Predictably, conservatives are outraged over President Obama's visit to Cuba, particularly the fact that he took a photo in front of a mural of Che Guevara. In response to the backlash some have pointed to the fact that Republican presidents have taken photos in front of memorials of communist revolutionaries in the past:
The hypocrisy runs deeper than this, however. One tweet stated "Finally, our POTUS is able to honor the mural of a racist, terrorist, mass murderer who oversaw concentration camps." Newt Gingrich questioned if Obama was endorsing Guevara. Based on all of the social media outrage over this, one would think Republicans have not had a history of doing the same thing. Anyone familiar with America's foreign policy history would know there is no shortage of examples of presidents supporting unsavory figures, and many of these examples come from Republican presidents.
Ronald Reagan seemed to have made it a habit of supporting oppressive leaders and war criminals throughout Africa. Joseph Mobutu was one of Africa's most notorious dictators. Mobutu came to power following the overthrow and murder of the democratically elected Patrice Lumumba. Mobutu ruled for more than 30 years. During this period of time he plundered the Congo's treasury. By the time he was overthrown, the Congo was one of the poorest nations in Africa and Mobutu was one of the Africa's richest dictators. Reagan described Mobutu as "a voice of good sense and good will." President George H.W. Bush invited Mobutu to Washington and praised him as "one of our most valued friends."
Reagan also supported Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan rebel who waged a civil war against the Angolan government. This civil war resulted in the deaths of more than one million people. Despite the various war crimes that Savimibi committed, which included targeting civilians, Reagan invited Savimibi to the White House and described him as a "freedom fighter." Today Reagan is praised as a conservative hero. His history of supporting African war criminals and dictators is conveniently brushed aside.
During George W. Bush's war on terror, Gaddafi was considered an ally of that war, with the Bush administration actually describing Libya as a "model" for other nations to follow. This was during a time when the British government was actively assisting the Libyan government in suppressing and torturing dissent. Where was Newt Gingrich's outrage over the Bush administration praising Gaddafi?
The conservative outrage over Obama's photo in front of Che Guevara's mural is an example of selective outrage from a party that has had a history of supporting people with more blood on their hands than Che Guevara did. This outrage, I think, is also part of the larger problem of confronting America's own complex foreign policy and the unintended consequences of those policies. For those who care to remember, the Cuban Revolution overthrew Fulgencio Batista. Batista's regime was a corrupt and repressive one, yet he had the support of the Eisenhower administration for the good portion of his rule. Eisenhower was a Republican.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook.