Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Argentina releases Falklands report

Steel helmets abandoned by Argentine armed forces who surrendered at Goose Green to British Falklands task force troops 30 years ago

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has finally declassified a scathing review of the mistakes made by Argentina's military junta in going to war with Britain in 1982 trying to recover the Falkland Islands.

The Rattenbach Report is so critical of Argentina's military leadership that the last dictator ordered it kept secret for 50 years.

By making it public, Ms Kirchner said she hopes to show Argentina "will always be on the side of peace".

She also said very little of the report needed to remain classified - just the names of an active Argentinian intelligence agent and an islander who collaborated with Argentinian forces.

Ms Kirchner has sought to blame the 1976-1983 dictatorship and not the Argentinian people for the failed war, while at the same time using non-military means in hopes of squeezing Britain into negotiating the islands' sovereignty.

Argentina says Britain has illegally occupied what they call the Islas Malvinas since 1833. A version of the report was leaked decades ago, and its conclusions are not a surprise: The junta planned for an easy occupation, gambling the US would support them and Britain would simply let the islands fall into Argentine hands.

Then Argentina's ill-equipped army had to scramble into a war footing after prime minister Margaret Thatcher sent a task force 8,000 miles into the South Atlantic to take the islands back. The occupation began on April 2, 1982, and ended 74 days later with British troops crushing the ill-prepared Argentines, at the cost of more than 900 lives.

The report confirms Argentinian soldiers were sent from the subtropics into winter conditions without proper clothing, food or weapons, and were treated as cannon fodder by their own officers - pushed into battle without having had basic training in weaponry and combat.

"Military commanders encouraged the preconceived notion that there would be no armed conflict, and that the situation would be resolved diplomatically, which affected the morale of the forces and their readiness for combat."

"There's a need to close a historical chapter, and raise the human rights aspect of the Argentinian military," Argentinian political analyst Vicente Palermo said of the report's timing just before the 30th anniversary of the conflict. Also, he said, Ms Kirchner is "trying to focus responsibility on the military and leave the Argentinian people blameless".

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