Archive (Rentschler MSS)

Falklands: Jim Rentschler diary (Haig playing tennis in Buenos Aires) [revised Argentine language - "some movement overnight", not much]

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: 1,003 words
Themes: Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Foreign policy (USA)

Sunday 18 April 1982

Ready for this, guys? - another note of last-ditch optimism is creeping into the game plan; the Argies have delivered their revised language on the interim arrangements for the Falklands, and there does indeed seem to have been some movement overnight - not much, really a fractional amount, but movement nevertheless, enough to warrant a bit more palaver. Haig will be reconvening with his charming hosts - they of the foul toilets and zero hospitality - this afternoon at 2:30, which leaves time for a relatively relaxed Sunday morning, replete with mass for the SecState and tennis for us both.

The latter is the only real scene I will enjoy during Round Two in the South Atlantic shuttle, and it will provide my own personal high in a very up/down day. Check the Secretary moving through the hotel lobby in his shorts, your old Dad right behind him, racket in hand, the people clapping their hands and the tv cameras busily awhir. Our motorcade rushes off to the American Ambassador's residence - I'm in the SecState's car - and the doubles team awaiting us there is my fellow JOT classmate Phil Pillsbury, plus an Argie pro as his partner. Fun scene, even though my tennis has seldom been more terrible - repeated double faults … Fortunately, the Secretary carries me, and we take both sets, though only because the pro is playing an egregious game of customer tennis - shot after shot of his burns the tape, which he then calls out; and when one of our own misses by a mile, he calls it in. … [fo.175 begins]

No dearth of photo ops hereabouts. The court is framed by a number of tall apartment buildings, and an Argie tv crew has bribed some of the inhabitants into use of an overhanging balcony, from which they shoot virtually the whole match, videotapes of which will be run on local outlets later this evening, with a Chilean tvcaster providing an extensive play-by-play. Tomorrow's press will also feature some good shots of Haig wielding his macho racket (with the tip of your old Dad's Prince visible in one or two of them) - a fact which will piss off Dean Fischer. Why? Because he has strongly recommended a pool photo op but had been turned down by the "bureaucrats" - his contemptuous characterization of Tom Enders & Co. - who felt that the Secretary should not be seen at play during such a critical juncture in the mission!). As I say, a fun scene - after a 5-2 lead in the second set we coast and then have to scramble to take a 7-6 tiebreaker - including some comfortable chit-chat with the Secretary as we head back to the hotel and more applause from the rubber-necks lined up in the lobby.

I accompany the motorcade back to the Casa Rosada this afternoon, but no way am I gonna cool my heels around these Argie thugs again. Just a few minutes on Plaza de Mayo to get the lay of the land, then back to the hotel to rendez-vous with Dean Fischer, a citizen similarly determined to avoid dead time. … we stroll at length through the Sunday crowd of lolly-gaggers on the Florida, B.A.'s pedestrian mall where most of the fancy shops are concentrated, including an affiliate of Harrod's (love the signs saturating its shop windows: HARROD'S, LA GRAN TIENDA ARGENTINA, ADHIERE AL GRAN MOMENTO NACIONAL - reminds me of the notices you used to see in the rioting black ghettos back home, PLEASE DO NOT TRASH THIS STORE, IT IS OWNED BY A SOUL BROTHER …) …

… Haig's return from the Casa Rosada and the post-mortem caucus … happens … about 2 in the morning, the beginning of the really down part of this long day. Seems I was courageous (or incautious) enough to convey to the Secretary via Tom Enders my growing sense of Washington unease at the course of these interminable talks. I told the latter of my secure-phone exchanges with both the Judge and Bud McFarlane and the concern I detected on their part about both the length of the "negotiations" and the lack of detailed information coming out of them. Was I wise to give this raw to Enders? Should I have button-holed the Secretary directly on the side? Tom is a super-bright guy, but he is super-arrogant too - I think of Larry the Eagle's remark, "He may be six foot, eight inches tall, but he still has a Napoleonic Complex!" - and what's more, he may be seriously afflicted by the Fatigue Factor. Having invested so much physical and psychic expenditure in this enterprise, he may not be fully capable of judging when the moment has come to break it off (I for one believe the Secretary has already lingered at least a day longer than he should have). In any event, I am not altogether sure how Big Tom has cast my remarks vis-à-vis Haig. The former has already curtly dismissed a Sec-Pres I strongly recommended he endorse as "too defensive" (the [fo.176 begins] message was meant to be a loyal, assist-covering summation with which Haig could provide some of the filler detail the White House felt it lacked while at the same time putting the likely failure of our efforts into a larger context, emphasizing the long-shot pessimism with which we approached this whole caper), and I really do wonder if Tom's judgment is not seriously in question at the moment. I go back to bed, only to be resummoned into the Secretary's suite at 3. He is exercised about the mood I conveyed from Clark and McFarlane - "Jim, what is this crap about the White House being worried over what's going on!" - and even though his aide Woody Goldberg will tell me later that the SecState trusts me and values my honesty, I go back to a four-hour sleep riddled with disquiet. Is that Malta Ambassadorship, seemingly so close, now floating out of my reach like the will-o'-the-wisp I always suspected it to be?????

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