The Plank

Young And Foolish

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Today's New York Times carries a front-page story
about Andrew Young, the former United Nations ambassador who is now a government lobbyist. Young's consulting firm, GoodWorks International, lobbies on behalf of both Nigeria and major industries that do business (or hope to do business) there. A Nigerian human rights lawyer and president of the West African Bar Association puts it best: "He is just here making money."

Young is not new to controversy. He was forced to quit as UN Ambassador in 1979 after he met with the Palestinian Liberation Organization ambassador (illegal at the time) and then misled the State Department about the meeting. Last year, he was forced to quit as a consultant to Wal-Mart after he said that Jewish, Arab and Korean business owners "ripped off" black people by "selling us stale bread and bad meat," voicing the same sentiment behind the Los Angeles riots.

Young has also been cozy with African dictators for some time. The most damaging aspect of his legacy will be his crucial role in seeing that Robert Mugabe became ruler of Zimbabwe. Through diplomatic maneuvers too long and complicated to discuss in this space, Young helped bolster Mugabe over the moderate, nonviolent, non-Communist black leaders working to ensure a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mugabe never believed in democracy, only violence, and was quite clear about his intentions to rule Zimbabwe as a one-party state. But Young willfully ignored Mugabe's clear record of intimidation, illiberalism, and outright terror. The rest, as they say, is history.

Update: Readers request, readers get. A short piece detailing Young's sorry record on Zimbabwe.

--James Kirchick

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