Nel's New Day

December 9, 2013

Conservatives Vilify Mandela

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:15 PM
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Unless you get your news from The Drudge, you probably know that Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died at the age of 95 this week. The lead in the The Drudge, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s choice for a “news source,” was “Limbaugh on the Move: Changes Stations in Los Angeles.”

During the mid-20th century, the white government of South Africa passed laws that disenfranchised all non-white people, removing voting rights and citizenship while they were relocated at the will of white people. During the same half century, conservatives in the Western world vilified the activist who helped lead opposition to the racist apartheid government of South Africa even during his 27 years in prison:

1960s:  National Review writer Russell Kirk predicted that democracy in South Africa “would bring anarchy and the collapse of civilization” and the government “would be domination by witch doctors (still numerous and powerful) and reckless demagogues.”

1980s: President Reagan described apartheid South Africa as a “good country” and reversed the sanctions that prior President Jimmy Carter had imposed on South Africa. Reagan labeled the African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization and told Walter Cronkite in 1981 that the U.S. should support the South Africa regime because it is “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.” In 1985, Reagan told an interviewer:

“They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country.” Later he had to rescind his statement.  As late as 1988, Reagan called apartheid “a tribal policy more than…a racial policy.”

Jerry Falwell urged supporters to write members of Congress to oppose sanctions against the apartheid regime. Falwell said:

“The liberal media has for too long suppressed the other side of the story in South Africa. It is very important that we stay close enough to South Africa so that it does not fall prey to the clutches of Communism.”

1986: 180 House members, including 45 Democrats, voted against a non-binding House resolution urging the South Africa government to negotiate with the black majority by granting unconditional freedom to Mandela and recognize the ANC. Among the 180 members were Dick Cheney, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Joe Barton. Cheney said in 2000 that he did not regret the vote because the ANC was “viewed as a terrorist organization.”

Reagan placed the ANC on the U.S. terror list in the 1980s, where it stayed until 2008, and labeled the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 as “immoral” and “utterly repugnant.”

1986: 20 senators and 83 House members opposed sanctions against South Africa in a bill that cut virtually “all U.S. economic ties with South Africa, requiring American companies to cease operating there within 180 days.” Lawmakers had to override Reagan’s veto, and Sens. Thad Conrad, Orrin Hatch and Reps. Hal Rogers, Joe Barton, and Howard Coble all voted against imposing sanctions on the regime.

1986: South African government helped fund and establish The International Freedom Foundation (IFF), a conservative think tank designed to “reverse the apartheid regime’s pariah status in Western political circles” and “portray the ANC as a tool of Soviet communism, thus undercutting the movement’s growing international acceptance as the government-in-waiting of a future multiracial South Africa.”

The Washington branch of the IFF listed, among others, Senator Jesse Helms and James Inhofe as advisers. The lobbyist Jack Abramoff led the organization. He later was sentenced to six years in federal prison for mail fraud, conspiracy to bribe public officials, and tax evasion.  Republican power brokers such as Grover Norquist, Jeff Flake, and Abramoff all started their careers in the anti-divestment campaign, seeking to keep trade open with apartheid South Africa.

1987:

“The ANC is a typical terrorist organization. . . . Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”—Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

“How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?”—British MP Terry Dicks

“Nelson Mandela should be shot.”—British MP Teddy Taylor, mid-1980s

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) protected U.S. mining interests in South Africa by testifying before the Utah State Senate in support of a resolution supporting the government that enforced racial segregation laws. Flake lobbied for South African interests during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

1990s: The conservative Heritage Foundation warned people in the U.S. against Mandela before his visit to this country, declaring that he was not a “freedom fighter.” The think tank also linked Mandela to communists as IFF’s newspaper ads described Mandela as a defender of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Mandela’s visit to Miami had to be canceled because of the conservatives’ agitating.

1998: Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly included Mandela with notorious dictators.

2003: The National Review attacked Mandela for opposing the Iraq war. His “vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise,” NR wrote, “given his longstanding dedication to communism and praise for terrorists.”

Even after Mandela’s death, the far-right leaders keep vilifying him. Fox network’s Bill O’Reilly couldn’t do more than sputter:

“He was a communist, this man. He was a communist, all right? But he was a great man! What he did for his people was stunning!…He was a great man! But he was a communist!”

Rick Santorum went farther when he compared Mandela’s fight “against some great injustice,” comparable to today’s fight against the Affordable Care Act in the United States:

“I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives–and Obamacare is front and center in that.”

Pickens County (SC) sheriff Rick Clark left a post on his Facebook that he refused to obey the president’s order to respect Mandela by flying the U.S. flag at half mast.  Clark’s objection was that Mandela was not an “American.” Pickens did lower the flag to honor a deputy who died helping a fellow deputy and then the mourning of Pearl Harbor Day.

The flag code gives the president the authority to direct the flag be flown at half mast for the death of foreign dignitaries as Reagan did for Anwar Sadat, the Muslim president of Egypt, and Clinton did for Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel in 1995 after his unfortunate assassination and for King Hussein of Jordan.  George W. Bush gave the order after the death of Pope John Paul II.

Nelson Mandela stood for justice and equality, something that conservatives in the United States claim that they do. He signed South Africa’s new constitution in 1996, a document that could be used for other democratic countries–such as the United States.

The first line of the South African constitution reads: “We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past.” Beginning with this concept shows people that a nation, such as the U.S., regrets its long decades of inequality. For many years, the U.S. Constitution allowed slavery and denied humanity of blacks by stating that they were three-fifths equivalent of whites.

According to the constitution, voting was limited to landowning males, meaning that only 6 percent of the people in this country could vote for the first president of the United States. This injustice was not completely changed until almost 200 years later after women were given the vote (1920), Native Americans won the right to vote (1947), and blacks no longer had to face poll taxes and literacy tests (1965). The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed the law eliminating restrictions, again putting voting rights in danger for women and minorities.

Instead of beginning with governmental structure, the South African Constitution starts with a statement of human rights and continues with 32 articles outlining individual rights. These include those in the U.S. Constitution: equality, faith, free speech, and privacy against unreasonable searches and seizures. But other rights are delineated:  right to “fair labour practices,” to “form and join a trade union,” to “an environment that is not harmful to . . . health or well-being,” and to “sufficient food and water.”

South Africa’s Constitution  provides that “[t]he state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language, and birth.” It provides, for example, that “[e]veryone has the right to have access to ­. . . health care services, including reproductive health care.”

This is a document from people who understand how government can go wrong, how lawmakers can be purchased by wealthy people and corporations. The United States, a country that believes in individual freedom and rights, has spent over 200 years arguing about whether children, women, and minorities should have rights. Even when the federal government concludes that yes, these people deserve rights, the constitution gives states the ability to deny rights to the people.

Some people pride our nation’s current system on the slowness with which it operates, yet it has not resulted in much success for years. Success is demonstrated by the ability to earn a living wage, a growing economy, health care, and other rights that are enshrined in the South African constitution. The United States people need to elect lawmakers who consider the rights and needs of their constituents, not ones who limit opportunities for everyone.

 

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1 Comment »

  1. By today’s definition the American Revolutionists were terrorists. So is the US government when it sends drone strikes into civilian areas. 

    Potaytoes — potawtoes. Look at the man’s accomplishments not his supposed ideology. who else could have brought about South Africa’s rebirth without a torrent of bloodshed or lingering animosity?  Reagan? Bush? They’d STILL be fighting a civil war and the country would look like Iraq.

    Like

    Comment by gkparker — December 13, 2013 @ 6:56 PM | Reply


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