The latest from Chomsky’s syndicated column:
“The death of Nelson Mandela provides another occasion for reflection on the remarkable impact of what has been called “historical engineering”: reshaping the facts of history to serve the needs of power.
When Mandela at last obtained his freedom, he declared that “During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength. … [Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa ….a turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid. … What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”
Today the names of Cubans who died defending Angola from U.S.-backed South African aggression, defying American demands that they leave the country, are inscribed on the “Wall of Names” in Pretoria’s Freedom Park. And the thousands of Cuban aid workers who sustained Angola, largely at Cuban expense, are also not forgotten.
The U.S.-approved version is quite different. From the first days after South Africa agreed to withdraw from illegally occupied Namibia in 1988, paving the way for the end of apartheid, the outcome was hailed by the Wall Street Journal as a “splendid achievement” of American diplomacy, “one of the most significant foreign policy achievements of the Reagan administration.”
The reasons why Mandela and South Africans perceive a radically different picture are spelled out in Piero Gleijeses’ masterful scholarly inquiry Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991.
As Gleijeses convincingly demonstrates, South Africa’s aggression and terrorism in Angola and its occupation of Namibia were ended by “Cuban military might” accompanied by “fierce black resistance” within South Africa and the courage of Namibian guerrillas. The Namibian liberation forces easily won fair elections as soon as these were possible. Similarly, in elections in Angola, the Cuban-backed government prevailed—while the United States continued to support vicious opposition terrorists there even after South Africa was compelled to back away.
To the end, the Reaganites remained virtually alone in their strong support for the apartheid regime and its murderous depredations in neighboring countries. Though these shameful episodes may be wiped out of internal U.S. history, others are likely to understand Mandela’s words.
In these and all too many other cases, supreme power does provide protection against reality—to a point.”