Posted on | December 5, 2013 | 135 Comments
“It’s a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing. All Bush wants is Iraqi oil. There is no doubt that the U.S. is behaving badly. Why are they not seeking to confiscate weapons of mass destruction from their ally Israel? This is just an excuse to get Iraq’s oil. . . .
“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.”
– Nelson Mandela, Jan. 30, 2003
De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, eh?
History is distorted beyond recognition because liberals insist that their heroes must be everyone’s heroes, and many conservatives are so intimidated by the enormous prestige of liberalism that it takes a stern contempt for mere popularity to speak unpleasant truths.
The news of Nelson Mandela’s death at age 95 was announced while I was babysitting my newborn grandson Jimmy, and between attending him and my desire to be properly decorous, it was surprisingly easy to say nothing until I happened to see Mark Krikorian RT a message from the Communist Party of Scotland:
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) December 5, 2013
Ah, ancient history. There’s no one under 40 who really remembers the Cold War and the era of those Third World “wars of national liberation” in places like Algeria, Cuba and Vietnam. Locked into a worldwide battle for survival against communist aggression — the “long twilight struggle,” as John F. Kennedy called it — the United States supported or opposed foreign governments with a single-minded view toward defeating the Soviet menace. Under the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, the CIA masterminded coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), while under Kennedy, we attempted to overthrow Castro in 1961 and supported the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem in 1963. Various other such adventures, less noted in history, were undertaken in many countries — hell, Greece nearly went Red after World War II — and if U.S. foreign policy was not defined by “unspeakable atrocities,” it was certainly not always a peaceful or pleasant business.
Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes a Vietcong terrorist, February 1968.
The best articulation of sound Cold War policy was Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” from which I quote:
The American commitment [under the Carter administration] to “change” in the abstract ends up by aligning us tacitly with Soviet clients and irresponsible extremists like the Ayatollah Khomeini or, in the end, Yasir Arafat.
So far, assisting “change” has not led the Carter administration to undertake the destabilization of a Communist country. The principles of self-determination and nonintervention are thus both selectively applied. We seem to accept the status quo in Communist nations (in the name of ‘diversity” and national autonomy), but not in nations ruled by “right-wing” dictators or white oligarchies. . . .
Something very odd is going on here. How does an administration that desires to let people work out their own destinies get involved in determined efforts at reform in South Africa, Zaire, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere? How can an administration committed to nonintervention in Cambodia and Vietnam announce that it “will not be deterred” from righting wrongs in South Africa? . . .
[T]he Carter administration . . . came to power resolved not to assess international developments in the light of “cold-war” perspectives but to accept at face value the claim of revolutionary groups to represent “popular” aspirations and “progressive” forces — regardless of the ties of these revolutionaries to the Soviet Union. To this end, overtures were made looking to the “normalization” of relations with Vietnam, Cuba, and the Chinese People’s Republic, and steps were taken to cool relations with South Korea, South Africa, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and others. These moves followed naturally from the conviction that the U.S. had, as our enemies said, been on the wrong side of history in supporting the status quo and opposing revolution.
What Kirkpatrick was saying was that the Carter administration’s policies were a departure from three decades of U.S. policy, and had set aside both opposition to communism and the pursuit of other U.S. interests. It did so because of its commitment to abstract ideals and its miscalculation of Soviet intentions. Carter was thereby weakening our friends and strengthening our enemies:
The foreign policy of the Carter administration fails not for lack of good intentions but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest.
It was in this difficult context, then, that the U.S. was obligated to support the friendly (and staunchly anti-communist) government in South Africa, not because of apartheid, but despite apartheid. Furthermore, so long as the worldwide struggle against communism continued, the United States could not afford to “accept at face value the claim of revolutionary groups to represent ‘popular’ aspirations and ‘progressive’ forces.” Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was one such group. I’m grateful to Bob Belvedere at the Camp of the Saints for calling attention to the file on Mandela at David Horowitz’s Discover the Networks site, which details the ANC’s resort to violent terrorism and includes this:
In 1990, as the government of Frederik DeKlerk moved to end apartheid, the ANC was legalized and Mandela was released from prison. In part, DeKlerk was motivated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had made no secret of its desire to control South Africa’s vast mineral wealth and keep it out of Western hands. With the USSR gone, the Communist threat vanished. For his part, Mandela, in a 1991 speech to a joint meeting of the ANC and IFP, urged black Africans to abandon terrorist tactics and to use peaceful methods to end apartheid.
This is a key point: Revolutionary groups with no worse reputation than the ANC, and leaders with no worse reputation than Mandela, had in other nations posed as “agrarian reformers” and critics of abusive governments, until such time as they succeeded in toppling those governments, at which point they cast aside the “reformer” mask, unfurled the banner of Marxism, and aligned their “popular” regimes with the Soviet bloc. Such was the story in Cuba and Nicaragua, and the U.S. could not ignore Soviet aspirations in Africa.
Only after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and with the Soviet Union collapsing into “the ash heap of history,” could a peaceful transition to a post-apartheid South Africa safely occur. The tsunami of obituary praise for Mandela — “an international emblem of dignity and forbearance,” the New York Times proclaims — threatens to wash away the historical reality of who Mandela actually was.
— Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) December 5, 2013
@joelpollak Hey, I just said it was a very interesting Tweet.
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) December 5, 2013
Now, Joel Pollak is a friend, but he was born in 1977 — the year I graduated high school — so that by the time he was old enough to vote, the Cold War was already a fading memory. And I appreciate Pollak’s concern that conservatives observe decorum on this occasion, but if conservatives do not insist on remembering history as it really was, we acquiesce in liberal revision of that history.
Nelson Mandela was at all times a man of the Left — anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israel — as attested by the fact that as late as 2003, he could say, “All Bush wants is Iraqi oil,” make a sneering reference to Israel, accuse the U.S. of “unspeakable atrocities,” and even play the race card over the Iraq War:
Bush is now undermining the United Nations. . . . Both Bush, as well as Tony Blair, are undermining an idea which was sponsored by their predecessors. They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? . . . They never did that when secretary-generals were white.
Mandela’s tenure as president of South Africa was, thank God, not the nightmare that Mugabe inflicted on neighboring Zimbabwe, but we ought not be fooled by liberal myth-makers who wish to reinvent Mandela as a secular saint whom all are obligated to revere.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
– John Adams