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Former Chief of Defence Staff warns of Falklands tension

By on Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lord Guthrie: 'Rhetoric is a dangerous thing'

Lord Guthrie: 'Rhetoric is a dangerous thing'

Britain and Argentina risk “sliding” into an escalating situation in the Falkland Islands, The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank has warned.

In an interview with The Catholic Herald published tomorrow, the former Colonel Commandant of the Special Air Service spoke about increasing tensions over the Falkland Islands, 30 years after the war there.

He said: “If there’s so much rhetoric there’s a danger of sliding into things, which we probably don’t really want. The Argentinians do have a track record of whipping up popular nationalism. They used to do it about Chile. We’re not the only people they’ve done it to. Rhetoric is a dangerous thing because it becomes self-fulfilling if you are not careful.”

Lord Guthrie, 73, who joined the Welsh Guards when he left Sandhurst in 1961 and who commanded SAS troops in Aden, the Persian Gulf, Malaysia and East Africa, also spoke his faith in the interview. He said he waited until his 40s before becoming a Catholic because: “I wanted to be absolutely sure, so I didn’t rush into it.”

Lord Guthrie was later Chief of the Defence Staff, responsible for the whole British Armed Forces, in 1997. He was a key government adviser during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, and in 2000 oversaw a British intervention that helped to end civil war in Sierra Leone.

Since then he has became head of several medical, military and youth charities, vice-president of the British Association of the Order of Malta, and chairman of the board of the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London. He also co-wrote, with former Ministry of Defence official Sir Michael Quinlan, a book on Just War.

He said that there was still a place for St Augustine of Hippo’s theory of Just War.

“If you look at what happened in Sierra Leone: the UN went in and we did,” he said: “That was really to stop genocide. People would argue that Kosovo was the same and people would say that the Balkans was the same.”