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Thatcher Joins Mourners As Weinberger Hailed As Cold War Champion

In mourning: Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Apr 05, 2006
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher made a rare public appearance Tuesday at the funeral of former US defense secretary Caspar Weinberger, eulogized as a Cold War champion who helped bring down the Soviet Union.

Weinberger, who died last week at age 88 of complications from pneumonia, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery after a funeral that drew Lady Thatcher, Vice President Dick Cheney and a host of luminaries from the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and ex-secretary of state Colin Powell, a former military aide to Weinberger, gave the keynote addresses.

Powell remembered Weinberger as a demanding boss. He said Weinberger had revived the morale of the US military after the Vietnam War with simple gestures like encouraging officers to wear their uniforms at the Pentagon.

Reagan, he said, "needed a champion to rebuild the armed forces of the United States and to show the Soviets and the world how strength can lead to peace. And that champion was "Cap" Weinberger.

"The assignment gave him a chance to work with his Churchill -- Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, who became one of his closest friends," Powell said.

Thatcher did not speak at the funeral, but in her memoirs she wrote of Weinberger, who was defense secretary from 1981-1987: "America never had a wiser patriot, nor Britain a truer friend."

Rumsfeld credited Weinberger with pushing the development of missile defense and other high-tech weaponry, which he contended were "critical to victory in the Cold War".

"Today, some think back on the Cold War as if victory in that war was inevitable. That was not the case."

He went on: "When President Reagan nominated Cap to that post, the Soviets mistakenly assumed that because he was charming -- which he was -- he would be malleable," he said.

"They learned differently," he added.

A San Francisco native and graduate of Harvard Law School, Weinberger tried to join the British Royal Air Force just before the United States joined World War II but was rejected because of poor eyesight. He eventually served in the US Army.

He rose in California politics in the 1960s when Reagan was governor of the state. He became California's finance director.

He earned the nickname "Cap the Knife" as president Richard Nixon's director of the Office of Management and Budget. He also served as Nixon's secretary of health, education and welfare.

Weinberger was charged with felonies for his role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal but was pardoned before going to trial by the elder president George Bush in 1992.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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