You know me. Pretty much a patriotic South African. Proud of our history. And deeply affected by Madiba – Nelson Mandela. I think the guy did an incredible job starting us off on the right track. Oh, we had a few other great leaders as well. But Madiba was our big daddy. Our Patriot. The John Adams of South Africa. The man who fought so hard to bring freedom to our little country down South. Just like John Adams and the other Patriots did over here in the US. (Oh yes, just like with the US, most of our subsequent leaders have been less “patriotic”, loved, reputable and effective as leaders than those original Founding Fathers.) So, I read with interest the recent flood of opinions regarding Nelson Mandela needing a special waiver to enter the US because he is still classified as a terrorist. As a South African I will refrain from commenting on whether he is a terrorist or not. That should be obvious. I will also refrain from blaming President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney for this as that would be easy, but also opportunistic and a cheap shot. The fact is that President Mandela’s good friend President Bill Clinton had 8 years to undo this injustice. As did his partner Senator Clinton. I am more concerned with the policy behind this terror list and the message it sends to other “liberation” organizations and individuals across the world.

Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress that he belonged to, were put on the list because the US government supported the Apartheid regime’s classification of the ANC as a terrorist organization. This indicated support of the Apartheid regime by the US government – both Republicans and Democrats. Again, I will refrain from discussing the Apartheid regime. I think we can all agree that it was a regime based on one of the most unjust and oppressive political systems in modern history. Really, take it from me and the people who suffered and died at the hands of that regime, they were not a nice bunch of guys to be associated with. Trust me, your mother will be most disappointed if you hung out with them.

On the other hand, the ANC was a peaceful organization for most of its history. It was established in 1912 in direct reaction to being excluded from having any political rights under the Union constitution of 1910. They remained an organization who believed in peaceful protest against the oppressive governments that gave no political rights to black South Africans. They did not even revert to violence when widows of black soldiers who died fighting in WWII received no pension whatsoever. It was only after 69 people were shot, mostly schoolchildren shot in the back, on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville that the ANC got banned for calling a national stay-away campaign. Note, still no violence called for by the ANC – just a stay-away. It was only after more murdering by the Apartheid government and the arrest of more than 2,000 people that the ANC took up the armed struggle against the Apartheid government – while they were banned from South Africa. Their “military wing”, Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation), was only established in 1961. They officially took up arms when exiled. They took up arms when their people got murdered, arrested and taxed to death and they were banned from being in South Africa to represent the oppressed in even a peaceful way. Remember this bit – people being taxed, not represented in government, no ownership, murdered and arrested left, right and centre AND their “party” being banned even though they are promoting peaceful resistance.

In short, the ANC was a peaceful organization for 48 years before they took up arms. And only after they got banned and people were murdered in public did they take up arms. And they continued this armed struggle against the Apartheid regime for the next 30 years. So yes, they were peaceful for much longer than what they were in the armed struggle. But still the US and many other Western governments declared them a terrorist organization. And before you get on your high horse – they only started taking in money and support from the old USSR when all those Western governments refused to provide them with any support against the Apartheid regime. Many, many years after they got banned and classified as a terrorist organization. A case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”

Let me put this in language and context you might get. A bit closer to home. Imagine you live in the US. Peacefully. Oh, there is a colonial power in charge, but you don’t care much for them. But then they start shooting your people when they protest against the unjust laws and taxes these colonial powers instituted against your people. And, of course, you don’t have full representation – only token representation. So after many years of continued oppression you say “enough is enough” and you stand up and have a big old war for independence. And you take support from anyone – even those who also have oppressive systems in place in their own country. Let’s say like asking the French monarchy for support even though they did not give their own people the rights you were fighting for and who were an oppressiveregime to their own people. Oh, wait – that happened here right? Imagine that, those Patriots who stood up against the British rule would have been branded a terrorist group if the current US application of the term terrorist was used by the colonial master back then. See, the ANC was like the Patriots back when you fought for your independence… And I for one will defend John Adams and anyone else who dare call them terrorists. They were freedom fighters on the side of the good and the brave. On the side of the oppressed. They were the good guys. They were the brave guys. Full stop. Not terrorists.

But the problem they would face today is that there is no clear guidelines on what will constitute a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US government.

So, does the US classify organizations based on their opposition to legitimate governments? No. As the case in South Africa highlights, the US government supported an oppressive regime and not those seeking democracy. It did the same in Angola and in Mozambique. It supported the warlords in both those countries who fought the legitimate governments. Governments who continued to win the popular democratic votes in elections from before, during and after the wars that ravished these countries. And, of course, the US supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and many Latin American dictators who were as oppressive as these African and Middle Eastern dictators. Yes, it was during the Cold War, but it still… The US build their partnership in the same way the ANC did – not being picky, but just picking anyone who will fight against the injustice they believe their own people will or are facing. Both picked dirty friends. And neither of them can claim that the other one had “worse” friends than the other. You willing to make a call on whether you would prefer the Taliban or a Communist? Not an easy choice is it? A bit like a pan and a fire choice I think. Hello pot, cheers kettle.

But it still leaves the question open – does the US classify organizations as terrorist if they take up arms against any type of government then? No. The US government is not averse to supporting organizations who take up arms. As mentioned before, they supported violent groups in Mozambique and Angola. And they have continued to do so – who can forget the call to arms of Iraqi’s during the first Gulf War? And the direct or indirect support for those who take up arms against oppressive regimes.

So what is a terrorist in the eyes of the US government? Who knows? And that has been the problem with declassifying Nelson Mandela as terrorist. We have no clear guidelines. How can we declassify someone when we don’t know the classification in the first place? It’s a bit like just building a road and seeing where it takes us. Or a railroad. And remember the big railroad bubble of 1893? This road is just waiting to blow up in our face and create panic.

At the very least we need to know what a terrorist is. I don’t mean some global definition we can all agree on. I am not that naive. All I can ask is for the US to have a clear definition. But there isn’t. Do yourself a favour – try and find a clear definition anywhere in the US laws. Too vague and too many loopholes. How can we win a war against terrorism if we can’t even define who or what is a terrorist? So far we have been more or less lucky. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were relatively easy calls. Sadam not so easy. And the more we go into this “War Against Terrorism” the more fuzzy it will become. I would really like Nelson Mandela to not be classified as a terrorist. And I really don’t want us to start a war against the next John Adams and his group of Patriots. He was a Patriot. And so was Mandela. Let’s not shoot at anything that moves. Not every shadow is a threat. Let’s know who we fight. Because how else would we know when we have won?

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Hey, April is almost over. But the madness not. Let’s look at the weak as it happened.

1. Dude, I just smoked the house

Those bloody Aussies. They are taking us all for a ride. No wait. More like a riiiideeee, dude. And sometimes just taking the piss. But good for them. See, they are always trying to find new ways to pull a fast one – those damn Aussies. Give them half a chance… And now they are using the “green” debate out there to create new “eco-friendly” ways of living their lives. I always knew they were a bunch of pot smoking Irish convicts entrepreneurs. But the latest one take the cake. Or should I say “brownie” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). The Aussies are now claiming that they are building “green” houses by using hemp. Yep. That’s pretty green hey. I think it is because they first have to dry out the leaves. What better way than build a house of dope leaves and leave it to the Australian sun to dry it out nicely. And when it is nice and dry? “Sorry officer, I have no idea how the fire started. The house just went off in flames…” Dude. What a plan, maaan. That’s dope man. And I mean it. But they didn’t stop there. The other question they faced? What to do with all that… hum… pee that comes from drinking too much XXXX. Just recycle it brother. Yes. Recycled water. I guess they can use that when they burn the house. Or burn the house when they drink the water. I would. Just to get the taste out my mouth. I think the Aussies are taking the piss.

2. Just bomb Global Warming

Okay, we are now officially… hum… you know… stuffed. Global Warming is going to wipe us out. Or maybe not. It seems as if we might now have two ways to die as Global Warming creeps up as bites us in the more delicate places. We can either fry in the heat or be bombed to smithereens. At least we have a choice now. All thanks to the Royal United Services Institute. And no, that isn’t some think-tank about Prince Charles and his bevy of servants – it’s the “leading forum in the UK for national and international Defence and Security”. Founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, RUSI is the oldest institute of its kind in the world. Yes, the same guy who gave us those nice rubber boots to walk with in British crap rainy weather also gave us a think-tank to come up with new ways of justifying war. Thanks Duke. Anyway, the RUSI says that Global Warming will get so bad that we will go into wars that will last for centuries and will be worse than the previous two World Wars. So I guess we need more military funding then hey? Nice one – not even Dick could think of a better way to keep Halliburton in the black for a hundred years or more. I do see a little flaw in their argument though. If Global Warming will fry us all – how come we can still be alive to fight wars for a few hundred years? Hum… that’s the thinking part. You concentrated a little bit too much on the tank part buddy. DO YOU HEAR ME SOLDIER! OOH-RAH! (Sorry Marines.) Never mind, at least I will have those Wellington boots when the sea levels start rising.

3. ZZ Top

Yes, it is the battle of the Z’s. Zambia against Zimbabwe. And I am cheering for Zambia. I love Zambia. The most peaceful nation on earth. Never been in a war – internal or external. And you have to know Zambians to know why. The nicest people on earth. And they didn’t even have to build those Aussie “green” houses to be laid back. Okay, also one of the poorest nations on earth. But that didn’t stop them from standing up to the tyrant of the South – Mad Bob Mugabe. You see, China is trying to deliver some weapons to Zimbabwe. Yes, war and instability pays – just Halli and Burton. Back to the South. First the trade unions in South Africa refused to unload the weapons (well done comrades – what we call them back home). And they called Mad Bob out for the coward that he is. You don’t mess with a unionist in South Africa. The Teamsters are as tough as accountants compared to the South African version. If they say the ship won’t be unloaded… then the ship won’t be unloaded. Ever. Even the rats were to scared to make a move on the ship or dare get off the ship. Anyway, Zambia decided to show some political leadership sadly lacking from my own beloved government. President Mwanawasa from Zambia stood up and stood strong. Saying that any weapons delivered to Mad Bob’s puppets can and will undermine any possibility of breaking the violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe. And the Great Chinese ship turned around and headed back home. Head hanging down in shame and tail between their legs. I love Zambia even more. Now. If we can only get Mwanawasa to target a few other warmongers out there. Dick, you beter watch out. You might just piss off anger a Zambian. And as Mad Bob just realized, that ain’t no pretty thing to face.

4. Drive-thru shooting

“You talking to me? You talking to me?” Some of the last words heard at the McDonald’s drive-thru before the shoot-out at the OK Corral Golden Arches. You see, Makyala Hall went for her standard quality dinner at McDonalds and knew that you have to wait to get quality. I mean really, Le McDonald’s isn’t just some fast-food take-out joint. It’s the premier dinner destination in Tulsa. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve been to Tulsa. So Makyala waited patiently for her food at the rathole restaurant that inspired Gordon Ramsay. But after an hour she thought this might be taking a tad longer than what she expected. It is a crappy joint gourmet restaurant, but she ordered drive-thru. And she couldn’t idle her car waiting for her bag of fat handmade burger the whole evening – not with gas prices being the way they are. So she marched up to the manager and told him where to stick his fries where the burgers don’t fit. A super-sized verbal fight broke out and he flipped her faster than those patties. And then good old Madman Thurman showed up. The Cola dude from behind the counter. But he was off duty and stuffed with either beer or Quarter Pounders. In other words – he was drunk with power. I mean, he is the Spongebob of Tulsa. And he was faster on the draw than on the service. And shot the guy in the car behind Makayla when he interrupted their little argument about whether the King can take out Ronald. And all he wanted was some ketchup with his fries. He made it though. Still alive. But just. See the health nuts were right – McDonald’s can kill you.

5. A Bush I can get to like Good Bush, bad Bush

And I am talking about the one on the left. Not the smiling paw-paw in the middle or the smiling papa on the right. They are so not cool. It’s drool, not cool. But Jenna. If you take the two pees peas puh-lease P’s away and she might just look like she is at a Metallica concert. Okay, not a fan of Metallica, but you get my drift. Anyway, it seems as if she might actually think before she decides who to vote for. Now stay with me people. Yes, a Bush that can think before they take an action. Any action. I know, this is revolutionary. Or maybe evolutionary, but it is happening. I actually don’t care who she votes for. I just like the fact that she refused to be put in a little box when asked who she will vote for. Remember, her mother was sitting next to her and just said that she will vote for “the Republican”. And when Larry asked Jenna? She said she wasn’t sure as she hasn’t made up her mind yet – and then followed this up with, “I mean, who isn’t open to learning about the candidates and I’m sure that everybody is like that“. Huh-duh, like half the US isn’t open to learn sweetheart. Okay Larry, you actually got someone to not agree with their mother in public. I hope you feel proud. You should. Great work Jenna. Now, if only I can talk to you about a little war thing going on.

That’s all folks. Have a good one and speak to you later.

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It irritates the living hell out of me when politicians (or anyone for that matter) uses the “I have been there” line. You know, that line when a country comes up in a conversation and they say “I have been there”. I was listening Bill Maher (yeah, yeah) on my iPod when some or other politician was using this argument that things are soooo much better in Iraq. You know – he’s “been there”. Like he knows something we don’t know. Sorry buddy. You haven’t been there. Going on an escorted trip to some holiday camp isn’t “been there”. It’s just a package deal holiday trip. It’s buying that Disney trip off the travel agent. Not planning your own trip to Florida. Disney isn’t Florida. You haven’t been to Florida just because you have been to Disney World. Mickey Mouse isn’t Governor Charlie Crist – and Goofy isn’t Jeb Bush either. They just act like them. I know – it’s a shocker. But that’s the truth.

Dick Cheney has been to Iraq. Hillary has been all over the place. All escorted trips. Talking to people and seeing people that other people controlled. Not a moment of meeting the people in the streets. No. They met the people those in power wanted them to meet. Those “good little soldiers”. Those on the side of the winners or warlords or occupiers – not those who suffer in their homes without water or electricity or food or jobs. Or walls for that matter. Those have been bombed as well. So what you have are just very big windows as the Republicans would like you to believe. You see what they want you to see. And not what you should see. You don’t see the families caring for the wounded ones or crying for the lost ones.

It brings me to McCain. (No, I am still not writing about the election – just the topic of “I have been there”). McCain went to Iraq last week. Made a few “misspokes” by confusing a few issues. Wouldn’t you with Lieberman standing next to you? You just don’t know which way Lieberman might go – Independent today, Republican tomorrow, Democrat yesterday. Anyway – I digress. Again. So McCain went to the marketplace. Bought a few goods there I hope. You know. A bucket of water (just a few minor shrapnel holes in it). Some oil (imported from Saudi Arabia because you can’t find Iraqi oil). An AK47 (seen some action). But no food and no freedom fries. But why didn’t he go to the market he went to the last time? Because it wasn’t safe. Not even with those Blackwater guards, marines, armoured vehicles and helicopters. He hasn’t “been there”. He could only say “I haven’t been there”.

They don’t know those places. They don’t live in those places. They fly in and they fly out. Just so they can say “I have been there”. Just so they can spin it in a way that you like it – with a bit of cream on top thank you. It makes it soooo much easier to swallow. It’s just the way I used to feed my dog his medicine – hide it in a piece of ham. But even my dog got it in the end. He started spitting out the pills (but still ate the ham). Americans aren’t stupid. No. Let me rephrase that. Americans aren’t dumb for long. You start smelling something rotten and starts spitting out the pill of stupidity. And the approval rating of those “who have been there” starts dropping faster than the bombs in Iraq. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time…

“I have been there”. I should be a politician really. No – I should be the ruler of the world by now. Hear me people of the world – your leader is here. The wait is over. Get the roses and the wine ready, because here I come. The people of Cameroon – I am your main-man. I have been there once. For almost a day. A stopover on my flight to Bamako, Mali. Actually, I have been there twice – on my return flight as well. I am the most knowledgeable foreign policy person I know. Why? Because “I have been there”. Zambia – vote me in. I spend time in Lusaka – many times. “I have been there”. I’ve eaten your nsima and drank your Mosi. Ivory Coast – your saviour and warlord is here. “I have been there”. Twice. Stuck at the airport.  Hungary – anoint me in the Danube. “I have been there”. For 3 long days in a luxury hotel that included a massage from a big hairy Hungarian – male. Mexico – ola, make me your main revolutionary piñata. “I have been there”. Mexico City, Chihuahua, Monterrey and many Tequila’s. France – c‘est la vie, your monsieur of la resistance has arrived. “I have been there”. Four long days in Paris – baguettes, wine, cheese, insults and all. Germany – your über prince of the united country is here. “I have been there”. In Trier to shop for toys, in Berlin to do nothing really, and in Nuremberg for a job interview. “I have been there”. I have been everywhere. Almost. Never mind South Africa where I was born and raised. Or the UK where I spend four long years watching footie, drinking pints and eating crap “fish and chips” like a real Englishman. Or the US where I have lived for the last 18 months shouting for the Red Sox and hating the Yankees like all good Americans should. Yes, I have been there. But I know nothing. Because I don’t live their lives. I am just a guy from South Africa. An Umlungu who knows too little and says too much.

Really, if “I have been there” qualifies you as a foreign policy expert then every pilot on the Delta international route is Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And sorry my friend, you ain’t from Egypt or his world. I sometimes even doubt if you are even from this world. Even if you “have been there”. You still haven’t “been there” or “got it”.

So. Stop it please. Stop trying to sound all travelled and wise because you “have been there”. You haven’t. You haven’t even “been there” when it comes to the US. You can’t use a daft and brainless line just to justify and spin your stupid, warped and pathetic policies. It isn’t an answer. It isn’t an analysis. It isn’t even SNL or Real Time. It’s just you being stupid. Like my dog was in the beginning. But even he got over it. He roams and knows his territory. He even marks it by lifting his leg on everything. Instead of telling me “I have been there”, tell me how you are going to “be here”. Just don’t leave a mark like my dog. Just don’t take the piss.

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