Was it right for Task Force leader Admiral Sandy Woodward to suggest that ARA Belgrano was part of a pincer movement and therefore represented an imminent threat to Britain’s aircraft carriers?
Within my book’s diary notation is a glaring piece of misinformation, likely to have originated on the BBC World Service. I made the mistake of unwittingly jotting it down at the time, assuming it to be legit. The statement “Haig peace bid failed, and hostilities flared up” is wide of the mark.
The Haig peace bid didn’t ‘fail’, and hostilities didn’t ‘flare up’ as if from nowhere. The peace bid was in fact ‘torpedoed’ by the UK government, who were eager to follow this up immediately with genuine, armed Mark 8 torpedoes and at 18:57 British Summer Time on Sunday 2nd May 1982, the General Belgrano cruiser was sunk with the loss of 368 Argentine sailors.
When and where was General Belgrano sunk?
On 5th May 1982, a [FLASH] telegram was sent by UK Ambassador Sir Nicholas Henderson in Washington to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This followed the concealed snubbing of the Peruvian peace plan, the sinking of ARA Belgrano, and the Exocet strike upon HMS Sheffield. Despite the diplomatic language, there’s no mistaking that following the sinking of the Belgrano and the Exocet attack on HMS Sheffield, the United States was expressing serious misgivings over the UK’s negotiating position.
The first casualty of war has always been the truth. This was the case in 1982. When ARA General Belgrano was sunk – whilst Thatcher was supposed to be hard at work, evaluating a Peruvian peace plan – we on the frontline were ‘mushroomed’, i.e. kept in the dark and fed on shit. It wasn’t until 21 years later that the following ‘truth’ emerged.
According to a newspaper quoting our own secret services – both of whom can and do lie – the Belgrano, despite steaming for 14 hours on a westerly course, away from the task force and towards Argentina, had been instructed to attack RN ships the day before the sinking, targeting an aircraft carrier and thereby jeopardising the success of Operation Corporate. This ‘truth’, we’re told, was later accepted by Argentina’s senior military fascists, some of whom happened to be retired, busy writing their books, and were probably in search of ideas and content.
Nobody knows to this day whether these deeply soiled characters received any reward for their helpful contribution in this regard. But when could liars and killers be taken on trust all of a sudden? This is where supposed official secrets always defer to the interests of the keeper. Engaged, tax-paying citizens can never quite get at their content in order to verify any dubious public statements that are made.
In reality, the 44-year-old, poorly-armed Belgrano and its escorts would never have managed to place themselves within firing range of our distant, well-shielded carriers, and our politicians and admirals – ensconced in Northwood, London – knew that. Approximately 120 dead ARA Belgrano naval conscripts – whose remains are still lying in the rusted hulk to this day – never wanted to be there, that’s for sure. And certainly a hell of a lot more than we never wanted them there.
Although civilians are still killed in huge numbers, times have changed in other ways. Gazing from this distance all the way back to the Falklands in 1982, where only three civilians were killed, can now bring a sense of wistful nostalgia. And in light of the complete and utter carnage that’s been carried out – by relentless, calculated design – ever since, it feels like a throwback to a more straightforward, more honest, less manipulative era. But it’s still worth repeating, ‘truth is the first casualty of war’.
Since 9/11, the corpse of the truth now gets routinely pummeled beyond recognition before being hastily buried out of sight. Elaborate lies occupy the forefront, and so-called ‘wars’ have morphed into large-scale, David versus Goliath, glorified, theatrical events and quasi-movie productions led by vested interests and big business diehards. Ruthless, corporate mercenaries are granted leeway to act as military proxies and will knock each other out of the way to get at the huge financial and power spoils linked to the systematic plundering of smaller, much weaker nations. See Halliburton, who’ve been the 21st century’s unashamed trailblazers.