Thursday, December 12, 2013


"Now that he’s dead, and can cause no more trouble, Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the ideological spectrum as a saint. But not long ago, in Washington’s highest circles, he was considered an enemy of the United States. Unless we remember why, we won’t truly honor his legacy. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan placed Mandela’s African National Congress on America’s official list of “terrorist” groups. In 1985, then-Congressman Dick Cheney voted against a resolution urging that he be released from jail. In 2004, after Mandela criticized the Iraq War, an article in National Review said his “vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his longstanding dedication to communism and praise for terrorists.” As late as 2008, the ANC remained on America’s terrorism watch list, thus requiring the 89-year-old Mandela to receive a special waiver from the secretary of State to visit the U.S. From their perspective, Mandela’s critics were right to distrust him. They called him a “terrorist” because he had waged armed resistance to apartheid. They called him a “communist” because the Soviet Union was the ANC’s chief external benefactor and the South African Communist Party was among its closest domestic allies. More fundamentally, what Mandela’s American detractors understood is that he considered himself an opponent, not an ally, of American power. And that’s exactly what Mandela’s American admirers must remember now.... They were right. When it came to other countries, Mandela’s leftist ties did sometimes blind him to communism’s crimes. In 1991, for instance, he called Fidel Castro “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.” But at home, where it mattered most, the ANC was a genuine, multiracial movement for democracy. And so the Americans who best championed South African freedom were the ones who didn’t view freedom as synonymous with the geopolitical interests of the United States".
Peter Beinart, "Don’t Sanitize Nelson Mandela: He’s Honored Now, But Was Hated Then." The Daily Beast. 5 December 2013, in
"He is a cannibal".
Unnamed New York based, Russian-language émigré, circa 1990's.
"Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst.... Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also was a statesman of considerable weight. If not as significant on the global stage as FDR, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan, he approaches Margaret Thatcher as a national leader with major international reach. Mandela invited the warden of Robben Island prison to his inauguration as president of South Africa. He sat him front and center. While most people would be tempted to lock up their jailers if they had the chance, Mandela essentially forgave him while the whole world and his own people, white and black, were watching. This quietly sent South Africa’s white population a message: Calm down. This will be okay. It also signaled black South Africans: Now is no time for vengeance. Let’s show our former oppressors that we are greater than that and bigger people than they were to us. As Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon beautifully dramatize in the excellent film Invictus, Mandela resisted the ANC’s efforts to strip the national rugby team of its long-standing name, the Springboks. Seen as a symbol of apartheid, Mandela’s black colleagues were eager to give the team a new, less “white” identity. Mandela argued that white South Africans, stripped of political leadership and now quite clearly in the minority, should not be deprived of the one small point of pride behind which they could shield their anxieties."
Deroy Murdock, "Nelson Mandela, R.I.P." The National Review. 5 December 2013, in
Reflecting upon the demise of the late Mr. Mandela, one is put to mind George Orwell's famous dictum that: "Saints should be always judged guilty until they are proven innocent" 1. A point of view which the Vatican (until very recently) also followed in its evaluation of those to be considered for Sainthood. With that being said, I must admit that au fond, back in the 1980's and early 1990's, my own opinion of Mr. Mandela was somewhat akin to that voiced by Mr. Murdock and for that matter my Russian-speaking acquaintance. That Mandela, notwithstanding the partial justice of his cause, insofar as he was de facto allied with Sovietskaya Vlast, its satellite states [Cuba, et cetera], and its local handmaiden (the South African Communist Party), was an enemy of the West and should be treated as such. The fact that the organization that Mandela headed while in prison (the ANC) was also responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians, albeit in not very large numbers, also did nothing to endear either him or his cause to me or people of my ilk. And, in fact, notwithstanding anything else that one may say of him: the fact that Mandela was willing to endorse while in prison, terrorist acts, removes him to my mind from any consideration of sainthood of the secular or any other quality. There is nothing to my mind, which can mitigate the fact that innocent people were killed for purposes of advancing political goals. Which in turn does not mean that the White South African regime was in any way justified in its policies. While one may agree with the late, great George Frost Kennan, that separate development, AKA segregation has much to be said for it, the fact remains that as implemented under apartheid, any legitimacy for such a policy was rendered nil and void 2. Indeed, it would be true to say that apartheid rendered illegitimate any idea or concept of segregation pur et simple.
Accordingly, when Mandela was finally released in 1990 and it came time to negotiate with White South Africa, it is perhaps not surprising that Mandela's own moderation and fairness soon allowed for and indeed encouraged and made possible a peaceful end of the Apartheid regime. With in retrospect it difficult to imagine that such a peaceful transfer of power would be possible otherwise. In that respect and in the fact that he was quite willing, if not indeed happy to retire after only four years in power. Mandela proved himself to be a very unique statesman indeed. And while not quite as influential internationally as Mr. Murdock mistakenly would make him appear, as a recent article in the Financial Times clearly demonstrates 3. That however cannot gainsay the fact, that to quote George Orwell once again, Mandela:
"regarded simply as a politician and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he managed to leave behind 4!"
1. George Orwell, "Reflections on Gandhi." in Completed Essays, Journalism and Letters, Volume IV. Edited. Ian Angus & Sonia Brownell. (1968), p. 463.
2. On this see: John Lewis Gaddis, George Frost Kennan: An American Life. p. 603, where the author speaks of 'Kennan's sympathy for Apartheid'. See also Kennan's own words on the subject in: Around the Cragged Hill: A personal and political philosophy. (1993), pp. 126-130.
3. For the article in the Financial Times, see: William Wallis, "Madiba [Mandela]'s magic had its limits but he set Africa an example". The Financial Times. 11 December 2013, in
4. Orwell, op. cit., 470.


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