Today you can watch much of the world praise the life and mourn the death of former South African President anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. Scores of U.S. leaders and political pundits with platforms to reach millions of Americans are expressing admiration for Mandela today, but I have barely seen a single acknowledgement of the fact that the U.S. strongly opposed Mandela’s struggle and strongly supported the white supremacist apartheid system in South Africa. There has been almost no mention in the mainstream that Mandela remained on the U.S.’s terrorism watch list until 2008. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, thanks in part to the CIA assisting the apartheid regime’s secret police in his arrest.
This white-washing mostly occurs on television. Cable news is especially vapid. There are a few exceptions in print/digital media. One comes from Peter Beinhart:
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 againsta 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.
…In South Africa, for decades, American presidents backed apartheid in the name of anti-communism. Indeed, the language of the Cold War proved so morally corrupting that in 1981, Reagan, without irony, called South Africa’s monstrous regime “essential to the free world.”
Believe it or not, there is an aspect of this hypocritical praise of Mandela that is mentioned even less than the media coverage of his passing. That is the uncomfortable similarity that Israel’s occupation of Palestine now has with the apartheid regime in South Africa.