Thatcher was no political saint

APR 10, 2013, 4:30 PM

By Dawud Walid

Discussions on the passing of Great Britain’s first female head of state, Margaret Thatcher, crystallize the partisan prism through which we view political leaders.

Thatcher was neither all angel nor devil. She was beloved by many and loathed by many – both inside of her country and around the globe. What is astonishing to me is that many who eulogize her accomplishments utterly fail to show any balance in their remarks that she, like other politicians, took problematic positions.

I can’t help but see the stark contrast of media discussions about the “Iron Lady” with late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who was depicted as a tyrant and utter madman. He too was neither all devil nor all angel, but many of his political accomplishments were buried while his perceived problematic policies and jeering speech directed towards President George W. Bush were highlighted.

While Thatcher is being praised, I must mention a few points regarding her career from a foreign policy vantage point that will most likely be white-washed in mainstream television news.

Many anti-oppression activists had serious issues with Thatcher’s stance towards the South African resistance to apartheid, which was led by Nobel Peace Prize and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Nelson Mandela. She bestowed upon them the same label as the White Afrikaners did – i.e. that they  were “terrorists” – and she opposed sanctions against the racist South African apartheid regime.

Thatcher approved covert arms for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein – as did U.S. President Ronald Reagan –  to do the West’s dirty work pertaining to the illegal attack and invasion of Iran. Saddam used chemical weapons to gas Iranians and later gassed his own Kurdish population. She backed one of the world’s most infamous dictators and has more blood on her hands than the reviled boisterous Chavez.

I also have Irish friends who were none too pleased about Thatcher’s escalation of armed troops in the occupied counties of Northern Ireland. She was not a model stateswoman on human rights to put it mildly.

In order to make the world a better place, we have to be honest about history and the political legacies of world leaders. Their past decisions have an impact on our current global socio-economic environment. And in order to improve the lot of humankind, positive and negative aspects of famous political personalities must be critically critiqued.

Thatcher’s legacy should be thoroughly probed as well – save ethnocentric affinity and ideological bias.


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