Decades pass and tempers cool. Argentina and Britain now have excellent relations. Argentina has long since apologised for starting the Falklands War in 1982 … you'd think. But no, there has never been an apology. Nor will there be one in the foreseeable future. For the shameful reason that very few Argentinians think that any wrong was done to the Falkland Islanders or to the British people.
Culturally and politically British, the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean had long been claimed by the Argentinians for reasons of third-world machismo and spite. On April 2, 1982, their bloody dictator, General Galtieri, needing a device to bolster his flagging popularity, did what dictators love to do: he ordered his people to commit the crimes that they yearned to commit, so that by abasing themselves, they would be at one with him. The Argentinian armed forces captured the Falkland Islands.
Initiating an aggressive war: that is a war crime. Attempting to enslave a free people: that is a crime against humanity. Causing the deaths of 255 British soldiers and three Islanders; maiming others; costing billions; wrecking a peaceful and unique way of life which has not recovered to this day: all those are foul crimes too.
But the Argentinian people do not think so. They do not get it. This moral failing in them caused the war in 1982, and it has not gone away. That they are not invading again at this moment is a matter of expediency to them, not morality.
On the contrary, President Kirchner of Argentina is now demanding that Britain apologise and seek the forgiveness of the Argentinian people. What for? For being invaded? Not quite, but almost. You see, it emerged on Friday that in the frantic rush to prepare the British fleet that would liberate the Islands, corners were cut. Some of the ships were pulled away from their Cold War duties of facing down the Soviet fleet, where they had been deployed with nuclear weapons. To un-install these weapons would take 36 hours, and so it was decided that this should be done while the ships were already under way. The weapons were duly transferred in mid-ocean to other British ships heading back to Britain.
In other words, on their way to a hellish battle in which hundreds of them would die, the British voluntarily disarmed themselves in order to spare enemy lives and safeguard the environment. But by doing this in a way that did not also impair the Navy's remaining effectiveness, they were committing some vague violation of political correctness. That is the transgression which, by the standards of the Argentinian people, warrants apology and forgiveness. Tyranny, aggression and the taking of innocent lives do not. But nuclear equals bad, and therefore the Argentinians were in the right after all. On the basis of that pathetic excuse for a grievance and a justification, and twenty one years later, they are still managing to whine loudly enough to drown out any trace of moral thought.
P.S. Our title echoes that of the movie An Ungentlemanly Act which portrays the outrageousness of the invasion with superb understatement, humour and attention to detail.