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1982 Jun 2 We
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC (Falklands)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Keith Graves, BBC
Editorial comments: 1610-1625. The BBC website features a clip from this interview (as of 8 Apr 2012).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2229
Themes: Executive, Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Foreign policy (USA)

Keith Graves, BBC

Prime Minister, we appear to be poised for the decisive battle for Port Stanley, can you see any way out of that, any way of avoiding that battle?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Not unless Argentina decides to withdraw her troops, that would be marvellous if she did, after all it's what resolution 502 said, but she hasn't done it in seven weeks—I don't know whether she would be considering it now, I would only be too delighted if she did, it would save so many young lives.

Keith Graves, BBC

Would you be prepared, even at this eleventh hour, to sort of let the Argentines off the hook. if President Galtieri said, “right, we do want to pull out,” or does it mean that they've got to surrender? Would you give them an honourable way out in other words?

Mrs. Thatcher

I'm not quite sure what you're asking.

Keith Graves, BBC

Well, I wonder whether or not they have to surrender to the British forces or whether if President Galtieri said to perhaps Perez De Cuellar “we do want to pull our troops out”, would you hold back your forces and allow the Argentines to pull out honourably?

Mrs. Thatcher

If they say “look, we're going to withdraw and we are going to withdraw within the next ten to fourteen days”, then there would be no need for a battle.

Keith Graves, BBC

So there is still a possibility, you think, that that battle …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

…   . It's a possibility totally linked to a timed withdrawal.

Keith Graves, BBC

I'm sure you've not contemplated anything but a victory if it does come to an all-out battle for Port Stanley, but what happens after that victory? What's the next step?

Mrs. Thatcher

It isn't that we talk so much in terms of victory or defeat. We talk in terms of repossessing the Falklands which were invaded by the Argentine aggressor, so what we are really talking about is all the Argentine forces going back to the mainland so that we repossess the Falkland islands and then we have to start reconstruction and rehabilitation and then we talk about a future. There are immense possibilities for development. I have asked Lord Shackleton to update his 1976 report. Things are a little bit different but I want to be ready to go ahead as soon as we are able to. And also we'll have to talk to some other nations about having security for those islands. This mustn't happen again. We have to consider what kind of future the islanders want. It will take them some time to decide and in part it will depend upon what we are prepared to do by way of development, what other countries are prepared to do to help us by way of security. But we are a democracy, they were born free and they must have a right to self-determination, so it will take quite a time to talk it through. [end p1]

Keith Graves, BBC

Do you see a role in the foreseeable future on the Falkland islands for the Argentines?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot, myself, see a role in anything relating to sovereignty, for the Argentines on the Falkland islands. You saw what happened in Goose Green and Darwin, how our people have been treated, they'd never wanted to go to Argentina before. They'll be even less likely now. They were born accustomed to liberty and justice and democracy. We have gone to defend those rights. I believe they'll be even more determined now to keep them, I most certainly should be. They've been loyal to us, we must be loyal to them and, you know, it is after all a cardinal part of the United Nations charter that countries should come to self-government and independence and I believe that we can do that with the Falkland islands.

Keith Graves, BBC

My colleague, Brian Hanrahan, who has spoken to a large number of the people who were freed at Goose Green by the paratroopers, says that none of the people he's spoken to want to be anything but British citizens, none of them want to live under any form of Argentine government, so it would appear that Britain's presence is going to be in the Falklands for a number of years but how do we maintain that presence militarily?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think we are going to be there for some time, if not alone for a number of years, because I hope we can arrange some other people to help, to have a multi-national force with us. You know, when the Americans asked us to join them in a multinational force in Sinai I said—yes, because it helped peace in that area, and I'm sure we'd have just exactly the same response from them. I had a wonderful message from the people of Goose Green and Darwin, it came in this morning through the Ministry of Defence—saying “thank you for liberating us, thank you for being so steadfast, and God save the Queen”. It was a very touching message but it said really everything that the British people feel, they're British too, they've been loyal, they know what Britain has done to liberate those islands, they're intensely grateful but they also realise that it's something which speaks for what we stand for in the world. They've not let us down and we mustn't let them down.

Keith Graves, BBC

You talk about a British presence in the short term and then perhaps some sort of international presence. Are the Cabinet united in that, because there have been reports, as I'm sure you're aware, in the last week, that there have been divisions in the Cabinet as to what should happen when once again we are in control of the Falkland islands?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Cabinet has never been more united in the whole of my government. It is totally united. I think perhaps you mistake sometimes a little discussion and a little argument before we come to conclusions with the unity which we have when we've reached that conclusion. You know in the inner Cabinet five or six voices are better than one. Five or six minds are better than one, someone may have a facet of experience which none of the rest of us know. It may alter the view one takes of a subject but on principle and on purpose we do not differ on how best to achieve that. Of course we argue and discuss and once we've reached a conclusion we are totally and utterly united and steadfast and will stick it out. [end p2]

Keith Graves, BBC

So yourself and Mr. Pym have reached a conclusion and you both agree on that conclusion which is what you've outlined?

Mrs. Thatcher

Absolutely, we are agreed totally on our purpose and on our objectives. Francis Pymhe was thrown in at the deep end, he not only had the Falklands but Europe—I think he's done splendidly. At the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence and number 10, we have been absolutely as one over the whole of this. We tried, of course we tried, we all of us tried, to see if we could get withdrawal without a fight—without a battle. You heard me, in I think it was a BBC broadcast, say that it would be one's greatest desire if all our young people could come home, if we could have gained repossession of the Falkland islands without fighting. We tried, we didn't succeed. Then we didn't flinch from our purpose, namely to repossess the Falkland islands, for those British people who live there and to return to live under British law and in a way of life which they have come to know and think is far, far better than what the Leopoldo GaltieriFascist dictator offers.

Keith Graves, BBC

Have you been under any pressure in the last week or two from the Americans, from President Reagan personally, not to take that final step into battle for Port Stanley? There have been reports from American media today that he has spoken to you in the last few days and urged you not to take that final step into Port Stanley.

Mrs. Thatcher

President Reagan and the government and I believe the American people are as staunch in defence of the fundamental principles as I am. After all, they're all written in the American constitution, each and every one of them, and self-determination is at the heart of American democracy. They wouldn't suggest that we should deny our people things which are totally fundamental to the Americans, absolutely at one in principle. You know when I first heard that there was an Argentine fleet in a position and of such a composition that it could invade and I knew then that the invasion would come within two days. It was going to come, we had to get certain things on the way, but the other immediate thing that I did was to get on to President Reagan to say—“look, do you realise what's happening?” And it came as much of a surprise to them as it was to us. “Please will you get on to President Galtieri to persuade him not to do it.” Now you know you've heard so many times that the Americans and the Argentines have tried to set up a friendship, although they're very different countries, and I thought that he would be bound to have so much influence, but Galtieri snubbed President Reagan then. I think even since then President Reagan has always hoped that the Argentines would see sense and have some thought for their young people on those Falklands. I think he still hopes it now. I hope it too, but I confess that I was always sceptical right from the beginning after the invasion had occurred. I could not myself see that a dictator or a junta would withdraw, they invaded partly to take away attention from the situation at home and I could never see that he would withdraw. I'm afraid that view turned out to be right. But after we got on the islands and they'd experienced some of the battles, one hopes that even now they might—I'm not very optimistic but one never loses hope. [end p3]

Keith Graves, BBC

Of course President Reagan could and undoubtedly does agree with your principle but he could be asking you not to humiliate the Argentines any more than you have to, he could be asking you to give him another chance to put pressure on the Argentines. Is he doing that at the moment?

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't understand “another chance”, we've been trying to put pressure on them through the United Nations and through peace talks for over seven weeks, nearly eight weeks, it's only too easy for them to ask for more time. They've had a lot of time. If they're going to withdraw they will decide to withdraw within the next few days—I would be so pleased if they did. Why do people talk about humiliation? I'm not seeking to humiliate anyone at all, I am just asking that the invader returns his troops to the mainland. That is not humiliation, that is to say he should never have invaded and please will he restore the position by returning his troops to the homeland. That is not humiliation, it is the restoration of international law.

Keith Graves, BBC

And he still has a few days to do that you're indicating?

Mrs. Thatcher

He could do it now.

Keith Graves, BBC

On a more personal level, do you ever have any doubts when you look at the casualty figures on both sides about the course which the country …   . the course which you've taken the country on to regain the Falklands?

Mrs. Thatcher

One feels every single loss of course. A lot of people will have lost their lives so that we can enjoy liberty and justice. Now the challenge has come to us, just as our forefathers didn't flinch from it we must not flinch from it. Nevertheless one still feels every loss but liberty and justice and their future in the world are worth fighting for because they are the only thing that gives life its dignity and meaning. It has fallen to us once more to defend those principles. You wouldn't expect Britain to flinch. [end p4]

Keith Graves, BBC

Could I deal perhaps with a couple more points: there's a certain amount of controversy over the return of the bodies of the British dead to this country. Are you considering changing the normal practices that apply there? In view of the fact that a lot of families have said they want their dead brought back? Is that going to be possible do you think?

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand the feeling and everyone will understand that in the midst of battle you have to think first how to win the battle and of the safety of your troops and forces. Afterwards you think of how to honour those who've fallen in the best possible way. The Commonwealth war graves have wonderful cemeteries, beautifully kept and honoured in perpetuity. We can only put it to people that there is a tradition that people are buried there, where they fall. If however some people still feel strongly that they wish to have them home then of course we'll consider that. I think that everything should be put to them and they will be the first to understand that in the middle of a conflict you have to consider how to see that through first of course those people who have lost their loved ones would want to go there and see how we honour them and of course we would arrange that, it would be our honour ad pride to do so and they'd have a wonderful welcome from the Falklanders too. And I hope then they'd begin to understand even more than now what they were fighting for.

Keith Graves, BBC

It's been confirmed really today that the Argentines were considering, even if they didn't use, napalm, how do you react to that? It's caused a lot of controversy obviously.

Mrs. Thatcher

Controversy—it's repugnant—one recoils. Isn't it just one more thing that makes one realise we have to fight, that our way of life shall continue, [words missing] good things that we uphold?