U.S. sheds crocodile tears for Mandela

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Letter of the Day

Women sing in the audeience during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela Tuesday December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Editor: When I read and hear all the accolades from U.S. political and business leaders about the great statesman and patron of freedom Nelson Mandela, I have to laugh and shake my head.

U.S.  President Obama gave an eloquent speech about the man and his great deeds for freedom and peace. He travelled to Robben Island to visit the jail cell where, thanks greatly to U.S. assistance, Mandela rotted for nearly 28 years, along with other members of the African National Congress (ANC), until his release in 1990.  

Mandela remained on the U.S. Terrorist Watch List until 2008, when former President George W. Bush passed legislation removing him and other ANC members from it. Up to that point, he and others on the list had to receive special approval from the U.S. Secretary of State to enter the country. President Obama was a sitting U.S. senator from 2005-08. He did little or nothing to have his name removed from it.

The ANC was banned by the apartheid regime in 1960 after the Sharpeville Massacre where 69 people were shot dead protesting the all-white government rule, which instituted laws such as banning blacks from voting, travelling without permission or even possessing land.

In 1962, with help of the CIA, Mandela was arrested. A retired South African intelligence official stated at the time of his capture that the CIA had an undercover agent in the inner circle of the ANC group in Durban. The agent had been keeping apartheid officials informed of the groups movements, especially those of Mandela and other high ranking members.  

In the ’80s, the Reagan administration refused to support UN and international trade sanctions and an arms embargo against the apartheid government. Moreover, it strongly resisted that U.S. corporations and non-profits divest their financial investments in the country. It justified its stance by claiming the ANC was a “communist threat.” Reagan went so far as to veto legislation to recognize the ANC and to release Mandela. A further 179 congressmen supported the president and voted against it. Among these was future Vice-President Dick Cheney, who, in 2000, maintained he had “voted correctly.” The bill passed because the House overrode Reagan’s veto.

The end of apartheid, Mandela’s release and his becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa had no assistance from the U.S. until its outcome could no longer be ignored. Save your crocodile tears.

David McGregor,

Stratford

Organizations: African National Congress, CIA, UN

Geographic location: U.S., Robben Island, Durban South Africa

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