Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday at 95, has already been the subject of countless tributes and memorials as one of the great humanitarian leaders of the last century. Some of those memories are not so pleasant, however. Mandela himself has as untarnished a reputation as anyone in the world, but others, like, say former Vice President Dick Cheney, have some ugly Mandela associations which are bubbling to the surface now.
Back in 1986, Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner and Dick Cheney was a Congressman from Wyoming. South Africa was still under apartheid, which established forced racial segregation. Amidst this humanitarian crisis, the United States Congress took action: it voted on the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which placed sanctions on South Africa, called for the end of apartheid and the release of political prisoners, including Mandela.
The bill passed, despite opposition from President Ronald Reagan and future Vice President Dick Cheney. Why? Because Cheney insisted that Mandela’s party the African National Congress (ANC), was a terrorist organization.
Okay, we all make mistakes. Maybe Cheney was misinformed about South Africa, Mandela or the ANC. How about in hindsight, after Mandela had served as President of South Africa and was widely viewed as one of the great leaders, on the level of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi? Cheney was asked about his vote against the Anti-Apartheid Act in 2000, shortly before he became Vice President (and the most powerful man in the world):
“The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization," Cheney said on ABC's This Week. "I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.''
Makes sense. Dick Cheney has always been perfectly okay with how evil he is, and why would Nelson Mandela change that?