Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nelson Mandela... terrorist?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, the U.S. says so:

Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela is flagged on U.S. terrorist watch lists and needs special permission to visit the USA. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the situation "embarrassing," and some members of Congress vow to fix it.

The requirement applies to former South African leader Mandela and other members of South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC), the once-banned anti-Apartheid organization. In the 1970s and '80s, the ANC was officially designated a terrorist group by the country's ruling white minority. Other countries, including the United States, followed suit.

Yes, countries that supported the apartheid regime, or that did little or nothing to oppose it, let alone to try to bring it down.

Now, to be fair, the ANC wasn't exactly the most peace-loving organization in the world back then, and Desmond Tutu, among others, was a vocal critic of its efforts at violent resistance, but, lest we forget, it was fighting South Africa's brutal regime. And it was that brutal regime that called it a terrorist group and that imprisoned Mandela for 27 years.

If anything, the ANC is now far more corrupt than violent, but it is South Africa's ruling party, and has been since 1994. Condi Rice is right that "it's frankly a rather embarrassing matter" that current South African officials, such as its foreign minister, are on the terrorist list. It's worse, however, that Mandela is on it.

Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time, a statesman of historic grandeur. To the U.S., though, he's officially a terrorist. (Whether he ever was or not is another matter, and a matter of perspective. Is one a terrorist who resists with violence a regime such as the apartheid regime of South Africa? Or is that one not a hero and a patriot? If Mandela was a "terrorist," then so, perhaps, were many of the American revolutionaries. Lest we forget. Lest Americans forget.)

Let's hope this "embarrassing matter" is resolved swiftly.

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