Jimmy Carter: The Untold Story
The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award former President Jimmy Carter the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 requires some serious review. The Committee stated that it was honoring the former president "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." But history tells a different story - that of a political neophyte president who, when it came to conducting domestic and foreign affairs, was way out of his depth.
According to Michael Schoenfeld of Commentary, who reviewed Carter's book Living Faith, "to this day he (Carter) still doesn't know how much he doesn't know." In his four short years in office, things went from bad to worse to terrible. Inflation doubled; short-term interest rates hit a high of 21%. But the soaring misery index was the least, however, of what went wrong. From Lancegate to Billygate, the tone of the presidency fell to depths unheard of since the Harding administration.
His record as President illustrates the folly of pursuing a policy of understanding in a world replete with dictators and despots. He lectured Americans on the foolishness of their "fear of communism"............ and the Soviets responded by invading Afghanistan. He tried to appease the mullahs in Iran, and they responded by holding dozens of Americans hostage, releasing them the moment Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.
In his book, Carter proudly recalls how he formulated policy by sitting in the Oval Office studying "a big globe," endeavoring to see the world "through Soviet eyes". There, across the ocean, was the "beleaguered" Leonid Brezhnev, trapped "in a closed society, surrounded by frozen seas, powerfully armed enemies, and doubtful allies." A primary Carter consideration when negotiating with the Soviet dictator was trying (as he puts it) "to alleviate (Brezhnev's) concerns." Saddam Hussein and every other tyrant of the 20th century would have been thrilled had a U.S. President shown such an "understanding."
In one session, where Carter questioned the Soviets' record on human rights, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko turned the tables and delivered a lecture on the Soviet Union's free medical care, zero unemployment and absence of homelessness. "I couldn't argue," Mr. Carter admits. "We each had a definition of human rights and differences like this must be recognized and understood." Really? Ever read The Gulag Archipelago?
Carter was fully aware that human-rights abuses were more prevalent in the Soviet bloc than in authoritarian third-world countries. But he avoided criticism of Communist abuses because he was afraid of offending the Kremlin. As he wrote in his personal diary: "It's important that he [Brezhnev] understand the commitment I have is to human rights.......and that it is not an antagonistic attitude of mine toward the Soviet Union." What Carter failed to see - and perhaps still has not recognized - is that it was the very nature of the Soviet dictatorship that was the problem. If America is committed to human rights, then its policies should reflect antagonism towards those dictatorships that abuse them to remain in power.
Carter's reputation was that of melting in the presence of Communist dictators. As the "human rights president," Carter noted that Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito was "a man who believed in human rights." Carter saluted the dictator as "a great and courageous leader" who had led his people and protected their freedom." He reserved similar remarks for Romania's (now deposed Communist) dictator Nicholai Ceaucescu.
In December 1977, Polish Communist boss Edward Giereck was ushered into the Oval Office. According to the White House transcript of the meeting, he told Gierek, "Our concept of human rights is preserved (ie: safe) in Poland. Carter actually "expressed appreciation for Poland's support for the Helsinki Agreement and its commitment to human rights." He offered no criticism of the Polish Communist government's human-rights record - despite the fact that, one month earlier, the Polish secret police had attacked thousands of workers protesting food price increases. Four people were killed in the melee; hundreds of others were arrested and savagely beaten in prison.
It gets worse. As Jay Nordlinger notes in the National Review Online (October, 2002), "Carter has long enjoyed a reputation as a Middle East sage, owing, of course, to his role in the original Camp David accords. That reputation, however, rests on shaky grounds." Nordlinger points out that Sadat and Begin had their deal worked out before ever approaching Washington. Why did they contact the White House? Prof. Bernard Lewis of Princeton University put it succinctly: Well, obviously, they needed someone to pay the bill, and who but the United States could fulfill that function?
No one quite realizes just how passionately anti-Israel Carter was. William Safire has reported that Cyrus Vance acknowledged that, if Carter had had a second term, he would have "sold Israel down the river." In fact, in The Unfinished Presidency, Douglas Brinkley, Carter's biographer and analyst writes, There was no world leader Jimmy Carter was more eager to know than Yassir Arafat. The former president felt certain affinities with the Palestinian: a tendency toward hyperactivity and a workaholic disposition with unremitting sixteen-hour days, seven days a week, decade after decade. The brutality, the corruption and the human rights abuses to which Arafat and his PLO subjected the Palestinian people were, at best peripheral, and at worst, the fault of the Israelis.
At their first meeting - in 1990 - Carter boasted of his toughness toward Israel, assuring Arafat at one point, . . . you should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more harsh with the Israelis. Arafat, for his part, railed against the Reagan administration. Rosalynn Carter, taking notes for her husband, interjected, You dont have to convince us! Brinkley records that this elicited gales of laughter all round. Carter himself, according to Brinkley, agreed that the Reagan administration was not renowned as promise keepers." Interesting comment, especially to Yassir Arafat.
According to Peter Schweizer in the October issue of the National Review, there is also irony in the Nobel Committee's championing Carter for his commitment to democratic principles. While the ex-president has laudably worked for free and open elections in the developing world, he has also sought foreign influence in American elections to defeat his political enemies.
On repeated occasions during his Presidency, according to numerous Soviet accounts, Carter encouraged Moscow to influence American politics for his benefit or for the detriment of his enemies. Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin recounts in his memoirs how, in the waning days of the 1980 campaign, the Carter White House dispatched Armand Hammer to the Soviet embassy. Explaining to the Soviet Ambassador that Carter was "clearly alarmed" at the prospect of losing to Reagan, Hammer asked for help: Could the Kremlin expand Jewish emigration to bolster Carter's standing in the polls? "Carter won't forget that service if he is elected," Hammer told Dobrynin.
According to Georgii Kornienko, first deputy foreign minister at the time, something similar took place in 1976, when Carter sent Averell Harriman to Moscow. Harriman sought to assure the Soviets that Carter would be "easier to deal with" than Ford, clearly inviting Moscow to do what it could through public diplomacy to help his campaign.
Even when he was out of office, Carter still tried bitterly to encourage Moscow to do damage to his enemies during an election. As Dobrynin recounts, in January 1984, the former president dropped by his residence for a private meeting. Carter was concerned about Reagan's defense build-up and went on to explain that Moscow would be better off with someone else in the White House. If Reagan won, he warned, "There would not be a single agreement on arms control, especially on nuclear arms, as long as Reagan remained in power."
Is it any wonder that this man's presidency ended in a spectacular foreign policy fiasco?
Which brings us to Carter's life after his Presidency.
Jonah Goldberg, in his May, 2002 article in the National Review, notes that while the first President Bush was trying to orchestrate an international coalition to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Carter wrote a letter to the U.N. Security Council - including Mitterrands France and Communist China - asking its members to stymie Bush's efforts.
He told Haitian dictator Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, he was "ashamed of what my country has done to your country." Carter himself has conducted talks with men like Syria's Hafez al-Assad, and North Korea's Kim II Sung both of whom, he writes, "have at times been misunderstood, ridiculed, and totally condemned by the American public." Part of the reason is "their names are foreign, not Anglo-Saxon," he observes.
He endorsed Yasser Arafat's sham election and grumbled about the legitimate vote that ousted Sandinista Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Unbelievably, Carter even volunteered to be Arafat's speechwriter and go-fer, crafting palatable messages for Arafat's Western audiences and convincing the Saudis to continue funding Arafat after the Palestinians sided with Iraq against the United States.
Bet you haven't read that anywhere.
As we see from Living Faith, Carter has consistently conducted a sustained public-relations campaign to repair his tattered reputation. One component has entailed the public performance of true charitable works through Habitat for Humanity - reporters and TV cameras in tow - building homes for the poor and the oppressed, in the American barrios and also in communist Nicaragua, with Sandinista leaders by his side.
A more significant part of his PR campaign has revolved around the Carter Center, set up to promote international understanding. Arabs are heavy-duty funders of the Carter Center, and they get a lot for their money. The philosophy of the Center, according to Carter himself is to "encourage the use of dialogue to resolve disputes - which runs against the American grain......We tend to see conflicts in terms of friend-enemy, angel-devil, and this is one of the major impediments to world peace."
So what conclusions are we to draw?
Sometimes it is necessary to fight a war in order to win peace. But this was never part of the Carter Plan. "Build bridges of understanding" with the communist dictators of yesterday or the Saddam Husseins of today only makes a mockery of the American democratic system and threatens the civilized world. Evil exists. Reagan recognized it; and now Bush II recognizes it. To negotiate with Evil is a mistake under any circumstances.
How a great country came to be led by someone like Jimmy Carter is a historical puzzle that is likely to remain unsolved. One thing is certain - the Nobel Peace Prize Committee disgraced itself when it rewarded Jimmy Carter for his misplaced moral righteousness while its chairman denounced the President of the United States for taking a stand that will actually promote a more peaceful world.
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