In 2008 just before his 90th birthday, the United States gave Nelson Mandela a special present, striking him from a decades-old terror watch list and ending what US officials called “a rather embarrassing matter.”
By then the anti-apartheid icon had long left behind the jail cells where he was incarcerated for 27 years, and was already enjoying retirement and his status as one of the most revered statesmen of the 20th century after becoming South Africa’s first black president.
In past years, US officials have beaten a path to his door in his family village hoping some of his almost saint-like aura would rub off on them.
On Thursday, when Mandela died at age 95, President Barack Obama hailed him as belonging “to the ages” and ordered that flags on US government buildings be flown at half-mast — a rare tribute to a foreign leader.
Yet decades ago many in America did not share in the adulation of Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC), which had been billed a terrorist organization by both South Africa and the United States. His severest right-wing critics painted him as an unrepentant terrorist and a communist sympathizer.
It was even reported that the CIA had helped engineer Mandela’s 1962 arrest when an agent inside the ANC supplied South African security officials with a tip-off to track him down. Read more here.