Belfast Telegraph

I laughed at the Maggie jibes but other politicians were a real joke

By Robert McNeill

It's unseemly to speak ill of the dead, but seeing war criminal Henry Kissinger extolling the virtues of Margaret Thatcher reminded us that ululating fondly of them can also turn the stomach.

Wimpish though it's widely deemed, I'm not your man for jiving on graves. However, the beauty of the internet is that you can take great rubbernecking pleasure from wallowing in other people's ill-tempered or humorous reactions.

With me, it's dignity and decorum at all times, you see, while secretly delighting that others don't believe in such rot. Street parties, I ask you.

Far from the streets, I ventured – passively – into the world of tweeting this week, to read comedian Frankie Boyle's short messages, many of which are inspired.

His remark that, with Mrs Thatcher's death, at last he had an occasion to match his black suit with his tap dancing shoes was deplorable. And made me laugh like a drain.

How conflicted many of us feel at times like this. I don't intend adding to the acreage about Mrs Thatcher. However, I was interested in another death reported this week: that of Wikileaks.

Does that sound odd to you? Wikileaks dead in the week that it released 1.7 million US diplomatic records? Well, cynics in the elderly (and arguably envious) printed press said the stuff was old and probably available in your local library.

I doubt the widely available bit. But old, hell yeah, and given added piquancy by remarks attributed to Kissinger in the files.

The former US Secretary of State, responsible for carpet-bombing Cambodia and propping up sundry dictatorships, allegedly said at a meeting in March, 1975: "Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, 'The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.' [Laughter]. But since the Freedom of Information Act, I'm afraid to say things like that."

Yes, well we're all reading about it now. Thirty-eight years later, right enough. But better later than never.

Among the loony dictatorships that America kept in power, that of Humphrey – was it Humphrey? – Marcos in the Philippines at least affords some comic relief.

Humphrey's wife Imelda – no forgetting that name – was as vain and shallow as a Bieber, but with a bigger collection of shoes.

William Sullivan, former US ambassador to Manila, recorded the "garish" birthday celebrations she put on for her husband in 1973. Senior military personnel were required to dress in women's clothing for a floor show at the palace.

Sullivan records: "Only the Marcos children, to their credit, appeared embarrassed by the display."

Shamingly for the French, embassy cables also reveal that Prime Minister Jacques Chirac used to sneak over to the US Embassy in Paris to eat real American food. Mon dieu!

These and other colourful insights from the past have been provided by yon Julian Assange as a means of passing the time while holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in yonder Londonshire.

All right, it's hardly world-changing stuff, but it is all part of the weft and woof that remind us how many world leaders were barking.

The dogged Assange divides opinion as much as Mrs Thatcher, but a prognosis of death on his organisation is premature.

Not dead. Just resting. As for Mrs Thatcher, I suppose she thought what she was doing was right. But more than that I will not say.

Belfast Telegraph


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