All posts by Ed Pearl

Ed’s Daily Digest: Comment here!


Below is the GoogleGroups Page for Ed’s Daily Digest. We have been trying to figure out a way for people to comment on Ed’s posts without adding more traffic to people’s inboxes. Let’s see how this works. You are part of the experimental team.

To comment, note the name of the article, and use the comment section here to write about your thoughts. If we can make this work for the Daily Digest, we will set it up for The Ash Grove.

Ed’s Daily Digest Continue reading

Ash Grove at the Improv presents Gospel Sunday!

Claudia Lennear will shake you to your soul. Renowned for her recent performance in the Academy Award winning documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, and her personal history as a back-up singer for many great rock and soul groups, Claudia is an amazing lead performer in her own right. Her gospel trio features tight harmonies and riveting arrangements.

The Get Lit Players have performed widely – at the Hollywood Bowl, Queen Latifah Show, and even at the White House. The Get Lit Players are currently ranked third in the world for spoken word poetry (in the teen poetry competition, Brave New Voices). Be ready for the Get Lit Players to move your soul in this afternoon of Gospel.

Jackson Browne has written and performed some of the most literate and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics. He was honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2007.

Where will you find this incredible line-up of performers??

The Hollywood Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., LA 90046. Cross street, N. Kilkea Dr.
Public transit: Metro Bus Line 10

Sunday, December 20, 3:30p; doors open 3:00p That’s this Sunday!

TICKETS: $20 @ 323-651-2583 corrected number

Come, listen, and be inspired.

Pete Seeger Elegy

by Olivia LaRosa
February 1, 2014

My heart is warmed by the outpouring of love humanity has demonstrated toward Pete Seeger. When people nominated him for the Nobel Prize, I cheered. The people who move us towards cooperation and sharing are too often ignored during their lifetimes. Pete knew that we loved him.

He lived for 35 years past his active musical career, which spanned more than 60 years. He began to travel with his musical parents, both university professors in music, before he was two years old. His entire life was dedicated to spreading love and truth through his banjo.

To honor him further we are collecting the memories of those who saw him, met him, and knew him. Pete would be the last to expect us to engage in hero worship. He would rather we go out and tell the truth the best way we can, like he did.

Labor Leader Eliseo Medina on Fasting for Immigration Reform, Organizing with Cesar Chavez

Labor Leader Eliseo Medina on Fasting for Immigration Reform, Organizing with Cesar Chavez

Democracy Now: December 13, 2013

Eliseo Medina, former SEIU international secretary-treasurer. He resigned, saying he wanted to work full-time on winning comprehensive immigration legislation.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has finished its work for the year without passing comprehensive immigration reform. On Thursday, leaders from both parties promised to revisit the issue early in the new year. Meanwhile, outside the White House, more than a thousand immigration activists descended on the offices of House lawmakers on Thursday to protest the House’s inaction on the issue. They held vigils and shared their personal stories at the offices of more than 190 House Republicans and four House Democrats.

AMY GOODMAN: The demonstrations came as the immigration reform organization Fast for Families concluded 31 days of fasting. During a press conference on the National Mall, activists broke their fast with bread and water, vowed to continue pushing for an immigration reform bill that includes a cessation to deportations and a pathway to citizenship. The fasters had set up a tent on the National Mall and received visits from high-profile guests, like, oh, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Last month, President Obama praised the fasters’ resolve.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right now, I’m seeing brave advocates who have been fasting for two weeks in the shadow of the Capitol, sacrificing themselves in an effort to get Congress to act. And I want to say to Eliseo Medina, my friend from SEIU, and the other fasters who are there as we speak, I want them to know we hear you. We’re with you. The whole country hears you.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Eliseo Medina. He served as international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union until October 1st. He resigned saying he wanted to work full-time on winning comprehensive immigration legislation. Medina recently spent 22 days on a water-only fast as part of the action by “A Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship.” He worked alongside labor leader Cesar Chavez for 13 years. His career as a labor activist began in 1965, when, as a 19-year-old grape picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers strike in Delano, California.

Eliseo Medina, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why you fasted and what you feel you have accomplished, now that the House has ended without passing immigration reform?

ELISEO MEDINA: Well, thank you, Amy. First of all, you know, we were haunted by the fact that last year 463 people died in the desert trying to come to the United States in search of a better life. Over two million people have been deported from the United States. And, you know, these are numbers, but beyond those numbers, there’s real people, real human beings, with families who love them and who they love. And they will never be back with their families because they died in the desert. Or children are left behind when their mom or dad are deported, and they cry themselves to sleep wondering when they will see their parents again. And we just couldn’t stand to continue to see this human suffering that’s going on in our community, so we decided that we would go on a fast to dramatize, to put a human face on this moral crisis facing our country.

And I feel very fortunate that we touched the heart of America. We had thousands and thousands of people joining our fast, not only the United States, but around the world. I think that we managed to unify all sectors of our community in support of immigration reform. And even though the Congress left town without doing anything about immigration reform, I think that there’s no doubt that they have to do something now. And we are going to keep pushing. We are taking our fast out into every congressional district, so that when they come back to Washington in January, they will have to act and finish the work of creating a just and humane immigration system.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Eliseo, we’ve heard this, though—that we’re near or possibly close to some kind of a solution on immigration reform now for several years. Back in 2007, there was a possibility of a deal then. Yesterday, I think in Los Angeles, a city councilman, Gil Cedillo, and some other California politicians began calling for President Obama to act himself, if nothing is done by Congress within the next few months. They’re calling for him to use his own executive authority, as he did with the DREAMers, to basically halt massive deportations that have been occurring under his administration. What’s your sense of whether that should be the next step if nothing happens, let’s say, in January and February from the new Congress?

ELISEO MEDINA: Well, I think that this is a shared responsibility and that both the president and the Congress have authority within the Constitution to do certain things. The president, for example, has the power, through executive authority, like he did with the DREAMers, to provide some relief to all of this deportations that are going on that are tearing families apart. But the president is also right that the only permanent solution is for the Congress to reform the immigration laws. And we will be pushing really hard to make sure that the Congress in fact does act. But in the meantime, I think the president needs to really take a look and prioritize the enforcement of the laws through the Department of Homeland Security to focus on criminals, not on everyday workers.

AMY GOODMAN: You were sitting next to him as you were fasting and he came to visit. What did you talk to him about? And did you ask him about that?

ELISEO MEDINA: We did. We shared with him the stories of families who have been torn apart by deportation. And he heard us. I think that he was moved, as was the first lady, by story after story about the impact of this system. And the president told us he was going to continue looking at this and would work with us to figure out how we could work this out. And we’re hopeful that as the days goes on, that hopefully we’ll be able to figure out a way of stopping this pain and suffering that still continues today in our communities.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Eliseo, in late November, a young Korean immigrant rights activist, Ju Hong, interrupted a speech President Obama was giving about immigration reform.

JU HONG: Mr. President, please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 undocumented immigrants in this country right now. We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the same time. You have a power to stop deportations for all undocumented families in this country.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Actually, I don’t. And that’s why we’re here. … The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. But it won’t be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President Obama responding to a young immigrant rights activist. But, Eliseo, we have this situation that every day of delay is another thousand to 1,200 people that are being deported from the United States, and families continue to be torn apart now, for the next several weeks through the holidays and into January and February. This—do you see a ramping up in January and February of the pressure, or will the—both the Democrats and Republicans, as we get closer to next year’s midterm elections, begin to try to get away from having to take a firm stand on immigration reform?

ELISEO MEDINA: Well, you know, we are already planning to take our fast from Washington out into every congressional district in the country, where we are going to be going to the congress person’s district and have conversations with their constituents about why this immigration reform needs to be done as fast as possible. There is no option for us. We cannot continue to allow deportations and deaths in the desert. And so we will be pressing Congress to act, and we will also be asking the president to also take a look and act within his authority.

But, you know, at the end of the day, they will have to make a decision. Congress will have to make a decision whether they want to take a vote or not. If they decide not to, we know there’s an election coming in November of 2014 in which we get to vote—we, the people who care about this issue, and there’s millions and millions and millions of us. And we will be holding the Congress accountable for their actions or inactions as it pertains to immigration reform. If they won’t vote for us today, why should we vote for them tomorrow? And we want them to hear that loud and clear, that we also have a choice to make, and that choice is that we will remember who stood with us and who stood against us, when it comes time to vote in November of 2014. So, to make it simpler on everybody, just vote today. We can put this pain and suffering behind us, and then we can focus on the other issues that matter to this country during November of 2014.

AMY GOODMAN: Eliseo Medina, last month, a pair of immigrant teenagers confronted Speaker John Boehner at a Capitol Hill diner. Thirteen-year-old Carmen Lima shared her story and asked the speaker to commit to immigration reform.

CARMEN LIMA: I’m Carmen Lima.


CARMEN LIMA: I’m 13. And you’re a father, right?


CARMEN LIMA: So, how would you feel if you had to tell your kids at the age of 10 that you were never coming home?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: That wouldn’t be good.

CARMEN LIMA: I know. So, that’s what’s happening—that’s what happened to me. That happened to me. I thought I was never going to see my dad again, because of ] these laws. And I cried so hard when my mom told me that at the age of 10.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I’m trying to find somebody to get this thing done. It’s, you know, not easy. It’s not going to be an easy path forward. But I’ve made it clear since the day after the election it’s time to get it done.

CARMEN LIMA: So we can count on your vote for immigration reform?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: I’m trying to find a way to move the bill forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Immigrants’ rights activists confronting John Boehner at a Washington, D.C., diner. I want to go back in time, comparing this movement to the movement of Cesar Chavez, the legendary labor activist, civil rights leader, founder of the first successful farm workers union, speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in November of 1984, a few months after he had launched the third and longest grape boycott.

CESAR CHAVEZ: All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation that treats farm workers as if they were not important human beings. Farm workers are not agricultural implements. They are not beasts of burden to be used and discarded.

AMY GOODMAN: Eliseo Medina, you worked alongside Cesar Chavez. Can you talk about, well, a comparison of movements?

ELISEO MEDINA: Well, let me just say, you know, that Cesar was an organizational genius, an inspiration, a life-changing force for all of us—myself, who used to be a farm worker in California, with an eighth-grade education, no hope for the future, until I met Cesar. And I see that movement that he began as continuing today, because we’re talking about the same things. We’re talking about respect. We’re talking about dignity, about people being appreciated for the work they do and for their contributions.

And what’s different today, perhaps, is that we now have a much broader coalition of conscience that wants to see things done right for working people and for immigrants, and it includes business and labor and the faith community—Mormons, Baptists, Catholics, evangelicals. It includes community groups, environmental groups, Republicans and Democrats. There is a unique consensus on immigration reform that is broader than we ever had in the farm workers movement.

And I think that we are the descendents of Cesar’s vision for this country and for our community. And I think that we’re going to win immigration reform, just like Cesar won many victories in the fields of California. This is the right cause. This is the right time. I think the American people demands it. The Republicans need it for their own political needs. And I think, at the end, it will be good for America, it will be good for immigrants. and we will get it done. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Eliseo, even within the labor movement, there was a long walk on this issue of immigration reform, wasn’t there? The early labor movement, the AFL-CIO, to a certain extent, even the farm workers for a while, saw the immigrant labor as a threat to domestic U.S. labor. Could you talk about that process of first waging the battle within the labor movement to change its position, before now this broader fight among the American people?

ELISEO MEDINA: Well, unfortunately, the early labor movement saw immigrants as competition rather than allies. And for many years they were taking a position to try and restrict immigration, because they saw immigrants as taking the jobs of American workers. Obviously, business didn’t see it that way, because what the business wanted to do is make as much of a profit as they could. And if hiring undocumented workers would help them in doing that, that’s what they did. And it’s ironic because the labor movement was founded by immigrants. For example, our own union in SEIU, we were founded by janitors in Chicago who were immigrants from places like Poland, from Ireland, from the Czech Republic. And we are now, as a labor movement, going back to our roots, to advocating for people who come to this country in search of the American dream.

And it was difficult at first, beginning to shift from what had been basically an isolationist position to one that it says, you know, our job as the labor movement is to unite all workers so that we can all fight together for improving the wages and the benefits of everybody, for our mutual benefit. And so, while it took some time, I’m happy to say that for the last 15 years we’ve all been united. We had the building trades, we have construction unions, we had the industrial unions, all fasting in the tent and all uniting to fight for immigrants’ rights, working together with business. I mean, who would have thunk it? You know, the labor—the Chamber of Commerce and the Change to Win Federation and the AFL-CIO together on anything? But this one issue overcomes all those barriers and divisions, and brings us together, because at the end of the day it will be good for the economy, it will be good for working people, and it will be good for us as a nation of immigrants.

AMY GOODMAN: Eliseo Medina, we want to thank you for being with us. Among those who fasted for a day this week in solidarity with all of the immigrant rights fasters, New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin. Eliseo Medina served as the international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, until October 1st, resigning saying he wanted to work full-time on winning comprehensive immigration legislation. He helped lead the month-long water-only fast as part of the action, “A Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship.”

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to New Orleans to a Polaroid chemist who helped lead the movement against apartheid when she, together with her husband, realized the company they were working for was making pass books for black South Africans. Stay with us.

US Fails To Close TPP Deal As Wikileaks Exposes Discord

Forbes 12/10/2013

US Fails To Close TPP Deal As Wikileaks Exposes Discord
US putting heavy pressure on other nations to conform with its demands.

“The TPP proposes to freeze into a binding trade agreement many of the worst features of the worst laws in the TPP countries, making needed reforms extremely difficult if not impossible.”

— Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz

The latest round of talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have failed to lead to a resolution, with ministers confirming that debate is likely to continue into next year.

The announcement comes as Wikileaks releases an internal memo and spreadsheet, revealing that the US is putting heavy pressure on other nations to conform with its demands.

Following four days of talks in Singapore, the heads of the various delegations have today released a statement saying that while they’ve identified what they call “potential landing zones” for the areas that remain contentious, they have failed to reach a resolution as hoped.

“Therefore, we have decided to continue our intensive work in the coming weeks toward such an agreement,” they say. “We will also further our consultations with stakeholders and engage in our respective political processes. Following additional work by negotiators, we intend to meet again next month.”

The statement coincides with the release of two more documents from Wikileaks which reveal just how far apart the US is from the other nations involved in the treaty, with 19 points of disagreement in the area of intellectual property alone. One of the documents speaks of “great pressure” being applied by the US.

Australia in particular is standing firm, objecting to the US’ proposals for copyright protection, parallel importation proposals and criminalization of copyright infringement. It’s also opposed to a measure supported by all the other nations involved to limit the liability of ISPs for copyright infringement by their users. Japan, too – which only joined the talks in March – has vowed to protect its agricultural markets, which the US wishes to see opened up.

But the TPP is causing increasing disquiet in the US, as well as around the world. Over the weekend, campaign group Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) revealed that Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of the Columbia University School of Business has written to the negotiators, calling on them to resist a tranche of measures that he says would weaken the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

These include extending patent terms and lowering the threshold for patentability of medicines, making surgical procedures patentable and mandating monopolies of 12 years on test data for biologic drugs. He also objects to the granting of compulsory licenses on patents, increasing damages for patent and copyright infringement, placing lower limits on injunctions, narrowing copyright exceptions and extending copyright protection to life plus 70 years.

“The TPP proposes to freeze into a binding trade agreement many of the worst features of the worst laws in the TPP countries, making needed reforms extremely difficult if not impossible,” he writes.

His sentiments are echoed by 29 organizations and more than 70 other individuals in a separate letter.

“The primary harm from the life + 70 copyright term is the loss of access to countless books, newspapers, pamphlets, photographs, films, sound recordings and other works that are ‘owned’ but largely not commercialized, forgotten, and lost,” they say. “The extended terms are also costly to consumers and performers, while benefiting persons and corporate owners that had nothing to do with the creation of the work.”

The failure of the talks to reach agreement is a major blow for the US, which hoped to see the deal largely wrapped up by now. The ministers say they’ll meet again next month, but haven’t set any new timeline for completion. And with many of the outstanding issues having been aired for months, it’s hard to see how full agreement will be reached any time soon.


The hijacking of Mandela’s legacy

Subject: The hijacking of Mandela’s legacy: he defeated apartheid but was defeated by neoliberalism. That’s the dirty secret of him being allowed sainthood.

RT December 08, 2013 Pepe Escobar

Mandela defeated apartheid but was defeated by neoliberalism. And that’s the dirty secret of him being allowed sainthood.

Beware of strangers bearing gifts. The “gift” is the ongoing, frantic canonization of Nelson Mandela. The “strangers” are the 0.0001 percent, that fraction of the global elite that’s really in control (media naturally included).

It’s a Tower of Babel of tributes piled up in layer upon layer of hypocrisy – from the US to Israel and from France to Britain.

What must absolutely be buried under the tower is that the apartheid regime in South Africa was sponsored and avidly defended by the West until, literally, it was about to crumble under the weight of its own contradictions. The only thing that had really mattered was South Africa’s capitalist economy and immense resources, and the role of Pretoria in fighting “communism.” Apartheid was, at best, a nuisance.

Mandela is being allowed sainthood by the 0.0001% because he extended a hand to the white oppressor who kept him in jail for 27 years. And because he accepted – in the name of “national reconciliation” – that no apartheid killers would be tried, unlike the Nazis.

Among the cataracts of emotional tributes and the crass marketization of the icon, there’s barely a peep in Western corporate media about Mandela’s firm refusal to ditch armed struggle against apartheid (if he had done so, he would not have been jailed for 27 years); his gratitude towards Fidel Castro’s Cuba – which always supported the people of Angola, Namibia and South Africa fighting apartheid; and his perennial support for the liberation struggle in Palestine.

Young generations, especially, must be made aware that during the Cold War, any organization fighting for the freedom of the oppressed in the developing world was dubbed “terrorist”; that was the Cold War version of the “war on terror”. Only at the end of the 20th century was the fight against apartheid accepted as a supreme moral cause; and Mandela, of course, rightfully became the universal face of the cause.

It’s easy to forget that conservative messiah Ronald Reagan – who enthusiastically hailed the precursors of al-Qaeda as “freedom fighters” – fiercely opposed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act because, what else, the African National Congress (ANC) was considered a “terrorist organization” (on top of Washington branding the ANC as “communists”).

The same applied to a then-Republican Congressman from Wyoming who later would turn into a Darth Vader replicant, Dick Cheney. As for Israel, it even offered one of its nuclear weapons to the Afrikaners in Pretoria – presumably to wipe assorted African commies off the map.

In his notorious 1990 visit to the US, now as a free man, Mandela duly praised Fidel, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Col. Gaddafi as his “comrades in arms”: “There is no reason whatsoever why we should have any hesitation about hailing their commitment to human rights.” Washington/Wall Street was livid.

And this was Mandela’s take, in early 2003, on the by then inevitable invasion of Iraq and the wider war on terror; “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.” No wonder he was kept on the US government terrorist list until as late as 2008.

From terrorism to sainthood

In the early 1960s – when, by the way, the US itself was practicing apartheid in the South – it would be hard to predict to what extent “Madiba” (his clan name), the dandy lawyer and lover of boxing with an authoritarian character streak, would adopt Gandhi’s non-violence strategy to end up forging an exceptional destiny graphically embodying the political will to transform society. Yet the seeds of “Invictus” were already there.

The fascinating complexity of Mandela is that he was essentially a democratic socialist. Certainly not a capitalist. And not a pacifist either; on the contrary, he would accept violence as a means to an end. In his books and countless speeches, he always admitted his flaws. His soul must be smirking now at all the adulation.

Arguably, without Mandela, Barack Obama would never have reached the White House; he admitted on the record that his first political act was at an anti-apartheid demonstration. But let’s make it clear: Mr. Obama, you’re no Nelson Mandela.

To summarize an extremely complex process, in the “death throes” of apartheid, the regime was mired in massive corruption, hardcore military spending and with the townships about to explode. Mix Fidel’s Cuban fighters kicking the butt of South Africans (supported by the US) in Angola and Namibia with the inability to even repay Western loans, and you have a recipe for bankruptcy.

The best and the brightest in the revolutionary struggle – like Mandela – were either in jail, in exile, assassinated (like Steve Biko) or “disappeared”, Latin American death squad-style. The actual freedom struggle was mostly outside South Africa – in Angola, Namibia and the newly liberated Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Once again, make no mistake; without Cuba – as Mandela amply stressed writing from jail in March 1988 – there would be “no liberation of our continent, and my people, from the scourge of apartheid”. Now get one of those 0.0001% to admit it.

In spite of the debacle the regime – supported by the West – sensed an opening. Why not negotiate with a man who had been isolated from the outside world since 1962? No more waves and waves of Third World liberation struggles; Africa was now mired in war, and all sorts of socialist revolutions had been smashed, from Che Guevara killed in Bolivia in 1967 to Allende killed in the 1973 coup in Chile.

Mandela had to catch up with all this and also come to grips with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of what European intellectuals called “real socialism.” And then he would need to try to prevent a civil war and the total economic collapse of South Africa.

The apartheid regime was wily enough to secure control of the Central Bank – with crucial IMF help – and South Africa’s trade policy. Mandela secured only a (very significant) political victory. The ANC only found out it had been conned when it took power. Forget about its socialist idea of nationalizing the mining and banking industries – owned by Western capital, and distribute the benefits to the indigenous population. The West would never allow it. And to make matters worse, the ANC was literally hijacked by a sorry, greedy bunch.

Follow the roadmap
John Pilger is spot on pointing to economic apartheid in South Africa now with a new face.

Patrick Bond has written arguably the best expose anywhere of the Mandela years – and their legacy.

And Ronnie Kasrils does a courageous mea culpa dissecting how Mandela and the ANC accepted a devil’s pact with the usual suspects.

The bottom line: Mandela defeated apartheid but was defeated by neoliberalism. And that’s the dirty secret of him being allowed sainthood.

Now for the future. Cameroonian Achille Mbembe, historian and political science professor, is one of Africa’s foremost intellectuals. In his book Critique of Black Reason, recently published in France (not yet in English), Mbembe praises Mandela and stresses that Africans must imperatively invent new forms of leadership, the essential precondition to lift themselves in the world. All-too-human “Madiba” has provided the roadmap. May Africa unleash one, two, a thousand Mandelas.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “Sid-l” group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
For more options, visit

Honoring Mandela, Not Reagan

Honoring Mandela, Not Reagan

Honoring Mandela, Not Reagan

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

08 December 13

The U.S. government’s relationship with Nelson Mandela was often strained, from the CIA’s hand in his imprisonment to Ronald Reagan’s veto of a sanctions bill aimed at getting him freed, lost history that must now be reconciled, writes Robert Parry.

As Americans honor the memory of Nelson Mandela, they must grapple with the inconvenient truth that one of their most honored recent presidents, Ronald Reagan, fiercely opposed punishing white-ruled South Africa for keeping Mandela locked up and for continuing the racist apartheid system that he challenged.

Rhetorically, Reagan did object to apartheid and did call for Mandela’s release, but Reagan viewed the struggle for racial justice in South Africa through a Cold War lens, leading him to veto a 1986 bill imposing economic sanctions on the Pretoria regime aimed at forcing Mandela’s freedom and compelling the dismantling of apartheid.

In explaining his veto on July 22, 1986, Reagan reserved his harshest criticism for “the Soviet-armed guerrillas of the African National Congress,” a movement that Mandela led. Reagan accused the ANC of having “embarked on new acts of terrorism within South Africa.” He also claimed that “the Soviet Union would be the main beneficiary” of a revolutionary overthrow of the Pretoria regime.

Beyond opposing sanctions that might destabilize the white-supremacist regime, Reagan argued that “the key to the future lies with the South African government.” He called for “not a Western withdrawal but deeper involvement by the Western business community as agents of change and progress and growth.”

Yet, despite Reagan’s speech, Congress enacted the sanctions bill over his veto as “moderate” Republicans, including the likes of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, rejected Reagan’s go-slow “constructive engagement” with South Africa’s white supremacists. The Senate vote was 78-21, exceeding the necessary two-thirds by a dozen votes.

McConnell’s remarks about the bill reflected the concerns of many Republicans that they would find themselves with Reagan on the wrong side of history. “In the 1960s, when I was in college, civil rights issues were clear,” McConnell said. “After that, it became complicated with questions of quotas and other matters that split people of good will. When the apartheid issue came along, it made civil rights black and white again. It was not complicated.”

To Reagan, however, the issue was extremely complicated. White-ruled South Africa provided military support to right-wing revolutionary movements challenging leftist governments in Africa, such as in Angola where Jonas Savimbi of the CIA-backed UNITA led a brutal insurgency which involved him reportedly burning his opponents at the stake.

Indeed, Reagan supported a number of right-wing insurrectionary movements despite widespread reports of their human rights abuses, including the Contra rebels fighting to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The Contras not only engaged in rapes, murders and acts of terror but were implicated in cocaine smuggling into the United States.[See’s ” Contra-Cocaine Was a Real Conspiracy.”]

Reagan also backed brutal right-wing regimes in Latin America and elsewhere as they engaged in extermination campaigns against leftists, including in Guatemala where Reagan hailed Gen. Efrain Rios Montt as his regime waged genocide against Mayan Indians considered supportive of leftist guerrillas. [See’s ” Ronald Reagan: Accessory to Genocide.”]

Given Reagan’s support for these anti-leftist pogroms – a policy sometimes dubbed the Reagan Doctrine – he naturally disdained Mandela and the African National Congress, which included communists and drew support from the Soviet Union.

The CIA and Mandela

Mandela had long been a target of Cold Warriors inside the U.S. government, since he was viewed as one of the young militants resisting European colonialism and sympathetic to radical change. The CIA often acted to neutralize these leaders who were considered sympathetic to socialism and potential allies of the Soviet Union.

In the case of Mandela, I’m told that his arrest in 1962, which led to his 27-year imprisonment, resulted from a CIA officer tipping off South African security officials about Mandela’s whereabouts. But there remains a difference of opinion inside the CIA whether its role in Mandela’s capture was intentional or accidental, possibly a careless remark by an intoxicated field agent to his South African counterparts.

At the time of Mandela’s capture, President John F. Kennedy was trying to break out of the Cold War framework of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, especially regarding CIA hostility toward African nationalists. Kennedy feared that U.S. support for white rule in Africa would play into Soviet hands by alienating the continent’s emerging leaders. [See’s ” JFK Embrace of Third World Nationalists.”]

U.S. policy toward South Africa’s white supremacist government grew more contentious as American attitudes toward race evolved during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and after the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, who both strongly sympathized with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

President Jimmy Carter further broke from the Cold War mold in the late 1970s when he elevated human rights as a factor in U.S. foreign policy. But those human rights concerns were rolled back after Ronald Reagan ousted Carter in the 1980 election.

Reagan initiated a policy of “constructive engagement” toward South Africa’s white supremacists, meaning that he opposed overt pressure such as economic sanctions in favor of quiet diplomacy that sought gradual reform of the apartheid system.

In reality, Reagan’s approach allowed white South African leader P.W. Botha to crack down on the ANC and other revolutionary movements which Reagan viewed as pro-communist. Instead of substantive moves toward full citizenship for blacks, the Pretoria regime instituted largely cosmetic reforms to its apartheid system.

It was not until the U.S. and global economic sanctions took hold – combined with the world’s ostracism of the white racist regime – that Botha gave way to F.W. de Klerk, who, in turn, cleared the path for Mandela’s release in 1990. De Klerk then negotiated with Mandela to transform South Africa into a multiracial democracy, with Mandela becoming its first president in 1994.

Now, as the world honors the life of Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, the American people must reconcile his inspirational story with how their much-honored Ronald Reagan opposed the sanctions that finally brought freedom to Mandela and to his nation.

Given Reagan’s support for the ghastly slaughters in Central America and elsewhere, some Americans might reasonably wonder why his name is attached to so many public facilities, including Washington’s National Airport.

While it may be unrealistic to expect this Congress to reconsider the many honors heaped on Ronald Reagan, individual Americans may want to – at least unofficially – delete his name from the airport that serves the nation’s capital by referring to it again as Washington National.

You are currently on Mha Atma’s Earth Action Network email list, option D (occasional emails and up to 3 emails/day). To be removed, or to switch options (option A – 1x/week, option B – 3/wk, option C – up to 1x/day, option D – up to 3x/day) please reply and let us know! If someone forwarded you this email and you want to be on our list, send an email to and tell us which option you’d like. For more info on Earth Action Network go to and for more info about Mha Atma see

“War’s never a winning thing, Charlie. You just lose all the time, and the one who loses last asks for terms. All I remember is a lot of losing and sadness and nothing good at the end of it. The end of it, Charles, that was a winning all to itself, having nothing to do with guns.”

–Ray Bradbury, from the short story “The Time Machine” 1957