19 January 2007

This, from Beyond The New Economic Anthropology on the Falklands War and Margaret Thatcher:

"It's a terrible aspect to war that it is also a form of rhetoric, and the Falklands was MT's boldest rhetorical flourish - where her government would tend to undervalue that which could not be costed, here it was honour, an obligation, an idea, and the cost was immaterial. As Fortinbras says, questioned by Hamlet on why he is marching to Poland,

We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it.

Though one doesn't subscribe to "great people" history, while also being an avid reader of political biography only because, one says to oneself when the hour is late and the self-doubts are coloured, they are biographies of the age, arranged around the conceit of a single human whose life was ink to the map, there are always certain telling details in these accounts; and they are still telling even if they exaggerate or are fictional. MT went to visit the Falklands in Jan 1983, in great secrecy, accompanied by Denis and Bernard Ingham. She walked over the bogs in inappropriate shoes; she spotted a discarded ammunition box and called it "A great waste"; Denis described the islands as "miles and miles of bugger all"; and then the Hercules on which she was to fly back had engine trouble, and when another was hastily arranged, "it offered light or warmth, but not both. Mrs Thatcher chose light, huddled herself in as many blankets as could be found, and settled down to read the Franks report into the causes of the war." (Campbell: Thatcher Vol 2: The Iron Lady)"

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