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The war-of-words and hypocrisy

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by Nilio Gumbs Fri, Mar 2. 2012

Don’t cry for me Argentina was the cry of the British public when Britain found itself at war with Argentina in 1982. The war was waged over the Falkland Islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, and invaded in a longstanding territorial claim with Britain.{{more}}

It was significant given that it was the first war the British had fought over a colony for over a century in the Western hemisphere. It was also the height of the Cold War, testing the loyalty of the United States with its closest ally, Britain, and that of a right-wing fascist military dictatorship in Argentina. The military Junta with the backing of the United States waged a program to eradicate all leftist sympathizers in what is called “the Dirty War”.

The invasion of the Falklands by Argentina was a classic example of a government seeking to divert its people’s attention away from the country’s economic woes and to galvanize them behind a unified cause.

Cuba openly offered the Argentines’ military support, despite being a fascist right wing government in the camp of the West. To the Cubans, it was a means to drive a dagger into the heart of the imperialists – the United States and Britain.

Chile viewed the war as a means to get back at the Argentines, a country with which it had a long standing border dispute . It assisted the British by allowing the supply ships that accompanied its naval fleet to use its ports. Surprisingly, the Brazilians remained neutral, given the fact that it was in race with the Argentines to build a nuclear bomb and the dominant power on that continent.

Deep Cold War rivalries were being played out behind the scenes by the two major powers. The Soviet Union was secretly supplying military intelligence to the Argentines, while the United States was supplying such to its most trusted ally.

The rest is history – the Argentines were soundly defeated, paving the way for democracy in that country.

The 30th anniversary of the war is fast approaching and both countries are once again ratcheting up the rhetoric, verbally and diplomatically. The British Prime Minister accused the Argentines of being colonialists, while the Argentines reminded the Brits of their infamous colonial history.

Assessing the claims and counter claims of both nations – they both seem to have a point. The British view is that you cannot control a people against their wishes. Let the Falklanders decide. They did! And they opted to remain British. The Argentines, however, believe that the British took the islands from them during the height of its imperial power.

The British policy on the Falklands is inconsistent with that of its position on South Ossetia (1506 Square miles) and Abkhazia (Square miles), both breakaway regions that Georgia claims; but have opted to remain with Russia, when the Soviet Union disintegrated into 14 independent countries. The inhabitants of both breakaway regions voted overwhelmingly to remain under Russian protection despite declaring their independence, with the people of South Ossetia having close roots with the Russian region of North Ossetia. But today Britain and other European Countries refuse to recognize their independence.

There is also the contentious issue with the people from the island of Diego Garcia, who were forcibly uprooted by the British and transplanted to Mauritius against their wishes to enable to the United States to build a military base. The British argument in protracted court battles with those affected – being that they accepted compensation.

The hypocrisy of the British position is further reinforced by its position on Taiwan. The British, along the United States, have openly stated their opposition to Taiwan declaring independence, fearing that it would become embroiled in war with China. The Chinese have openly stated that such an action by Taiwan to disrupt the present status quo would evoke a military response, drawing the United States into conflict as a result of its long standing commitment to defend Taiwan.

Britain is also in a dispute with Spain over Gibraltar – a truncated piece of rock protruding from mainland Spain into the Mediterranean sea. The residents also voted to remain British. Ironically, Spain is in a ditto dispute with Morocco over virtually surrounded enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. The Spanish do not see a parallel with their claim of Gibraltar. The shabby argument of the Spanish being that their possession of those enclaves is much longer than when British took possession of Gibraltar.

The decision of the leading members of ALBA to bar ships flying the Falklands flag from their ports put many Caribbean countries in an awkward position. That is balancing their historical ties with Britain, and while strengthening their new found friendship with Venezuela. “Torn between two lovers looking like a fool” explicably more apt in assessing Caribbean countries predicament.

Such double-sword politicking by Caribbean leaders could lead to trouble further down the road. Caricom countries cannot bring any tangible benefit to the ALBA table besides moral and diplomatic support. At some point in time, they may have to choose sides in international diplomatic conflicts – “Either with us or against us scenario” in return for the economic benefits they receive.

Also, Caribbean countries ought to know that other countries in South America have similar territorial claims on member countries in CARICOM. Any Argentine success in its dispute with Britain can embolden Venezuela to reaffirm its claim to two-thirds of Guyana, Bird Island off Dominica or Guatemala ripping up its agreement with Britain and Belize, once again claiming the latter country.

Caribbean countries should realize that ALBA may be a short term multilateral agreement that hinges on the political and physical well being of Chavez himself. The Venezuelan opposition has unequivocally stated that “they are going to scrap ALBA and the 300,000 barrels of oil it dishes out to other countries.”

While it may be good to exploit such benefits and broaden our diplomatic ties beyond our historical allies, Caribbean countries need to stop prostituting themselves either at the Whaling Commission or ALBA, but instead get their macro fundamentals right by adopting sustainable development policies and put into practice what we all know- that these island are not viable independent states- unless they come together as one.

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