On April 2, 1982, Argentine forces landed in the Falkland Islands to reclaim their sovereignty and wrestle them from the United Kingdom. At the time, speculations from the military government considered that the British would retreat or that the United States would not “play” on the Crown’s side. In the end, the worst scenario developed for the Argentine military and they failed in their “patriotic deed.”
In the early 80s, the domestic political situation was complicated for Margaret Thatcher. She was facing the early stage of her economic reforms and a wave of criticism about her administration. And, as is often remarked, the territorial dispute gave her a unique opportunity to raise her public approval. Both countries went to war, and despite the promise of casualties in that cold of the end of the world, the motives for war was little more than politics in London and Buenos Aires.
This year’s anniversary is of special importance and still has public relevance since only a few days ago the relatives of 90 fallen Argentines were able to travel to the cemetery of Darwin after the recognition of their loved one’s bodies.
The useless war and the nationalist fervor
When the so-called “National Reorganization Process” took power in Argentina in 1976 with the alleged focus to restore peace in the country, plagued by political violence and guerrilla attacks, their plans didn’t even mention the intention of “recovering” the Falklands.
During the demonstrations of the first president of the Military Junta, Jorge Rafael Videla, what supported the de facto government was limited to their control over internal violence. But when noting the fall in disappearances and guerrilla attacks, even from the perspective of those who endorsed the coup, by 1982 there was no longer any reasons for its being in power.
However, Galtieri, the third president of the de facto government, threw himself into an adventure that, unfortunately, carried with it a nationalist fervor rarely seen in Argentina. A shameful image from those days, which will remain a stain in history, was the Plaza de Mayo filled with Argentines who applauded an irresponsible shout: “If they want to come, we will present battle.”
But the disappointment of the nationalist dream came, and on June 14 the military adventure ended with the Argentine surrender. The day after, the same Galtieri who had presented before a euphoric and crowded plaza gave an official television communication where he confirmed the defeat. There he recognized the difference between in weaponry between both armies and regretted the support of the United States to its historical ally, which should have been predicted by anyone, except for the incoherent Argentine military.
The first anniversary with named graves
36 years after the conflict, 214 Argentine relatives of 90 killed in combat were able to travel to the islands to visit the Darwin cemetery, which for the first time had tombs identified with the names of their loved ones. From 1982 those spaces had been carved: “Argentine soldier only known by God.”
The bodies’’ recognition was carried out by the British soldier, Geoffrey Cardoso, who was authorized by superiors to identify the Argentinian men. Cardoso was aided by the Argentinian former combatant, Julio Aro. Both soldiers, who fought on different sides, today are great friends, and both decorated for their service. They have even been nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
“From the State, we are taking a gigantic step because we come to give closure to the relatives of Malvina’s heroes. I‘m very moved, at last in this cemetery there came a bloom, and we celebrated life,” said Argentine Human Rights Minister Claudio Avruj at the joint ceremony held with British authorities last week.
Hebe de Bonafini, leader of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and fervent defender of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, gave a rather discordant statement with a deplorable comment. For Bonafini, “those who participated in the Malvinas war were all fachos (fascists),” ignoring the fact that on the Argentine side they were not professional soldiers, but young conscripts who were doing compulsory military service (repealed later by Carlos Menem, already in democracy). As if that statement was not embarrassing enough, Bonafini said that “Nobody should have returned” alive. Her sayings, logically, generated repudiation.