Nelson Mandela, Britain, the USA and Bahrain

This reggae music video says about itself:

Revelation Time – South Africa

Special Guest: soccer star Ruud Gullit

This song is from when Nelson Mandela was still a political prisoner in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was very grateful for this song.


From Channel4 in Britain:

Friday 06 Dec 2013

What did Nelson Mandela really think of the UK?

On his trips to London, Nelson Mandela praised the population for its help in the struggle.

Standing in Trafalgar Square in 1996, he said: “I would like to put each and every one of you in my pockets and return with you to South Africa.”

He was speaking in the shadow of South Africa House where some maintained a vigil and gathered for marches and protests over the years.

But as you listen to all-party tributes pouring out last night, you may wonder: did the British state really come to his help all those years in captivity and what was Mandela’s view of the UK’s role in ending apartheid?

What did Nelson Mandela really think of the UK?

Lord (Charles) Powell says, in a report on tonight’s Channel 4 News, that when Mandela eventually met Margaret Thatcher at No. 10 in July 1990 he sensed that Mr Mandela hugely appreciated her role in stopping economic sanctions and applying private pressure on the apartheid regime.

I put that to former Labour minister and long-time anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain and he laughed out loud.

Peter Hain thinks that Lord Powell and Lady Thatcher were deluded by Mr Mandela’s politeness. Mandela, he said, “was always the polite gentleman” and maybe they were “taken in by this sense of decorum.”

Peter Hain said that Mandela’s private thoughts were “totally contemptuous… he felt totally betrayed” by the UK’s resistance to sanctions and confided these thoughts to Mr Hain in private.

Old divisions

The old divisions were on display when Thatcher died in April this year.

One South African news broadcast called her a “friend of apartheid” who “found herself on the wrong side of history”.

Political folklore has focused on the Federation of Conservative Students’ conferences as the ultimate in pro-apartheid politicking in the 1980′s, with their famed “Hang Mandela” T-shirts.

One former member, the current speaker, John Bercow, has repented of past opinions and this summer was at the forefront of an unprecedented contingency plan to recall parliament in the summer recess if Mandela died while MPs were on holiday.

Many of his former colleagues in the FCS didn’t want to speak. But I did contact an authentic voice of Tory backbench pro-South Africa opinion from the 1980′s: one of Thatcher’s ardent fans, MP from 1983 to 1997, Terry Dicks.

‘Black terrorist’

He’s currently a Conservative councillor on Runnymede council. Mr Dicks was unapologetic about calling Mandela a “black terrorist” who was “kicking (Thatcher) in the face” when the South African leader failed to meet her on his first trip to London after being freed back in 1990.

Talking to Terry Dicks gives you a flavour of how some Tories saw the apartheid regime and Mandela back then.

He said: “(Mandela) was just a terrorist, no different to the Irish terrorists, perhaps no different to the ones we’re fighting now … a terrorist is a terrorist … and if they (the apartheid regime) had wanted to they could have executed him, seriously, and then you wouldn’t have had all this fuss of ‘I lived 27 years in prison.’”

Mandela was “no different from … people like al-Qaeda, no different from bin Laden,” Mr Dicks said when I spoke to him just a few months ago. He said he felt he was speaking for “quite a few” Tory MPs back in the 1980s and that some would share such thoughts on trips to South Africa funded by the South African government but would be more circumspect than him in speaking their mind in public.

Apartheid regime

Geoffrey Howe told me he was “aware” of pro-apartheid voices like Terry Dicks in the Conservative party in the 1980s, “if only because they were not far from Margaret Thatcher in their attitude”.

Lord Howe said they never got to run government policy though because people like him were acting as a restraining influence.

Roger Fieldhouse’s “Anti-Apartheid: a History of the Movement in Britain” documents many years of British governments of both colours sitting on their hands and not going anything like as far as the Anti-Apartheid movement wanted in isolating South Africa. He writes of how the Conservative government of 1959-64 discouraged boycotts. A small group of ministers grouped around R.A.Butler dissented.

But, as foreign secretary, Alex Douglas-Home went so far as to tip off the apartheid regime that they should get some armaments orders in before the 1964 election and a possible change of government.

As it was, the South African government needn’t have worried too much about that.

It’s captured in a note of chat between Harold Wilson and the South African foreign minister from 1967 (Fiedlhouse, p161) which says that the Labour government heartily disliked apartheid but “we were also realistic and we had no desire to see international action taken… that might precipitate a major upheaval in Southern Africa…”

Guiding the government’s hand were civil service briefs on the trade levels between the two countries and the cold war.

And that, as Peter Hain laments to this day, included arms exports. Denis Healey (amongst those reminiscing on TV last night – Lord Healey met Mandela on his first visit to Britain in 1962) and George Brown signed off on defence exports holding back only on tank spares which were considered too politically sensitive. On non-economic areas like sports boycotts, Peter Hain (then a Liberal) found the government more receptive. Labour rediscovered its anti-apartheid passions very quickly after going into opposition in 1970.

The Tories between 1970-74, under Edward Heath, backed change through contact and dialogue, one of the continuities in policy between him and Thatcher after 1979. Back in power after 1974, Labour reverted to its old position of opposing economic sanctions although it once again backed sporting sanctions.

Gleneagles Agreement

When Jim Callaghan took over as PM, after the Soweto uprising and Steve Biko’s killing, support for sanctions built up and the then foreign secretary, Dr David Owen, pushed for arms sanctions, though the anti-apartheid movement thought they didn’t go far enough.

In June 1977, Jim Callaghan got the “Gleneagles agreement” through the Commonwealth meeting, discouraging sporting contacts with South Africa.

Geoffrey Howe writes in his memoirs that Thatcher’s approach to South Africa after her election in 1979 “derived mainly, I suspect, via Twickenham and Gleneagles (the golf course, not the agreement)”. Under Thatcher, economic sanctions were largely resisted. Some equipment useful to the police and army continued to get through.

The Thatcher government didn’t throw itself behind the sports boycotts.

Some Tory MPs continued to take hospitality off the South African government on fact-finding missions, and the young David Cameron was amongst them.

Seventeen years on, as leader of the opposition, David Cameron wrote about how “the mistakes my party made in the past with respect to relations with the ANC and sanctions on South Africa make it all the more important to listen now” (7 August 2006).

Last night, he spoke of Mandela as a “hero of our time” and “a hero of all time”.

This video from London, England is called Non-Stop Picket Against Apartheid outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square, 1986.

It says about itself:

Twenty-five years ago, on 19 April 1986, the Non-Stop Picket of the South African embassy in London … was launched by City of London Anti-Apartheid Group (City Group).

It was against a background of escalating repression in South Africa — and escalating resistance — that the Picket, which called for the release of Nelson Mandela and all South African political prisoners, began.

Despite the murder, detention and torture of thousands in South Africa, the struggle of the black masses against apartheid intensified.

In response, solidarity movements across the world forced their governments to impose sanctions against South Africa. In the United States, the broad and militant Free South Africa Movement, led by black organisations, forced even the Reagan Administration to distance itself from the apartheid regime. Only in Britain, South Africa’s foremost backer, was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher able to remain apartheid’s staunchest ally, famously conceding only ‘a tiny little bit’ in the face of Commonwealth pressure for sanctions.

By Brian Dooley in the USA:

Mandela, The United States, and Bahrain

Posted: 12/05/2013 6:01 pm

As the eulogies for Nelson Mandela begin to appear it’s the perfect moment to reflect on how the U.S. responded to his calls to end apartheid.

In the early 1980s, I was living illegally in the “Blacks Only” South African township of Madadeni. People in the townships were well aware that the U.S. government supported the racist regime and was unwilling to invoke consequences against the dictatorship. It fueled an anti-Americanism from people who felt the U.S. was not only not on their side but was colluding in their repression.

Several years later bipartisan leadership in Congress changed American policy toward South Africa, condemned apartheid for the evil it was, and began to repair the reputation of the United States in the country and across the continent.

Today, just as during the bleak days of apartheid, oppressive regimes imprison and harass human rights activists, Mandela’s spiritual heirs. And just as they did half a century ago, American policymakers today have a choice: will the United States stand with oppressors or with those claiming their human rights?

President Carter broke with traditional U.S. policy and confronted Pretoria, publicly criticizing apartheid and backing a U.N. arms embargo. But when he took office President Reagan reinstituted a deferential policy and gave it a name: constructive engagement. The idea was that the United States would work behind the scenes with reputed moderates in the apartheid government and that economic ties would spur political reform. But in practice, constructive engagement gave the apartheid regime license to do whatever it wanted to do as long as it supported U.S. strategic interests.

By the mid-1980s, when I was working on anti-apartheid legislation for Sen. Ted Kennedy, I often heard depressing excuses from administration officials about why public criticism of South Africa was a bad idea. Yes, they said, South Africa was sometimes an embarrassing ally, but it offered stability, protected U.S. interests, and real elections might bring something worse. Reform needed to happen, they said, but at a sensibly slow pace.

President Reagan continued to back the apartheid regime even as domestic and international pressure mounted, even as South African President Pieter W. Botha gave his infamous “Rubicon speech” saying his government would never accept one man, one vote. In 1986, Reagan vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which would have imposed economic sanctions on South Africa unless it met five conditions. Releasing Mandela was one of them.

But then something extraordinary happened. Republicans, led by Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, joined with Democratic senators to override the veto, putting U.S. policy on the side of human rights. This was the first time in the 20th century that Congress had overridden a veto on a foreign policy issue.

The anti-apartheid act put the United States government on the right side of history and undid some of the damage done by its alliance with South Africa’s racist government. Desperately needed today are actions that will both support courageous human rights activists and improve Washington’s reputation in the Middle East where citizens have too long watched it prop up tyrants.

Sadly, I hear the same arguments — even the same phrases — from some Obama administration officials when I talk to them about Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. They argue that pressure is best brought to bear “behind closed doors” because public criticism can be counterproductive, that those governments “don’t respond to threats.” I’ve even heard some use the term constructive engagement to describe their approach to dealing with today’s autocrats. And among some U.S. officials, the demonstrably dubious notion that strong economic ties will produce political reform remains an article of faith.

Economic boycotts of autocracies might not always be the best approach, but cozying up to dictators is always the worst. U.S. officials should reflect on Mandela’s career and think of today’s political prisoners. Like Mandela, today’s activists are often smeared by authorities as terrorists. Like Mandela, they may someday become leaders of their governments.

Pro-democracy, pro-dignity movements are often derided for failing to have a Mandela in their ranks. I met Mandela and agree that with his grace and palpable moral authority, he is one of kind. There are no replicas. But across the world there are thousands of courageous, persecuted activists who deserve the support of the United States.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on December 2 to share its concerns about freedom of information in Bahrain ahead of his visit to the kingdom for the December 6-7 Manama Dialogue on security in the Persian Gulf. The letter asks him to raise the issue of freedom of information in his talks with Bahraini officials: here.

U.S. military reaffirms support of brutally oppressive regime in Bahrain: here.

20 thoughts on “Nelson Mandela, Britain, the USA and Bahrain

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  4. Hagel outlines new weapons sale plan for Gulf

    By LOLITA C. BALDOR / Associated Press / December 7, 2013

    MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opened the door for the U.S. to sell missile defense and other weapons systems to U.S.-friendly Gulf nations, with an eye toward boosting their abilities to counter Iran’s ballistic missiles, even as global powers ink a nuclear deal with Tehran.

    In a speech Saturday to Gulf leaders, Hagel made it clear that the emerging global agreement that would limit Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t mean the security threat from Iran is over.

    Instead, he laid out steps to beef up defense cooperation in the Gulf region, while at the same time insisting that America’s military commitment to the Middle East will continue.

    ‘‘I am under no illusions, like all of you, about the daily threats facing this region, or the current anxieties that I know exist here in the Gulf,’’ Hagel told a security conference. ‘‘These anxieties have emerged as the United States pursues diplomatic openings on some of the region’s most difficult problems and most complex issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and the conflict in Syria.’’

    He said the interim deal is just a first step that has bought time for meaningful negotiations, adding that ‘‘all of us are clear-eyed, very clear-eyed about the challenges that remain’’ to reaching a nuclear solution with Iran.

    And he pointed to the ongoing plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons as diplomacy made possible by America’s military threat. He said President Barack Obama’s threat to strike Syria after a chemical weapons attack believed to be the work of Bashar Assad’s government led to the ultimate deal to remove and destroy the arsenal.

    But Hagel argued that the emphasis on diplomacy must not be misinterpreted.

    ‘‘We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum,’’ Hagel said. ‘‘Our success will continue to hinge on America’s military power, and the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East that we will use it.’’

    And, he warned that with America’s sophisticated weapons, ‘‘no target is beyond our reach.’’

    As part of the security effort, he said the U.S. wants to take steps to beef up the Gulf region’s ability to defense itself.

    Washington has pushed for more than 20 years, particularly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, for better defenses among a group of Gulf nations that includes long-time allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The latter hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Progress has been limited, in part because of their reluctance to collaborate.

    Hagel’s speech continued a theme he has repeated over the past two days in private meetings with Gulf leaders and in remarks to troops aboard the Navy’s USS Ponce warship at the nearby U.S. base. He is countering apprehension in the region that the Iran nuclear deal, coupled with U.S. budget pressures and the drawdown in Afghanistan, could signal a decline in America’s commitment to the region.

    The interim Iran agreement carved out less than two weeks ago by major nations, including the U.S., would freeze parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for some relief from crippling Western economic sanctions. The deal may open the door to warmer relations with the West, but it has escalated tensions in the Gulf region, where leaders worry that it could embolden Iran and destabilize the area.

    Hagel was speaking at an annual international security forum known as the Manama Dialogue, just across the water from Iran. His broader message was that while Iran’s nuclear program is a critical worry, its other conventional missile threats, terrorism links and occasional provocative maritime behavior also greatly concern the U.S. and the region. And those threats are not addressed by the nuclear agreement.

    Hagel was challenged at one point during a question-and-answer session by a former Iranian nuclear negotiator over why his address failed to mention Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. Hossein Mousavian, who is now a scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, told Hagel he ‘‘didn’t mention a single word about the major threat of nuclear bombs in the region, which is Israel.’’

    Hagel replied by noting that Iran is in violation of ‘‘many United Nations resolutions.’’

    Israel is widely understood to possess nuclear weapons but declines to confirm it.

    Hagel spent a chunk of the speech detailing the strength of the U.S. military in the area, including more than 35,000 air, land and sea forces in and immediately around the Gulf. They include about 10,000 Army troops, advanced jet fighters, more than 40 ships, sophisticated surveillance and intelligence systems, and a broad missile defense umbrella made up of ships, Patriot missile batteries and radars.

    The most concrete proposal Hagel outlined is the Pentagon’s plan to allow military sales to the Gulf Cooperation Council, so the six-member nations can have more coordinated radars, sensors and early warning missile defense systems. While the U.S. can sell to the individual nations, Hagel is arguing that selling the systems to the GCC will ensure that the countries will be able to communicate and coordinate better.

    It is unclear, however, how effective that plan will be considering it can be difficult for the six sometimes-combative nations of the GCC — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — to reach agreements.

    Hagel also said he wants the Gulf nations to participate in an annual defense ministers’ conference, and would like the first meeting to happen in the next six months.

    Hagel is expected to visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia to meet with leaders in the coming days.


    Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 2013 Associated Press


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