RIP, Nelson Mandela

Photo: South Africa The Good News / http://www.sagoodnews.co.za

It would be easy to make an ass of myself trying to say something profound on the passing of Nelson Mandela, But I know enough to know, at the end of the day, how little useful I can say about him. So I will try not to do it and instead keep things short. What I really want to say is that I am glad to have lived in the same time as a man who was a genuine moral force and who had genuine moral character. He was a great man, with all the complexities they possess. And he changed the world.

My thoughts to my South African friends. I can’t even imagine what the passing of a man so important to one’s nation feels like.

147 thoughts on “RIP, Nelson Mandela

  1. This was a man who, given the chance for revenge against those who had wronged him and millions of others, decided that the best course was not revenge, was not payback, was not even the legal system, but rather something new: forgiveness in exchange for utter honesty. This took more moral courage than I could ever dream of having. And truly, the only two people in America’s history who compare with him as a moral force were Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. We have lived in the time of greatness.

  2. [Deleted for refuting an argument no one here has made. Scorpius, try not to be so obvious with your pointless contrarianism, please, or at least don't frame it as if you're responding to an assertion that was not in fact asserted -- JS]

  3. The loss feels so personal. Maybe because there are few people in real life who are truly that good, that noble, who are also effective leaders; who really changed the world for the better.

    It sounds weird, but thinking about Mandela always made me feel joyous and grateful; the fact that he was in the world and just by existing was a challenge to be larger-minded, to be a better person.

  4. I agree with CaseyL. The world’s just a slightly darker and colder place tonight; we’ve lost something, and as a race, we’re poorer for it. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt quite this way…

  5. “Oh Captain, My Captain” comes to mind…

    O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
    The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
    While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
    But O heart! heart! heart!
    O the bleeding drops of red,
    Where on the deck my Captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.

    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
    For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
    Here Captain! dear father!
    The arm beneath your head!
    It is some dream that on the deck,
    You’ve fallen cold and dead.

    My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
    The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
    From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
    Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
    But I with mournful tread,
    Walk the deck my Captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.

    Written on the death of Abraham Lincoln.

  6. Rembrandt–

    He did not live in peace. He was literally a bomb throwing terrorist. His second half may been better than his first, but he was a violent revoluntary until he was imprisoned.

    Civil society should not have any place for any person willing to use violence to fight injustice. It’s not how civilized people act.

    And, yes, that means our founding fathers were not fully civilized, either.

    Still, RIP. He could have exacted a terrible price against the Boer’s and he didn’t. What have we come to when not killing your political enemies makes you a paragon of moral virtue?

  7. dpmaine:

    “What have we come to when not killing your political enemies makes you a paragon of moral virtue?”

    You know, it’s a shame that your entire understanding of what he did with his life apparently boils down to this genuinely appallingly ignorant assessment.

    Everyone else, it’s best to leave this sort of leading question unanswered.

  8. My entire understanding of his life is not only about his revolutionary violence in his first half of life. But it’s also not whitewashed by his later accomplishments.

    You wrote: “who was a genuine moral force and who had genuine moral character” about a person who orchestrated dozens of bombings of his political foes. He personally set bombs designed to terrorize his political enemies and the ruling government.

    That’s not a moral force. That’s just, you know, regular old fashioned force.

  9. dpmaine:

    “My entire understanding of his life is not only about his revolutionary violence in his first half of life.”

    You seem entirely willing to allow your view of his earlier years (which also appears by your comments to be not especially sophisticated) to utterly swamp the accomplishments of his later years. Which does in fact suggest that your understanding of his life really is what you picked and chosen out of the first half.

    To be clear, I don’t think the scope of Mandela’s life is served my minimizing any part of it. As noted his life was a complex one. But allow me to suggest that your attempt at corrective here is rather as far off the base as you wish to suggest the encomiums of his life are.

  10. dpmaine- Mandela stated that avenues of peaceful resistance were closed to him. And really non-violence only works when the society is a reasonably lawful one. I was not a black person in South Africa in the 1950’s but I think the killing of dozens peaceful protesters by white police means the avenues of peaceful protest had been closed by the police. Therefore, I do not think the human rights violations and attacks on civilians performed by the African National Congress were right, but I also think that Mandela did the best he could with the tools available. And given that he ended apartheid and violence on both sides when some had entirely given up hope that the country would have ever see peace, Mandela did pretty damn good. Also, there is very little evidence that Mandela participated in actual combat. Finally, I’d like to point out that Mandela was a great man, but human nonetheless. He may have had his faults, but who doesn’t? His legacy is that he acted in the best possible way when it really counted, and then he made it continue to count. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world/africa/nelson-mandela_obit.html?ref=international-home

  11. Jani:

    Not a problem.

    There does seem to be confusion regarding the term “great” meaning “perfect.” I would not suggest Mandela was a perfect man. I do suggest he was a great one.

  12. Jani–

    “He may have had his faults, but who doesn’t?”

    I agree with this. I am responding to JS and Rembrant, who literally claim him to be a person of unparalleled moral rectitude, and, literally a person who lived in peace. This is a whitewash.

    It is not-unsophisticated to recount Mandela’s own revolutionary background, which he admitted to in his own truth and reconciliation commission account. As I said, he made the right decision in his second half.

    People can’t have it both ways at once saying things like “Therefore, I do not think the human rights violations and attacks on civilians performed by the African National Congress were right, but I also think that Mandela did the best he could with the tools available”. This is the path way to justifying any act of violence. It is the exact same defense used by any violent terrorist or thug. “I was doing the best I could with the tools available”, said the abortion clinic bomber. “I don’t want to hurt you it’s just you made me so mad” said the abusive husband. It’s all the same justification of violence in the face of injustice. A violent response could be justified or called for. But once you’ve gone down that road you can’t just rabbit hole the fact that you are a violent revolutionary.

    Mandela is a person who was reformed from violence to non-violence. That is huge. But make no mistake, he has left behind a country that is mired in single party rule, and it is now likely to fall into further fighting. The late stability was mortgaged on the profound respect he commanded in his country.

  13. dpmaine:

    You don’t seem to have a clear understanding of what “literally” means, and your strawman construction project isn’t impressing me at the moment.

  14. JS–

    Are you disputing that he was literally a terrorist? Are you disputing that he was on the US terrorist watch list until 2008?

    What exactly is the strawman? I mean, yes, he literally founded a terrorist organization, he specifically in his own words renounced non-violence, he literally planned and executed guerrilla activities for his organization.

  15. He did not make his choices out of fear, no matter how much there was to fear. If we could learn that from him, the world could be completely different tomorrow.

  16. dpmaine- I think it is wrong to say that violence is unequivocally bad. There are times when most individuals (myself included) would say that violence was a right and valuable action. Violence in the service of greater good (e.g. soldiers in our military, individuals defending their lives from attackers, etc.) happens. I do not know if Mandela’s participation in violent actions can be equated with military service or with self-defense, but I do believe that the situation deserves further examination. I do not think all of Mandela’s actions should be dismissed simply because he (probably indirectly) participated in violence. I have known many individuals I considered good, who also committed violent acts. I also think that the fact that the death of Mandela may lead to fighting does not mean he did not do some powerful and meaningful things prior to his death.

    Look at it this way, prior to Mandela’s later life, South Africa was mired in violence (the unequivocally bad kind). If he had not acted as he had, the country would probably still be mired in violence. Since he acted, South Africa has had decades of relative peace. A return to violence does not wipe out the years of peace. Furthermore, the decades of Mandela’s peace has (probably) led to a more lawful nation. This means that perhaps the next generation of activists may be able to use non-violent protest to achieve their ends.

    The one party system is a negative one, but I hope that without Nelson Mandela’s powerful history to hold it together, the one-party system will devolve into multiple parties, without devolving into violence. And even if violence erupts in South Africa again, maybe peace will happen again too.

    Overall, I believe the good Mandela has done far outweighs the bad. A man who committed violent actions during a violent time can still be lauded for his peaceful actions.

  17. Gaah! I do not see new comments while I write comments! Perhaps I take too much time to write comments? I should use the preview button or something! Sorry Scalzi

  18. Jani–

    I have no real problem with your point of view on this, I think it is appropriate. This is simply a classification problem. A person who has committed real violence and started a violent organization is not a person of a peace, and is not a moral giant. He is a regular person who made choices he felt were appropriate. Even IF just in a true sense of the word, violence is still uncivilized.

  19. dpmaine,
    No one is perfect. What differentiates one person from the other is the degree to which one learns from ones mistakes. The process of enlightenment can be extremely painful as one realizes the errors of ones path. It runs the risk of reliving those moments from the perspective of horror and revulsion in ones self until death. That is the burden of enlightenment for anyone. It is vital to push past that if one is to act on ones ‘rebirth’ in a manner that will bring aid to the suffering of the world. Otherwise, what was the point?

  20. Greg! What a great comment! I suspect strongly that Mandela went through a rebirth in prison and that is what led to his leadership and restraint.

  21. The “Robben Island Bible” was a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare that belonged to political prisoner Sonny Venkatrathnam. Between 1975 and 1978, 33 of his fellow inmates in the infamous Robben Island Prison marked their favorite passages and signed their names as the book made its way from cell to cell. Mandela’s signature is on the margin of page 980, next to this passage from Julius Caesar (II.ii.32-37):

    Cowards die many times before their deaths
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.

  22. Just to be clear, when we talk about Mandela’s “political enemies”, we’re not talking about people who disagreed with Mandela about the best way to deliver health care or what the tax brackets should be. We’re talking about people who denied Mandela (and anyone else with his skin colour) the right to vote; who stripped them of their citizenship; who forcibly moved them from their homes; who denied them education and health services, etc, etc. Those aren’t what I would call “political” differences.

    Mandela spent the better part of ten years trying non-violent resistance and appealing to the legal system, and what he got for his efforts was jail time, police brutality, and a ban on political activity. Only then did he turn to violence.

    To be honest, I have no idea if the violence that Mandela participated in was morally justified. What I do know is that, having lived my entire life in a peace and prosperity at least partially bought by the violence of others in other places and times, I am in no position to judge a man whose very humanity was denied by a government that didn’t even pretend to represent him. I will simply reiterate that he was a great man, and leave it at that.

  23. A person who has committed real violence and started a violent organization is not a person of a peace, and is not a moral giant.

    I do not think this is a justifiable argument. It is a reductionist argument that reduces all situations to single, binary choices. It is also a privileged, naive argument that falls apart completely when rules of civilization is suspended or are ignored out of malice and evil.

  24. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

    – Nelson Mandala, Rivonia Trial, 1964.

  25. Nelson Mandela was one of my personal heroes. I hope that some day I might have a thousandth of his courage. It is a genuine pity that such a global force for good is dead.

  26. Nelson Mandela remained on the U.S Terrorist watch list until 2008. In 2008, Richard Cheney, one of the most virulent opponents of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, stepped down as Vice President of that country. Odd coincidence, that.

  27. If you have an itunes account, in recognition of Mandela’s achievements and his passing, why not buy a copy of The Special’s “Free Nelson Mandela”, the royalties still go to anti-racism and equalities charities.

  28. All I know, as a 34-year-old black South African woman, is that were it not for him, I would not be sitting where I am right now, typing out this response.

    Next to me are two white colleagues. This would not have been possible without his dedication to the liberation struggle.

    That I can type this response in English would not have been possible. That I can live wherever I want to live, send my children to whichever school I wish to, walk on any pavement, sit on any bench, visit any beach, ride whichever bus, walk into any store, follow whichever career I choose to, would not have been possible without his determination, and indeed, the determination of others who chose to live and die for the liberation struggle.

    I look at my parents – my mother became a teacher because the barriers to what she really wanted to be were too high. My father received his bachelor’s degree at the age of 45 because he spent his life working menial jobs in a country that made it almost impossible for black people aspire to something greater. And I could be bitter. But I’m not. And that is because Madiba embodied the spirit of forgiveness.

    Madiba was and will always be my moral compass. Who would I have been to fill my heart with hate when a man who spent the better part of his life in prison came out without an ounce of bitterness in his heart? He was robbed of everything – his rights, his family, his freedom – and yet he came out and said never again.

    No one needs to share my views, or eve yours, Mr Scalzi – but no one should dare try to suggest he was not a great man. No one can ever be perfect, but he strived to be the better man. In my books, that is the epitome of greatness.

  29. Nelson Mandela remained on the U.S Terrorist watch list until 2008. In 2008, Richard Cheney, one of the most virulent opponents of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, stepped down as Vice President of that country. Odd coincidence, that.

    He was taken off the last by a bill which was signed in July 2008 by the president Cheney served under. Cheney remained in office until his term ended in January of 2009.

  30. He was taken off the last by a bill which was signed in July 2008 by the president Cheney served under.

    That still does not reflect well on years 2001-2007 for that President and the Congress he worked with.

  31. > That still does not reflect well on years 2001-2007 for that President and the Congress he worked with.

    Nor for the previous congress and administration.

    I would like to know more about the others. Surely he didn’t do this alone (I’m not asking for this info, but declaring my intention to go find it)

  32. Thank you, Liberated.

    I’m a white American, but I did participate in anti-Apartheid demonstrations. (Which was easy; the authorities in NYC were on our side, and there was a sharp contrast between those demonstrations and the anti-Iraq War ones, which I also went to.)

    Mandela was peaceful until it became clear that peaceful means would not end the violence against, and general oppression of, people of color in South Africa. Then he took to armed resistance. If you fault him for that, perhaps some time spent putting yourself in that situation (as a thought experiment) might be useful.

    But it’s what he did AFTER being released from prison, and after the end of Apartheid that made him a man of peace, and perhaps the greatest single figure on the side of freedom and liberation of the entire 20th Century. Only Martin Luther King can rival him.

    The Truth and Reconciliation process he and Desmond Tutu created prevented a blood bath and backlash against white South Africans, and really did manage to stitch the country together. There were problems later, but for those of you too young to remember, let me tell you that the entire world was afraid that white South Africans would be slaughtered while the new democratically-elected government deplored it but was helpless to stop it.

    But the genius of peace was upon Mandela and Tutu, and they made it work. THAT, to my mind, was what made them great. Mandela gets the greater stature because of his work in the war, and because frankly his return to peace a) shows where his great heart was all along and b) was after being kept in prison for twenty-seven years. If you think you know how you’d behave after something like that, you also know that you wouldn’t do as well as Mandela.

  33. “I can’t even imagine what the passing of a man so important to one’s nation feels like.”

    Sort of like when Reagan die-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    I came sooo close to successful trolling. Dang

  34. There are those who might say that Mandela was mistaken to allow himself to become such a universal icon of peace; that an unwillingness to tackle the underlying economic structures of the Apartheid state was a besetting weakness of his administration; that a figure who showed a willingness to be a little more divisive when it came to the interests of rich foreign companies at odds with those of his own electors might have helped build a society less dysfunctional and unequal than South Africa continues to be today.

    This, for example, is what one actual old comrade of his said, six months ago:
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/24/anc-faustian-pact-mandela-fatal-error

    Some might add that he was already an old man by the time he left prison, and a very old man by the time he left office, and that for very old men a pose of saintly benediction is easier than an engagement with the misdeeds of their successors. Some might say he deserved the rest. Few would argue he deserved the unsightly squabbling over his legacy that his extended and frequently alienated family has been indulging in since long before his final departure.

    If you make the fact that he’s dead about your feelings, you’re joining a flow of hypocritical adulation that ranks you alongside politicians who regularly wished Mandela dead when he was a threat to them, and who want to bask in his glow now that he’s been sainted.

  35. I am a white South African. Liberated’s comment made me teary, but also grateful that we managed to change things. And it took violence then, and would take violence now, because oppression is not easy to end. Mandela was brave enough to do what it took and his legacy will continue. I wrote this today – I am proud of it:

    1918-forever

    Our deepest sympathy to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s family, friends, colleagues and the entire South African nation.
    We mourn his passing, but in so doing we commit ourselves to working even harder to ensure that we live up to the trust he placed in us, to never give up the dream of creating a united South Africa.
    We celebrate a life lived in the service of humanity, the work he did in creating a nation that can hold its head high in the knowledge that we will continue to work towards a society in which everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability, has an equal chance.
    Tata Madiba once said: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” He didn’t, and neither will we.
    The best tribute we can pay to this great South African is to walk in his footprints, and follow his example.
    We salute you, Madiba. You are a true hero, and your country will remember your valour.

  36. Asimbonanga

    Asimbonanga——————–(we have not seen him)
    Asimbonang’ umandela thina—–(we have not seen mandela)
    Laph’ekhona——————–(in the place where he is)
    Laph’ehleli khona————–(in the place where he is kept)

    Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
    Look across the island into the bay
    We are all islands till comes the day
    We cross the burning water

    Chorus….

    A seagull wings across the sea
    Broken silence is what I dream
    Who has the words to close the distance
    Between you and me

    Chorus….

    Steve biko, victoria mxenge
    Neil aggett
    Asimbonanga
    Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina—-(we have not seen our brother)
    Laph’ekhona——————–(in the place where he is)
    Laph’wafela khona————–(in the place where he died)
    Hey wena———————–(hey you!)
    Hey wena nawe——————(hey you and you as well)
    Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona—-(when will we arrive at our destination)

    Johnny Clegg

  37. @acflory

    A truly good man gone. We have so few of them. Why can’t they be immortal?

    But he is, in a way far more important than living forever. His life’s work will ripple through history.

    @dpmaine

    What have we come to when not killing your political enemies makes you a paragon of moral virtue?

    Well, we can’t all be as virtuous as yourself. A place in civilized society? Shunning people is cowardly violence. Calling shunning non-violent is hypocrisy. It’s interesting that your derailing criticism of the American founders is their rebellion against tyranny, rather than their many actual moral transgressions such as owning slaves and supporting the Federal theft of native lands.

    People can’t have it both ways at once saying things like “Therefore, I do not think the human rights violations and attacks on civilians performed by the African National Congress were right, but I also think that Mandela did the best he could with the tools available”. This is the path way to justifying any act of violence. It is the exact same defense used by any violent terrorist or thug. “I was doing the best I could with the tools available”, said the abortion clinic bomber.

    That someone uses the defense does not mean it actually applies. Whether an act is justified is not determined by whether the individuals who carry it out claim it is.

    “I don’t want to hurt you it’s just you made me so mad” said the abusive husband. It’s all the same justification of violence in the face of injustice.

    False equivalency (also a strawman argument). “I didn’t want to hurt him but he wouldn’t stop beating me and my children,” said the battered wife…would be a far more apt analogy. Your argument implies that you view all violence as morally equivalent. That’s easy when no one is using it against you because others have laid down their lives so you can live in your moral bubble. Mandela fought to free his country from tyranny. What sacrifices have you had to make to be treated as a human being?

    I have no real problem with your point of view on this, I think it is appropriate. This is simply a classification problem. A person who has committed real violence and started a violent organization is not a person of a peace, and is not a moral giant. He is a regular person who made choices he felt were appropriate. Even IF just in a true sense of the word, violence is still uncivilized.

    You contradict yourself. You imply that all violence is immoral, which suggests you do indeed have a problem with self-defense and violent resistance against tyrannical regimes. Being on a list composed by the US government is an astonishingly poor moral litmus test. You keep slinging the word civilized without actually telling us what you mean by it or how in fact you suggest it deprive people such as Mandela of a place in it.

    Greg! What a great comment! I suspect strongly that Mandela went through a rebirth in prison and that is what led to his leadership and restraint.

    This comment is a 180° from your hateful, uncompromising, unforgiving derision in your early comments about being “fully civilized” (whatever the hell that was supposed to mean) and there being no place in civilized society for someone like Mandela. Glad you came around.

    @John Scalzi

    I would not suggest Mandela was a perfect man. I do suggest he was a great one.

    I would suggest that he was, in the balance, a good man. IMHO, greatness is not a measure of character, but of legacy, and in that sense he is a great man. Just my 2¢.

    @Eric Mills

    What I do know is that, having lived my entire life in a peace and prosperity at least partially bought by the violence of others in other places and times, I am in no position to judge a man whose very humanity was denied by a government that didn’t even pretend to represent him.

    Don’t worry, dpmaine is. It’s easy to be self-righteous from the perch of privilege.

    @Stringmoneky: Nelson Mandela remained on the U.S Terrorist watch list until 2008. In 2008, Richard Cheney, one of the most virulent opponents of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, stepped down as Vice President of that country. Odd coincidence, that.

    @Mike: He was taken off the last by a bill which was signed in July 2008 by the president Cheney served under. Cheney remained in office until his term ended in January of 2009.

    @gwangung: That still does not reflect well on years 2001-2007 for that President and the Congress he worked with.

    @drachefly: Nor for the previous congress and administration.

    Indeed. I read Mike’s refutation as highlighting the selective myopia required to pretend that particularly expedient foreign policy decision rested on solely on either party’s shoulders, especially since it benefited the financial special interests invested in both parties throughout. He was taken off when it was more harmful to trade interests to leave him on than not. Follow the money.

    @Xopher

    The Truth and Reconciliation process he and Desmond Tutu created prevented a blood bath and backlash against white South Africans, and really did manage to stitch the country together.

    And, equally significantly in the long run, chocked the cycle of violence that would have been (and often is in history) the ruin of all. To be clear, this is not to lessen the accomplishment. Understadning that selflessness is beneficial to humankind, not just one group within it, shows true enlightenment, IMHO.

    But the genius of peace was upon Mandela and Tutu, and they made it work. THAT, to my mind, was what made them great. Mandela gets the greater stature because of his work in the war, and because frankly his return to peace a) shows where his great heart was all along and b) was after being kept in prison for twenty-seven years.

    Mandela’s sacrifices and all that was taken form him for standing up against apartheid was precisely why it worked. Desmond Tutu knew that he and others who sought to end the violence needed Mandela to be an exemplar of someone who lost everything and still did not embrace hate. Mandela was a hero to others who had been through the same crucible. Only he could convince the liberated where force of law could not stop them from exacting color-coded revenge. But I think it’s wrong to say which of them was of greater stature, because the unavoidable implication is that the Tutu was of lesser stature. Yet they needed each other. It was together that they were strong enough to show the world and their country a better way. Together they were greater than either man could have been on his own. And that, to me at least, is the meaning of Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life.

    @Jado

    I came sooo close to successful trolling. Dang

    You sure as heck nailed tasteless though.

  38. Gulliver: Don’t feed the troll, man. dpmaine is an ugly bigot, and there’s really no reason to pay attention to him until after he has been Malleted.

    Also, is anyone here really genuinely surprised that Richard Cheney is an appalling human being? See, there’s a reason that Nelson Mandela was on my top 3 list of people who deserved to live forever, and there’s an equally strong reason why I sometimes daydream about beating up and killing Dick Cheney.

    Hell, I even wrote the dark lord into a story I wrote as a supervillain. The transparent Cheney expy is so evil that a psychopathic superassassin gets sick of his crap and kills him as he’s in the middle of a racist tirade.

    Finally, my personal opinion is that Nelson Mandela was the greatest man of the past fifty years. He was so great that his death made the Onion finally said something completely serious and factually accurate: http://www.theonion.com/articles/nelson-mandela-becomes-first-politician-to-be-miss,34755/

    Kevin Hicks, I love the poem/song. I shall try my best to pronounce it and sing it in my awful singing voice.

  39. @Floored

    Also, is anyone here really genuinely surprised that Richard Cheney is an appalling human being?

    Cheney’s character as a politician and statesman (as opposed to what he’s like in person which I neither know nor give half a rat’s turd), of which you might guess I do not hold a high opinion, isn’t really pertinent in any way to a thread about the passing of Nelson Mandela. The US’s foreign policy stance toward Mandela and, perhaps, South Africa in general is more relevant. But reducing that stance, which was and, to a lesser extent, still is disgraceful to a political football so some of the Americans in the thread can make this about Team Politics is US-centric at best. You are free to disagree, of course, and it hardly needs saying that only John can actually decide what is and isn’t out of bounds in his digital parlor. For my part, I’d rather remember Mandela than Cheney today.

    As for dpmaine, I don’t know if he is trolling or sincere, but I saw no reason to allow his self-serving judgmentalism to go unexamined for what it was.

  40. Correction, despite previous comments that led me to think otherwise, I have reason to believe dpmaine might be a her. I should not have assumed one way or the other based solely on his or her comments. My mistake.

  41. My thoughts to my South African friends. I can’t even imagine what the passing of a man so important to one’s nation feels like.

    Well, I have plenty of expat South African friends who weren’t alone in being absolutely convinced that apartheid was only going to end in a bloodbath of nigh on apocalyptic proportions. That didn’t happen, because Mandela — and his fellow Nobel laureate F.W. de Klerk and a lot of other people — faced an uncertain future with good will, grace and unflagging courage decided to make it otherwise. That wasn’t achieved by plaster saints but fucked up human being who made mistakes — all too often under circumstances were there weren’t any good options on the table, and without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. When you think about it, doesn’t that make the peaceful transition from apartheid to a functional democracy (though one where there are still massive social, economic and political disparities) all the more remarkable?

  42. Craig:

    Man Writes About Thing That Gives Him Feels In Own Blog, Refers To Time-Frame Including Self And Subject. Horror Probe, Film at 11.

    Really, dude?

  43. Miche:

    If my kink was getting slapped around in front of an audience, tone trolling John Scalzi in his own (virtual) house isn’t my idea of foreplay. I’m genuinely sorry if that’s what you read into my comment, because even if this thread wasn’t about the death of a man I and most people I know admire enormously, it would still be a major dick move.

  44. I worked against apartheid way back in the late 80s/early 90s. Mandela was an icon, a symbol of hope. When he was released from prison, it was obvious that he had developed spiritually, and that shone from him, a beacon that lighted the way for more than just his countrymen. The entire world mourns the passing of Tata Madiba.

    I was and am deeply grateful that I got to thank him, in his lifetime. If you had ever met him, you would know, Nelson Mandela was a great man, a beautiful, complicated, snowflake soul.

    I’m still crying…Earth is a less blessed place today, I fear.

  45. A great man dies but his example lives on. Remember Mandela by working to make a better society – wherever we live.

  46. Floored:

    Please don’t let your disagreement with someone’s position make you feel like you have permission for namecalling. Dpmaine has a point of view you (and I) disagree with. It doesn’t mean dpmaine is a bigot. Address the argument, don’t attack the person. You’ve been here long enough to know this.

  47. Gulliver:

    And, equally significantly in the long run, chocked the cycle of violence that would have been (and often is in history) the ruin of all.

    Absolutely. I don’t disagree with anything you say in this comment.

  48. Some expect the walls of hate, arrogance, indifference and absolute disregard for pain, prostitution and denial to many, to be overcome with peace. In some points and periods of time, within the confines and guidance of ‘enlightened leadership’- perhaps…. Mandela was woven of two worlds- an angry young man and a layered giant who took his time in solitary confinement to grow, to gain, to deny through sheer will of hope, faith and growing enlightenment, and to emerge as just that: ‘enlightened leadership’. And to note this- enlightened leadership is color blind- it comes in those who sometimes live or sometimes fall too early. But they resonate because their growth shows all of us simply this- we can grow too. We can change, we can come together and we can say a collective NO in favor of the common good of YES. I’m grateful that this is one of several who helped me find my soul, find my center and who reminded me ‘soulfully’ to never have it shaped again by fashion, money, fear or being led to believe that the ones standing next to me are my enemy. The ones to be wary of are the ones who have, sadly throughout all the pages of history, sold this story in favor of a greed they never satisfy in their lives or others. Faith moves mountains and Nelson- so did you. MF Regan

  49. I wrote a piece about Chet Nimitz in comp-101 and was stunned when the professor commented that hagiography, like masturbation, should be done in private and never shared. He added that a weakness for self-congratulatory hero worship should be a red flag warning that there is probably a significant difference between what one knows and what one thinks one knows.

  50. @Xopher
    > perhaps the greatest single figure on the side of freedom and liberation of the entire 20th Century. Only Martin Luther King can rival him.

    Weeeelll…Gandhi?

  51. Apparently Gandhi’s behavior in South Africa was problematic with regard to the position of blacks. And he ultimately failed to unite his country (resulting in the disaster of the Partition, which is still causing war and death to this day).

    But yes, I’d put him in the league with Mandela and MLK. I’m just sure they win.

  52. @ Mr. Scalzi: Yes, sir.

    I will try not to post replies at 11 PM in the future–it tends to do bad things for my writing. Ees, just looking at that post I wish I had an edit button…

  53. @John Scalzi: I could be wrong, but I think Floored was referring to the use of “civilized society” which is frequently (but not necessarily always) code for cultural supremacism. This is not to defend Floored’s namecalling, but to point out that he was doing so on the basis of dpmaine’s argument.

    @Floored: Friendly advice. It’s usually more constructive to lay out why a particular turn of phrase may come off as bigoted than to label the commenter. Especially since the commenter may not even understand why what they said was so received, and so may in fact not be a bigot.

  54. @ Gulliver: Thanks for the advice. That was indeed my intent, and I fell into exactly that hole.

  55. I didn’t realize, until reading the Wikipedia article on Mandela, that South Africa didn’t even have official apartheid for the first third of his life, until after the end of British colonialism and the National Party takeover, disenfranchisement of blacks, and violent oppression of them. (Not that colonialism was all that great, of course, and Mandela’s early political work was about ending colonialism.) There are other countries in Africa where the end of colonialism was followed by insane corrupt violent regimes, but this one and its neighbor to the northeast were white insane corrupt violent regimes instead of black or Arab ones.

    Friends of mine from South Africa, who did anti-apartheid work during the 80s and 90s, said that the biggest impact of sanctions on most white South Africans wasn’t economic (as the US Republicans said, that probably did cause more hardship to the blacks) – it was knowing that the rest of the civilized world thought they were pariahs and didn’t want to trade with them until the stopped.

    As far as Mandela being on the US Terrorist Watch Lists until 2008, the country I grew up in didn’t have official Terrorist Watch Lists, though we had a President who had an unofficial Enemies List. Used to be called “America”; it doesn’t really exist any more. Those lists didn’t even exist until after Mandela had been President and had peacefully handed over power to other people, so I guess the point of saying “Isn’t it true that Mandela wasn’t taken off the US Terrorist Watch Lists” must be to say “Bush and Cheney really never did accept the end of apartheid, did they?”

  56. dpmaine: Are you disputing that he was on the US terrorist watch list until 2008?

    yes, yes, and the FBI tracked every move by Martin Luther King Jr. I’m sure that proves something terrible about MLK, amiright? amiright?

    Just for historical note, Reagan and Thatcher considered Mandela a communist terrorist. Not just a terrorist. When people fight to overthrow a horrendously oppressive government, and we like their economic policies, they’re “freedom fighters”. If they are fighting to overthrow a horrendously oppressive government, and we don’t like their economic policies, they’re “communist terrorists”.

    And the apartheid government that Mandela was fighting? They helped the US efforts against the Soviet Union. At which point, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, a brutal oppressive goverment gets our support, and the people fighting to overthrow them are “terrorists”.

    So, yes, dpmaine, I dispute this nonsense of yours.

    Mandela’s label as a terrorist had nothing to do with his methods of force against an unjust and oppressive government, and everything to do with his associations with communism, the Apartheid’s government’s helping the US fight communism, and Reagan’s cold war fear of communism.

    Even Forbes, a right wing source if ever their was one, says that Reagan and Thatcher and Cheney were wrong on this one.

  57. Hey, Floored, that song is on an album by Johnny Clegg & Savuka called Third World Child. It’s on Spotify and iTunes, if you’re interested.

  58. Of course, Nelson Mandela WAS a Communist, and in fact a member of the SACP’s central executive committee, at the time of his arrest. Not that that makes it a bad thing, but it is a true thing:

    This is like calling Obama’s parents in line with Communist ideology….when the Community Party was one of the few organizations that approved of interracial marriages at the time. They couldn’t help be in line with respect to their marriage. Similarly, Mandela’s refusal to disavow violence and his membership in the Communist Party is understandable because those were the only routes available to him.

    Context counts for much.

    (Further thought: BECAUSE he wouldn’t disavow violence when he was arrested, I think it gave him greater moral authority when he disapproved violence when he was president).

  59. I appreciate the fact that you didn’t go into this big, verbose speech about his life. You simply stated how you felt.

    I got so very tired of reading people’s posts about how they felt a very personal loss yet knew absolutely nothing about the man. It was just a bunch of people jumping on this weird bandwagon of celebrity deaths. It bugs the crap out of me.

    Thanks for being succinct.

  60. Mandela’s label as a terrorist had nothing to do with his methods of force against an unjust and oppressive government, and everything to do with his associations with communism, the Apartheid’s government’s helping the US fight communism, and Reagan’s cold war fear of communism.

    I think this statement is both correct and misses the mark. Sometimes tone lost on the internet but I read it to suggest that Regan’s cold war fear is a peccadillo.

    I found this NBC link:
    http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/07/21794290-us-government-considered-nelson-mandela-a-terrorist-until-2008

    It’s the ’80s. South Africa is against the Soviet Union, and an organization with ties to communism, which gets arms from the Soviet bloc, does stuff like set off a car bomb at the air force headquarters, killing 19. Why wouldn’t Regan and Thatcher see the ANC in the context of the cold war?

    The ANC was named as a terrorist group at the same time that there were sanctions in place against the South African government. George HW Bush writes the forward to a DoD document naming the ANC as one of the 52 most notorious terrorist groups, while the State Department takes a different view and in 1990 George HW Bush invites Madella to the White House. It’s a messy situation and one wonders how things might have been different in the absence of the cold war.

    This goes beyond the influence of Dick Cheney.

  61. Hi, I’m typing in from Canada here.

    During my short times back in the eighties my mum and dad had the radio playing news during dinner, CBC news, etc. It helped me learn a lot. It also made them have to explain a lot of stuff to a young tyke (I only hit 14 at the end of the eighties). So yeah, I learned about Mandela, and Apartheid and I was shocked to find out my parents had nearly moved to SA instead of Canada in the dinosaur years before the birth of myself and my siblings.

    During my younger years we had the .. ahem.. “leadership” of Mr Brian Mulroney. To be honest, my distrust of anything conservative, or in Canada “Conservative” comes from what I observed and learned of Lyin’ Brian.

    But at Mandela’s death, I learned something that made me have to re-evaluate not him, but my opinion of my former PM.

    Brian Mulroney fought to put more and more pressure on apartheid SA, fought to secure Mandela’s release, got in the Iron Witch’s face about it. And Mandela remembered and honoured him, and Canada, for it.

    So yeah. Mandela was a hell of a man. He tried to be reasonable, fought when he needed to, forgave when it was harder than hell to do it, rose above what he was given… and he deserves respect, praise, honour, and emulation for it.

    Even after he passed, he’s making people look at things twice, and giving reasons to forgive and let go.

  62. Comments with regard to Nelson Mandela’s early live entirely miss the point of Mandela’s greatness.

    That greatness lies in the fact the he realized that violence is futile. It almost ALWAYS makes the situation worse. He not only came to realize that, but he acted on that realization by rejecting violence as a strategy. He then went a step further by adopting forgiveness as a powerful strategy to divert violence. In doing so he was able to lead “the team” to a solution that made life better for millions.

    I believe that was his own story, as he frequently told it in his later years. It is a story that needs to be retold and put into practice by the masses.

  63. That greatness lies in the fact the he realized that violence is futile.

    I am not so sure that he realized that. Nor is that the lesson out there.

    Rather, I think that foreswearing violence is a tactic made more powerful when you have used violence in the past.

  64. I have to admit that I was never told in school, nor by the news, about President Mandela’s past, save that he was a political prisoner in jail. Almost all of my understanding of him was from 1990 onward, and much of it focused on his Nobel Peace Prize. I had no reason to believe that I was so ignorant, so I never sought out more information. His almost saintly image as an elder-statesman is what has pervaded the media and my view of him the last 20 years.

    As such, the claims of terrorism, etc. in this thread and in some of his obituaries have been eye opening and very surprising. As an aspiring rational thinker, I must re-evaluate my opinion of the man, given this new information. Is that not the scientific method? Do we not have to be skeptical of our cherished beliefs when we are presented with information that results in cognitive dissonance?

    It’s very hard to re-evaluate someone so apparently benevolent and loved, especially given the message: a valiant stand against institutional racism, the avoiding of a civil war, and negotiating a mostly peaceful transition of power and transformation of government. He’s almost like Santa Claus. But I didn’t die when I found out that Santa was a myth, so I guess, despite being painful, it’s ultimately best to be honest about historical facts than to live with pleasant fictions and overly-air-brushed images.

    Having taken a few days to research and read, and calm down, I think it’s undeniable that you could paint a very different picture of Nelson Mandela than the one I grew up with.

    I really wonder how many of the people here were like me. Who just never heard about Mandela pre-1990. Who didn’t know and thus who never included that aspect of his life in their view of him. I would suggest that if you’re angry that people are “digging up dirt” it might be because the information is both shocking and new to you and would, in that perfectly rational and objective sense, force you into a position of cognitive dissonance. It did for me, and now that I’ve found out that the controversial comments aren’t actually false, I’m not sure how to think now. It’s certainly more complex than it was before. And if it’s more accurate, then I guess that can only be a good thing.

    Saints are unrealistic. So if we only allow ourselves to admire saints, then I guess we will either be blinded to complex people who do good, or we will be duped by people who have had their image carefully crafted to appear to be only saintly.

  65. Mike: Why wouldn’t Regan and Thatcher see the ANC in the context of the cold war?

    Your question is that of a Reagan apologist who doesn’t care about whether Reagan actually made a mistake out of anti-communist bias.

    One could likewise ask if Reagan couldn’t see supporting the Taliban in the 80’s in any other context other than the Cold War. Sure, we funded the Taliban for nearly a decade so they could fight a proxy war for us agagainst the Soviet Union. Carter initiated the war specifically for that reason, hoing it would give the Soviets their own Vietnam, hoping it would weaken the USSR. And weaken it it did. The Soviet-Afghan war was one of th emajor reasons the Soviet Union fell apart.

    But asking “Why wouldn’t Reagan see the Taliban in the context of the cold war?” is myopic. It ignores the mistakes Reagan made in giving the Taliban weapons and training that could come back to haunt us. It ignores the mistake made in the US leaving a massive power vacuum when the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving the country to fall into anarchy, to fall into something like the third worsteconomically disadvantaged nation on the planet, to dissolve for all intents and purposes until the nation of Afghanistan was little more than lines on amaprepresenting a land shatterd and ruled by countless warlords.

    We made Afghanistan *worse* off than it was because we were so focused on harminng the USSR that we didn’t care what damage we inflicted on anyone els to do so. And in doing what we did to Afghanistan in the 80’s, we laid the seeds for Al Queda having a place to train and plan the first WTC bombing in 1993, and then plan and carry out the attacks on 9/11 in 2001.

    Asking why Reagan wouldn’t see Afghanistan in the context of the cold war is a rhetoric device to throw the conversation away from the fact that even in the context of the cold war, Reagan made a huge mistake.

    This is the only purpose I can see of your question of Reagan seeing Mandela in the context of the cold War: It attempts to say “pay no attention to the mistake Reagan made”, and instead focus on the fear of the Cold War and change who the bad guy was in a “gosh, weren’t the soviets an evil empire?” sort of way.

    That would be similar to a Bush apologist trying to shift the conversation away from the fact that Bush had the CIA lie about WMD’s in Iraq, and instead try to refocus the conversation to the fearthat gripped America right after 9/11 and try to recreate anew the fear that created Cheney’s 1 percent doctrine.

    Reagan labeled Mandela a terrorist because Mandela was communist, not because of any particular use of force Mandela may have employed. If “terrorist” were soly based on its definition “violence used to scare a population into some political outcome”, then Reagan’s favorite band of “Freedom Fighters” the Contras would have ben labeled Terrorists as well. They had rampant human rights violationsThey committed human rights violantions as a strategy. And Reagan loved them, bcause the Sandanistas were supported by the Soviets.

    So, please spare me this apologistis nonsense. Reagan was rabidly anticommunist to the point of embracing and supporting terrorists like the Contras and calling them Freedom Fighters. And Reagan supported brutal, racists, oppressive governments like South Africa because they opposed the Soviet Union and Reagan called Mandela a communist terrorist not because Mandela did anything on par like the Contras, but because Mandela was communist. And it was Reagan who lifted the restrictions against Iraq in the 80’s and started supporting Saddam Hussein and helped him start acquiring his massive stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, not because hussein was a good guy back then, but becaus he was at war with Iran (who we hated) and was losing the war. We had the international restrictions against Irawq lifted and we started funneling money and military support to Hussein in the 80’s because he was fighting Iran, and we didn’t care if he was a bastard.

    Even in the context of the cold war, Reagan was on the wrong side of history with regard to Mandela, Husein, the Contras, and the Taliban.

  66. DC: I’ve found out that the controversial comments aren’t actually false

    Cherry picking history isn’t technically “false”, but it sure as hell isn’t Truth either.

    Yes, Reagan labeled Mandela a terrorist. But Reagan also labeled the Contras “freedom Fighters”, Reagan had sanctions against Iraq/Saddam Hussein lifted and gave him money, military support, WMD’s, and political cover in the UN. And Reagan gave the Taliban and other warlords in Afghanistan sidewinder missiles and training from the CIA.

    The controversial statements are only controversial because they cherry pick history trying to paint a picture that ignores the context in which that history occurred.

  67. gwangung: Rather, I think that foreswearing violence is a tactic made more powerful when you have used violence in the past.

    Bah. Nonviolence is only a valid “tactic” if your opposition is unwilling to attack nonviolent protestors, or if such an attack creates more resistance than the attack destroys..

    Gandhi was standing up to the British Empire who did not resort to massive use of military force against India’s calls for independence. They imprisoned a lot of Indians, but they didn not war against them. South Africa responded to protests by committing the Sharpeville Massacre and other brutal, violent actions.

    Nonviolent portests under Mubarrak’s regime in Egypt likely had you black bagged in the middle of the night, whisked away to some prison, where you could then be quietly executed. Nonviolent protests worked in Egypts “Arab Spring” probably only worked because the US pressured Egypt into NOT resorting to completely wiping out and killing all opposition, which likely stemmed from the fact that such aviolent response would surely have been captured on cell phone cameras and broadcasted to the world.

  68. @Greg

    which likely stemmed from the fact that such aviolent response would surely have been captured on cell phone cameras and broadcasted to the world.

    Journalists didn’t stop the PRC from going forth with the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Would cell phone cameras have? Of course the PRC had a world-class military. Mubarak knew even his regional neighbors could make quick work of him if he had to fight an insurrection and sanctions or an invasion by either the US or the rest of the Arab League. Public opinion only matters if you can be effectively punished for failing to heed it.

  69. It took a combination of being made international pariahs, economic sanctions, changing internal political opinions and, yes, violent resistance for Apartheid to fall. Mandela was instrumental in convincing his fellow countrymen and women to set aside violence once the regime was history and focus instead on building a legitimately representative democracy. Whatever his socioeconomic politics before he was imprisoned, he recognized on his release that the Soviet system was doomed and that prosperity meant engaging with global capitalism, as clearly evidenced by his pro-business policy stance as president.

  70. @Greg – I feel that you’ve unnecessarily framed my comments in terms of US policy and your biases there.

    Let me make it clear that while it is legitimate to use a US foreign policy lens to examine Mandela, that is not my particular interest.

    Specifically, regarding the more inflammatory terms, such as Communist and Terrorist, I do not feel any need to apply these terms or not through someone else as you have when you cite Reagan or the US Terrorist watch list, etc.

    I would rather prefer to use a more objective definition and ask if such applies to Mandela.

    So, was Nelson Mandela a Communist? No and Yes and Not Really.
    For a time he flirted with the Black nationalist movement which was anti-Communist on the grounds that it was a colonial philosophy.

    The NYT (which I hope is an acceptable source to you) says it like this:

    “In his conviction that blacks should liberate themselves, he joined friends in breaking up Communist Party meetings because he regarded Communism as an alien, non-African ideology, and for a time he insisted that the A.N.C. keep a distance from Indian and mixed-race political movements.”

    Did he eventually join the Communist Party? Apparently yes. Again, the NYT:

    “IN 2011, the British historian Stephen Ellis published a paper concluding that Nelson Mandela had been a member of the South African Communist Party — indeed, a member of its governing Central Committee. Although Mandela’s African National Congress and the Communist Party were openly allied against apartheid, Mandela and the A.N.C. have always denied that the hero of South Africa’s liberation was himself a party member. But Ellis, drawing on testimony of former party members and newly available archives, made a convincing case that Mandela joined the party around 1960, several years before he was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/opinion/sunday/keller-nelson-mandela-communist.html

    Did Mandela form significant ties with other Communists? Yes.
    For example, Joe Slovo. Feel free to google more about him.

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/66e56ad1cea9149e3060b475a1d426a4/tumblr_mxdqxqpdOD1qb02vjo1_500.jpg

    Was Communism a deep part of Mandela’s personal philosophy? Not particularly. The Keller article above goes into this a bit more. While there are structural and philosophical elements of Communism remaining in the ANC and thus, because South Africa is now essentially a single party rule country, the government, Mandela didn’t appear live and breathe the doctrine. It seems to be a more calculated choice to find money, assistance, and revolutionary assistance abroad to overthrow Apartheid. Strange bedfellows and all that.

    To indulge your particular American viewpoint, we might conclude that Mandela valued an end to Apartheid more than a commitment to Communism, and US framing valued the South African’s governments stance against Communism more than it cared to interfere with their racist policy of Apartheid.

  71. The first quote in my last comment came from the NYT Obituary of Mandela. Found here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world/africa/nelson-mandela_obit.html?pagewanted=4&ref=international-home

    Regarding the next charged word, Terrorist, again I think we should ask more for an accounting of facts than a rush to use the word.

    What did Mandela say about his activities with the ?

    From his book, Long Walk to Freedom:

    IN PLANNING the direction and form that MK would take,
    we considered four types of violent activities: sabotage,
    guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a
    small and fledgling army, open revolution was
    inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on
    those who used it, undermining any public support it might
    otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but
    since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at
    all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that
    inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage.

    Because it did not involve loss of life it offered the best
    hope for reconciliation among the races afterward. We did
    not want to start a blood feud between white and black.
    Animosity between Afrikaner and Englishman was still
    sharp fifty years after the Anglo-Boer War; what would race
    relations be like between white and black if we provoked a
    civil war? Sabotage had the added virtue of requiring the
    least manpower.

    Our strategy was to make selective forays against
    military installations, power plants, telephone lines, and
    transportation links; targets that would not only hamper the
    military effectiveness of the state, but frighten National
    Party supporters, scare away foreign capital, and weaken
    the economy. This we hoped would bring the government to
    the bargaining table. Strict instructions were given to
    members of MK that we would countenance no loss of life.
    But if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we
    were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla
    warfare and terrorism.

    I had one not-so-pleasant visit from two Americans,
    editors of the conservative newspaper the Washington
    Times. They seemed less intent on finding out my views
    than on proving that I was a Communist and a terrorist. All
    of their questions were slanted in that direction, and when I
    reiterated that I was neither a Communist nor a terrorist,
    they attempted to show that I was not a Christian either by
    asserting that the Reverend Martin Luther King never
    resorted to violence. I told them that the conditions in which
    Martin Luther King struggled were totally different from my
    own: the United States was a democracy with constitutional
    guarantees of equal rights that protected nonviolent protest
    (though there was still prejudice against blacks); South
    Africa was a police state with a constitution that enshrined
    inequality and an army that responded to nonviolence with
    force. I told them that I was a Christian and had always
    been a Christian. Even Christ, I said, when he was left with
    no alternative, used force to expel the moneylenders from
    the temple. He was not a man of violence, but had no
    choice but to use force against evil. I do not think I
    persuaded them.

    This would be extremely sensitive. Both sides regarded
    discussions as a sign of weakness and betrayal. Neither
    would come to the table until the other made significant
    concessions. The government asserted over and over that
    we were a terrorist organization of Communists, and that
    they would never talk to terrorists or Communists. This was
    National Party dogma. The ANC asserted over and over
    that the government was fascistic and racist and that there
    was nothing to talk about until they unbanned the ANC,
    unconditionally released all political prisoners, and
    removed the troops from the townships.

    So I would conclude from reading this that Mandela was both reluctant to resort to violence, and yes terrorism, but also was fully aware that this was a tactic to be used to reach some end goal.

    The two issues, Communism and Terrorism come together in Mandela’s mind when he is planning negotiations with President Botha:

    THE MEETINGS with the committee continued, and we
    stalled on the same issues that had always prevented us
    from moving forward: the armed struggle, the Communist
    Party, and majority rule. I was still pressing Coetsee for a
    meeting with P. W. Botha. By this time, the authorities
    permitted me to have rudimentary communications with my
    comrades at Pollsmoor and Robben Island and also the
    ANC in Lusaka. Although I knew I was going out ahead of
    my colleagues, I did not want to go too far ahead and find
    that I was all alone.

    In January 1 989, I was visited by my four comrades from
    Pollsmoor and we discussed the memorandum I was
    planning to send to the state president. The memorandum
    reiterated most of the points I had made in our secret
    committee meetings, but I wanted to make sure the state
    president heard them directly from me. He would see that
    we were not wild-eyed terrorists, but reasonable men.

    “I am disturbed,” I wrote to Mr. Botha in the
    memorandum, sent to him in March, “as many other South
    Africans no doubt are, by the specter of a South Africa split
    into two hostile camps — blacks on one side . . . and
    whites on the other, slaughtering one another.” To avert this
    and prepare the groundwork for negotiations, I proposed to
    deal with the three demands made of the ANC by the
    government as a precondition to negotiations: renouncing
    violence; breaking with the SACP; and abandoning the call
    for majority rule.

    On the question of violence I wrote that the refusal of the
    ANC to renounce violence was not the problem: “The truth
    is that the government is not yet ready … for the sharing of
    political power with blacks.” I explained our unwillingness to
    cast aside the SACP, and reiterated that we were not
    under its control. “Which man of honour,” I wrote, “will desert
    a lifelong friend at the insistence of a common opponent
    and still retain a measure of credibility with his people?” I
    said the rejection of majority rule by the government was a
    poorly disguised attempt to preserve power. I suggested he
    must face reality. “Majority rule and internal peace are like
    the two sides of a single coin, and white South Africa
    simply has to accept that there will never be peace and
    stability in this country until the principle is fully applied.”

    Mandela was neither in denial about the use of Terrorism nor his partnership with the Communist Party. But he was also clearly aware that those labels had very legal consequences under the regime and that those labels and the legal consequences could have doomed his cause.

  72. I think some of you are making Mandela into a plaster saint. He was a South African who was moving in a particular political context with a real history behind it. He did not renounce violence until the government renounced it too. Six times he was offered release from prison on condition that he renounce violence and six times he refused. He accepted only when the government made concessions as well.

    It violates our cozy North American fantasies but violence and the threat of it do work. When you’re left without any way to effect change because you’re shut out of the political process and your law cases go nowhere in the courts, then turning to violence is a logical outcome.

    What made Mandela unique is that he always viewed violence as a tool to be set aside when the time came and then followed through. He was practical about the benefits and didn’t let the emotions of others consume him. Truly a remarkable man.

  73. DC: I would rather prefer to use a more objective definition and ask if such applies to Mandela.

    Except neitehr the term terrorist nor communist is ever applied in a purely objective way in any real world converstaion. The terms have to be viewed in the context of history that shows that “communist” could not be spoken without some kind of implicit or explicit connection to the Soviet Union (and the mccarthy witchhunts it inspired, and teven the accusations of “socialist” hurled at Obama today, and “terrorist” has always been twisted to mean “people we don’t like”, regardless of what those people actually do. And its been used a lot by our government to demonize and overinflate all sorts of criminal behavior into “terrorism” as a attempt to justify shredding the constitution. You want to talk about “communism” and “terrorism” as it relates to Mandela in an “objective” definition, and I say those terms cannot possibly be applied in a vacuum that ignores today’s reality.

    And given the actual history of South Africa and Apartheid and Mandela’s place in it, it seems fairly clear that Mandela was no terrorist. I keep getting the impression that the people most interested in calling Mandela a “terrorist” are least interested in the objective/legal definition of “terrorism”, and more interested in using the term eactly the way it has been abused: a loosely defined, emotionally loaded term to apply to someone we don’t like, want to minimize, want to dismiss.

    Gandhi actively encouraged Indians to enlist during WW1, even for combatant position. But anyone interested in saying Gandhi was a violent man, or saying he was a militant man, or saying he was a supporter of war because of that one fact, is probably not interested in the whole of Gandhi’s life, the context in which he lived, and the great and amazing thing he did in achieving independence through nonviolence, and probably more interested in dismissing, minimizing, and demonizing the man, by latching onto a single “truth” out of context and using it to distort reality.

    People talking about Mandela’s “facts” seem to be trying to focus on cherry pickd facts and ignoring the larger context of history in an attempt to distort history. Maybe to defend Reagan, maybe to dismiss a black man who brought an oppressive racist regime to an end, maybe to try and drag down the memory of a great man and try and say he was no better than anyone else. Maybe an attempt to say that if even Mandela resorted to violence, then then our resortations to violence are somehow just as justified. I’m not sure why. But it seems to be that the people bringing up the “facts” about Mandela are least interested in looking at how they fit in th whole of history

    In the full context of history, “Was Mandela a terrorist?” is reallly a laughable question. Of course he was not.

  74. Just watched all 5 hours of the memorial. Much props to President Obama for his stirring speech. President Mandela accomplished much good, not only for the people of South Africa, but for the world. He will be greatly missed.

    RIP Madiba. Your good works will never be forgotten.

  75. Gandhi was standing up to the British Empire who did not resort to massive use of military force against India’s calls for independence

    The people of Amritsar would be surprised by this statement.

  76. @Greg

    I keep getting the impression that the people most interested in calling Mandela a “terrorist” are least interested in the objective/legal definition of “terrorism”, and more interested in using the term eactly the way it has been abused: a loosely defined, emotionally loaded term to apply to someone we don’t like, want to minimize, want to dismiss.

    This is your bias. It may be correct with regards to particular individuals, but it’s no more objective than word meanings. You posit that there can be only one meaning to a given word, yet the meaning you choose is the meaning most meaningful to you, a US-centric meaning. Words which have shades of meaning can indeed be used in different contexts. There is no objective context, at least not available to any one person. Words are only meaningful to the people using them. They don’t exist in some platonic realm outside the human mind. You yourself laid out multiple meanings, then dismissed one set as if it cannot exist. I offer that this may be more about what you’re biased to believe about the use of those words than what the other people using them necessarily mean.

    Undoubtedly some of the people who use words like terrorist and communist are indeed doing so from the same context as you and with the agenda you impute to them. Yet you talk about the people most interested in using these terms as though there can be only one motive. Your perception of their motives, while quite possibly correct in specific cases, is no more universal than your bias towards a particular historical interpretation of those words.

    I, for one, think it’s better to honor the memory of heroes who overcame adversity in spite of their human fallibility, than to replace them with convenient narratives for fear that talking about their humanity will undermine our own messages. The latter not only dishonors our heroes by implying that they weren’t good enough in the flesh to merit our respect, it also plays right into the hands of anyone who does want to minimize their accomplishments because once you’ve whitewashed history and supplanted the hero with a myth, all they have to do is point to your own lack of confidence in the truth.

  77. I, for one, think it’s better to honor the memory of heroes who overcame adversity in spite of their human fallibility, than to replace them with convenient narratives for fear that talking about their humanity will undermine our own messages. The latter not only dishonors our heroes by implying that they weren’t good enough in the flesh to merit our respect, it also plays right into the hands of anyone who does want to minimize their accomplishments because once you’ve whitewashed history and supplanted the hero with a myth, all they have to do is point to your own lack of confidence in the truth.

    That’s really well put.

  78. Greg: British Empire who did not resort to massive use of military force

    DAVID: The people of Amritsar would be surprised by this statement.

    Dyer was relieved of command for the massacre.

    South Africa’s Apartheid government approved and ordered violence all the way from the top.

    If you see no difference there, then you see no differnce there.

    Greg: I keep getting the impression that the people most interested in calling Mandela a “terrorist” are least interested in the objective/legal definition of “terrorism”,

    Gulliver: This is your bias. It may be correct with regards to particular individuals,

    Well, when someone on the thread makes apologies for Reagen, rather than acknowledging that Reagan was *wrong*, which is what happeneding on this thread, then pointing it out is correct with regard to those individuals. The individuals I was talking with. The individuals here Yes, I am sure you can go digging for someone who wants an objective andesoteric appraisal of whether Mandeal was a “terrorist” or not. But someone on this thread was actually doing the thing I was complaining about, the thing you are trying to dismiss. Someone was more intereseted in apologizing for Reagan than they were interested in the history of Mandela.

    You posit that there can be only one meaning to a given word, yet the meaning you choose is the meaning most meaningful to you, a US-centric meaning.

    Fuck me. Think about this for even one second, Gulliver. What is it the conversation about Mandela every time the word “terrorist” is mentioned??? Think. Or google “Mandela terrorist” and look at the pattern before your very eyes. What will come up in nearly every hit???? That Nelson Mandela was on the US Terrorist Watch List until 2008. Thta Reagan and Thatcher considered Mandela a terrorist. Maybe mention Cheney did too.

    And what about the NON-US-Centric view of Mandela?
    1979:honorary doctorate from India
    1980: UN Security Council calls for Mandelas release from Prison
    1980: Reagan and Thatcher call him a terrorist
    1981: Freedome of the City of Glasgow, Scotland
    1981 Bruno Kreisky Award from Austria
    1983 Honoary citizenship of Rome and Greece,
    1986 Freedom of the City award Belgium
    Awarded the Cross of St Andrew by Scotland
    1987 honorary doctorate of law from Canada1988 Honorary Doctorate from Venezuela
    1990 India’s highest award Bharat Ratna
    1991 Peace Prize from UNESCO
    1993: Nobel Peace Prize Norway

    So, by all means, what is the NON-US-Centric definition of “terrorist” as it applies to Nelson Mandela????? It is that it doesn’t fucking apply

    If anyone has been paying attention, the only people calling Mandela a “terrorist” are American and British Conservative right wingers. So, yeay, I keep bringing the definition back to a us-centric definition of “terrorist”, because those are the only fucking people calling him a terrorist.

    And that isn’t my bias. I am pointing out the bias in the language, in the conversation, in the people parroting the idea of mandela beign a terrorist without any context. Anyone who looks at that short history of international observations of Mandela just in that short list I posted right there should see everyone BUT the US and the Brits thought he was NOT a terrorist. How much more blatantly biased does the arc of history have to be before we can drop this stupid fucking pretense of “well, does Mandela meet the “objective” definition of the owrd “terrorist”, and just acknowledge that calling Mandela a terrorist is strictly an American and British (right wing conservative American and British I might add) bias stemming directly from American and British anti-communist paranoia.

    How is this conversation about Mandela being a “terrorist” anything BUT a US-Centric definition of the term of “terrorist”??????????

    once you’ve whitewashed history and supplanted the hero with a myth

    Saying Mandela was NOT a terrorist is NOT whitewashing history. Jesus. Saying Mandela WAS a terrorist is forwarding US/British right wing propaganda.

  79. Dyer was relieved of command for the massacre.

    And was lauded by many at home, including being given 26,000 pounds from a fund raised by a major newspaper.

    And Michael O’Dwyer, the Lt. Governor of the Punjab at the time, later sent airplanes to strafe another riot. Only a few dozen were killed in that one, rather than the 1000+ at Amritsar.

    Is there a difference between that and what Mandela faced in South Africa? Sure, but not as much and not as absolutely as you’re trying to make out, and certainly not enough to comfort those slaughtered in either place.

  80. DAVID certainly not enough to comfort those slaughtered

    I believe that’s an appeal to emotion fallacy.

    My point was only that if someone is taking on nonviolent resistance as a “tactic”,
    then it might not accomplish anything other than getting themselves killed
    by secret police and dumped in a river. I think the South African government
    as official policy was willing to do that to opposition groups wholesale.
    I think the British Government was more unwilling than willing.

  81. Greg writes:

    Dyer was relieved of command for the massacre.

    South Africa’s Apartheid government approved and ordered violence all the way from the top.

    Greg, here I agree with you. I’m reminded of the Harry Turtledove story, The Last Article, in which Ghandi takes the non-violent approach to resistance in Nazi occupied India after WWII turns out differently. It doesn’t go well.

    Non-violence is sometimes a viable alternative, but it is by no means always the right one.

    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent because the competent get around to trying it sooner.

    Greg also writes:

    And given the actual history of South Africa and Apartheid and Mandela’s place in it, it seems fairly clear that Mandela was no terrorist. I keep getting the impression that the people most interested in calling Mandela a “terrorist” are least interested in the objective/legal definition of “terrorism”, and more interested in using the term eactly the way it has been abused: a loosely defined, emotionally loaded term to apply to someone we don’t like, want to minimize, want to dismiss.

    The ANC did conduct guerrilla operations. So I suppose the question of whether they were terrorists becomes one of the choice of targets.

    Car bombing an air force headquarters may be seen as a guerrilla warfare target. Mining roads depends quite a bit on who you expect to use the roads. Bombing public places with resulting civilian casualties seems to be wandering into terrorism territory.

    The article I cited a while back points out that while civilians died in attacks for which the ANC claimed credit, it also disavowed a strategy of deliberately killing civilians. So maybe what we have is a lot of collateral damage, a problem which plagues the US of late. It’s arguable that the ANC wasn’t a terrorist organization, but it doesn’t strike me as “laughable” that it might seem that way.

    In any case, to a US president during the cold war, a band of Soviet-armed communist guerrillas aren’t going to find themselves on the list of good guys, whether or not they intentionally bomb civilians.

    Phrases like “Reagan’s cold war fear of communism” suggests to me that you wish to convey the sentiment of “oh those old anti-communists, weren’t they cute?”, like the cold war didn’t actually happen.

    DC Skeptical writes:

    To indulge your particular American viewpoint, we might conclude that Mandela valued an end to Apartheid more than a commitment to Communism, and US framing valued the South African’s governments stance against Communism more than it cared to interfere with their racist policy of Apartheid.

    DC, it appears to me that you are correct, but the US isn’t monolithic. Congress passed the 1986 Anti-Apartheid act over Regan’s veto.

    Greg also writes:

    But asking “Why wouldn’t Reagan see the Taliban in the context of the cold war?” is myopic. It ignores the mistakes Reagan made in giving the Taliban weapons and training that could come back to haunt us. It ignores the mistake made in the US leaving a massive power vacuum when the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving the country to fall into anarchy, to fall into something like the third worsteconomically disadvantaged nation on the planet, to dissolve for all intents and purposes until the nation of Afghanistan was little more than lines on amaprepresenting a land shatterd and ruled by countless warlords.

    George Crile’s book, Charlie Wilson’s War, is if anything, even more astonishing than the movie. It’s appealing to applaud Wilson’s massive undertaking, run with very little notice paid by congress because of the distraction afforded by Iran-Contra when perhaps one should instead despair that U.S. foreign policy is so easily hijacked.

    Wilson argued:

    “We (screwed) up the end game,” Mr. Wilson said. “It would have been very easy and done for a minuscule amount of money. We should have done the basic things for a backward country that’s trying to come out of (a war) and have a reasonable hope of economic success.”

    He might have been right, but I’m not sure it would be that easy. It appears to me that much of the problem is that the Afghans don’t want the place to be ruled from Kabul, no matter who it is that rules there.

    If the Russians had poured through the Fulda gap, our losses in Afghanistan would pale in comparison. The threat of the Soviet Union dwarfed “terror”.

  82. I believe that’s an appeal to emotion fallacy.

    I believe it’s an appeal to emotion, surely. Fallacy? We disagree on that.

    My point was only that if someone is taking on nonviolent resistance as a “tactic”,
    then it might not accomplish anything other than getting themselves killed
    by secret police and dumped in a river. I think the South African government
    as official policy was willing to do that to opposition groups wholesale.
    I think the British Government was more unwilling than willing.

    Greg, like so often, I understand what your point was, I just disagree with it. Here, I disagree with the idea that the British were particularly non-violent in response to the Indian nationalist movement. They shot people, they locked people up, and they used violence as a tool of repression. I haven’t looked recently at the scholarship on the British handling of India in the 1920s and 1930s, but I’m pretty sure that the fatality rates between that and South Africa in the post World War II era were pretty close.

    And you still owe me a tank.

    I’m reminded of the Harry Turtledove story, The Last Article, in which Ghandi takes the non-violent approach to resistance in Nazi occupied India after WWII turns out differently. It doesn’t go well.

    Spare me using fiction as an example for anything. If we’re going to use fiction as evidence, then we can just make anything up, pretty much. For example: if it had been the Nazis, Gandhi wouldn’t have used non-violence. He would have been Tito in tactical terms.

    Also, note that non-violent resistance actually worked pretty well for the Danish against the Nazis, so, no, basically.

  83. @Greg

    Mike said pretty much everything I would have. Just because someone in this thread may be using communist as a scare word (I’m pretty sure you raised the issue of terrorism when you brought up Reagan, but maybe you were responding to a comment I’m missing), doesn’t validate your blanket statement:

    I keep getting the impression that the people most interested in calling Mandela a “terrorist” are least interested in the objective/legal definition of “terrorism”, and more interested in using the term eactly the way it has been abused: a loosely defined, emotionally loaded term to apply to someone we don’t like, want to minimize, want to dismiss.

    You clearly went from a specific to a generalization that implied someone would only ask those questions for the nefarious reasons you assume they are.

    Dave said:

    Of course, Nelson Mandela WAS a Communist, and in fact a member of the SACP’s central executive committee, at the time of his arrest. Not that that makes it a bad thing, but it is a true thing

    That doesn’t sound like fear-mongering to me. I see no apology for Reagan’s foreign policy in there. Not all of the rest of the world (nor all Americans while were at it) has a knee-jerk response to communism. And for many many people around the world, terrorism is a real question of a criminal activity, not a convenient label for enemy combatants.

    That most of the world lauded Mandela does not mean that they did so in ignorance or blindness to his fallibility. It truly is possible to have a discussion about the life and work of a flawed hero (the only real kind) without raising the ghosts of Reagan and Thatcher. From where I’m sitting, you’re the one who keeps invoking the Right’s demonization of Mandela, and suggesting that it’s an Anglo-American thing while he could do no wrong in the eyes of the rest of the world.

  84. That most of the world lauded Mandela does not mean that they did so in ignorance or blindness to his fallibility

    Was being a communist a sign of Mandela’s fallibility? I don’t think we’ve established that. It might well have been a perfectly reasonable reaction to the situation in South Africa at the time.

  85. @DAVID

    Was being a communist a sign of Mandela’s fallibility?

    I was referring to his use of violence which may or may not have included crimes of terror against civilians. Should have been more specific. Sorry. As for the question of terrorism, I don’t think it’s at all cut and dried. It seems like the ANC made an effort to avoid killing non-military and non-government targets, but not so much that it can’t be said to have knowingly committed murder. Murder in pursuit of political change is terrorism, even if it’s merely collateral damage those committing it accept and necessary.

    For the record, I think the very same argument could be levied against the US for engaging in terrorism, and that there’s very little doubt that the US and many other “enlightened” democracies have used it in the past. That it may be understandable doesn’t make it moral. But that is one aspect of one chapter of Mandela’s life.

    We should not, IMO, being as concerned with judging him as we should be from learning from his examples, both the good and the bad. That we can do so with hindsight and from relative comfort and safety the young Mandela could not should be a blessing in affording us the ability to see which paths we might take in our own lives and destinies and what might become of that, but it’s an advantage that we should not forget he did not have at the time. In fact, I think the proportion of energy poured into judgement of, compared to learning from, the past is woefully upside down in the “free” world. Perhaps it’s because judgement makes us feel superior while learning humbles us.

  86. Was Nelson Mandela a terrorist? Yes.

    Was Mandela a person who used terrorism [the use of violence and intimidation] in the pursuit of political aims? Yes.

    Was Nelson Mandela the founder and head of the UmKhonto we Sizwe? Yes.

    Did Mandela visit a training camp to learn how to build bombs and use a rifle, pistol, demolitions, mortars, mines, guerrilla tactics, and command and discipline of a fighting force? Yes.

    Did he then send the membership of the MK to the same paramilitary camp to learn those things? Yes.

    While Mandela was the acting head of the MK and free from jail did they bomb the government? Yes.

    Did those bombs result in innocent civilian death. Yes.

    Did Mandela set up a bomb making school domestically? Yes.

    Was Mandela arrested, tried, and jailed for these acts of sabotage soon after he returned from his military training abroad? Yes.

    Did he continue to play a leadership role in the MK? Yes.

    Was Mandela in continual two-way contact with his family, the MK and various tribal leaders throughout his prison term? Yes.

    Did he relinquish a strategic and leadership role in the MK? No.

    Was he aware of MK’s frequent terrorist bombings? Yes.

    Did he approve of them? Yes.

    Did those bombings include attacks that were not merely sabotage of government property and infrastructure? Yes.

    Did these include shopping centers, public markets, a bank, a movie theatre complex, a train station, etc.? Yes.

    Did innocent civilians die in these attacks? Yes.

    Did these attacks continue over years, decades? Yes.

    Did Mandela ever renounce a single one of them? No.

    Therefore Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Taking issue with people you don’t like using the word makes no difference, that’s all a logical fallacy. So too is trying to redefine the word or suggest that its application is mean spirited or for political motives or racist or whatever.

    So too is it immaterial if you wish to quell the cognitive dissonance of learning new things about President Mandela that conflict with the level of praise and good will he is now being given or which you have internalized, by rationalizing the negative things and dismissing them. The comments claiming that Nelson was ignorant and removed from the decades of MK bombings while he was in jail is an example of this sort of rationalization to distance Mandela from the terrorist acts. I don’t believe these people actually looked into the facts, they just made a narrative that sounded good to them. I actually read his book, Long Walk to Freedom in the last few days and he talks at length about his continued role and communication with the MK, his wife Winnie (who has a number of serious issues surrounding her behavior as well, i.e. necklacing and murdering fellow revolutionaries), and various other leaders and subordinates in the movement.

    This is not cherry picking either. It’s a significant portion of the man’s life and a significant number of acts. And these bombings continued into the 1990s. A good bit of information which, while not secret, is certainly not included in detail in the dialogue about the man and his past and his legacy. It was certainly in no way a part of my official education on him and his works.

    And while I can’t present the lesson book of what I was taught about the man for your cross examination, I only mention it to demonstrate that others are likely in the same position I was in a few days ago: largely ignorant of the MK and Mandela’s life before the end of his jail term.

    As a rational person, I must accept that the evidence documents that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist by a fair and accurate use of that word. To re-evaluate that conclusion, I would need to be presented with new information that would suggest that the facts I have discovered recently are not actually facts, including a heavy reliance on President Mandela’s own words in his book. Baring that, I have no issue re-evaluating my previous view, amending it with new information.

    Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.

  87. @DC Skeptical

    Was Mandela a person who used terrorism [the use of violence and intimidation] in the pursuit of political aims?

    I’m afraid this definition is uselessly broad. It literally describes any war in history. Terrorism normally entails the strategic targeting of civilians in in lieu of military targets. It may or may not involve an intent to terrorize the civilian populace into agitating for the change demanded by its prosecutors. There is no doubt Mandela was a guerrilla fighter in an armed insurrection. He did meet the first definition of terrorist. He may or may not have met the second. Either way, guerrilla warfare is not tantamount to terrorism.

    His ex-wife’s alleged murders of children she claimed to be informants have nothing to do with whether he was or was not a terrorist. Terrorism cannot be evaluated on guilt by association, as much as the FBI and CIA might wish otherwise. There is no evidence she personally necklaced anyone, so your statement “who has a number of serious issues surrounding her behavior as well, i.e. necklacing and murdering fellow revolutionaries” is at best carelessly worded. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, did find her responsible for “gross violations of human rights.” No court ever convicted her of terrorism. The purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions was for all sides to come forward admit their mistakes and harm done, to recognize the blood on all hands.

    I applaud your desire to discover the discomfiting realities of history. I urge caution, thoroughness and calm contemplation before settling it to your satisfaction or rushing to any judgements.

  88. @gulliver – You are welcome to use another definition. I used the definition that define:terrorism and terrorist gave me as to not pick a definition that would support my point more another.

    The details and facts as we know them are more important than any one definition. But I would contend that there are enough facts present that it would be difficult to define terrorism in a manner where Mandela would not apply.

    I also reject your application of “guilt by association” in reference to Mandela’s wife Winnie. Their associaton was not casual acquaintance. And it was more than a marriage. She was an operative in the MK and his constant and most significant means of communication and control of the MK and all other aspects of his ambition while he was jailed. You can read all about this in his book.

    I also think you would be served better to read more about Winnie and how she ran the MK and the Mandela household.

    Torture, murder, cover-ups, her own private murder squad, witness intimidation and murder, abduction and and killing of little kids.

    The Mandela home was used for bomb making, hiding of dead bodies, a place to carve warnings into the living flesh of suspected police informants which was then covered with battery acid.

    It’s rather irrelevant how much blood Winnie got on her own hands, if she lit the match of an oil soaked tire around someone’s neck herself. She is on record calling for the use of such terrorist abominations. She was a leader who ordered her underlings to do vile, unforgivable things. She opened the Mandela home to these thugs and she participated in obstructing police investigations of crimes committed by others in the Mandela family.

    Nelson worked through this person, chose to exercise his power through her. And he even made her part of his government. He had children with her and they were man and wife for decades.

    Her actions in their marriage, in MK, and in the Mandela absolutely inform my view of Nelson.

    If we want to narrow our definition so tightly as to demand that leaders have no culpability in the actions of their subordinates, then some of the most vile people in history are blamess because they wielded power over others who physically committed the acts.

    Laura Bush is responsible for more deaths than her husband.

    Ted Kennedy is responsble for more deaths than his brother John and LBJ and Nixon combined.

    And let’s be clear, this is not a court of law in some jurisdiction and Nelsn and the MK and his wife are not on trial. We need not play games with legal definitions and theories of law of what ammounts to culpable association or not.

    This is a good faith discussion of what we believe are the merits and faults of a famous and yet still cryptic man.

    While I fully support the use of logic, reason, facts, and the rigors of formal debate, I am not unaware that we are discussing things that are ultimately subjective and not limited by formal rhetoric.

    Many of the most wonderful and praiseworthy things we laud President Mandela for are likewise subjective opinion, speculation, and fail strict rules of evidence.

    For instance, we can not prove that violence was necessary. We can only speculate.

    We can not prove if some other tactic would have met some list of goals better.

    Ultimatley this is a discussion about how we feel about President Mandela. And what we use as our criteria to feel that way.

    We are all ignorant of the entire truth, and some of us choose to base our views on different criteria.

    In general I believe more information is superior to less informtion. And I was astonished about how much surronding Mandela is not widely discussed.

    As much as his book provides great insight, he leaves out many things that other sources show he was aware of and involved in but which do not fit with his narrative.

  89. @DAVID – I’m perfectly willing to entertain your case that George Washington was a terrorist. Present your argument.

    I’d draw some parallels. One, we have so little scholarship on Washington and almost no contemporary criticism.

    Two, Washington was made to be a saint just like Mandela. The father of the country. He is shown ascending to heaven as a GOD in the painting on the interior dome of the Capital in D.C.

    Below that used to rest a statue of him as a god, Zeus, but this is now in the basement.

    The story we are presented of him is decidedly whitewashed. I can not tell a lie and all that.

    So please do present your case.

  90. I’m perfectly willing to entertain your case that George Washington was a terrorist. Present your argument.

    Washington was the military leader of an effort that deliberately and repeatedly targeted innocent civilians to achieve its end (which is what your standards for Mandela boiled down to). This effort included the murder of civilians, the murder of surrendered soldiers, and what would be called ethnic cleansing now, the pushing out of entire populations of loyalists. Washington was aware of all of these things.

    Given that, are you comfortable labeling George Washington a terrorist, yes or no?

    One, we have so little scholarship on Washington and almost no contemporary criticism.

    I hope you’re being sarcastic, because we have an enormous amount of scholarship on Washington and lots of contemporary criticism.

  91. Mike: Phrases like “Reagan’s cold war fear of communism” suggests to me that you wish to convey the sentiment of “oh those old anti-communists, weren’t they cute?”, like the cold war didn’t actually happen.

    No, it is conveying the fact that Reagan backed death squads who killed civilians because they were anti-communist death squads, so any discussion of Mandela being labeled a terrorist by Reagan needs to take into account that Reagan didn’t give a rats ass about whether the person was a terrorist but only cared if they were a communist.

    DAVID:

    And you still owe me a tank.

    Ah. I’d forgotten that was you. I thought you were being a little “I must prove Greg wrong here by any means neccessary”. Your attempt to frame my post as wrong because it doesn’t comfort those slaughtered was a gem. Yes, it is a logical fallacy, maybe you could have looked that up. But if you’re just going to carry around grudges simply because I pointed out your complete and total ignorance about firearms law, then, well, that simply means that even if I prove you wrong here, you’ll merely take that on as yet another grudge to hold against me.

    There’s no point in arguing with someone unwilling to admit they are wrong. And you have been provably wrong but rather than admit it and learn/grow, you’ve taken the childish approach of making it some kind of score to settle. Go away kid, you bother me.

    Scalzi: Looks like you guys have wandered pretty far afield.

    Sorry. I didn’t realize DAVID was the same guy who got all bent out of shape months and months ago because I showed that he was completely and provably wrong about firearms law. Had I remembered he was the “show me a tank:” tantrum guy, I wouldn’t have bothered engaging him here at all. I will try to make a point of remembering that in the future.

    Gulliver: That doesn’t sound like fear-mongering to me.

    Except thta the post you quote came AFTER my post. I was responding to comments like dpmaine‘s post. That post attempts to dismiss anything good Mandela did and label him a terrorist.

    you’re the one who keeps invoking the Right’s demonization of Mandela

    Reagan demonized anyone who was communist and overlooked the most evil thing people did if they were anti communist. Demonization by conservatives is a FACT. If you want to dispute that, then you might as well say the earth is flat.

    , and suggesting … he could do no wrong in the eyes of the rest of the world.

    You know what? Back the hell up. Where did I ever say “he could do no worng”? You keep saying I am biased, that I’m making stuff up, that I’m attacking stuff that isn’t true. And then here you are with this complete and total BULLSHIT STRAWMAN. When did I say ANYTHING about Mandela could do no wrong??????

    Your’e the one biased here, Gulliver.

  92. OK, clearly some people are going with the highly emotionally charged definition of “terrorism” here.

    The geneva convention is too old to have any definition of “terrorism”, but it does have something to say about what is and is not allowed in war. The geneva convention allows for the targetting of military targets even if it causes civilian deaths, such as bombing a factory that builds tanks and you end up killing the civilians inside. The geneva convention allows for the military occupation of a civiilan city.

    Where it draws the line, what violates the geneva convention, is targeting civilians because they’re civilians. Bombing civilians in retribution for something is a war crime. Bombing civilians as a collective punishment is a war crime. Targeting civilians in a way that has no direct military advantage is a war crime.

    If your enemy has missile launchers and surrounds them with civilian human shields, you could probably target the launchers, and if civilians are killed as a side effect of your attack on the launchers, then that probably wouldn’t violate the Gneva convention. If a civilian picks up a rifle and shoots at your troops, they are allowed to shoot to kill. If the civilian drops the rifle, and surrenders, they have to be treated as a pow or civilian and dealt with as such.

    Mandela fought guerrilla war against South Africa. Guerrilla war is legal under international law as long as it follows certain rules.

    http://www.crimesofwar.org/a-z-guide/guerrillas/

    Those rules are: have a chain of command, wear something distinctive to be identified at a distance as a combatant, carry weapons openly (during the attack), observe the other laws of war (treat prisoners according to law, etc).

    Guerrilla war in an internal conflict exposes the guerrilla fighter to much more liability. They can be tried for murder, destruction of property, rebellion, sedition, and more.

    you can’t be tried for murder for killing someone in an international war if you are following the laws of war.

    The main problem with discussing Mandela is that he was fighting an internal rebellion, so South Africa could try him for crimes that he would be protected from in an international conflict.

    But taking the international definition of Guerrilla war from the Geneva convention, I think, tells you whethre someone is a “terrorist” or not. The question would be whether Mandala and his group generally followed those rules or whether they did not. Did they target military targets? Or did they go after civilians as a form of punishment and retribution? Killing civilians is not by itself a violation of international laws of war. So, that is not sufficient to label Mandela a terrorist. It makes a difference whether the point was to kill civilians or the point was some military advantage.

    Waterboarding people is a war crime against the Geneva Convention as well, so, the idea that Dick fucking Cheney thinks Mandela is a terrorist while Cheney is responsible for Abu Graib, Guantanamo, and all the other black sites around the world, is fucking laughable.

  93. I finally watched the Craig Ferguson episode from the day Mandela died.

    Now Craig Ferguson is a late-night host and he’s generally pretty sophomoric in his presentation. But under that, he’s a thoughtful guy. He omits his monologue tagline (“It’s a great day for America!”) on 9/11, for example.

    Well, in this episode, which was taped before they got the news, he subbed in a different cold open, and just said (paraphrasing) “rather than me saying something stupid about Nelson Mandela, let’s just play the tape we have of Desmond Tutu speaking about him.” And they did.

    And then they swapped out the soundtrack of the opening credit sequence in favor of “Free Nelson Mandela.”

    I thought that was pretty gorram classy. Kudos to Ferguson and his team.

  94. Craig is actually quite a serious, well-read guy who has a second persona as (quoting) “a vulgar lounge entertainer”. Whenever there’s a big tragedy, he speaks simply and from the heart.

    The Tutu interview was an entire hour, and won Craig a Peabody.

    I’ll have to watch this (I TiVo the show nightly).

  95. DC writes.

    Did these include shopping centers, public markets, a bank, a movie theatre complex, a train station, etc.? Yes.

    Did innocent civilians die in these attacks? Yes.

    Did these attacks continue over years, decades? Yes.

    Did Mandela ever renounce a single one of them? No.

    The ANC did renounce accidental civilian deaths in some cases, but if they bombed public markets, a bank, etc. while they were open, it’s hard to look on those deaths as collateral damage from a guerrilla attack.

  96. DAVID – @DC Skeptical You haven’t answered my question.

    Please ask it again then, as I’m not sure which question you are referring to.

    deliberately and repeatedly targeted innocent civilians to achieve its end

    Please be more specific, I’m interested in learning about these details. If the question you’re interested in is if I’m willing to apply the label of Terrorist to George Washington, I’ll need the specifics. But I won’t a priori discount the possibility that the title is appropriate because Washington was much loved and a national icon.

    The two are not mutually exclusive.

    In fact, I’d suggest that American children are given a whitewashed version of history concerning Washington for just this reason, much in parallel to the contemporary discussion of Nelson Mandela. I believe that both men are clearly the recipients of hagiography and a more objective discussion of their faults is not a popular element of their discussion, especially in formal classroom settings.

    I reviewed the passages on Washington in the few US History textbooks I have on hand (sorry, they are not so modern to include material on Mandela for comparison) and there is little discussion of any criticisms at all. Christopher Columbus gets at least a modicum of criticism.

    Both of these men should be given a more balanced and detailed factual account than they have been. I don’t, however, believe that the mere application of a label undoes the entirety of a person’s accomplishments or that we need to view any of these people as saints or devils. Such extremism is nonsense.

    Even worse is the wholesale mythology about these people. We have children believing that Columbus actually set foot on American Soil and had an epiphany that the world was not flat because of a butterfly and an orange. George Washington never lied, especially about murdering cherry tries, had wooden teeth, and could fling a silver dollar all the way across the Potomac due to his physical strength.

    That being said, my goal here is to put a listing of facts or near-facts above absolute labels and myopic hagiographies. I prefer complexity to singular mantras. I am mature enough to acknowledge irony, hypocrisy, complexity, and dualities in public figures and in myself.

    I TOTALLY REJECT the idea that if we admit that Mandela was a terrorist or Columbus was a rapist, etc. that we grind their stories and accomplishments into nothing and that we must accept the forced dialogues that these were saints or demons. Reject that outright. They were men, not gods, not saints, not perfect or anywhere near it, not even for their times or situations or for all time. Their actions were transformative of the world. Best to be more circumspect.

    So if your goal is to provoke some sort of hypocrisy on my part, that I’m overzealous in wanting to destroy Mandela’s image and unwanting to touch Washington’s, I don’t believe you’ll find it. Rather, I welcome a more complete listing of evidence that can be used to inform a view on all these people.

    There has been a decent amount of Columbus awareness as of late, a deconstruction of that myth. [Enough, too much, who is to say?] As I said before, the negative aspects of Mandela and the MK and his involvement and his family, etc. has NOT been aired, at least in my experience. This is not an argument in itself, per se, because it’s entirely subjective to say how much one need talk about X or Y in relation to Mandela or any of these people. It’s more an observation that certain popular claims are factually unsubstantiated. Such as applying “non-violence” to Mandela, and interpreting his jail sentence as merely a political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience, etc.

    So too can we ask for an accounting of the great things the man did, in detail and specific, and ask if they are being fairly presented.

    Was there more to MK than bombings? Was there more to Mandela than MK? What really did he build in addition to the things he destroyed with bombs?

    My observation remains that most people are not particularly aware of the MK at all, or of Mandela’s past prior to 1990, save that he was in jail. In jail for WHAT isn’t particularly well known, nor is there a wide acknowledgement of the sort of sham trials he was up for at the beginning of his career. Nor is it really asked what sort of things might Mandela personally done had he not been in jail, both good and bad.

    So just as I don’t believe you could find more than one in a thousand high school graduates in the United States who could name Benjamin Franklin Bache in relation to George Washington criticism, I don’t believe you’ll find a majority or even a sizable minority of people who would recognize Umkhonto We Sizwe in relation to Mandela.

  97. DC Skeptical the evidence documents that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist

    It would be interesting to see where you are getting your evidence from. if you google “mandela necklacing”, the top hits are from the following websites:

    Thefreerepublic.com (US conservative activist website. Founder Jim Robinson called Obama a “American-hating Marxist pig”. The site was cited by Dixie Chicks as the driving force behind the boycott against their records)

    The National Post (Canadian conservative paper. wrote a front page article in 2006 that Iran was going to make religious minorities wear identifying badges with a picture of WW2 Jews wearing Nazi-required yello badges. The story was bullshit and it took a week before they retracted it.)

    World Net Daily (right winger website that was a huge proponent of Obama birther conspiracies.)

    An article in the Herald Sun News by Andrew Bolt. (Bolt is self described as “conservative”. Bolt paid $250,000 in defamation damages after his column stated that a judge had “hugged drug traffickers she let walk free” when the judge said she shook their hands to congratulate them on clompleting a rehabilitation program. Bolt was also sued for blog posts titled “its so hip to be black”, “white is the new black” and “whilte fellas in the black” Bolt was found to have broken the Racial Discrimination Act.)

    Hm. Funny. The top hits are all ….extreme right wing, conspiricy theory spewing, communist hating racists. Not exactly the best sources for an objective assessment of the actions of a communist black man who fought a white/racist government.

    But then again, I’m sure each and every one of these sources would be more than happy to “research” the “facts” and look into whetherh Mandela met the “objective” definition of a terrorist. I bet they’d be more than happy to look at positive assessments of Mandela and investigate just how “biased” those views really are.

  98. @Greg –

    I hesitate even responding to you because you appear by your language to be highly worked up. I suspect that we have very different weltanschauung and means of thinking (mbti or otherwise) about issues.

    You are clearly taking your notes from the US political spectrum. That’s fine, I just don’t feel it’s really important to my understanding of Mandela.

    I don’t need my view of Mandela filtered through what Reagan or Thatcher or Dick Cheney thought or said about Mandela. Apparently this is very important to you. It’s not to me.

    While I’m also willing to loosen the constraints of rigid formal debate, you are making logical fallacy after logical fallacy based upon your firm belief that “Conservatives” or “Republicans” or whatever are saying X, Y, or Z which is similar as the things I’m putting forth.

    For example, you wrote:

    Saying Mandela was NOT a terrorist is NOT whitewashing history. Jesus. Saying Mandela WAS a terrorist is forwarding US/British right wing propaganda.

    This is a textbook argumentum ad consequentiam, and you follow it up by several appeals to motive, genetic fallacy, poisoning the well, etc.

    I also suspect that the entire “George Washington” example is an attempt to present another logical fallacy, namely the Tu quoque fallacy where I would be accused of being a hypocrite if I didn’t want to call Washington a terrorist.

    The inability to say something negative about someone you respect for N reasons because you are unwilling to learn about and accept negative facts IS whitewashing. I personally feel that the vast majority of the Nelson Mandela image has been overwhelmingly positive and actually pretty vague too. A mile wide but an inch deep. General feelings of good will and lofty statements, but not a whole lot of balanced analysis. Sort of like Mother Teresa, until Hitchens made some waves examining her with a skeptical eye.

    So as a simple personal opinion and observation, I’ve seen very little skepticism of Mandela. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it’s certainly not the general mood.

    Until very recently I didn’t have any notion to think there needed to be more skepticism of Mandela than I’d seen. That’s really my whole point. That I, despite thinking that I was decently well read on world events and history, but by no means an expert, had not really come across any discussion of what MK was and what they did and why.

    Maybe it’s a factor of my age or of the times, but many such heroes have only been given a more balanced examination in more recent years (another, in addition to Columbus and Mother Teresa, is Abraham Lincoln). It’s a trend I hope continues. I don’t support the creation of “plaster saints” as another comment mentioned.

    And, knowing full well that this is an observation and not really an argument, I have seen so very little of this sort of balance when it comes to Mandela that the entire subject of his life pre-1990 is new information.

  99. @Mike –
    The ANC did renounce accidental civilian deaths in some cases, but if they bombed public markets, a bank, etc. while they were open, it’s hard to look on those deaths as collateral damage from a guerrilla attack.

    Here are Mandela’s own words (from his <a href="http://archive.org/stream/LongWalkToFreedom/PBI3231_djvu.txt"book):

    MK’s first car bomb attack took place in May of 1983, and was aimed at an air force and military intelligence office in the heart of Pretoria. This was an effort to retaliate for the unprovoked attacks the military had launched on the ANC in Maseru and elsewhere and was a clear escalation of the armed struggle. Nineteen people were killed and more than two hundred injured.

    The killing of civilians was a tragic accident, and I felt a profound horror at the death toll. But as disturbed as I was by these casualties, I knew that such accidents were the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle. Human fallibility is always a part of war, and the price for it is always high. It was precisely because we knew that such incidents would occur that our decision to take up arms had been so grave and reluctant. But as Oliver said at the time of the bombing, the armed struggle was imposed upon us by the violence of the apartheid regime.

    That’s not a renunciation at all. Nor do I think that it was a “tragic accident” that a car bomb was detonated in a public place of mostly Afrikaners at a very busy time of day (the “height of rush hour”). This particular bombing has become known as the “Church Street bombing.”

    The testimony during the TRC isn’t a renunciation either:

    Visser questioned the ANC’s political motive in carrying out the bomb attack on the Nedbank building which housed the adminstrative headquarters of the SAAF and other offices and was therefore a soft target.

    Ismail replied that the struggle between the ANC and the apartheid state could not be equated with a war between two countries.

    “There would have been no struggle if there had been no apartheid state. It was the cause of suffering and bitterness in this country and the oppression of the people,” he said.

    Visser said the people he represented found it difficult to accept that as administrative people such as telephonists and typists they were seen as a military target.

    Ismail replied that even though they were administrative people they contributed to the operation of the military machine and had to be seen as part of the whole structure and not as individuals.

    The actions of the special operations unit had the support and approval of SACP head Joe Slovo and Tambo.

    Quoting from a speech made by Tambo at a funeral for ANC members killed in a SADF cross-border raid into Mozambique in 1983, he said it was time to bring the struggle to the white areas of South Africa, which had until then been free of the strife occurring in black areas.

    Ismail explained that this was not seen as an order to attack whites “willy nilly” but to take the conflict into white areas so that they could experience the harsh realities of what was happening in the country.

    “We wanted whites to come out of their comfort zones and feel the pain and suffering of the black people. We wanted to bring them to their senses,” he said.

    You can judge for yourself how you feel about the Church Street bombing and the other bombings. Needless to say this information wasn’t part of the education I received about Mandela or the ANC.

  100. @Greg

    Waterboarding people is a war crime against the Geneva Convention as well, so, the idea that Dick fucking Cheney thinks Mandela is a terrorist while Cheney is responsible for Abu Graib, Guantanamo, and all the other black sites around the world, is fucking laughable.

    What on Earth does that have to do with whether or not Mandela was actually responsible for acts of terrorism? The only person who’s suggested the US Terrorist Watch List as resonable criteria is dpmaine a week ago. That argument has already been refuted multiple times since then.

    Reagan demonized anyone who was communist and overlooked the most evil thing people did if they were anti communist. Demonization by conservatives is a FACT. If you want to dispute that, then you might as well say the earth is flat.

    You know quite well that’s not what I’m disputing. It’s the argument you insist on having with everyone else who asks whether Mandela was a communist and/or the separate question of whether he was responsible for acts of terrorism and whether or not those acts were understandable or justified under the circumstances.

    An argument that boils down to I can google up a bunch of racist asshats who labeled Mandela a terrorist to support their knee-jerk demonization of him, therefore anyone who asks whether Mandela was responsible for acts of terrorism must be similarly motivated is fallacious. I’m not the one feeding the racist asshats. You are by insisting that a hero’s life cannot be critically examined lest it support a Reagan-esque agenda. It won’t because, as you yourself have pointed out, Reagan’s criticisms of Mandela weren’t rational, they were self-serving propaganda.

    The only person in this thread who actually appears to be fulfilling the role you’ve cast every one who questions Mandela’s life and work in is dpmaine. As such, I will leave you two to argue with each other, since you seem genuinely uninterested in having a discussion of Mandela not filtered through a Right-wing dictionary. Whatever injustices he may be responsible for before he was imprisoned, Mandela was a hero to a torn nation who helped avoid a generation of bloodshed. IMO, you dishonor his memory by trying to make any examination of his early life about conservative politics in the US, and especially by suggesting that any such discussion is automatically about that because Google’s link-based criteria rewards trolls and political reactionaries.

  101. @Greg,

    I didn’t source my information from any of those sites. The Wikipedia article on Necklacing explicitly discusses Winnie Mandela and the ANC. This is not an obscure source. Her endorsement speech of the act of necklacing is included. If you wish to fact check it beyond the obvious limitations of wikipedia, be my guest.

    There are also rather lengthy discussions of the abuses by the ANC and Winnie Mandela and others in the TRC’s publications.

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report
    VOLUME ONE
    (PDF)

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report
    VOLUME TWO
    (PDF)

    Pay particular attention to the chapter at the end of the second volume called “Mandela United Football Club.”

    One particularly interesting bit of information that I think you would find both interesting, topical, and atrocious were the happenings at the ANC “Quatro” camp in Angola. This is not covered in detail in the TRC because it was outside of SA borders, but what information is there is horrifying.

    Angola is of interest here, for reasons you seem to be keyed into, namely the US/UK/SA government policy against Marxism. I’ll note that Angola was a Marxist revolutionary state where Cuba had sent a great deal of troops to (and with significant US oil interests). This NYT article gives a bit of perspective.

    CUBA’S Strange mission in Angola.

    In reading these sources, I think it’s a fair question to ask, who was responsible for more deaths of Black Africans in South Africa (and in the training/detention/rehabilitation camps outside SA’s borders), the Apartheid government, their police forces, etc. or the revolutionary groups. Even giving it a quick count, it seems to me that the ANC killed more than 10 times their own members via torture and “people’s courts” and necklacing and murders of “collaborators” etc. than they did using bombings. It could even be the case that other anti-apartheid political groups had more casualties than the apartheid government did.

  102. This is about the time in the thread where I ask people if they’re just arguing to argue, or there is an actual point they are trying to make, and if so, if it can be made more compactly.

  103. Gulliver, I’ve been focused mostly on Mandela and secondarily on the main groups who are most biased against him, such as the Reaganites and such.

    But you, keep wanting to make this conversation about me, and how I’m too biased compared to your refined neutral objectivity.

    Gulliver: This is your bias.

    OK, fine. We’ll make it about you and me.

    Gulliver: suggesting … he could do no wrong in the eyes of the rest of the world.

    Greg: When did I say ANYTHING about Mandela could do no wrong??????

    I’ll note that of all the things you felt compelled to answer, challenge, or dismiss, the one thing you completely ignored was when I pointed out that you’d completely fabricated the notion that I had somehow suggested Mandela “could do no wrong”,

    That fabrication would be your bias, not mine.

    The only person in this thread who actually appears to be fulfilling the role you’ve cast every one who questions Mandela’s life and work in is dpmaine

    Well, at least I was responding to a real person and what they really said. You’ve been going after me about how terribly biased I am from the get go. And this is based in part on something that I never actually said, but exists only in your mind. I never even remotely hinted at the idea that Mandela “could do no wrong”. That’s the windmill you’re tilting at, not anything I said. And when I point it out, rather than acknowledge it, you avoid it and merely keep asserting that I am “biased”.

    You want to talk about Mandela, then you have to talk about the history through which he lived and the filters through which people saw him. One of those filters was Reaganite anti-communist filtering.

    If you want to talk about you and me, and the biases in this thread, then fine. You’re biased and you’ve yet to admit it or correct it even after I’ve pointed out the fabrication. If something I actually said (not something you THINK I said) is inaccurate, quote it, and I’ll clean it up. But if you’re going to make this about you and me, then you don’t get to judge me by the fabrication in your mind and then say I’m the one not looking at reality.

    I never said Mandela “could do no wrong”. Your bias made that up.

  104. @Greg

    OK, fine. We’ll make it about you and me.

    That’s exactly my point. Mandela’s life is not about you and me. You and I are among the least effected.

    When did I say ANYTHING about Mandela could do no wrong??????

    You compiled a whole list entitled And what about the NON-US-Centric view of Mandela? followed by So, by all means, what is the NON-US-Centric definition of “terrorist” as it applies to Nelson Mandela????? It is that it doesn’t fucking apply (emphasis yours). That was followed by If anyone has been paying attention, the only people calling Mandela a “terrorist” are American and British Conservative right wingers. So, yeay, I keep bringing the definition back to a us-centric definition of “terrorist”, because those are the only fucking people calling him a terrorist. I didn’t quote you back to yourself earlier because I trust you read your own comments.

    You want to talk about Mandela, then you have to talk about the history through which he lived and the filters through which people saw him. One of those filters was Reaganite anti-communist filtering.

    Yes, one of. Not the only one.

    I never said Mandela “could do no wrong”. Your bias made that up.

    I never said you said that. I said, verbatim: From where I’m sitting, you’re the one who keeps invoking the Right’s demonization of Mandela, and suggesting that it’s an Anglo-American thing while he could do no wrong in the eyes of the rest of the world.. Unless you’re the rest of the world, I didn’t say what you keep insisting I said.

  105. @John: I’m not trying to make it personal, but if that’s how it’s coming across to a third party, then I’m probably failing.

    @Greg: I know you mean well, but I do believe your biases are filtering your perception of what every besides dpmaine is saying. You asked me to admit to being biased. Yet I never claimed not to be. I’ve said on multiple past occasions that no one is without bias. That doesn’t automatically invalidate one’s point of view. We are both biased. In this particular case, I’m biased against demonizing a good man just because it turned out he was human after all. You’re biased against acknowledging a non-US use of the the term terrorism. The question is who is allowing their bias to blind them to what people are actually saying. John’s asked us to wrap it up, so you may consider this my closing statement. I will read yours if you choose to reply, and know that may lack of subsequent responses on this sub-topic is not me ignoring you.

  106. Oh god. I never suggested he could do no wrong in the eyes of the rest of the world either.

    I listed a bunch of recognitions Mandela received, such as the nobel peace prize. Other winners of the Nobel Peace Prize include Kissinger while he was carpet bombing Vietnam, and Arrafat who who some labeled a terrorist. Not people who “did no wrong” but people who did wrong and were still recognized by the Nobel committee.

    You are the one who turned this into a black or white conversation. Either Mandela is a terrorist or you must be seeing him as if he could do no wrong whatsoever.

    It doesn’t matter if you pose it as me saying it or the world saying it, either way, its a strawman black-and-white version of a much more complex/grey position.

    DC: abuses by the ANC and Winnie Mandela and others in the TRC’s publications

    Guilt by association isn’t what I’m looking for. The TRC lays responsibility for the football club squarely at the feet of Winnie Mandela. What abuses does the TRC lay at the feet of Nelson Mandela?

    Oh, one thing I did see was that it says the CIA actually helped South Africa maintain power, including giving them intel that helped them capture Mandela.

  107. Scalzi: making it personal

    Sorry, I was trying to focus on Mandela’s history and the history of the people in relationship to him, like Reagan.

    shutting up now.

  108. It’s an amazing consequence of history that his jail sentence allowed Mandela immunity from the dirty business of actually running a revolution, but all the consequent benefits as if he had.

    In the same light, reading through the findings of the Truth commission, the idea that Mandela was selfless in offering immunity is called into question when so many of his family members and associates were given immunity for horrid abuses, many against Blacks, especially women and children.

    See: Stompie Moeketsi

  109. So if your goal is to provoke some sort of hypocrisy on my part, that I’m overzealous in wanting to destroy Mandela’s image and unwanting to touch Washington’s, I don’t believe you’ll find it.

    Fair enough.

  110. DC: As an aspiring rational thinker, I must re-evaluate my opinion of the man, given this new information. Is that not the scientific method? Do we not have to be skeptical

    Greg: It would be interesting to see where you are getting your evidence from. … The top hits are all ….extreme right wing, conspiricy theory spewing, communist hating racists.

    DC: his jail sentence allowed Mandela immunity from the dirty business of actually running a revolution

    So, no evidence? and you yourself acknowledge that he may not have actually been running the revolution when the terrorism occurred? Weren’t you the same guy who said: Regarding the next charged word, Terrorist, again I think we should ask more for an accounting of facts than a rush to use the word.

    It seems that the “accounting of facts, the “scientific method”, the “rational thinker”, the “skeptic” would take all this “evidence” in and come to a completely different conclusion than you have.

  111. I’ll just say this for the record, I don’t care whether or not President Mandela supported the use of violence against the apartheid government or whether he was a communist. His greatness is based on the fact that he led his country to a nonracial democracy when it could have devolved into bloodshed.

    I don’t get DC Skeptical’s obsession with trying (in vain) to destroy President Mandela’s legacy, which quite frankly speaks for itself.

    Fighting against the racist apartheid regime and beating it was a worthy cause for which President Mandela was prepared to give his life. And he was successful at ridding this world of apartheid, which was not an easy feat. For that he deserves all the accolades and praise that he has drawn from his admirers around the world.

    There is nothing wrong with “running a revolution” to fight against violent racism. It seems that you, DC Skeptical, would have been perfectly okay if apartheid was still being enforced.

    What makes you think that it is wrong to violently oppose violent regimes such as the apartheid regime? President Mandela and Black South Africans had every right to violently oppose their oppressors. I have to laugh at Americans telling anyone else that they need to be nonviolent. PLEASE.

    Had President Obama successfully violently overthrown the White apartheid regime, I would still hold him to be a hero. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, mostly because of President Mandela’s diplomacy and grace.

    Thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for taking a moment to recognize this great man.

  112. It’s an amazing consequence of history that his jail sentence allowed Mandela immunity from the dirty business of actually running a revolution, but all the consequent benefits as if he had.

    This is not a product of a skeptical mind. It shows all the evidence of having made up one’s mind beforehand and fitting the evidence to the prejudice.

    Just my opinion.

    Patricia: What makes you think that it is wrong to violently oppose violent regimes such as the apartheid regime? President Mandela and Black South Africans had every right to violently oppose their oppressors. I have to laugh at Americans telling anyone else that they need to be nonviolent. PLEASE.

    Really. “Second Amendment solutions”? “Tree of Freedom must sometimes be watered with blood”? Violence is a set of tactics that has been used, for ill and for good, throughout American history. Getting self righteous about its use by others does not seem particularly insightful or perceptive.

  113. @Patricia Kayden & gwangung: While I mostly agree with your sentiments on the just use of violence – and indeed I usually avoid saying outright what I think a disenfranchised populace ought to do lest I come across as seditious – living in a country does not require sharing its prevailing attitudes and opinions. There are many pacifist Americans who oppose the USG’s use of military force currently and historically. There is no hypocrisy inherent in dissent with the body politic. Geography is not mind-control. We are not Borg.

  114. gwangung: This is not a product of a skeptical mind. It shows all the evidence of having made up one’s mind beforehand

    As a general observation of internet conversations, I have found that there is a not-statistically-irrelevant number of people who present their skepticism as a way to dismiss the accepted view of something, assert their own evidence-free view about that same thing, and relate to their evidence-free assertion as if it were true until and unless someone disproves them with solid, hard, objective, irrefutable evidence, which, not surprisingly, never satisfies their rigorous demands of “proof”.

    If you have ever had a creationist ask “Well, why just teach the controversy?”, that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re dismissing the entire realm of not only evolutionary theory, but the scientific method as a whole, asserting that creationism is a legitimate competitor to evolutionary theory to the point it creates some sort of “controversy”, and then drops in your lap the responsibility to disprove creationism which frees them of the normal oblicgation they would have of *proving* creationism.

    In a similar fashion, DC Skeptical is occurring as using his “skepticism” as cover for dismissing the widely held view (world wide view) of Mandela, asserting that Mandela was a “terrorist” with zero evidence, and then sits back and asks that people provide rigorous “proof” that Mandela is not a terrorist.

  115. > destroy President Mandela’s legacy

    I hope you realize that it’s possible to be anti-Apartheid, pro-peace, and even pro-Mandela and also pro-facts and anti-hagiography.

    A more factual and less Hagiographic accounting of Mandela’s life will no more destroy his legacy and reinstate Apartheid than a look at Christopher Columbus’ behavior will un-“discover” America or revelations of President Jefferson’s sex life will un-found the United States. Knowing that Darwin married his cousin won’t blind us to the dangers of incest that are made clear via our understanding of homozygous genetics which owe much to his work.

    Not one thing I’ve said is in any way supportive of Apartheid, so if that’s all you can muster to quell your cognitive dissonance, seek help because something’s wrong with your ability to reason.

    > There is nothing wrong with “running a revolution” to fight against violent racism

    Ends and means. If you’re willing to say that there is nothing wrong with torture, nothing wrong with dousing someone with gasoline and a tire around their neck and lighting them on fire, nothing wrong with road side bombs, nothing wrong with kidnapping little children and abusing them until they tell lies about your political enemies and then cutting their throats when they refuse, nothing wrong with blowing up public markets and buildings that contain government offices but also civilian offices just as work is concluding and the streets are filled with civilians just because it’s in a racially selected neighborhood, whatever. You have no moral compass.

    How we wage war IS important, there are moral implications, and this is something that John Scalzi is very aware of in his books.

    > What makes you think that it is wrong to violently oppose violent regimes … I have to laugh at Americans telling anyone else that they need to be nonviolent.

    Strawman. My point is that you don’t deserve to be called NON-VIOLENT when you clearly are violent. That’s a lie. That’s whitewashing. That’s covering up real history. THAT is the issue. Accurate accounting of actions. You can’t be “non-violent” and “a man of peace” if you do not deserve those accolades because you did use violence and not just a little bit.

    ALL of that speaks to how MORAL the man was, his organization was, etc. If we are going to praise him for being moral, evidence to the contrary is entirely fair game.

    > So, no evidence?

    Nonsense. I believe a simple review of the comments in this thread will reveal that I’ve provided plenty of links to sources and new relevant keywords that anyone here is welcome to examine themselves.

    UmKhonto we Sizwe
    highlights: Co-founded by Nelson Mandela. “routine” torture as “official policy”, executions “without due process”, necklacing, landmines, road side bombs, bombing campaigns. ANC torture camp Quatro in Angola.
    In one period: 130 people killed, 30 security forces vs. 100 civilians (40 white, 60 black).

    If you have never heard of Umknonto We Sizwe, or Quatro before I brought that fact to this thread, then consider yourself more informed than you were. It’s HARDLY tangential or irrelevant to all the central points of Mandela’s life and legacy.

    > he may not have actually been running the revolution when the terrorism occurred

    >Fighting against the racist apartheid regime and beating it …

    See, we can’t have it BOTH ways. Mandela can’t be both out of play in jail and blissfully unaware of what the ANC and Umkhonto We Sizwe did for 27 years AND the co-founder and leader of the revolution. How you want to treat 1962 to 1990 is up to you, but you can’t have it both ways.

    You can’t give him credit for co-founding MK and then not ask WHAT MK was and did. You can’t say that he was a member, leader, and author within the Communist party but was in no way a Communist. (Or that he lied about it during his trial). You can’t give him credit for acting as the leader for the movement during the negotiations and not the leader during the decades of actions they did before coming to the table. You can’t call him a fighter but hold him unaccountable for fighting. You can’t praise him for non-violence when he was for violence. You can’t say that he was magnanimous in offering immunity as if he had no blood on his hands but fail to recognize that his wife committed horrible and depraved acts and was one of the biggest beneficiaries of that immunity.

    > It shows all the evidence of having made up one’s mind beforehand

    Are you telling me that you had heard of Umkhonto We Sizwe before this thread? The Church Street Bombing? Necklacing? Quatro Camp? Mandela United Football Club? Did you know Mandela was not only a member of the Communist Party but a leader and wrote a book called “How to Be a Good Communist”?

    These things are all NEW information to me. If you want to keep your same saintly image in light of new information, that’s your issue.

    If you want to concoct conspiracy theories about strangers on the internet instead of appreciating that you probably don’t know all, or even most of the facts about the man, whatever.

    I’ve walked away from this thread knowing much more about Mandela than I did before. And I’m comfortable in making moral choices about what I found out. Like I don’t believe that the Oklahoma city bombing was a moral act, bombing an office owned by the government but mostly filled with secretaries and typists. The men who did that were terrorists. So too, I don’t believe that the Church Street Bombing was a moral act, blowing up a car bomb outside of a building that had an air force office of typists and secretaries. Those men were also terrorists. And no cause that I can imagine justifies those actions, to me and my locus of morality.

    If you want to think differently, whatever. Just be honest and consistent and incorporate new information into your world view instead of buying someone else’s marketing campaign and not re-evaluating when you discover new and damning information.

    I seriously doubt that EVERY single person who has read this thread knew all about Umkhonto We Sizwe. And if Nelson Mandela is more of a man and less of a saint because you know this now, all the better for the pure sake of accuracy and rationality.

    That being said, I think this conversation has run its course, at least for me. Thank you John Scalzi for hosting, and I hope you learned something new as well.

  116. [Game show announcer voice] Aaaaand the fake skeptic flounces. Will he stick the flounce???? [/announcer voice]

    I’m gonna go finish my college applications now. Thanks for the laugh, DC “Skeptical”.

  117. Floored:

    Reel it in, please. Someone leaving when they know the conversation is done is not the same as flouncing. Especially when I told people to wrap things up.

  118. @ Mr. Scalzi:

    Yes, sir. I will try to get better at distinguishing flouncing from leaving politely.

  119. DC: [UmKhonto we Sizwe (MK) is]HARDLY tangential or irrelevant to all the central points of Mandela’s life and legacy.

    Sure, but you refuse to apply even the most rudimentary timeline to anything. MK existed from ’61 to ’90. Mandela was put in prison in ’62 and didn’t get released until ’90. What did MK do in its first years when Mandela was actually running it? apparently mostly sabotage on government posts, machines, power facilities and crop burning. This is more in line with guerrilla warfare than terorism, and guerrilla warfare is actually legally recognized under the international rules of war.

    The Truth and Reconcilliation commission reported that MK used torture and executions as official policy, particularly from 1979 to 1989. And the Church Street Bombing was in 1983. That’s 10 or 20 years after Mandela was put in prison.

    MK starts violating the rules of war and human rights years after Mandela is in prison, years after Mandela no longer has direct control over the group. But you want to lay everything MK did at Mandela’s feet.

    you can’t have it both ways. You can’t give him credit for co-founding MK and then not ask WHAT MK was and did.

    What you’re doing is called guilt by association. Because he started MK in 61, you want to hold him responsible for everything MK ever did even decades after he was in prison, and therefore decades after he had direct control over the group.

    You have no evidence. What you have is history without context. What you have is information without understanding.

    As a simple example, you keep bringing up the “football club” lead by Winnie, but Nelson separated from Winnie when she was convicted crimes committed by the club in 1992, and the divorce was finalized in 1996. Reading articles from that time, one gets the impression she didn’t want to divorce him because she wanted to stay attached to the power, prestige, and privilege that came with his name. And apparently she cheated on him during the marriage, while Nelson was in prison.

    The MUFC was committing crimes in the 80’s, when Nelson was in prison and Winnie was probably cheating on him. Yet, you gleefully submitted the MUFC as proof Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.

    Over and over, you take a brush and dunk it in the decades of history of South Africa that is filled with absolutely horrible, terrible, tragedies, and then you smear it all over Nelson Mandela simply because he was nearby around the same time.

    What you repeatedly do NOT do is actually show anything that shows Nelson Mandela was actually responsible for this human rights violation or that war crime, or whatever else. Yeah, shitty things happened in South Africa, that doesn’t mean Nelson Mandela is to blame for them.

  120. What seems to be forgotten by people commenting here is how STUNNINGLY unsuccessful the ANC was as a terrorist organization (oh, they tried, they were just incompetent at it). They gained absolutely nothing by their acts of terror and people of color (in a broader sense, ALL people) in South Africa would not be free today had Mr. Mandela not realized that (as did others, of all races) and acted accordingly.

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