Mandela Slams U.S. Iraq Policy During Irish Visit
Fri Jun 20, 3:30 PM
By Michael Roddy
GALWAY, Ireland (Reuters) - Former South African President Nelson Mandela said Friday the United States posed a danger to the world for sidelining the United Nations to make war on Iraq.
The Nobel peace laureate, in Ireland to open the Special Olympics, strongly criticized President Bush for circumventing the United Nations in order to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by force.
"Any organization, any country, any movement that now decides to sideline the United Nations, that country and its leader are a danger to the world," Mandela said in Galway, where he received an honorary degree a day before opening the games.
"We cannot allow the world to again degenerate into a place where the will of the powerful dominates over all other considerations," he added. "That will surely prove to be a recipe for growing anarchy in world affairs."
Mandela received an honorary doctorate in law from the National University of Ireland before returning to Dublin where he will join a star-studded cast to open the 11th Special Olympics for athletes with learning disabilities.
Mandela, who said South Africans strongly identified with Ireland's struggle to end colonial rule, told an audience of 1,100 that he appreciated Irish support for South Africa's struggle to end apartheid racial separation.
Now 84, and walking with difficulty with the aid of a cane, Mandela spent 27 years in prison, much of that on Robben Island near Cape Town, in solitary confinement.
He told his Irish audience he had "an appreciation for your support to our struggle at a time when it was not fashionable to demonstrate such support."
But Mandela suggested Ireland had failed to show as much backbone in standing up to the U.S. war effort in Iraq, which relied heavily on troop transports stopping over at Shannon airport in western Ireland.
Ireland also is a European base for many U.S. multinational companies.
"You are keeping quiet. You are afraid of this country (the United States) and its leader," he said.
The 30-minute speech was met by thunderous and sustained applause by an audience of academics and invited guests and by the general public watching nearby.
"It's great to see him... he fought for his rights," said Claire Rabbitte, who stood on one of the campus laneways to catch a glimpse of Mandela, wearing academic robes, as he was driven to the hall in an open buggy.
Mandela said there were strong parallels between the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the Northern Irish peace process, which culminated in a 1998 peace deal for power sharing between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
"Our own experience in South Africa, where we confounded the prophets of doom and achieved a peaceful settlement, inspires us to believe that no situation can be so intractable that it cannot be solved through negotiations and willingness to compromise," he said.
Saturday, Mandela, former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and rock supergroup U2 will open the games.
Seven thousand competitors from 160 countries have gathered in Ireland for the festival at Dublin's Croke Park stadium, the first time it has been held outside the United States.