While most conservatives outside of the really far right fringe are publicly celebrating Nelson Mandela without acknowledging that they opposed him in the most grandiose terms when it actually mattered, Deroy Murdock owns up to it and admits that he was completely wrong.
In one particular case, however, I really blew it very, very, very badly. But I was not alone.
Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst.
After all, Mandela had spent 27 years locked up in Robben Island prison due to his leadership of the African National Congress. The ANC was a violent, pro-Communist organization. By the guiding light of Ronald Wilson Reagan, many young conservatives like me spent much of the 1980s fighting Marxism-Leninism — from the classrooms of radical campuses to the battlefields of Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, both overtly and covertly. Having seen Communists terrorize nations around the world while the Berlin Wall still stood, Mandela looked like one more butcher waiting to take his place on the 20th Century’s blood-soaked stage…Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims.
Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also was a statesman of considerable weight.
That’s kind of refreshing to read. And it’s published in the National Review. It would be nice to see the editors of that magazine own up to its own past in this regard. This is, after all, the magazine founded by William F. Buckley, who wrote in 1985, “Where Mandela belongs, in his current frame of mind, is precisely where he is: in jail.”