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Remember the whole story about Thatcher

Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher's partner in foreign affairs, and her mirror image in domestic affairs, was president of the United States from 1981 to 1989, during which time the U.S. national debt tripled, from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion. His administration reduced taxes on the wealthiest

Americans by 60 percent, ordered vast increases in military spending, attacked labor unions across the board, caused a reduction in hourly wages, a rise in unemployment as unskilled jobs disappeared, and forced more and more wives and mothers into the work force just to make ends meet.

Norman Bernstein

The gap between rich and poor became a chasm as privatization became the order of the day. His administration was a monument to corporate greed, carried on by the first Bush administration, when the national debt increased to $4.188 trillion, and then under George W. Bush, when it rose by 86 percent to $10.627 trillion.

Later Bush Junior continued the tradition and instituted another 40 percent reduction in taxes, mainly for the very rich.

The Reagan administration's foreign policy was most noted for its rabid cold-warism, its invasion of Grenada, the bombing of Libya, and the Iran-Contra Affair, as the public purse was drained by its increases in military spending.

The parallel government of Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990, was also marked by a massive increase in the public debt, unfettered military spending, rampant unemployment, virulent anti-labor policies, privatization of government-run industries at bargain prices — including gas, water, electricity, British Steel and British Rail, which still hasn't recovered, as rail service and safety in England are among the worst in the world — causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and impoverishing a once-viable middle working class, while swelling the ranks of those on the welfare rolls to more than 3 million. Perhaps this is why some of these people danced in the streets last week, and why "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead" is becoming the number one song on Britain's singles music chart.

Thatcher's deregulation of the financial sector and the London Stock Exchange caused an immediate financial crisis and led directly to England's financial collapse 17 years later.

Thatcher's foreign policy was most noted for her military invasion of the Falkland Islands, known as the Malvinas Islands in Argentina, causing hundreds of unnecessary deaths. The war was caused by the ridiculous macho posturing on both sides, but Thatcher out-machoed Argentina's military junta.

When she wanted to make a point, it didn't matter who she had to kill. This is what happened on May 2, 1982, after she had established a 200-nautical-mile radius Exclusion Zone at the Falklands Islands. The Argentinian World War II-vintage Light Cruiser Belgrano, with about 1,000 sailors on board, was 36 miles outside the zone, 236 miles west of the Falklands, heading away from the conflict zone toward its home port, when Thatcher gave the order to the commander of the British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror to sink the ship. The death toll was 323 men, mainly, young sea cadets. British callousness was summed up in the front page headline the next day in the London newspaper The Sun: "GOTCHA." Reagan supported Thatcher in the execution of that war.

In 1983, Thatcher permitted the Reagan administration to install more than 160 nuclear Cruise missiles in England and she tripled England's nuclear force by purchasing more than $30 billion worth of Trident nuclear submarine missiles, also from the Reagan administration. In 1986, she permitted U.S. F111 tactical strike bombers to use British air force bases for bombing Libya.

She opposed sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa and invited the racist South African President Botha to the UK as a state guest, dismissing Mandela's African National Congress, ANC, as a "terrorist organization."

Thatcher opposed any kind of a European union and opposed the establishment of the European Economic Community.

During her premiership, she had the second lowest approval rating of any prime minister since before World War II. In 1990, she was ousted as Prime Minister by her own Conservative Party.

Margaret Thatcher died last week, and British taxpayers will now have to foot the bill for her $15 million state funeral. Among the invited guests is F.W. De Klerk, a long-time friend of Thatcher's and apartheid South Africa's last president. Her lasting legacy will probably not be as the "Iron Lady," but more likely, as the name she was given by the press, after abolishing England's school milk program for young children, "Thatcher the Milk Snatcher."

(Norman Bernstein is a regular contributor to the editorial page for the Havre Daily News.)


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