There is much for which we can praise Nelson Mandela, a man instrumental in liberating his country from the yoke of Apartheid. During Mandela's presidency, the country established the Truth and Reconciliation Committee to expose the crimes of both the racist government of PW Botha (and his predecessors) and the more extremist elements in the ANC. The Mandela government wasn't bent on vengeance, instead offering amnesty to a series of murderers and thugs in exchange for detailed testimony of their crimes. But there is much for which Mandela deserves criticism. Despite being imprisoned—and brutalized—for 27 years, Mandela frequently praises prison warden Fidel Castro. Nauseating sample quote: "The Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people." And his chummy relationship with Colonel Qaddafi is deeply troubling. (The Libyan dictator was the last official guest of the Mandela government; he referred effusively to the Colonel as "one of the revolutionary icons of our time.") And in recent years, he has been relatively silent on human rights violations in his own backyard. Today in Slate, Christopher Hitchens advises Mandela to utilize his moral authority on behalf of the victims of Robert Mugabe:
It is the silence of Mandela, much more than anything else, that bruises the soul. It appears to make a mockery of all the brave talk about international standards for human rights, about the need for internationalist solidarity and the brotherhood of man, and all that. There is perhaps only one person in the world who symbolizes that spirit, and he has chosen to betray it. Or is it possible, before the grisly travesty of the runoff of June 27, that the old lion will summon one last powerful growl?
Well, don't hold your breath. As Hitchens surely knows, and as I pointed out above, Mandela is pretty forgiving of human rights abusers who self-identify as "anti-imperialist."