The Falklands War: Truth and Lies, EIBF 2012, Review
Tam Dalyell, Paul Rogers and Ruth Wishart came into the RBS Main Theatre well before the start of the session with Tam looking a little frail and walking with a stick. When Ruth Wishart, who chaired the session instead of Allan Little who is unwell, introduced the speakers, she said that he had unfortunately strained his Achilles tendon. To the amusement of the audience she added that she wanted to reassure everyone that he had not sustained this injury while playing on the left wing for Linlithgow FC!
Professor Rogers painted the picture of the winter of 1978/79 - the "winter of discontent" with the Thatcher Government having a low level of popularity which Labour did not capitalise on due to splits in the party.
In Argentina there was President Galtieri who felt that the time was right to take back the Falklands as Britain seemed unconcerned about them and had even removed the Royal Navy survey ship from the area.
Galtieri thought that the United States would not actively support Britain. He took a political gamble which was immensely popular in Argentina. This galvanised Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Government into action with the despatch of the task force, the Vulcan strike on the airfield at Stanley and the subsequent retaking of the islands by British forces.
Tam Dalyell said he was incandescent with the way matters were being handled by the Government and even went to see Michael Foot, then Labour leader, but could not get any change in approach.
Dalyell was convinced that the Prime Minister was aware of the Peruvian peace plan before ordering the sinking of the Belgrano and had then lied to Parliament, although this was vehemently denied. As the Peruvian plan was rejected anyway one must wonder whether it was of great relevance, although Tam Dalyell clearly thought it was.
His case was that had the Belgrano not been sunk there might still have been a chance of a negotiated resolution. He was convinced that Thatcher wanted a military victory and nothing was going to stop her from achieving this as it restored her political fortunes and allowed her to win the next election.
Rogers said that the Belgrano was not heavily armed, but there were two escort ships armed with Exocet missiles in the area and these would have posed a significant threat. It is of note that although the Belgrano was outside the two hundred mile exclusion zone imposed by the British, the Captain of the Belgrano accepted that the British had a right to attack and sink his ship.
Professor Rogers concluded by saying that in his opinion there would have to be talks between the Argentine and British Governments as the islands are hugely expensive to maintain, although the present population firmly wishes to remain British, he felt this may change over the years ahead.
As for Tam Dalyell, he will never change his views and clearly showed why he is the author of, "The Importance of being Awkward"!