From The CITIZEN
Thatcher: Despised in life and death
The mean-spirited woman, Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister who was hated and loved in almost equal measure, the woman nicknamed by Soviet journalists as the “Iron Lady” because of her stubbornness, was buried on Wednesday. She died of a stroke on April 8 at the age of 87.
Although the British government didn’t accord her a state funeral, which requires a vote in Parliament, she did receive a ceremonial send-off with military honors in the same way as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother in 1997 and 2002 respectively. That is what befitted the politician whose death received cheers and toasts.
Some high-profile dignitaries who it was hoped would attend her funeral declined, surprisingly including the Bushes, and expectedly, the Clintons. The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was reportedly busy attending to another important matter in Moscow. Thatcher mattered less to them at her death.
The former US first lady, Nancy Reagan, 91, whose husband Ronald Reagan together with Thatcher formed then what could have been likened to the “axis of evil” in today’s world, didn’t show up as well. A staunch believer of the brutal Thatcher-Reagan right-wing policies, former US vice-president Dick Cheney, represented himself.
Serving foreign leaders cared less about Thatcher’s funeral with the exception of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel dispatched her foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, while President Barack Obama opted for a low-key presence sending two former secretaries of state from the 1980s, George Shultz and James Baker.
A couple of former leaders who were close to her during her 11-year period perhaps to keep themselves busy invited themselves to the funeral, the likes of the former South African president Frederick W. de Klerk and the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
During her rule Thatcher managed to befriend only two African leaders, Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi and Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda, and while Banda is no more, for his own respect Moi couldn’t have flown to London.
The two leaders received enormous aid and foreign direct investment from London for being “good boys” at a time when almost the entire continent hated her.
Africans don’t condemn the dead but this time around I am not sure! No African leader bothered to fly to London to attend her funeral; they simply let their high commissioners attend if schedules permitted. South Africa in particular, sent the deputy high commissioner.
Argentina’s ambassador Alicia Castro was clear about it: no attendance, as she recalled how Thatcher re-took the Falkland Islands through war after Argentinean troops liberated them in 1982.
Last but not least, Nelson Mandela’s family openly snubbed the occasion despite an invitation from the British High Commission in Pretoria. All Africans still remember how terrible Thatcher was in supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa that jailed and killed many Africans.
Completely far from reality, British Premier David Cameron argued the ceremony was “a fitting tribute to a great prime minister respected around the world.” Come on, respected around the world?
Yes, conservative Britons may respect her for lifting the UK from its knees when the world was referring to Britain as the “sick man of Europe”, but nothing more.
Listing all evils attributed to Thatcher may be too much, but let me recall a few. In her own country she hated jobless Britons; she fought with trade unions; despised immigrants; called the Irish freedom fighters terrorists; taxed people mercilessly; tortured prisoners; defended the wealthy at the expense of the poor; and totally divided her nation along minor ideological issues.
Thatcher didn’t care much about other people’s lives. At one time she let ten hunger strikers from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) die in prison. No wonder that today in Belfast fresh graffiti read: “Iron Lady? Rust in hell” and “Maggie rot in hell.” Too bad!
But one thing I liked about her was her stance towards the union of her country, although she never liked the idea of one strong Europe with a single currency. This character was rare among many people and leaders in Africa, then and now.
On the international stage, just like her partner Reagan, she called the South African freedom fighters terrorists, never understood other freedom fighters like the Palestinians and other Africans, harassed socialist and communist nations from South America to Asia, and kept spending huge amounts of money building a defense arsenal in anticipation of an imaginary attack from the Soviet Union.
Eventually, Britons realized the world at large was right; she was not human like everyone else and dumped her in 1990. She maintained her strong personality to the end, which was never short of admirers until her last breath.
She may not have had the power to influence world politics today, but still, the world is better without her! Good riddance Margaret Thatcher!