Today's Parade Magazine names "The World's 10 Worst Dictators." Topping the list is Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe:
Inflation in Zimbabwe is so bad that in January the government released a $50 billion note — enough to buy two loaves of bread. The unemployment rate has risen to more than 85%. In 2008, Mugabe agreed to hold an election, but it became clear that he would accept the result only if he won. His supporters launched attacks on the opposition, killing 163 and torturing or beating 5000. He ultimately signed a power-sharing agreement with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but since then Mugabe has broken its terms and installed his own people at the head of every ministry. Meanwhile, health conditions have reached crisis levels. More than 3800 Zimbabweans have died from cholera since August.
U.S. link: Although U.S. leaders have called for Mugabe’s resignation, imports from Zimbabwe (primarily nickel and ferrochromium, both used in stainless steel) rose in 2008.
There's actually much more of a U.S. link than that. Unmentioned is the role played by former president Jimmy Carter and other liberals. The Boston Globe reported in December, 1979 that "Carter Administration officials feel they have scored a major foreign policy success in Rhodesia." (Zimbabwe was formerly known as Rhodesia). The purported success was a settlement that set the stage for Mugabe's rise to power. This was months after the Washington Post described him as a "scholarly, avowed Marxist."
In August, 1980, Carter's former UN ambassador Andrew Young wrote in the Washington Post of "Mugabe's Endorsement:"
The president's best investment of the past four years has just begun to pay off. The visit of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Robert Mugabe sparked an enthusiasm in black America that may well rekindle the fires that Jimmy Carter so desperately needs for reelection.
Here is a president, being questioned by the liberal wing of his own party for supposedly abandoning his commitment to human rights at home and abroad, suddenly receiving accolades from Robert Mugabe -- Africa's "black diamond" -- for making a truly non-racial democracy possible in southern Africa.
Young went on to relate how enthusiastically the "black diamond" was received in Harlem, at Howard University, and by New York's Foreign Policy Association. He continued:
Zimbabwe may have given the American people the vote of confidence needed to get out of the present paralyzing cynicism and to begin building at home and abroad the dream of free men and women, of a world of peace and prosperity.
Support for Mugabe was echoed by the mainstream media. The New York Times claimed that ""Mr. Mugabe has quickly established himself as an African statesman of the first rank." An April, 1981 piece in the Washington Post noted:
Many whites admit that before last year's election they expected to flee in the event of a Mugabe victory. Most were stunned by his landslide win after listening to years of propaganda proclaiming he was "a godless Marxist." Now, many are pleasantly surprised at how well things have gone in the first year of rule by the country's black majority of 7 million.
Weeks later the Boston Globe editorialized:
There is a temptation to be over optimistic about the future of Zimbabwe, the year-old black-ruled nation that was once Rhodesia, because so much of the future of southern Africa pivots on its success. Two recent events made some optimism seem justified.
Mugabe's Marxist, dictatorial tendencies were apparent from the beginning. Jimmy Carter, who visited the White House just last week, and other liberals chose to ignore them then. Parade would have performed its readers a service by briefly recapping the details of how Mugabe was given the chance to assume the title of world's worst dictator.