Nelson Mandela: Freedom Fighter or Terrorist?

July 5, 2008

Nelson Mandela

Well, according to the United States he was a terrorist, but now he is a highly respected international diplomat. Mandela was on the United State’s Terror Watch List which made sure he had to jump through extra hoops to gain entry into the U.S. I’m sure his name being on that list also authorized the CIA or FBI to take some “other” actions against him as well. [read: wiretapping and other surveillance activities. I'm sure we'll read about it in a book after Mandela has made his final earthly transition.]

While most world leaders applaud Baba Mandela today (some going so far as to suggest that he is nearly a saint), he wasn’t always so celebrated – of course most of us know about his being an anti-apartheid political prisoner for 27 years in Robben Island Prison, but I wonder if most people know that Mandela came to be a proponent of armed self-defense in South Africa. Consider this quote from his Opening Statement in his defense case before the Pretoria Supreme Court in April 1964 entitled, “I Am Prepared To Die.”

At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force.

This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other choice. In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit AD, we said:

“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom”.

They say that the conservatives of today were the radicals of yesterday. While I wouldn’t say that Mandela is a “conservative” it is interesting studying his development. I have serious doubts about whether or not he would support armed self-defense today. Or maybe he would. Who knows.

What I do know is that the revolutionary spirit is alive and well in the world, especially in Nigeria where members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), are engaged in guerilla warfare against Western oil companies (Shell, Chevron, and others) who are extracting the “liquid gold” from their land and leaving the indigenous people to live in extreme poverty. Being that the government of Nigeria is not advocating for the masses of poor in the nation and non-violent rallies and protests are not working, groups like MEND have begun a campaign of sabotage, kidnapping, and murder of Western oil workers in order to aggressively reconstitute the redistribution of resources in their nation.

Now who are the terrorists in Nigeria?

How does this apply to other conflicts in the world? (i.e. Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinians, the Israeli Government, FARC, the Columbian Government, etc.)

How does this apply to historical conflict and its traditional re-telling? (i.e. the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, Pilgrims, Black Muslims, Puerto Rican Independence Movement, the Central Intelligence Agency, Bloods, Crips, Black Guerilla Family, Young Lords, the Weathermen, MOVE, etc.)

  • Rev. C. Solomon

    I can recall when George H.W. Bush referred to a group of blacks, during his presidential tenure, as freedom-fighters. Shortly after he was rebuked by his own Party. In my mind one man’s freedom-fighter is another man’s terrorist. Even Jesus was considered an insurrectionist and put to death as a result of Jewish duplicity and misbehavior, much the same as we see going on with Jews today! Were the American colonists terrorists or freedom fighters?

    All of us ought to be weary of American leaders (white or mixed) who have used similar pejoratives to describe their enemies as dictators (we are in bed with many so-called dictators today and always have been), terrorists, strong-men, warlords, enemy combatants, communists…, particularly when America always draws first blood! Isn’t it amazing that the 19 young men who attacked America were considered terrorists, then when America turned around and did the same thing to an innocent country, Iraq, that not many Americas protested at all – not until recently? Why the double-standard?

    Even in Iraq the United States government often referred to individuals (including Iraqi citizens not just al-Qaeda) as terrorists and enemy combatants, when the fact of the matter was that nuclear armed America under a venal pretext, invaded and occupied the once sovereign nation of Iraq against the will of about 190 other nations in the world and International Law.

    Again, I can recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King who once said that the U.S.A. was the number one purveyor of violence in the world. And when was he assassinated? He was assassinated shortly after he began to point out the international indiscretions of the USA, particularly in Vietnam. In this minister’s mind, America is and has been for a long time ‘the number one terrorist state’ in the world.

    Isn’t it interesting that by comparison, Mandela, who was just taken off of America’s terrorist list, was even considered a terrorist by the USA, a nation that has essentially done to its own black people what the white racist regime in South Africa had been doing (subjugating and discriminating against black Africans). It is especially interesting when you consider that the people who were subjugated by white racists were labeled as the traitors, terrorists, trouble-makers and agitators. Botha, DeKlerk and others could freely come and go back and forth between South Africa and the United States while Mandela and others languished in prison, and others were murdered with the full consent of the United States government.

    And interestingly enough, when most nations finally boycotted the white racist regime in South Africa, Israel continued to sell arms to the white racist regime in South Africa that were used against black Africans, while benefiting from our financial largesse, receiving our tax dollars that were used to help subjugate blacks and other 3rd world people!

    Nations like Angola, and Cuba (that has been under an American embargo for about a half-century because Castro won’t and should not capitulate) are the nations who are not on good terms with the USA. I hate to make this political, however, if either Senator’s Obama or McCain were to become President of the USA, conditions would remain the same for perhaps another 100 years. It was Angola and Cuba and other communist and non-communists states that stood up for the ANC and particularly for Mandela and the other heads of the ANC while America continued to support the white racist regime(s) in South Africa.

    In Proverbs the 6th chapter, we learn that there are things that God hates, and the USA is guilty of most of them, and yet our people particularly those who have suffered the most and believers will not hold this government accountable. Even Senator Obama who just as I have been saying all along is now openly and unquestionably practicing the politics of appeasement and recapitulation! Shame on him for the Bible says that for him that knows to do good and does it not, it is a sin. Shame, shame shame on him!

    When Americans wake up and realizes that the most heavily armed nuclear nation in history, the USA, hypocritically tells other nations that they cannot create one nuclear weapon or we will blow you to kingdom come, while the USA is developing its next version of improved nuclear weapons (while unilaterally abandoning nuclear treatires), even the type that can be used in a so-called conventional war – Americans will recognize hopefully then that they have been supporting American terrorism all along.

    What is the real reason that the U.S.A. does not want other nations to be armed with nuclear weapons; can it be because they would engage in the same behavior that America has engaged in since the invention of its first fission bomb – which we used?

    I keep thinking of America’s support of terrorist Ariel Sharon, while accusing Yasser Arafat of being ‘the terrorist’. Some are likely shocked to hear a born again minister say such things, however, it is truly time for Americans, particularly Christian Americans to wake-up stop, stop listening to all of the propaganda from the Religious-Right and stop consuming material goods long enough to realize that they are supporting American injustice/terrorism around the world!


The views expressed on this blog are those of Heber Brown, III and his alone unless otherwise noted.

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