The Spine

The Mugabe Myth


Some journalists have obsessions. You know mine. And Jamie Kirchick's is
Zimbabwe or, rather, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. He is more attentive to
what happens (and what has happened) in Harare than anyone else writing for
the American press. Maybe there's someone in Britain about whom one could
say the same. But I'm not sure. Certainly, few are able to tell the truth in
Zimbabwe itself, at least not anonymously. One such person is Cathy Buckle, whose weekly letters from Zimbabwe TNR has published. Those that try live in fear of being murdered -- garroted or knifed and left on the street to be eaten
by the dogs and the flies.

Kirchick has written on Mugabe's tyranny several times for TNR and for the Wall Street Journal, Commentary,the Forward, and others. So you see what I mean by obsession. This obsession is driven by
simple ethical repugnance, bolstered by economic literacy and political

In an article for Sunday's Los Angeles Times (this is not the first time
Jamie has written on Zimbabwe for the L.A. Times), takes the
innocence away from those who pretend that Mugabe was at first a good guy
and only recently has become a swine. He was a swine, a brutal swine, all

Today, with Zimbabwe suffering the highest inflation and lowest life-expectancy rates in the world, it is fashionable to call Mugabe a "caricature" of an African despot. But Mugabe became that caricature immediately after assuming office...

In 1984, Mugabe imprisoned Methodist Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who had won the 1979 multiracial election boycotted by Mugabe, for 10 months without charge, falsely accusing him of conspiring against Zimbabwe.

And over several years in the early 1980s, Mugabe executed what arguably might be the worst of his many atrocities, a campaign of terror against the minority Ndebele tribe in which he unleashed a North Korean-trained army unit that killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

But there are those in power in Africa who still have him in good standing
and are protecting his bloody tyranny still. The most important of these
is Thabo Mbeki, his friendly neighbor to the south. We are
fated not to have high expectations from South Africa. That is just a fact.

Which brings to mind a true hero, Nelson Mandela, whose personal foreign
policy as former president of the country is repulsive, not least about
Mugabe and the prison cage of which he is warden, but not just.

In any case, here's Kirchick's sharp and informative article.

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