Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dared to show respect for the late Nelson Mandela on social media, and the Tea Party golden boy faced the wrath of his own supporters because of it, reports ABC News.
Cruz posted on Facebook:
Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe. He stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties he would not leave prison himself, declaring in his autobiography, ‘Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.’ Because of his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free.
We mourn his loss and offer our condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.
And the crowd went wild.
Comments on Cruz’s page ranged from calling Mandela a communist to a terrorist (which, unfortunately, for some American exceptionalists is the same thing), to voicing disappointment in the senator for his statement. The high voltage debate between Mandela supporters and critics from around the globe is ongoing, and at last count had reached 1,600 comments.
He refused to back down from his statements, however, saying that the iconic freedom fighter deserved to be honored:
“Mr. Mandela deserves to be remembered and honored for his sacrifices in pursuit of freedom for the oppressed and his historic achievements to that end,” said Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.
Newt Gingrich faced similar backlash from supporters, prompting him to release the following statement:
“Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country. After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.”
Unsurprisingly, Gingrich goes on to throw Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Mandela, who fearlessly intensified the ANC’s revolution during Mandela’s imprisonment and criticized his conciliatory relationship with his former jailers, under the bus:
“Ironically, most of the things that people complained about occurred during the 27 years he was in prison.”
Cruz and Gingrich join House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former President George H.W. Bush and former President George W. Bush, who removed Mandela from the United States Terror Watch List in 2008, in paying homage to Madiba.
Politically, this conservative Mandela love-fest was to be expected, but no less hypocritical due to this nation’s—particularly on the right—long history of being in bed with the South African regime and Apartheid.
As the Centre for Research on Globalization reported:
Nelson Mandela’s arrest in 1962, which led to 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment on Robbins Island, was based on the work of the CIA. The CIA and National Security Agency worked as partners with the racist, apartheid regime’s vicious military and intelligence services.
Mandela was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) that organized civil resistance and an armed struggle against South Africa’s white racist apartheid regime. The United States and the other western capitalist governments supported the racist, fascist apartheid regime.
The ANC’s struggle for Black majority rule and the liquidation of apartheid received critical support from Cuba, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The ANC had an active alliance with South African Communist Party in the struggle for Black majority rule.
The CIA and NSA spy services—with the full collaboration of such transnational corporations at IBM, Kodak and many others—worked at all levels and for decades for apartheid and against the African National Congress activists who were routinely murdered, tortured and sentenced to life terms in the hell holes of South Africa.
The House of Representatives only voted to call for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1986 when it was clear that the fascist apartheid regime’s days were numbered, leading the United States and Britain to abruptly shift course and broker a negotiated end to the white supremacist system. A mass worldwide anti-apartheid movement had completely isolated South Africa. Dick Cheney voted against the House resolution in 1986, pointing out that the U.S. government was still retaining the ANC on the official U.S. “terrorist list.”
The U.S. and Britain knew the end had finally come for the usefulness of the apartheid government when its seemingly invincible military was decisively defeated by the Angolan army and thousands of Cuban volunteers in the historic battle of Cuito Canavale.
As Mandela said, “When Africa called, Cuba answered.”
And as the NY Times reported in 1990:
The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela’s activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service.
The report, scheduled for publication on Sunday, quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior C.I.A. officer told him shortly after Mr. Mandela’s arrest: ”We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.”
In 1993, the conservative National Review posted a scathing editorial, which read in part:
“Nelson Mandela outperformed almost every modern head of state on the African continent by not attempting to annoint himself President for life. Nevertheless, his vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his long-standing dedication to Communism and praise for terrorists. The world finally saw that his wife Winnie, rather than being a saintly freedom-fighter, was a murderous thug.”
From former President Ronald Reagan to former Vice- President Dick Cheney, the right has a checkered history of vilifying Nelson Mandela, so it is little wonder that Cruz’s constituents turned on him when he acted counter to his political belief system—though, to his credit, Gingrich’s stance on apartheid has never wavered.
The GOP—a party whose rampant racism has left them with a huge branding issue heading into midterm elections—have begun their cyclical attempts to gain Black supporters. Recently, the RNC recognized Rosa Parks on the 58th anniversary of the day she refused to give up her seat on the city bus in Montgomery by thanking her for her role in “ending racism.”
The ignorance of that statement—and the awkward embrace of Nelson Mandela—are both clearly motivated by political necessity. Perhaps conservatives have finally realized that Black voters are necessary to win elections, and that far right extremism does not a country make.
Whatever the case may be, in the words of Dr. Cornel West, conservatives such as Cruz are engaging in the “Santa Claus-ification” of Mandela’s legacy. They are attempting to white-wash him—to Dr. King him. Mandela stood with Fidel Castro. He stood with Muammar Gaddafi. He stood up for Palestine. The senator speaks of “freedom,” yet he continues to uphold a White supremacist capitalist patriarchy that thrives on imperialism, disenfranchises people of color, stigmatizes those living in poverty and strips women of fundamental rights.
Let’s be clear: The Republican Party as it stands today is everything that Nelson Mandela fought against. And dismantling its South African reflection—apartheid—was something for which he was willing to die.
While it’s nice that they feel the need to say a few kind words, their actions speak so much louder.
Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.