Well, It’s About Damn Time

by matttbastard

Nearly 20 years after the end of apartheid, BBC News reports that the US has finally decided to lift the now-antiquaited terrorist designation from ANC leaders–including global statesman Nelson Mandela:

A bill has been introduced in the US Congress to remove from databases any reference to South Africa’s governing party and its leaders as terrorists.

The African National Congress (ANC) was designated as a terrorist organisation by South Africa’s old apartheid regime.

At present a waiver is needed for any ANC leaders to enter the country.

“It is frankly a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterparts – the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader, Nelson Mandela,” [Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice told lawmakers in Washington.

Last week, Howard Berman, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who introduced the bill said it was “shameful” that the United States still treated the ANC this way.

“Amazingly, Nelson Mandela still needs to get a special waiver to enter the United States based on his courageous leadership of the ANC. What an indignity. This legislation will wipe it away,” he said.

Flashback: Joe Conason on the “Conservative whitewash” of the GOP’s record on apartheid-era South Africa:

If the ANC indulged in actions that might be considered “terrorist,” it is at least as true that the entire apparatus of apartheid relied upon terrorism against millions of men, women and children. The Sharpsville massacre and literally hundreds of other atrocities committed against South African blacks and their neighbors in other states deserve no other description. That kind of state terrorism didn’t much trouble the Reaganite ideologues such as Cheney.

Contrary to his sentimentalized recollection of that period, some 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.

Well, at least US policy on state terrorism has been consistent, to say nothing of the GOP’s resistance to apologizing for past mistakes. Berman and Rice can try to retroactively ”wipe away” 20+ years of “embarrassing” official US policy towards the apartheid regime, but this is ultimately a hollow gesture, too little and (far) too late. As Conason aptly noted back in 2000, “[t]here can be no reconciliation in the absence of truth.”

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