll go on doing all we humanly can to reach a peaceful settlement. A settlement in which the Argentine leaves the islands they now occupy unlawfully. The government want a peaceful settlement but your government totally rejects a peaceful sell-out. There would be neither honour nor credibility in our country or our people if we were to do that.

I hope that the negotiations will succeed. I don’t want to see one more life lost in the South Atlantic, whether British or Argentinian, if it can be avoided. But I should not be doing my duty if I didn’t warn you in the simplest and clearest terms that for all our efforts, those of Mr. Haig, and those of the [ Javier Perez de Cuellar] Secretary General of the United Nations, a negotiated settlement may prove to be unattainable. Then we should have to turn to the only other course left open to us. And that is why, as I have repeatedly said in the House of Commons, the Government, in its attempts to find a diplomatic solution, has done nothing which forecloses any military action now, or any military option for the future. Nothing is being held up because we are negotiating. Nor should it be. It would be only too easy a ploy for the Argentinians to say, “Don’t have any military action while we negotiate”. They would be quietly in their bases on land while we should be tossed about the South Atlantic in those intemperate seas. We are not going to fall for that one.

The difficulties we face are formidable but our determination to secure a just solution is relentless and in that I believe we have the whole country with us.

Mr. President, for too long, or so it seems to me, we in Britain have been seen by ourselves and by too many overseas people as drifting on the ebbing tide of history, slipping inexorably backwards under pressures we somehow felt powerless to resist. Yet in truth there was nothing irresistible about them if we had but the resolve to reverse the current and to convince others and ourselves of our sense of purpose. Even since I was given the trust to lead our Government it has been my purpose to set a course that both friend and foe may understand and that we may adhere to. And that purpose is the same at home as it is overseas. To uphold certain principles and values which some had thought that we could live without. And foremost among them has been to restore honest money and sound finance and to make our industries profitable once again. Of course, we knew that the paths we set would need to be adjusted to the unmapped terrain that lay ahead and we didn’t hesitate to adjust it, but our goal was not adjusted and it shouldn’t be. And it won’t be. Steadily but surely we are gaining ground, because ordinary folk understand our sense of purpose. They understand we are going to stick to it and more and more are coming to count upon that…..

Thatcher: Radio Interview for IRN, 17 May 1982 Top

Source: Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://www.margartthatcher.org

Prime Minister, our representatives are once again negotiating at the United Nations. Now is this really the last chance for negotiations to achieve some positive results?

I think it may be. After all, we’ve been negotiating now for about six weeks. I’ve looked at six sets of proposals and tried to put our view on each. They’ve got nowhere. And the fact is that I feel that if the Argentines had really wanted to withdraw, if they had really wanted to obey the Security Council Resolution, we should have seen some sign by now. But you know the Task Force is there, it’s being very active, you saw the result of that commando raid, and one just hopes that that will have some influence on the junta in Argentina. And perhaps get a settlement where what had happened before wouldn’t.

Now does that actually mean that if there’s to be any movement it has to come from their side, that we’ve gone as far as we can and that really it’s up to them to move now?

Oh, we’ve gone as far as we can, yes. They’re the invader. They’re the aggressor, we are the aggrieved. There’s a United Nations Resolution which says the Argentines must withdraw. It’s up to them. If we want peace, and I do, if they want peace they can have it by withdrawing.

How wide is the gap now between the two of us? Are we anywhere near a compromise?

It’s very difficult to say. I think there’s a fundamental difference between a democracy on our side and a dictatorship on their side. We believe in self determination, a dictatorship of course doesn’t. And then sometimes you get speeches made in Argentina of the kind that President Galtieri made this weekend when he said that he was prepared to sacrifice some 40,000 lives for the Falkland Islands, to keep them. I just thought how dreadful. It made one sick at heart, so many. Whereas he could avoid all the loss of life by withdrawing from the Islands and carrying on the kind of talks we had before.

Now are you prepared to sacrifice lives for the sake of regaining the Islands? Some lives, hundreds of lives already. Do you put a number on it.

If an aggressor succeeds in what he sets out to do, if he goes in by force to hold land and continues to hold that land, subjugate those people, then there will be many many other people in the future who will be treated the same way in other territories across the world. Therefore he has to go and he won’t go by negotiations, he has to leave and we have to take military action to ensure that he does.

Does that mean we make him go whatever the cost?

We make him go. As I said in the very first speech, the cost of making a dictator, an invader go now, is very much less than of having other invasions, other dictatorships taking territory and peoples by force and then finally having to deal with them. So, he has to go.

I get the feeling, coming from Downing Street as well as from other places in this country, that Ministers feel President Galtieri is just wasting time, playing for time, and that the longer this goes on the stronger he becomes. He’s just playing you along.

We don’t know, [ Leopoldo Galtieri] he’s not been able to play us along so far because no military decision has been held up because we are negotiating. Not one single one. Well, you’ve seen what’s happened. Nothing’s been held up. It’s very difficult you know to know who you are negotiating with. You negotiate at the United Nations with a Mr. Ros. But you see we were already negotiating with him back in February. We always had the Islanders with us and what they wanted we tried to obtain for them and if they didn’t want to make any concessions whatsoever or have more Argentinians in the Falklands, all right. Falklanders live there and therefore we agreed with the Falklanders. So then we were negotiating peacefully with Mr. Ros. Mr. Costa Mendez is their Foreign Minister, when the South Georgia incident came up, you know they landed on South Georgia to try to[fo 2] remove a whaling station under commercial contract but they hadn’t got the proper permits. When we tried to settle that by diplomacy just one day before the invasion, Mr. Costa Mendez called our Ambassador and said the negotiations are closed. President Reagan telephone President Galtieri to say we hear you are making plans to invade—don’t. President Reagan was on to President Galtieri for fifty minutes on the telephone. He was rebuffed. Now, they didn’t want a peaceful settlement then. They just wanted to use military means and to invade. They not only fired the first shot, they were responsible for the invasion and the first act when they had landed was they went straight to the barracks where our marines were expected to be, they thought they were all inside those barracks, and they mortar bombed those barracks heavily, hoping to get the lot. They didn’t because fortunately our marines were not there. Now that’s what you’re dealing with. You don’t know who you are dealing with. Is it Mr. Ros, is it Mr. Costa Mendez, he has to refer to Galtieri, Mr. Galtieri has to refer to the others in the junta, they have to refer to the generals. We’ve been at this for six weeks and we’re having one last go to see if we can get a peaceful settlement.

How long can that one last go, go on for? Days, hours, weeks?

Well, it occurs through the [ Perez de Cuellar] Secretary General of the United Nations who is being very very active indeed. A person of total integrity. And it just depends how long he thinks he can go on. My guess is that we shall know this week whether we’re going to get a peaceful settlement or not.

This week. That really is the deadline is it because we seem to have been saying this for a long time?

I think we shall know this week. These are the sixth set of proposals. You would think that if the Argentines wanted a peaceful settlement they’d have taken more steps than they have towards one. The question is do they want one or not. And that’s what we are trying to find out.

Your suspicion is clearly that they do not.

I have seen no signs that they do in the last six weeks.

Can I come back to the cost of this whole episode briefly? Is it really a clash between, some say, what is right in principle and what is possible in practice? All right, the principle that they should leave the Islands is absolutely right but if it is too costly in lives, and you don’t want to get involved probably in numbers again, but if it’s too costly then it will have been proved to be the wrong decision to go out there. To be practically wrong.

No. I don’t think you’ve got the point right at all. There are two points. First, the Falkland Islanders are British citizens. British citizens have been invaded. If they can’t look to their own country to protect them, to go and try to get the invader off, what future is there for anyone in this world? So they have a right to look to us for their defence. We have a right to defend our own territory. That’s one principle. Secondly, an invader must not be allowed to succeed. If he does there are many other peoples who will be invaded. Many of them who will be in jeopardy. Now these two are very important principles and ideals. And if they are flouted there will be no law in the world, there’ll be international anarchy and many many peoples’ lives will be at stake. And don’t forget you’re not exactly either dealing with a democratic country. Even if a democratic country did that we’d have to go and defend our own. But you’re dealing with a country that hasn’t exactly got a good record on human rights. Are you going to leave our people to be under the heel of that kind of junta.

Well, eventually we probably will. Eventually we are working to handing over the sovereignty of the place anyway?

I beg your pardon. Did you really say that eventually Britain would leave these people to be under the heel of a junta if they did not wish it? Those are words that I never thought to hear. We went to defend them. That’s what we’ve gone for. We’ve gone to get the Argentines off the Island. And I hope no-one will ever say that British subjects can’t look to us to protect them.

Can I inject a slightly personal note? I remember you talking in the House of Commons about your real fears being not that one of their boats went down but that one of our boats went down and very quickly that came to pass. It’s an enormous stress for you personally[fo 4] to have to make the kind of decisions which do involve men’s lives.

You cannot fight these battles without losing casualties. That problem is one which I live with every hour of the day and every hour of the night. But I also remember there are British people with something like 9,000 or 10,000 soldiers on those Islands. They are British people there. They look to us. It’s more than 1800 people, it is the whole principle of shall an invader succeed, shall there be an international law? You see the fact is that United Nations Resolution on its own won’t get those Argentine soldiers off those Islands. It ought to, it ought to. But it won’t. There aren’t many mandatory resolutions in the Security Council. There have been a number. The trouble is that the United Nations hasn’t the power or authority to act to ensure that they are adhered to. So, if we can’t get them off by diplomatic means, by economic means, we’ll have to get them off by military means.

You share the responsibility I have just mentioned, of course, with other members of the inner Cabinet. There’s been a certain amount of public speculation and indeed speculation in your own Party that there’s division of opinion between yourself and Mr. Pym.

There’s no division of opinion. We argue about things, of course we do. There’s so much at stake. You discuss every aspect, of course you do. You owe that to the lives of the people who are going to be risked and you owe it to their families, you owe it to all our people. All of that is done. No-one in this country would ever have said what Galtieri said: “I am prepared to sacrifice 40,000 lives”. We think about each one. Each and every one. But you cannot do these things without risks. We try to minimise the risks and we try to see that our own people have as much safety as is possible and that the risks are minimised.

Well, I’ve got a slightly philosophical question, not too much there. But almost as soon as we start to negotiate with somebody like Galtieri, when he has actually just taken something by right of force, we almost make concessions to the fact that he has done it. We almost immediately start offering him some advantage for the fact that he’s invaded. Is that a fear with you, that he will get something from this?[fo 5]

Well, what he’s asking of course is to say, “Look, I will withdraw if you can assure me that I’ll get sovereignty.” And we’re saying, “No, certainly not. You have to withdraw and we will continue to negotiate in the future.” But you know, when we negotiated before, we always had the Islanders with us. And the Islanders don’t want to be under the Argentine. Self determination means a great deal to us. That’s what democracy is all about. And he invaded them really to punish them because they didn’t want to be Argentinian. Because they didn’t want to be under the rule of Argentine. We go down the to protect the right of self determination and to protect their right to live their lives in their way and with the kind of government of their choice. That is what democracy is all about.

Do you have any fears about the way international opinion is going on all this? In the Common Market itself there seems less than absolute support for our stand.

If we succeed, and I believe we shall, we shall have the quiet acclaim and approval of all who believe in democracy and they will think, thank goodness someone’s stood up for international law, someone’s stood up for their own people, someone’s stood up and been loyal to those who are loyal to them. Someone’s done it at last.

So even if all the international opinion goes against you, even if the UN and the Common Market all start to run away, you still say we fight on, we are standing for this cause.

I don’t believe everyone will run away from us. There’s too much at stake. And unfortunately there are far too few democracies in the world. Everyone will not run away from us. The United States has been very very staunch. Europe has been very very staunch. I believe that all democracies hope that democracy will succeed in this as in many other problems the world has to face.

Just a couple of final points. One is, of great concern in particular to the religious, the strong religious community in our Islands. And that is the visit of the Pope and the thought that it might be cancelled. Have you any advice to offer at this stage?

It is a pastoral visit of the [ John Paul II] Pope. I very much hope that he will come. So many people are looking forward to it. So many people have made endless effort to see him, to organise things for him. It is a pastoral visit. I hope very very much that he will come and that he will get a warm welcome in our country.

Can I ask what is really the summarising question? From the tone of everything that you’ve said and everything in which you’ve made so plain, it just strikes me that there really is, bearing in mind the gap between ourselves and Argentina, very little hope for anything but an invasion, that does seem the most likely course of action now, doesn’t it?

There’s always time to pull back. Always. And that’s why our [Sir Anthony Parsons] Ambassador has gone back to the United Nations this week to have one more go. To see if we can persuade them to pull back. For people like us it’s difficult to see why they don’t pull back. They’ve got a lot of young people on that Island and then he says he’ll sacrifice 40,000. I cannot understand that. I just cannot understand it. When he could stop it as an act of statesmanship if you like, he could stop it and say, “All right, stop, we’ll withdraw and then we’ll go on talking afterwards.” All it would need and many many people in the world would feel very much better, it would be an act of statesmanship and to be a wise act, an act that would be of great benefit to the Argentine people. For they are wrongly in those Islands. They were aggressors. That leads to international anarchy and if they don’t decide to withdraw then I’m afraid we have to use force to get them out.

And so that’s the final message from our envoys to the Argentinians at the United Nations. Pull back or face the consequences.

That is the right message if there is to be any hope for peace-loving, freedom-loving people the world over.

Falkland Islands: Negotiations for a Peaceful Settlement, 21 May 1982 Top

Source: Raphael Perl, ed. 1983. The Falkland Islands Dispute in International Law & Politics: A Documentary Sourcebook. New York: Oceana Publications.

Argentine Aggression
1. It is now almost seven weeks since Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. This unlawful use of force in unprovoked aggression threatened not only to destroy the democratic way of life freely chosen by the Falkland Islanders but also the basis on which international order rests. The invasion was also a singular act of bad faith: it took place when Britain and Argentina were engaged in negotiations in accordance with requests from the United Nations.

2. On 1 April the President of the United Nations Security Council had formally appealed to Argentina not to invade the Falkland Islands. yet on 2 April Argentina invaded. On 3 April the United Nations Security Council passed its mandatory Resolution 502, demanding a cessation of hostilities and an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the Islands. The same day, Argentina took South Georgia. In the ensuing weeks she has shown no sign of complying with the Security Council Resolution: on the contrary, she has continued a massive build up of the occupying forces on the Falkland Islands. There could hardly be a clearer demonstration of disregard for international law and for the United Nations itself.

The British Response.
3. Britain need have done nothing more than rest on the mandatory Resolution of the Security Council. Indeed, Britain’s inherent right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter would have justified the Government in adopting a purely military policy for ending the crisi. But, in pursuit of a peaceful settlement, Britain adopted a policy, frequently explained by the Government in Parliament, of building up pressure on Argentina.

Military pressure was exerted by the rapid assembly and despatch of the British Naval Task Force. Diplomatic pressures, first expressed in Security Council Resolution 502, was built up by the clear statements of condemnation of Argentina aggression which were made by many countries across the world. it was widely recognized that aggression could not be allowed to stand, since otherwise international peace and order would be dangerously prejudiced in many regions. The members of the European Community, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Norway joined Britain in rapidly imposing economic measures against Argentina….


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