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resisting the falklands war - a    retrospective
sovereignty, self-determination, and    the nation-state
press release


7 April 1982


As citizens of Great Britain and representatives of British pacifist organisations, we condemn the prospect of a bloody military encounter in the south Atlantic over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, and oppose further military action by either side.

The Argentinian government stands condemned for an act of aggression and a grave breach of international law in invading the Falkland Islands.  We support the call of the United Nations Security Council for the immediate withdrawal of Argentinian forces from the islands.  If they are not withdrawn, international sanctions, in the form of nonviolent moral, economic and diplomatic pressure, should be applied.  Whatever the limitations of nonviolent sanctions, they would show the refusal of the international community to accept the use of naked force to settle complex and long-standing disputes over questions of sovereignty.

A naval battle between Argentinian and British forces, or a war fought on the islands, has no chance of leading to a satisfactory outcome and puts in gravest jeopardy the lives of the Falkland Islanders themselves.  Even if British forces could recover the islands – after a conflict that would certainly cost many lives of Argentinians, British and Falkland Islanders – it is doubtful if Britain could continue to deploy the military forces necessary to secure them against future attack.  We must remember that Britain itself took over the islands as a colonial acquisition in the nineteenth century.  In a post-Imperial era, it must be doubted whether Britain can continue to exercise such sovereignty.

In disputes of this kind, the wishes of the inhabitants must be the determining factor.  If the desire of the Islanders to remain attached to Britain is no longer realisable, then at least they must be permitted to refuse incorporation into the Argentinian state.  This suggests an independent status which could be guaranteed by the United Nations, or UN Dependency status.  We are more concerned with the wishes of the people to organise their own lives than with which flag happens to fly over a particular area of land; the present wishes of the people involved are more important than the arguments of any party based on history.  Whatever the exact formula, the international community must do everything it can to secure for the islanders the continued right to fashion their own institutions and, within the limits of what is practically feasible, to determine their own destiny.

We reaffirm that, whatever military confrontation there might be between the British and Argentinian governments, we will maintain our ties of friendship with those in Argentina who also struggle for nonviolent solutions to the problems of militarism and injustice, wherever they may be. 

Bill Hetherington
Chair, Peace Pledge Union

Alan Litherland
Chair, Fellowship of Reconciliation


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