Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1982 Jun 9 We
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for CBS

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Tom Fenton, CBS
Editorial comments: 1315-1345.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1710
Themes: Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Foreign policy (USA)

Interviewer

Prime Minister, how close are you to removing the Argentines from the Falklands?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is almost impossible for me to say. I hope not too distant, because after all our troops are there, in very difficult circumstances, and so are the Argentine troops in very difficult circumstances but the time when the Maj. Gen. Sir Jeremy Mooremilitary commander moves is up to him. He is there, he knows the positions, he knows his professional fighting men, he knows just exactly how much he has to move to where before he makes the final assault. We can't fight a battle round the Cabinet table, he can only fight it on the spot.

Interviewer

There are no political restraints?

Mrs. Thatcher

He has normal rules of engagement which you'd expect a democracy to have.

Interviewer

Is there any chance even at this late date of avoiding a major battle for Port Stanley?

Mrs. Thatcher

Only if the commander of the area, having his back to the sea, having many many young conscripts under his care, thinks that it will be better to seek to withdraw. If he did he's only to contact our military commander and such a withdrawal would be arranged.

Interviewer

Has there been any sign that he's interested?

Mrs. Thatcher

No sign whatsoever. No response of that kind. Indeed often the contrary, you know, there have been statements made from the Argentines that they're prepared to sacrifice forty thousand lives and so on. I just almost recoiled when I heard that kind of statement and they would fight to the death and so on. And I just hope that once the battle has commenced and they've taken certain positions, that both commanders will be able to arrange a surrender which will save many many young lives.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, you and President Reagan seem to agree on the general principles that led you to send the task force. Has his visit narrowed the apparent difficulty you may have over the long term future of the Falklands? [end p1]

Mrs. Thatcher

The long term future of the Falklands is a future which above all must take into account the right of self-determination and this is what is written in the American constitution, this is the essence of all our way of life in the Western democracies, that the people decide. This is why I am Prime Minister. That is why President Reagan is President because the people decided their government, their future. The people of the Falkland islands have had the right of self-determination under British government and they chose to stay British. They recoiled from the Argentine. They must in fact keep that right of self-determination they had before, peace with liberty, with justice, with self-determination. After we've repossessed the islands they must have peace with liberty, with justice, with self-determination. So it will take quite some time to work out the long term future. We have to see what best we can do, we'll have to make a lot of arrangements for the rehabilitation of those people who've suffered the most traumatic experience. You and I, who've never been occupied can't really imagine what it's like to have troops with guns in every street and field you've known. Then we have to do as much reconstruction and development as we possibly can and gradually build things back to normal, or better than normal. We'll have to make new arrangements for defence in the interim. Extending the airfield and so on.

Interviewer

How much are you willing to invest in these islands that apparently a few months ago weren't worth the continued expense of one old ice-breaker?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, don't put it quite like that—we shall have to invest considerably more in the islands than we had thought. Liberty and freedom have been challenged, they are worth defending, the price is expensive, both in money which perhaps is less important, in life as well. But, you know, our forefathers sacrificed that for us. Let it never be said that we were less willing to make sacrifices for the future than they were for us.

Interviewer

Well now General Galtieri, from what I've read has said that Argentina is ready to fight for years if necessary to repossess the islands. Doesn't that imply that you must make some sort of accommodation with Argentina in the future?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, it does not. Does it mean that because someone points a gun at me that I have to surrender? No, the first thing is you have self-defence, and the right to self-defence just because someone will come along and say to one of the islands which the United States administers, under self-government of those islands— “I have an interest in those islands. I'm going to keep on my interest in those islands, therefore I have a right to something on them.” of course it doesn't, you would never have any international law, any truth or any justice or any security of any kind and of course it is totally different to the right of self-determination which you enjoy and I enjoy.

Interviewer

What about long term, do you see any role whatsoever for Argentina in the future of the islands? [end p2]

Mrs. Thatcher

We have always been trying to work with them to try to develop the resources of the islands, of the continental shelf and in the seas around—it'll be profitable and good for them, and profitable and good for us. They have for … ever since person, almost taught every generation that they have a title to what they call the Malvinas. The British discovered them, British people have been there continuously for a hundred and fifty years and were there from time to time before. Some of the people have been on the Falklands far longer than some of the Spanish and Italians have been in the Argentine. Only in the Falklands of course there was no indigenous population to displace, as there was in the Argentine, so our right to the Falklands is very similar to the right which those who went to the Argentine exercise now … I mean, their right to the Argentine, to be in the Argentine and to have self-determination of the Argentine, is very similar to the right of the British to be in the Falklands and to have self-determination over that.

Interviewer

Many observers and indeed I think state department planners seem to think that independence for the Falkland islands could be an impractical proposition.

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, there are things short of independence, I mean, you know that we have an unrivalled record now and at any time in the world of handing back territories … of handing over territories over which we have sovereign possession to the people—that is self-determination. Near you, I suppose the most obvious example is Trinidad, which is so much closer to the mainland of Venezuela, than the Falklands are to the Argentine. But short of full independence, there is self-government, where you can have you own Prime Minister and whole legislature, but still rely on us for defence and for a certain amount of foreign affairs. There are a number of territories which chose that role and of course you have a number of territories which have chosen that route. It's not realised sometimes that the United States also has a number of territories.

Interviewer

Is it a practical proposition also to try to defend islands eight thousand miles way with Argentina only two hundred or three hundred miles away and still prepared perhaps to fight for them? [end p3]

Mrs. Thatcher

Well it has been shown that it is a practical proposition to fight for them even if they are eight thousand miles away. Thanks to superb efforts on the part of British armed forces and their outstanding professionalism … (both talk at once) … no, indeed, but you know, once we're back on the islands and we realise that they are liable to be attacked and invaded, you make very different arrangements. Yes, we have to extend the airstrip, but the airstrip will be both extended and defended. It could have different aircraft there, both bombers and fighters. It could have Rapiers there to defend it. We'll have to keep submarines around the islands but, after all, all what has been shown is that the South Atlantic is very very important, we have a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation but the South Atlantic too is very important and that is very much on a strategic route, south of Cape Horn. Yes, we shall have to make arrangements to defend it—we haven't lost British blood suddenly to say, “all right, now we're going to leave these people defenceless.”

Interviewer

Are you thinking in terms of some sort of South Atlantic organisation?

Mrs. Thatcher

It has been mooted several times but no-one has really worked it out and it is just a general idea.

Interviewer

What role would you like to see the United States play in guaranteeing the future of the Falklands?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is possible that we might have a multinational force, when the United States asked us to join in a multinational force with Sinai we went and did so, to help our ally, the United States. But I think it's just a little bit early to try to get these finalised yet or even to discuss them in detail. It is going to take a time. It's not surprising because of the experiences that those islanders have been through.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, wasn't there an intelligence error of really monumental proportions that allowed the Argentines to take the islands?

Mrs. Thatcher

I would not necessarily say so. If there was then almost everyone was amazed that they were actually on their way to invade. As you know they were taking part in a major exercise. There had been many many exercises before, there had been threats of invasion before and what we didn't spot was that this one was actually different. Well, it happened, it happened.

Interviewer

There'll be an inquiry afterwards?

Mrs. Thatcher

I indeed shall have an inquiry. I do not …   . and what is more, many many people in the Foreign Office and previous Ministers, are very anxious to have an inquiry.

Interviewer

Thank you very much.

Mrs. Thatcher

Thank you.