In the late ’90s the Americans, despite Mugabe’s policies, were still cheering him on. Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tom McDonald, was gushing in his praise of him and rather astonishingly concluded that the country, thanks to the man’s tender ministrations, was an “African success story.”
The sad irony is it was the same whites who had powered the Rhodesian economy through fifteen years of war and sanctions before independence that were the dynamic that kept the new regime buoyant despite the official hostility. Vital players were the farmers. Through their efforts, exports of agricultural product in the postindependence era increased and the national coffers were kept reasonably full. The people Mugabe loathed most made the monster look good and played a significant role in feeding him until he decided to devour them. Four thousand white farmers (.03% of the total population), their families, and dependents were “ethnically cleansed” starting in 2000 and the economy collapsed, triggering the worst hyperinflation in history. This resulted in soft sanctions and a travel ban on the president and some of his cohorts. Zimbabwe joined a legion of ravaged African countries with populations reduced to a life of fear and famine.
The fact is, this catastrophe was allowed to happen largely because the Western world not only allowed it to, but enthusiastically aided it. Consumed by an obsession with political correctness that forbids criticism of tyrants when they are black, no one had the gumption to stand up and call the man to account; instead they helped him on his horrible way. If the liberals who ruled and their media associates had stood by the same principles that they screamed about when it was time to ride the anticolonial bandwagon and impress all with their contempt for all things white and allegedly racist, the history of Zimbabwe might have been a happier one.
Unsurprisingly Mugabe was relieved to find that no matter how badly he behaved, he could traverse the world and enjoy the unanimous, virtually unqualified acclaim of a misguided liberal establishment that believed he was doing a wonderful job. He took this as a signal to continue as before, so when the tanks arrived outside his house on Monday night and the generals told him and his wife the game was up, I empathized a little with poor Robert; he thought he was doing a hell of a good job.
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