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1982 Apr 10 Sa
Archive (Rentschler MSS)

Falklands: Jim Rentschler diary (Haig shuttle in Buenos Aires) [Argentinians want sovereignty as a precondition]

Document type: Declassified documents
Source: Thatcher Archive (copy of the text per the late Ambassador Rentschler)
Editorial comments: Jim Rentschler was the NSC official responsible for European matters, who handled the Falklands for the White House throughout the crisis. He gave a photocopy of the original diary to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation for publication in 2003. The full Falklands diary can be read here as single text.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1,187 words
Themes: Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Foreign policy (USA)

Saturday 10 April 1982

It was only six hours, but that was the best and longest slumber I've had in the [fo.155 begins] past two weeks! I feel ready for anything at this moment, an upbeat sentiment amplified by the sight of this beautifully clear and crystalline day now breaking over Bueons Aires. …

Did I say I was ready for anything? How about nothing? "Guard duty" is an inevitable part of details like this, i.e., standing around waiting to be of some use while the SecState confers on a tightly restricted basis with his opposite number in the Argentine Foreign Ministry. This happens to be a particularly frustrating consumption of one's time, however, when, looking down from the 23rd floor, one sees the Sheraton pool glittering in the warm sunlight and two empty tennis courts beside it! Later this morning the bulk of the Secretary's senior party continues to cool its collective heel in the Palácio de San Martín, Argentina's Foreign Ministry, sipping coffee while Haig chins with Nicanor Costa Mendez - Nicky the Gimp - his chief interlocutor for the moment. And while Haig moves on for his first talks with President Galtieri in the Casa Rosada, we return to the Sheraton, where I watch the hands on the huge clocktower beside us tick through the following desultory pursuits: .

  • watching, via technically poor tv in the S/S offices, Galtieri's demagogic appearance on the Casa Rosada balcony in traditional junta style, waving his arms and addressing the frenzied mob of demonstrators who now jam the Plaza de Mayo (given the pitch of jingoistic sentiment whipped up hereabouts, I can't possibly see how he's going to walk this cat back - a fact which adds to the pessimism I already felt anent our mission's prospects starting back in London);
  • and watching on the same tv - at least for a minute or two - a Spanish-dubbed Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis moronity [sic] of the Fifties, Sailor Beware. Is it just zany coincidence that produced a title like that in this particular moment of the British fleet's south-bound steaming, or do the Argies possess a mordant sense of humor none of us gringos ever suspected????

. Hungry? If I knew at 11:15 a.m. what I now know near 3 p.m. - the Haig's Casa Rosada talks have been prolonged, that our tennis game tentatively skedded [scheduled] for 2:30 must [fo.156 begins] be cancelled, and that he will not reappear on the 23rd floor until lunch is long gone - I would certainly have copped a burger in the snackbar downstairs. S/S misled us to a certain degree, suggesting that the Secretary would want to regroup in his suite immediately following his talks and that we would have a working lunch there while busy strategizing our next moves. He does indeed call a meeting, but there is food only for one face - guess whose - and the faster he shovels the beef sandwiches and French fries into his mouth, the more my saliva flows. So does Dave Gompert's, a fact which produces one of the funnier moments of this trip's comic relief: after giving us a set of new drafting instructions to carry out at the end of his pow-wow, Haig turns his back for just a second, time enough for both Dave and I to leap toward the table and snatch handfuls of bread, tearing these apart and loading the halves with pieces of cold meat troughed up in equally frenzied haste! .

We're back at the Foreign Ministry now, trying to come up with some fugitive language capable of bridging the gap between Argentine and British positions - about as far apart now as the Falklands and South Sandwich! Outside the crowds of chanting people have reappeared - AR-GEN-TIN-A! AR-GEN-TIN-A! - a handsome lot on the whole with little hostility evident at this point and probably here on an Easter Saturday lark. Indeed, the mood here seems much less rambunctious than the demonstration earlier today, when the US was booed as loudly as Great Britain, Cuba was cheered, and cries of THATCHER PUTA filled the vast Plaza de Mayo. Will the college-like enthusiasm hereabouts long endure if war really does break out? I look at these faces - a lot of teenagers in the crowd, and moms with kiddies, numerous young fathers - and think of the body bags coming back from those desolate wind-swept pieces of rock in the South Atlantic. When and if they do, will you still find crowds on the Plaza de Mayo shouting GUERRA! GUERRA! ???? The same thought is on Haig's mind: during one of the breaks in this afternoon's interminable hang-around session in the Foreign Ministry I mention it to him - and will be startled some days from now, in the course of Round Two, when I learn from news leaks that he used essentially the same line on one of the junta members during a private talk ...

. Haig is moving on from the Palácio de San Martín to the Casa Rosada for a private working dinner with Galtieri, and it may be a final attempt to moves the Argies off their present rigidity (following our joint drafting session with Costa Mendez & Co. the sumbitch [sic] sent us back a totally unacceptable proposal concerning interim administrative arranges on the Falklands, the thrust of which would establish Argentine sovereignty as a pre-condition; it's a piece of paper which the Secretary can't possibly take to London, and so he is now grimly muttering about breaking off the business and returning to Washington tonight!). The rest of the party are on stand-by at the Sheraton, where I join Gompert, Bob Funseth, and Dean Finscher in Las Pampas, the hotel's coffee shop in whose ultra-gringo appointments we have plenty of time to put away a delicious plate of Argentine tenderloin. Haig and Tom Enders will not return to the hotel until 2:15 in the morning, and when they finally do, we have a gang of NIACT IMMEDIATES [secret telegrams] to get out to Barbados, where the President and his entourage are now Easter vacationing. Enders and his ARA staffers think they have made some workable progress, and maybe Haig does too. To sleep-starved me, however, the whole thing looks like a busted flush - I can't believe Maggie Thatcher will buy on [sic] to the ill-defined arrangements ("woolly", to use the PM's wonderful word) outlined in this latest piece of paper, particularly the one which seems to call for Argentine sovereignty over the islands by no later than December of this year. Yet as of now we are definitely going back to London tomorrow - or rather today - with the clock winding down very fast (as of 4 a.m. Monday morning Argentine time - 24 hours from now - the British naval attack orders will be in effect throughout the 200 nautical mile exclusion zone they have declared around the Falklands). If that Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis Sailor Beware [fo.157 begins] title seemed ironically relevant, what about my Simone de Beauvoir? - with the US caught in the middle between two friends, we might well be headed toward La Cérémonie Des Adieux.

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