Mandela's contribution

William F. Buckley
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Posted: Feb 04, 2003 12:00 AM
The Daily Mirror, which is a newspaper in Britain with one of the largest circulations, said today that Nelson Mandela "demolished the stand taken by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, and savaged the warmongering president" in his speech the day before. The paper gives the credentials of Mandela: He is "the most admired statesman in the world." He is "for countless millions a symbol of honor, principle and commitment to justice." The editorial concludes, "Whose side should (Britain) be on? George W. Bush or Nelson Mandela?"

What is it exactly that Mr. Mandela said at the international women's conference in Johannesburg, in search of honor, principle and commitment to justice?

He said that George Bush is leading the world into "a holocaust." He said that Tony Blair has become "the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer the prime minister of Britain." He said that there was a single thing the United States wants from Iraq: oil. He said that there is a single entity that can be permitted to deal with Iraq. It is the United Nations. And those Security Council members who have vetoes should now use them against the United States.

Why is the U.S. "undermining the authority of the United Nations"? "Because Kofi Annan, the secretary-general, is black."

What are you saying?

"They never did that when secretary-generals were white."

Are we dealing here with a man suddenly wrenched from reality? Yet one of the largest newspapers in Great Britain hails his advice. He speaks at a women's conference that cheered him, without any apparent concern for women's rights in Iraq, where prostitutes are beheaded. As the unrivaled hero in the long South African struggle for human rights, Mandela declines to criticize the despotism of Mugabe. His country voted for Libya to take the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

The whole scene is sobering, and shoves again in our face the arrant dominance of the racial card in almost every political situation.

Consider a situation entirely domestic. Miguel Estrada, a Honduran-American whose work received the highest rating by the American Bar Associataion but is conservative in juridical reasoning, gets through the Senate Judicial Committee, after being blocked for two years, by a single vote -- 10 Republicans vs. 9 Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York did everything short of going on a hunger strike to block the appointment. Why? Retired New York official Herman Badillo, sensitive to the demeaning kind of ethnic solidarity, charges that Schumer did as he did because the Congressional Hispanic Caucus opposes Estrada. Schumer is a running-dog servant of ethnic prejudices. Tell him the New York Eskimos want bear meat served at school lunches, and Schumer will go hunting.

Applicable rules have airport security inspectors shaking down Shirley Temple as vigorously as Osama bin Laden, for fear of exhibiting mature judgments on the likelihood of security breaches with reference to ethnic background.

There isn't much that can be done about these storms against reason. The proposition that President Bush would slight the United Nations because its secretary-general is black is an affront to realism so gross as to focus attention not on any shortcomings of Bush, but on those of someone correctly described by the Daily Mirror as "the most admired statesman in the world." There is no honor Mr. Mandela hasn't been paid, from the Nobel Prize to Eagle Scout awards. He has certainly been honored in the United States. In his speech he said that the U.S. has no moral authority. "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."

What distills from it all is the absolute necessity for Mr. Bush to ignore invidious distractions. The single thing Mandela proves by such an attack as yesterday's is that he is capable of making judgments so stupid as to qualify for approval by the editor of the Daily Mirror, which exercises the ultimate condescension by failing to denounce a mischievous moral stupidity -- because a black man said it.