- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev could not silence Maggie Thatcher. Nor could his successor, former KGB strongman Yuri Andropov, who threw an intercontinental fit after Mrs. Thatcher ignored thousands of misguided British protesters and welcomed U.S. nuclear-armed cruise missiles at one of her nation's military bases. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Evil Empire, whom she once characterized as a man she could "do business with," managed to outlast her in office only to preside over Soviet communism's collapse upon the ash heap of history.

Just as the Soviet totalitarians had futilely tested the unshakable mettle of Mrs. Thatcher, who assumed power in Britain in 1979, when the country was widely recognized as "the sick man of Europe," so too did the authoritarian generals of Argentina, whom Mrs. Thatcher humiliated in the 1982 war over the Falklands. With equally ruthless dispatch, Mrs. Thatcher throttled a series of aspiring Labor Party potentates.

Even after she resigned as British prime minister in 1990, nobody could muzzle Maggie Thatcher. As recently as 1999, her Conservative Party colleagues learned this firsthand at their party convention. Greeted by what the Associated Press described as "thunderous applause" and "a rapturous ovation," Now-Lady Thatcher reminded her party colleagues why the Soviets nicknamed her the Iron Lady. "I'm told I have to be careful about what I say," Maggie confided to her colleagues, "and I don't like it." Then, in a ferocious rhetorical fusillade as Thatcheresque as any of her famous orations while in power, Maggie aimed her considerable intellect and wit at lambasting the intensifying efforts in Britain to adopt the more-statist European mainland's single currency, the euro. "In my lifetime," the soon-to-be 74-year-old Lady Thatcher observed, "all of the problems have come from mainland Europe; and all of the solutions have come from English-speaking nations that have kept law-abiding liberty alive for the future."

Playing a pivotal role indeed, at times an indispensable role on the world stage in the defense of freedom, Maggie proved time and again that nobody could silence her. Nobody, that is, but the great lady herself. This weekend, even as her "Statecraft" memoirs were being serialized in a British newspaper, Maggie let it be known that the cumulative effect of a series of recent strokes has made it necessary for her to discontinue public speaking. Her private office revealed that Lady Thatcher made her decision "with great regret."

With great regret? Well, on behalf of the billions around the world who, knowingly or unknowingly, owe a debt of gratitude to this freedom-loving titan, those of us who have marveled for decades at the steely nerve of the Iron Lady accept her decision with the greatest regret.

If we are to be denied her public defense of liberty in the future, then let us at least rejoice in one of her most famous declarations. "I stand before you tonight in my green chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up, my hair gently waved," Maggie intoned at the height of the Cold War. "The Iron Lady of the Western world? Me? A Cold War warrior? Well, yes if that is how they wish to interpret my defense of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life."

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