Sunday, November 14, 2004

Yasser and Jimmy

A reader took issue with my earlier post criticizing former President Carter, and it's true that based on that one statement, it seems a bit extreme to come down so hard on Carter.

Perhaps I should have been a bit clearer that it wasn't just Jimmy Carter's semi-positive statements about Arafat that have caused him to diminish in my eyes.

For a quick round-up of some highlights of Carter's post-presidential career, check out this editorial, reprinted on a Venezuelan news analysis website. The article carries the subtle title "Jimmy Carter: The Worst Ex-President in History."

His post-presidential meddling in foreign affairs has cost America dearly, both in terms of international credibility and international prestige.

He defied US law by visiting Cuba, even addressing the Cuban public and handing Castro a huge propaganda victory. He oversaw the elections in Haiti, against the expressed wishes of the Clinton administration. A coup followed.

Carter once described Yugoslav strongman Marshal Josef Tito as "a man who believes in human rights." Regarding North Korea's dearly departed Kim Il-Sung, Carter found him "vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well-informed about the technical issues, and in charge of the decisions about this country," adding "I don't see that [North Koreans] are an outlaw nation."

He was similarly generous regarding Manuel Noriega, Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceaucescu and, of course, Yasser Arafat. He said of Ceausescu and himself, "Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics . . . We believe in enhancing human rights."

Virtually all of the humanitarian activities of the Carter Foundation abroad have been in direct opposition to US foreign policy. Carter called Bush’s description of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" was "overly simplistic and counterproductive.”

Added the man who was once attacked by a rabbit, "I think it will take years before we can repair the damage done by that statement."

The article itself originated on an End Times Prophecy website that I'd never heard of before, which gives me some pause, but I can't argue with any of the facts. Most of the editorial concerns the recall election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez--an election which Carter gave his blessing, even as he criticized elections in the United States.

The same editorial gives us some background on Chavez and clarifies his current political role:

In 1992, a band of army officers led by Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez Frías attempted to overthrow President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Although court-martialed and jailed, Chávez emerged a hero.

In 1998, he was elected president on promises to clean out corruption and reduce poverty. Once in office, Chávez promoted a new consitution to consolidate his powers and began to constrain the business community, civil society, and rival politicians.

As a presidential candidate, Hugo Chávez campaigned against the "savage capitalism" of the United States. On August 10, 2000, he became the first foreign leader to visit Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War, and he allegedly aided Afghanistan's Taliban government following the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States.

At the same time, Chávez said that Cuba and Venezuela were "called upon to be a spearhead and summon other nations and governments" to fight free market capitalism.

Venezuela is also one of the countries upon which the United States is dependent for oil, and has been since the US first began relying on imported oil supplies back in 1948.

Besides supplying the United States with 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, Venezuela provides most of the petroleum consumed by U.S. allies in the Caribbean and Central America.

Regional leaders know that opposing Chávez in any significant fashion could result in less favorable sales terms or cuts in deliveries.

In September 2003, President Chávez accused the Dominican Republic of harboring Venezuelans--like former President Carlos Andrés Pérez--who allegedly might conspire against his government. Chavez then stopped oil deliveries, prompting a temporary energy crisis while Dominican officials scrambled for new suppliers.

From the perspective of American economic interests, not to mention homeland security issues, Hugo Chavez is a very bad man to have in the neighborhood. And, thanks to Jimmy Carter, Chavez isn't going away anytime soon.

Back in September, Joel Mowbray, in FrontPage Magazine wrote:

Last month, [Carter] certified the widely condemned referendum in which Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez supposedly won by a wide margin of 59-to-41.

Exit polling conducted by the highly regarded Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, however, found the exact opposite result: 59 percent opposed the communist “President,” with only 41 percent in favor.

As explained by the Wall Street Journal’s Mary O’Grady, Carter lacked the ability to prove the exit polls wrong (which could not have been 36 points off), because he only had access to a sampling of the easy-to-manipulate software tabulations printed out by voting booths. Not that it stopped him, though.

It should come as no surprise that Carter sided with the despot over a respected (Democratic) polling firm. Not just because of his disturbing track record, but because he and Chavez share a close, mutual friend: Fidel Castro.

In a stomach-turning first-person essay on his trip to Cuba in May 2002 that reads like a “My summer vacation with a bloodthirsty tyrant,” Jimmy Carter writes, “President Castro and I had a friendly chat about growing peanuts” on the way to the hotel, and then later “[t]hat evening President Castro and I had a general discussion of issues and then enjoyed an ornate banquet.”

With prose that might make even Castro’s PR flacks blush, Carter lavishes praise on Cuba’s “superb systems of health care and universal education,” “a remarkable medical school,” and the “amazing musical and dance performances” of “mentally retarded and physically handicapped children.” Then, this doozy: that the “fundamental right [of civil liberties enjoyed by Americans to change laws] is also guaranteed to Cubans.”

Back in May, FrontPage also had this interview with Steven Hayward, author of The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry. (Try to say that in one breath.)

FP: What made you decide to write about Carter?

Hayward: I got sick and tired of hearing people describe Carter as "our finest ex-President." The same statecraft that generated his ruinous presidency has informed his post-presidential politics. If he had just stuck with building homes with Habitat for Humanity, he might deserve the accolade as our best ex-president. But he doesn't.

FP: Why don’t we start with Carter's general record. Give us a brief laundry list of his failures.

Hayward: He was a disaster on the economy, blaming high inflation, for example, on the character of the American people. But by far his worst failing was in foreign policy. His human rights policy led to human rights disasters in Iran and Nicaragua, and emboldened the Soviet Union to extend its reach further into the third world. The fruits of the Iran disaster are still very much with us today. The fall of Iran set in motion the advance of radical Islam and the rise of terrorism that culminated in September 11. If we had stuck by the Shah or his successors, the history of the last 25 years in the Middle East would have been very different (and the Iranian people would have been better off, too). For starters, the Soviet Union would have hesitated greatly over invading Afghanistan in 1979.

As for Yasser Arafat, this lengthy timeline of the highlights of Yasser Arafat's life should cause any reasonable mind to question the accolades heaped upon Arafat on the occasion of his death this last week. Far from being a unifying figure in the middle east, even other Arab leaders didn't like him very much. And yet Carter spoke approvingly of Arafat both in the short portion quoted in my original post, and this editorial in Friday's New York Times in which Carter critcizes Ariel Sharon and President Bush for abandonding peace efforts, suggesting that it was only Arafat's failing health that prevented Arafat from finding a solution for lasting peace.

For Carter's international meddling, he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. Arafat also received one in 1994, which should tell you all you need to know about the committee that awards this prize.

But perhaps I just don't appreciate the nuances of international diplomacy.


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