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Nelson Mandela Fights for His Life--Again!

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Nelson Mandela Fights For His Life"Again!

By Danny Schechter


New York, New York: Nelson Mandela is fighting for his life again--his third hospitalization in four months as the world looks on with silent prayers. The media attention he is receiving speaks to the respect with which he is held, even though most of the coverage points more to his age than the fact that the respiratory condition he has was contracted under brutal prison conditions and he clearly, even now, is a victim of the apartheid system he battled into submission.

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The world media is pumped by another deathwatch. In South Africa, Madiba, as he is known by his clan name, is called a "FBR"--the Freelancers Best Friend--because of all the work the around the clock coverage his condition inspires. At the BBC in London, striking staffers ay they will return to work to cover his death.

When he and his comrades arrived on South Africa's draconian Robben Island, he was the 466 th to be incarcerated in 1964. Hence, his prison number 46664, later used as a symbol in a campaign against AIDS.

He and his comrades, all considered terrorists by the all-white government, were told the only way they would ever leave was in a box. He spent 28 years behind bars in all, fighting for his life and dignity daily.  One of his prison guards told me the daily regimen of breaking rocks at the Island's quarry was deliberate, designed to weaken the men and exhaust them.

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The Robben Island story is told in detail in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, which has now been turned by Anant Singh into an epic movie for release later this year.

Robben Island is now a tourist attraction, a world heritage site, a symbol of "victory" in the eyes of those former prisoners who survived long enough to help topple the system.

When he was still a Senator, Barack Obama was shown around Robben Island by Mandela's former prisonmate, Ahmed Kathrada, and like all visitors, was horrified by what he saw.

 "Kathy" as he is known, is a Muslim but in those years he was labeled by his ethnicity, not his religion, as an Indian and was given privileges--that he declined---because he was not considered black and blacks were to be treated worse. Muslim terrorists didn't inspire special fear back then.

You will recall that in those years, Obama was promising to close Gitmo, our Robben Island. He never did, and in fact, its barbarities have now sparked hunger strikes and protests as his administration, like the White South Africans in some cases, made their sentences indefinite.

Today, he calls Mandela to wish him well but remains silent on the prison practices that still shame our country.

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And, not just Gitmo. The brutalities against prisoners committed by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were deliberate, and only modified after they were exposed by the media.

These practices are not just reserved for foreign prisoners. Go see the documentary "The House I Live In" and experience prison conditions and a mass incarceration industry in the USA that makes Mandela's treatment pale by comparison.

The war on terror is alive and spreading by both the terrorists and our efforts to contain them.  The drones are the most visible manifestation of counter terror measures that continue to menace and kill innocent civilians.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at See

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