The October 11, 2002 Washington Post article reported that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had beat out peace-loving nominees like George W. Bush and Tony Blair to win the Nobel Peace Prize â€œfor 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.â€
The Norwegian Nobel Committee citation explained: â€œIn a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development.â€
While the award was primarily for Carter¹s work since leaving the White House, it might be instructive to examine his record while serving as â€œleader of the free world.â€
Jimmy Carter was a president who claimed that human rights was â€œthe soul of our foreign policyâ€ despite making an agreement with Baby Doc Duvalier to not accept the asylum claims of Haitian refugees. His duplicity, however, was not limited to our hemisphere; Carter also earned his Nobel Prize in Southeast Asia.
In Cambodia, Jimmy Carter and his national security aide, Zbigniew Brzezinski made an â€œuntiring effort to find peaceful solutionsâ€ by initiating a joint U.S.-Thai operation in 1979 known as Task Force 80 which, for ten years, propped up the notorious Khmer Rouge under the all-purpose banner of anti-Communism. â€œSmall wonder present U.S.-originating stories about the Khmer Rouge end abruptly in 1979,â€ says journalist Alexander Cockburn. Interestingly, just two years earlier, Carter displayed his â€œrespect for human rightsâ€ when he explained how the US owed no debt to Vietnam. He justified this belief because the â€œdestruction was mutual.â€ It¹s odd that I have no recollections of my city being napalmed or babies born deformed on my block due to Agent Orange. Carter¹s statement, as Noam Chomsky has commented, â€œis easily worthy of Hitler or Stalin, yet it aroused no comment.â€
Moving further southward â€œto advance democracy and human rights,â€ we have East Timor. This former Portuguese colony was the target of a relentless and murderous assault by Indonesia since December 7, 1975â€¹an assault made possible through the sale of U.S. arms to its loyal client-state, the silent complicity of the American press, and then-Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan¹s skill at keeping the United Nations uninvolved. Upon relieving Gerald Ford (but strategically retaining the skills of fellow Nobel peacenik Henry Kissinger), Carter authorized increased military aid to Indonesia in 1977 as the death toll approached 100,000. In short order, over one-third of the East Timorese population (more than 200,000 humans) lost their lives due to war-related starvation, disease, massacres, or atrocities.
Closer to home, Carter also made his mark in Central America. As journalist William Blum details, in 1978, the future Nobel Peace Prize winner attempted to create a â€œmoderateâ€ alternative to the Sandinistas through covert CIA support for â€œthe press and labor unions in Nicaragua.â€ After the Sandinistas took power, Blum explains, â€œCarter authorized the CIA to provide financial and other support to opponents.â€ Also in that region, one of Carter¹s final acts as president was to order $10 million in military aid and advisors to El Salvadorâ€¹perhaps â€œto promote economic and social development.â€
A final glimpse of â€œinternational co-operation based on international lawâ€ during the Carter Administration brings us to Afghanistan, site of a Soviet invasion in December 1979. It was here that Carter and Brzezinski aligned themselves with staunch anti-Communists in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to exploit Islam as a method to arouse the Afghani populace to action. With the CIA coordinating the effort, some $40 billion in US taxpayer dollars were used to recruit â€œfreedom fightersâ€ like Osama bin Laden. The rest, as they say, is history.
Let¹s raise a toast as Jimmy Carter joins the ranks of Kissinger, de Klerk, Arafat, Clinton, Rabin, Peres, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and others as the standard for peace on our planet.
Mickey Z. can be reached at email@example.com.