Before we begin
on the article, let me tell you about the author of this piece.
Willoughby Gott (born 28
Aston Tirrold, England) is a British journalist and historian,
who has written extensively on Latin America. A former Latin America correspondent and features editor for the British
newspaper The Guardian, he is currently an honorary research fellow at
the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London.
He studied history
at Oxford University and worked at the Royal Institute of
International Affairs. In the 1960s he worked at the University of Chile, where he wrote Guerrilla Movements in
Latin America, “the enduring bible” on that topic. In January
1966, Gott was a candidate in the by-election in Kingston upon Hull North by-election for the
'Radical Alliance', running on a platform which stressed opposition to the
Vietnam War; although visiting London-based journalists were impressed with his
campaign, he polled only 253 votes.
In 1967 he was in
Bolivia as a freelance journalist for The
Guardian to witness the events surrounding the capture and murder of
Ernesto Che Guevara, playing a role himself by being able to confirm to the
world that the 4-5 hour-old body in question was actually Che's, having met him
in Havana in 1963.
In 1981 the BBC attempted to appoint Gott to the position
of editor at its cultural magazine The Listener, but his radical
politics led to him failing to gain security clearance and the post went to
Russell Twisk instead.
He resigned as
literary editor of the Guardian in 1994 after allegations in The
Spectator that he had been an “agent of influence” for the KGB,
claims which he rejected, saying that “Like many other journalists,
diplomats and politicians, I lunched with Russians during the cold war.”
He said that his resignation was “a debt of honour to my paper, not an
admission of guilt”, because his failure to inform his editor of three
trips abroad to meet with KGB officials at their expense had caused
embarrassment to the paper during its investigation of Jonathan Aitken. In his
resignation letter to the Guardian Gott admitted “that I took red
gold, even if it was only in the form of expenses for myself and my partner.
That, in the circumstances, was culpable stupidity, though at the time it
seemed more like an enjoyable joke”. (source)
The Guardian as
we know employs as its Political Editor another left wing ‘journalist’ Michael
White who arrogantly managed to disgrace himself and the Guardian, who he was
representing, by blatantly lying on the BBC Newsnight programme (28/3/07), that he was unaware that John
Prescott was 68 and was unaware of Mr Prescott's birthday.. However, White
himself had already written about it. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/michael_white/2006/06/post_122.html
I think it rather sets the tone for both the article and its sponsor.
So, back to the
article. Richard Gott writes in the Guardian:
Nearly 40 years
ago, in November 1968, I travelled to the Falklands with a group of diplomats in what was Britain's first and last attempt to get shot of
the islands. Lord Chalfont, then a minister at the Foreign Office, was the
leader of this expedition. He had the unenviable task of trying to persuade the
2,000 islanders that the British empire might not last for ever – and that they should start to entertain the
notion they might be better off being friendly to their near-neighbour, Argentina, which had long claimed the islands.
This was the
moment when Britain was abandoning its “east of Suez” policy for financial reasons, and
thinking of ways of winding up its residual empire. We had already forcibly
deported the inhabitants of Diego Garcia in 1967 without much hostile
publicity, and settled them in Mauritius and the Seychelles, handing over their islands to the
Americans to build a gigantic air base. The Falklands were next on the list. Maybe the islanders could be
paid to set up sheep farms in New Zealand.
Over 10 days, we
visited just about every farm and homestead in the two principal islands. We
were greeted everywhere – and we could see the slogans and the union flag from
the air before we landed – with the same messages: “Chalfont Go Home”
and sometimes “We Want To Stay British”. The islanders were adamant.
They wanted nothing to do with Argentina, and Chalfont left them with a promise
that nothing would happen without their agreement.
later, in 1982, Britain and Argentina were at war over the islands, and nearly
a thousand people lost their lives.
The message was loud and clear then, as it is today,
are British, the People are British and we all want it to stay that way.
Today we are
invited to recall the 25th anniversary of that event, and the Argentinian
government has reminded us of its claim, pulling out of the 1995 agreement
about joint oil exploration that had been fondly embraced by the Foreign Office
as an alternative to discussing anything as conflictive as sovereignty.
The Argentines have pulled out of the agreement
because the British Government has started to unilaterally drill for oil. (source).
ask me why Argentinians make such an endless fuss about the islands they call
Las Malvinas. The answer is simple. The Falklands belong to Argentina. They just happen to have been seized,
occupied, populated and defended by Britain. Because Argentina's claim is perfectly
valid, its dispute with Britain will never go away, and because much of Latin America
is now falling into the hands of the nationalist left, the government in Buenos
Aires will enjoy growing rhetorical support in the continent (and indeed
elsewhere, from the current government in Iraq, for example), to the increasing
discomfiture of Britain. All governments in Argentina, of whatever stripe, will continue to
claim the Malvinas, just as governments in Belgrade will always lay claim to Kosovo.
The Falkland Islands
do not, nor have ever belonged to Argentina.
were ceded to Britain
by the Spanish before Argentina
The Falklands were seized for Britain in January 1833 during an era of dramatic
colonial expansion. Captain John Onslow of HMS Clio had instructions “to
exercise the rights of sovereignty” over the islands, and he ordered the
Argentinian commander to haul down his flag and withdraw his forces. Settlers
from Argentina were replaced by those from Britain and elsewhere, notably Gibraltar. Britain and Argentina have disagreed ever since about the
rights and wrongs of British occupation, and for much of the time the British
authorities have been aware of the relative weakness of their case.
I do wish that Richard Gott would not use selective
history. In 1833 British forces re-occupied the Islands.
The islands were uninhabited when they were first
discovered by European explorers.
1690 Captain John Strong
of the sloop Welfare
makes the first landing in Falkland Sound near Port Howard. He called the
but named Falkland Sound after the Treasurer of the Navy, Viscount Falkland.
1713 Treaty of Utrecht
(Spanish sovereignty in the SW Atlantic
recognized by Britain
according to Argentine sources)
1771 On January 22nd
after lengthy negotiations and the threat of war an agreement was signed giving
Port Egmont back to the British.View the
declarations On 15th September,the Spanish handed Port Emont back to the
British represented by Captain Scott
commanding the frigate Juno the
sloop hound and the store ship Florida.
1816 La Plata claims Independence
lays claim to the islands.
1833, British forces returned, took control,
repatriated the remainder of the Argentine settlement, and began to repopulate
the islands with British citizens.
1853 Argentine constitution
is agreed, following 40 years of wars establishing ownership of what was the
territory of the Spanish viceroyalty of La
Plata and a war with Brazil sees
the emergence of 3 sovereign states. Paraguay,
An item in the
Public Record Office refers to a Foreign Office document of 1940 entitled
“Offer made by His Majesty's government to reunify the Falkland Islands with Argentina and to agree to a lease-back”.
Though its title survives, the document itself has been embargoed until 2015,
although it may well exist in another archive. It was presumably an offer
thrown out to the pro-German government of Argentina at the time, to keep them onside at a
difficult moment in the war, though perhaps it was a draft or a jeu d'esprit
dreamt up in the office.
This document was first drawn up at the insistence of
the Americans as part of their Lend/Lease agreement with Britain, and their
documented intention to ensure that Britain divested itself of empire as a
condition for their assistance, but was shelved when America finally joined the
war as a combatant nation.
suggests that successive UK governments have considered the British
claim to the islands to be weak, and some have favoured negotiations. Recently
released documents recall that James Callaghan, when foreign secretary in the
1970s, noted that “we must yield some ground and … be prepared to
discuss a lease-back arrangement”. The secretary of the cabinet pointed
out that “there are many ways in which Argentina could act against us, including invasion
of the islands … and we are not in a position to reinforce and defend the
islands as a long-term commitment. The alternative of standing firm and taking
the consequences is accordingly not practicable.”
Why is it always Labour governments that have shown
little or no backbone when it comes to the protection of its citizens. A trend
that is being repeated again with the current government.
Of course, some
people argue that Britain's physical possession of the islands, and
its declared intention to hold them against all comers, makes its claim
superior to Argentina's. Some believe that the Argentine
invasion of the islands in 1982, and their subsequent forced retreat, in some
way invalidates their original claim. Britain, above all, owes some debt to the heirs
to the settlers who were originally sent there, a debt recognised in the
Foreign Office mantra that, in all dealings with Argentina about the islands' future, the wishes of
the islanders will be “paramount”. Yet no such debt was recognised in
the case of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, perhaps because Britain inherited them from the French rather
than planting the settlers themselves.
We would expect the Foreign Office to ‘always’ put
the wishes and the protection of British Citizens above party politics.
Diego Garcia was discovered by Portuguese explorers
in the early 1500s. The Island
disappeared from early maps but was rediscovered and claimed by the French in
the early 1700s. Diego Garcia remained under French control until after the
Napoleonic Wars–about 1814–when possession was ceded to the British.
In 1970, the island was leased to the United
States, and developed as a joint
U.S.-UK air and naval refuelling and support station during the cold war. Most
of the roughly 1,500 displaced Chagossians were agricultural workers and
fisherman. Uprooted and robbed of their livelihood, the Chagossians now live in
poverty in Mauritius's
urban slums, more than 1,000 miles from their homeland. A smaller number were
deported to the Seychelles.
About 850 islanders forced off Diego Garcia are alive today, and another 4,300
Chagossians have been born in exile.
There is a circumstantial difference between the Falkland
Islands and Diego Garcia, which Richard Gott
fails to emphasise, in that no-one is laying claim to Diego Garcia, nor
threatening to invade it. However, having said that, it was and still is
incumbent upon any British Government to ensure the welfare of any inhabitants
that it relocated. It is worth noting that it is a Labour government which is
now shamefully fighting those same people in the courts to deny any recourse to
the wrongs of previous governments, another fact that Richard Gott fails to
Ironically, the Falkland islanders are the outcome of a
19th-century scheme of settlement not very different from the experience of Argentina in the same century, which brought in
settlers from Italy, Germany, England and Wales, and planted them on land from which the
native Indians had been cleared and exterminated. The record of the islanders
looks rather cleaner by comparison. Yet the Argentinian claim is still a good
one, and it will never go away. At some stage, sovereignty and lease-back will
have to be on the agenda again, regardless of the wishes of the islanders.
Ideally, the Falklands should be included in a wider
post-colonial cleanup of ancient territories. This would rid Britain of responsibility for Northern Ireland (almost gone), Gibraltar (under discussion), and for Diego Garcia
(de facto given to the Americans), and anywhere else that anyone can still
There was a lot of settlement to new territories by
all nationalities during the 19th century, most notably the USA
where the record of native Indian clearance and extermination is virtually unprecedented.
I thought Richard was supposed to be an expert on the America’s.
Again we find Richard Gott not telling the whole
story when he says that the islanders look rather cleaner by comparison. What he
failed to mention here was that the
islands were uninhabited, and always had been. There is no record of any
indigenous peoples on the Falklands.
The Argentine claim is NOT a good one, although it no
longer surprises me that the far left would like to wash its hands of
responsibility, and a lack of responsibility has never been more apparent than
that shown by this government. It is shown to the world on a daily basis,
locally, nationally and internationally.
If these outposts of our colonial past want
independence, I am sure that we would be happy to agree to that, but in the
meantime they have indicated that they wish to remain British, therefore they
are British and whilst the people who inhabit these places so wish to remain,
it is our duty to afford them the full protection of the British Government.
post-colonial policy should have been adopted many years ago (and perhaps
Harold Wilson's government was groping towards this end in the 1960s when Denis
Healey abandoned British commitments east of Suez, and when Chalfont was sent
to Port Stanley), and it should at least have been considered when we abandoned
Hong Kong in the 1990s. Yet the strength of Blair's imperial revivalism,
forever echoed in the popular press, suggests that this prospect is as far away
as it was in 1982.
Again I mention US policy, the
one which required us to divest of empire, but I am pleased that Richard Gott
is highlighting the lack of backbone of labour governments. His use of the word
abandoned in reference to Hong Kong again shows his bias over his ignorance, as
we all know that Hong Kong had come to the end of its lease, the end of an
agreed term, and therefore had to be returned at the end of it.
As for Tony Blair having any
revivalism, I think Richard Gott must be seeing our glorious leader through
someone else’s glasses, for the only things I can see is his lack of morals,
lack of backbone, lack of responsibility, lack of duty, his contempt for the
office he holds, contempt for parliament and total and utter disregard for the
people of Britain.
Perhaps Richard Gott is
trying to get back into favour, perhaps because all the standards of government
have been dramatically reduced in the past 10 years he has finally been allowed
to pass the secrecy test and get his security clearance, perhaps he is looking
to become the new Propaganda Minister, but he really shouldn’t have bothered,
as this article in the Guardian was really not worth the time spent on writing
Conclusion: Anti British