This is pretty long… not only because I couldn’t make it any shorter without leaving out something I consider important, but because I have a busy weekend ahead and might not get a chance to post much. No new local numbers till Monday anyway, so here’s most of the weekend’s updates in one convenient place… and we’ll start on the opposite end of the country.
About 25km off-shore from Newfoundland, you’ll find a collection of 8 little islands. They’re not very big. Collectively, they’re about 1/10th the size of Metro Vancouver. They’re known by the name of the two biggest islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon. Not relevant, but in case you’re curious… their population of 6,000 has had 16 cases of C19, 12 of which have fully recovered and 4 of which are still ongoing.
That entire population lives on those two islands, where they do a lot of fishing and play a lot of hockey. No big deal, except if you’ve never heard of them, you’ll be quite surprised to learn that they’re not part of Canada. Even though they’re closer to Newfoundland than Vancouver Island is to the mainland, they’re 100% French. Not like Québec French. Like French French.
How they got to that point is a long and interesting story… Indigenous people, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, American, Canadian… all have laid claim to the islands at some point over the centuries… but, as it often goes with land grabs/invasions/conquests, whoever had it last… gets to keep it.
And that was France, who, despite opposition from Canada, Britain and the U.S., seized the islands during WWII… seized by that troublemaker Charles de Gaulle… the same one whose “Vive le Québec libre” 20 years later started a shitstorm that will never go away.
But since then, these little independent French islands have been happily doing their thing, and for the most part have a very close and functional relationship with their Canadian neighbours. A little border dispute or fishing-rights argument pops up occasionally, but it’s never a big deal. It always gets worked out.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Trudeau suddenly went nuts and invaded those islands? It would be a very weird situation for us, but also for our allies, especially the U.S. and the U.K…. both of which are always on our side, but both of which also completely (and justifiably) would respect the sovereignty of France.
Interestingly, there’s a comparable example.
On April 2nd, 1982, General Leopoldo Galtieri, the leader of Argentina (and last of their military dictators) invaded the Falkland Islands.
Lots of similarities… Search-and-Replace: Trudeau becomes Galtieri, Canada becomes Argentina. France becomes England. St.P & M. become the Falkland Islands, which have been under British Rule since 1833. Interestingly, the U.S. becomes Chile; we’ll get to that.
A brief history of Argentina… leading up to Galtieri, there had been a few other military dictators, the first of which had overthrown the democratic government of Isabel Perón… widow of Juan Perón – whose second wife was the famous Evita (Madonna… “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina…”). Those military dictators slowly eroded the country into a compete mess of economic crisis and civil unrest and violence against those who opposed them. Galtieri, who was disliked by the people more and more as each day went by, decided he needed to show everyone who’s boss, how he was a powerful leader, how he’s got things well-under control. A conquest of those islands… and he’d be a national hero forever.
So… he invaded the Falkland Islands, claiming them “back” for Argentina. As an interesting side-note, similar to how when the Democrats say Zig, the Republicans will say Zag, or pretty-much anywhere where you have strong, opposing political parties ready to criticize anything… when Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing government instantly protested the invasion and began arming the response, the left-wing opposition party in England was a bit torn… between their ideology of being against war… coupled with their distaste for Margaret Thatcher… as opposed to simple patriotism. They stammered incoherently for a few days, going back and forth.
You know, when your country gets invaded, you defend yourself… political ideologies aside. If you don’t like war, it means you don’t throw the first punch. But if punches are going to fly, be sure you’re prepared to throw the last one. Anyway, that led to that memorable headline, “British Left Waffles on Falklands.”
Long story short, Galtieri led his country into a disastrous, unwinnable war by invading those islands… a war which cost the lives of hundreds of young Argentinian men, barely trained and barely armed. It took the British a few days to show up, but they showed up angry and ready to take back what was theirs. And take it back they did. They also suffered some losses, but not as bad as the Argentinians. Understandably, everyone on the planet disagreed with the Argentinian position, including their neighbour Chile… who allied themselves with Britain and cooperated fully, allowing their airports and military bases to be used as staging and refueling areas. Chile turned out to be an integral part of helping the Brits end the invasion quickly. The strange parallel would be the U.S. aligning themselves with France, helping them take back the islands from Canada. I wonder how many minutes that war would last.
From a personal point of view, the whole Falklands thing was strange – it was the first time I had a completely relatable view of a big conflict… very clearly from both, opposing sides.
On one hand, I was in grade 8, at a very British school, where many of the teachers were British themselves. They were adamantly opposed to this ridiculous invasion, and made their views known. Everybody (including me) was in agreement. What a useless, stupid war. Hopefully, it’d be over quickly.
On the flipside, my older cousins in Chile were of the age where if they’d been in neighbouring Argentina, they and their friends might have been drafted to go and fight. I knew a lot of people down there in that age group. It would have been like the grade 12s in my school going off to fight for one side… and, on the other side, it could’ve been my cousins and their friends, or at least guys whose personas and attitudes and everything else – I could easily relate to. Happy-go-lucky Latin Americans guys… suddenly thrown into a war because their leader needed some quick wins; some better approval ratings; some better numbers. No time for debates or town-hall meetings… let’s make a real statement.
The whole ugly episode wrapped up in about 10 weeks, but there were (and still are) some ridiculously short-sighted Argentinean patriots who think it was the right move. The vast majority would disagree with that… and if there was any Argentinian positive out of all of it, it’s that it not only took down Galtieri… but it took down the whole right-wing fascist military-dictatorship infrastructure that had supported him and his predecessors. From the failed war emerged democracy. And a final footnote… in 1994, Argentina adopted a new constitution. In it, they declared the Falkland Islands an Argentine Province. Some people just can’t let it go. The official British response was, “LOL”.
What may be relatable about the whole thing is this; there was a leader who was nearing the end of his tenure… something that doesn’t necessarily happen with military dictatorships. Many of those guys hang in there for decades, because their iron-fisted rule keeps them there. As long as the country is doing ok, it works.
But when it’s all going downhill, and people are calling for your head… well, what do you expect from a military leader… fight or flight? Galtieri knew the implications of leaving power, and they all came to pass. He knew what he’d done. He knew his track record leading up that last gasp. He knew that if he had to one day face the music, it wouldn’t go well for him… and, indeed… the rest of his life was no bed of roses. Arrests, prison, disgrace, legal fights, stripped of everything.
That is what faces Donald Trump, so it should come as no surprise that he’ll do anything to prevent it… and/or at least try everything he can to punt the ball 4 years down the field. The U.S. won’t be invading anyone as a distraction anytime soon, fortunately, but what’s going on is its own version of “last gasp”… an effort that started years ago, and will hopefully end on January 20th… 2021, not 2025.
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