Hell freezes over and George W. Bush actually makes a legitimate point (at least theoretically) that is unfairly criticized in Blue Blogistan.
The Beloved Leader has gotten some criticism for alleged remarking that Nelson Mandela is dead. He didn’t say that, and I think that those who criticize him for it are both wrong substantively and also not grasping what is truly frightening about this administration.
Here’s what he said:
Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where’s Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas. He was a brutal tyrant that divided people up and split families, and people are recovering from this. So there’s a psychological recovery that is taking place. And it’s hard work for them. And I understand it’s hard work for them. Having said that, I’m not going the give them a pass when it comes to the central government’s reconciliation efforts.
To which John Amato asks, “Um, WTF??? Not only is Nelson Mandela very much alive, but he’s also been very vocally critical of the Bush Adminstration.”
Now the Mandela Foundation has gotten into the game, wryly reminding the President that Mandela is very much alive.
But that misses the point. Bush didn’t really say or mean to say that Mandela was dead, and that’s very clear from the context. He meant to say that the Iraqi equivalents of Mandela–i.e. the kinds of political leaders who could reconcile Iraq’s ethnic groups–were dead because these types of figures were executed by Saddam Hussein.
In and of itself, that’s not inherently unreasonable. But as a practical matter, it shows once again the delusional character of this President and this administration.
1) To compare the situation in Iraq to day with the situation in South Africa before emancipation is ridiculous. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of Iraqi politics. The African National Congress had a decades-long policy of peaceful resistance, which it only abandoned after the Sharpeville massacres of 1960, and even then, it never hit civilian targets–only military ones. (That’s why also, incidentally, it is ridiculous to compare the ANC to Fatah or Hamas). In South Africa, you had a large, generally peaceful, majority against a small minority. In Iraq, you have a civil war between groups that have fought each other quite literally for centuries.
2) This administration wouldn’t recognize an Iraqi Mandela if he came up and spit at them. When he was in Congress, Dick Cheney repeatedly called Mandela a terrorist and a Communist, and supported the apartheid regime. Conservatives never accepted the ANC as a legitimate force, insisting against overwhelming evidence that it was a catspaw for Moscow.
In my view, this just goes to show that the best critique of Bush isn’t that he’s stupid. It’s that he is intellectually lazy and has no concept of reality. His point made perfect sense–in the alternative universe that he inhabits. That’s what scares me.