As tributes pour in following the death of anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, it is important that we remember that as part of his ongoing crusade for global justice, Mandela was a passionate activist and longtime critic of many U.S policies and ideology.
More importantly, unlike others, he was willing to stand up and speak out against their implementation and even support their opposition in the face of controversy.
As we commemorate his death, let’s pay tribute to some of Madiba’s more memorable quotes and for telling it like it is. Such words impacted on American activism and hopefully will serve as a reminder that the struggle must go on.
1. Speaking out against the war in Iraq
In 2003, two months before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Mandela said that any military action against the Saddam Hussein regime without U.N. Security Council approval would be illegal. He also condemned Bush for undermining the United Nations, Huff Post reported.
“It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations.If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings. Who are they now to pretend that they are the policemen of the world, the ones that should decided for the people of Iraq what should be done with their government and their leadership,” he said.
2. Calling Bush a small little man
Speaking out against the war in Iraq in 2003, Mandela denounced Bush.
“What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly? All that he wants is Iraqi oil.”
3. Denouncing the United States as a serious threat to world peace
While he initially supported the war in Afghanistan, Mandela then criticized the United States for its actions:
“The United States has made serious mistakes in the conduct of its foreign affairs, which have had unfortunate repercussions long after the decisions were taken…If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace,” he said.
4. Exposing the hypocrisy in Israel-U.S. relations
Mandela also called out the U.S. for its hypocritical stance on Israel in an interview with Newsweek in 2002:
“Neither Bush nor Tony Blair has provided any evidence that such weapons exist [in Iraq]. But what we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that. Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white.”
Mandela also condemned Israel and its supporters for the treatment of the Palestinian people:
“Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank,” he said.
5. Refusing to tow the U.S.’s line on Cuba
In 1991, Mandela praised Castro and forged a long-lasting friendship with the leader, despite the United States’ antagonistic relationship with Cuba. Mandela defended the Cuban Revolution:
“From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has also been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist-orquestrated campaign to destroy the impressive gain made in the Cuban Revolution….Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro,” he said.
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