Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Classiest Person Alive

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Nelson Mandela

Former South African President P.W. Botha died yesterday. Botha was a hardline supporter of Apartheid, and, under Botha's rule, Mandela spent over ten of his 27 years in prison.

If I were in Mandela's place, I'd be shining up my dancin' shoes, ready to trip the light fantastic on that asshole's grave.

But I'm not classy like Mr. Mandela.
Mandela leads tributes to S.Africa's Botha

Nelson Mandela led South Africans on Wednesday in remembering former President P.W. Botha, the defiant face of apartheid who doggedly clung to white rule and refused to free Mandela from jail.

"While to many Mr. Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took to pave the way toward the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country," Mandela said in a statement.


"Our correspondence with Mr. Botha while we were in prison was an important part of those initial stages, as was the agreement to a personal meeting in Tuynhuys," Mandela said, referring to secret talks in the then presidential residence.

Botha's death should be a reminder of "how South Africans from all persuasions ultimately came together to save our country from self-destruction," Mandela said.

Mandela didn't have to praise Botha. He didn't have to say anything. Yet Mandela found it in himself not only to forgive a person who unjustly kept him in prison, but to point out positive things about Botha.

I just couldn't do that.

For a few bonus points, guess who the Republican Party here in the US backed during the struggle over Apartheid.

Did you guess right?
[S]ome people were indeed in favor of keeping Mandela behind bars and keeping South African blacks in bondage. The roster of infamy begins with Ronald Reagan, who upon becoming president in 1981 immediately reversed the Carter administration's policy of pressuring the Afrikaner minority toward democracy and human rights. In an early interview with CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, Reagan called South Africa a "friendly nation" whose reliable anticommunism and wealth of strategic minerals justified stronger ties between Washington and Pretoria.

Overtly and covertly, the Reagan administration moved to strengthen the apartheid regime. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, fought every attempt to impose sanctions. The late William Casey, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, intensified cooperation with the South African Bureau of State Security and military intelligence agencies. He went so far as to secretly visit Pretoria to confer with the racist murderers who ran those agencies.

Meanwhile, of course, the Republican leadership in Congress, including Cheney, also opposed every effort to impose economic sanctions. He voted against sanctions in various forms at least 10 times between 1983 and 1988. There is no evidence that Cheney ever spoke up for freedom and human rights in South Africa -- although in that respect he was merely a typical Republican politician of his time.

For Cheney, anticommunism excused a multitude of sins, including his own. Whenever they protected Pretoria from democratic change, conservatives like him would invoke Soviet backing for the ANC and the presence of communists in the ANC leadership. Yet it has long been obvious that the Republican tilt in favor of white supremacy was influenced as much by unsavory stateside domestic politics as by geopolitical concerns.

That sad fact was discovered by Henry Kissinger as early as 1976, when he delivered a stirring speech in Zambia calling for racial justice on the African continent as "an imperative of our own moral heritage." It was an unusually decent initiative on the part of the old reprobate, who could with some understatement be described as no friend of human rights.

Kissinger was immediately denounced by House Republican leader Robert Michel, later Cheney's mentor, because of his speech's "devastating effect" on Ford's reelection campaign in Southern primaries. According to Walter Isaacson's biography of Kissinger, Michel demanded that Ford "muzzle" his secretary of state. Apparently the "Southern strategy" adopted by the party of Lincoln meant appeasing racism, both at home and abroad.
Of course you did. Those were the easiest bonus points ever!

Update: See a South African ex-pat's view here. Thanks to Theresa for the link.

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