Declassified Argentine document on Falklands displays a tough exercise of self-criticism
A few weeks ago, the Argentine government, led by president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, declassified a report written in December, 1982 by a specially commissioned military committee headed by lieutenant general Benjamín Rattenbach, who lends his name to the document. The paper, which has been kept as a secret for 30 years (despite some leaking in the press), is now available online in the presidency’s official website and puts the blame on the military forces that ruled the country back in 1982, when war was declared.
In a tough exercise of self-criticism, officers studied why Argentina lost the Malvinas/Falklands War. In a nutshell, the main hypothesis is that it was not the right decision to begin with, because it was based on popular emotions instead of on proper planning. “The main objective was to discourage Great Britain from recovering the islands, and forced them to negotiate. We should have reached this goal, if we had had the right politics, both in foreign and internal affairs. Unfortunately, we couldn’t or we didn’t want to achieve this. One of the reasons why was the attitude of the people of the nation, who enthusiastically celebrated the action of the recovery of the southern islands.”
Still, this conclusion is misleading. Back then, the population relied only on official information, centralized by the military government. There was no freedom of the press, and, indeed, mass media conveyed the same vision of the military forces. So, can people take full responsibility for their support when they believed in lies they were told? The Rattenbach report doesn’t seem to think so, and they go deeper to analyze their own role at a war that killed over 600 of Argentine soldiers and over 200 British.
Here’s a summary of the most-repeated mistakes acknowledged in the Rattenbach report:
- “Soldiers born in 1963 had just begun their incorporation. They didn’t have proper training. And they were poorly fed, which brought about undernourishment problems.”
- “There were serious leading issues. Actions were not thought coherently within a group, changes of guard were not coordinated; control systems weren’t agile enough.”
- “Lack of fighting spirit and the subsequent demoralization of the troops, which is commanders’ full responsibility.”
- “Logistics were wrongly planned; they cannot be IMPROVISED (original emphasis), under these circumstances we proceeded this way, and we suffered the consequences. There were several limitations when it comes to transportation, techniques, artillery, and strategy.”
- “We weren’t familiar with the geographical territory.”
- “We underestimated the enemy and let them take the lead by constantly giving them a chance to take the initiative.”
They resort to a lot of “we should have” and “we shouldn’t have” based on the evidence they collected. All in all, members of the military junta regret having gone to war and, on several passages of the text, insist on the fact that it was all about a misuse of information. Why? Because their decision wasn’t based on actual facts, but on varied interpretations of events and because they didn’t check enough sources.
“The Committee didn’t ask other organisations and documents with information that was essential for the proper planning, which was the cause of making several serious mistakes,” the report says. Among other details, they had a few misconceptions: they believed that the US wouldn’t support Great Britain (due to Monroe Doctrine of “America, for the Americans”), and thought that Great Britain wouldn’t have responded militarily. The result? We lost the war, as it would have been predicted if officers in charge had properly prepared all the necessary information.
“The procedures adopted by the military Junta to get the nation ready for war contradicted the most elemental planning norms of the Armed Forces. This gave way to making fundamental mistakes related to politics and military strategy. If these mistakes hadn’t been made, the course of war would have been different.”And maybe they would have decided that war was unneeded, after all.Tagged in: Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, falklands, Malvinas, Rattenbach, War
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