America’s Apologist

by Patrick J. Buchanan – March 26, 1998

Contrast, if you will, the president’s stubborn refusal to apologize for his own sins with his enthusiasm for apologizing for America’s alleged sins. Not since the holy Roman emperor spent days in the snows at Canosa, begging for the pope’s absolution, has a national leader groveled like Bill Clinton in his first 48 hours in Africa…

What is it about Bill Clinton that he is ever so expansive in confessing America’s sins but so reticent to confess his own?

For years, Paula Jones had been trying to get Clinton to admit to his purported piggish behavior at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock. Had he done so, no one would have heard of Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey or the chorus line now rehearsing for the Jones trial.

But because Clinton refused to say he was sorry, this trial promises to be the most humiliating week in the history of the American presidency, and Clinton’s deposition in that trial, replete as it is with potential perjuries, could yet cost him his office.

Contrast, if you will, the president’s stubborn refusal to apologize for his own sins with his enthusiasm for apologizing for America’s alleged sins. Not since the holy Roman emperor spent days in the snows at Canosa, begging for the pope’s absolution, has a national leader groveled like Bill Clinton in his first 48 hours in Africa.

“In Uganda, Clinton Expresses Regret on Slavery in U.S.,” ran The New York Times’ headline. Though stopping short of a formal apology, Clinton, said the Times, did “express regret … for the role of the United States in African slavery, as he reeled off a list of errors in American policy toward this continent that included turning to ruthless dictators as allies during the Cold War.”

“European Americans received the fruits of the slave trade,” wailed Clinton, “and we were wrong in that.”

Let us get a little history straight. First, America’s slaves did not come from Uganda, where Clinton was burbling away. His apology is thus a bit like standing up in Hong Kong to apologize for Hiroshima. Slaves were captured by hostile tribes who would have butchered them had they not discovered that Europeans would buy them.

Second, nine-tenths of all slaves that came to the New World went to Spanish America, not British America. Third, it was European Christians, the Brits first, who ended slavery and the slave trade that persisted among Africans and Arabs for decades after Americans had abolished it.

Indeed, a few Africans have reverted to the odious practice in Sudan, where Christian children are being sold off with little outraged protest from the chieftains to whom Clinton is now pandering.

“The United States has not always done the right thing by Africa,” said Clinton. Too often, we “dealt with countries in Africa and the other parts of the world more on how they stood in the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union than how they stood in the struggle for their own people’s aspirations to live up to the fullest of their God-given abilities.”

This is the president’s backhanded way of complimenting himself on being morally superior to predecessors who had to cut deals with dictators to win the Cold War. Yet, it is hard to think of a single Cold War president whose shoes Bill Clinton could fill.

We shall see if Clinton believes in moral consistency when he visits Moscow. Will he also apologize to Russia for FDR’s truckling to Stalin, because Stalin stood with us against Hitler? If it was morally wrong to align with Zaire’s Joe Mobutu, was it morally right to align with Russia’s Joe Stalin?

“(P)erhaps the worst sin America ever committed about Africa was the sin of neglect and ignorance,” said Clinton. Oh, cut it out. America never had colonies in Africa. The continent was carved up by the Europeans in 1884 in Berlin. When Europeans arrived in sub-Sahara Africa, the inhabitants had no machinery and no written language. When the Europeans departed, most of them by 1960, they left behind power stations, telephones, telegraphs, railroads, mines, plantations, schools, a civil service, a police force and a treasury.

After Europe let its colonies go, many descended into chaos within a decade. Where Asia’s new nations succeeded, some remarkably, in the post-colonial era, most African countries failed. And the poor and decent people of these countries have indeed suffered horribly. But that suffering is not our fault, and it is not the fault of the West. It is the fault of Africa’s own greedy, cruel and incompetent rulers.

As for the United States, it was the chief financier of the international banks whose billions Africa’s corrupt and murderous regimes ripped off.

Thus, what on earth is our first apologist babbling about?

While America’s history is not blameless, America deserves better than to have Clinton romping around sub-Sahara Africa, courting cheap grace by apologizing for sins this nation never committed. But if Bill Clinton enjoys making apologies, Paula, Kathleen and all the rest are waiting.