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Classic Jimmy Carter By: Michael Radu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 31, 2006

A few weeks ago, Jimmy Carter gave an interview to the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, mostly on the recent Lebanon conflict. It was classic Jimmy Carter -- at once moralizing and morally confused, ill-informed and preachy -- illustrating why the American people voted him out of office after just one term and the politically partisan Norwegian Academy awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Take first the former president’s historical illiteracy. "Under all of its [the Bush administration's] predecessors there was a commitment to peace instead of preemptive war," Carter claimed. But is that really so? What about the Spanish-American War of 1898, or Vietnam and Grenada? (I may be missing a few dozen other cases for reason of space.) How do those conflicts square with Carter’s theory that Bush has made "a radical and unpressured departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents"?

Carter proved equally ignorant of current events.  To Der Spiegel's question, "But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?" Carter replied:

I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza.

There are more errors than words in this statement. To begin with, the whole interview was primarily regarding Lebanon, and even Hezbollah admits that there are precisely two Lebanese "prisoners" in Israel, one of whom is the murderer of an infant. Second, Israel did not bomb "the entire nation of Lebanon," even taking the dubious description of that balkanized country as a "nation." Christian, Druze and most Sunni areas were not touched.

Third, notice his characterization of Hezbollah and whatever Gaza group kidnapped Israeli soldiers on sovereign, internationally recognized Israeli territory as "militants," not terrorists. That moral confusion by itself would have deserved another Nobel Peace Prize, and was natural coming from a president who described the Iranian kidnappers of American diplomats as "students" and forbade killing them during the ill-fated hostage rescue attempt.

Then there is Carter’s apparent belief in conspiracy theories. Consider his view that "Israel looks upon this as a justification." The implication is that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did nothing, day and night, since taking office a few months ago but look for a pretext -- a "justification" -- to murder babies in southern Lebanon. This claim, distinctly reminiscent of a blood libel (Jews kill babies), merely reveals how extreme is Carter’s bias against the Jewish state.

Related to this is Carter’s contempt for the Bush administration. "This administration has not attempted at all in the last six years to negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement between Israel and any of its neighbors or the Palestinians," he insists. But didn't this administration publicly support the concept of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Did it not also receive and publicly support Palestinian Authority President Abbas?

Carter’s unerring instinct for capitulation is also evident. "There has to be some exchange of prisoners," he counsels. "There have been successful exchanges of prisoners between Israel and the Palestinians in the past and that's something that can be done right now." Israel has made that mistake before, releasing jailed terrorists only to meet with a resurgence of terrorist violence. Doing so again would, presumably, yield similar results. Remember Einstein's words: Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. This is Carter’s solution to Israel’s war with Hezbollah.

At no point does Carter let the facts cloud his vision. "Another thing is that a fundamentalist can't bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them -- which is also a radical departure from past history." So, according to Carter, the Bush administration is "fundamentalist" because it is "just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them." One wonders if this is the same Bush administration that has pushed for six-party talks with North Korea and has submitted to the European consensus of conducting negations with the Iranian regime?

Carter carries on in this vein. "When we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it's just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made." "We" means, presumably, the US government: The same government that prosecuted cases of prisoner abuse at both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons, and did not "permit torture" there -- except according to Carter's fellow Nobel laureate, Amnesty International.

Never one to refuse a cheap shot at the expense of his country, Carter complains: "Unfortunately, after Sept. 11, there was an outburst in America of intense suffering and patriotism, and the Bush administration was very shrewd and effective in painting anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous." Why patriotism and intense suffering are unfortunate we are not told. Carter just "knows" that they are. But who in the administration ever painted "anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous"? Again, Carter does not tell us.

There was a time, long ago, when Jimmy Carter was described as the "best former president," a judgment that rested largely on his reputation for building housing for the homeless. But every day Carter seems more and more like the former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, now the volunteer lawyer of such clients as Sendero Luminoso's Abimael Guzman, Milosevic, and most recently Saddam. Carter, for his part, has blessed Hugo Chavez's phony reelection.

Not that Carter considers himself a marginal figure. "I think I represent the vast majority of Democrats in this country," he has said. "I think there is a substantial portion of American people that completely agree with me." It remains to be seen, however, whether Carter has any constituency outside the Lamont wing of the Democratic Party.

Americans corrected one mistake when they evicted Carter from office in 1980. As the midterm elections near, one can only hope that they don’t make another.

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Michael Radu is Senior Fellow and Co - Chair, Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

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