Fw: Former President Carter criticizes Iraq war plans, attacks on rights

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Sep 6 08:21:34 MDT 2002


WASHINGTON POST
The Troubling New Face of America
By Jimmy Carter

Thursday, September 5, 2002; Page A31


Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical
policies of the United States with regard to human rights,
our role in the community of nations and the Middle East
peace process -- largely without definitive debates (except,
at times, within the administration). Some new approaches
have understandably evolved from quick and well-advised
reactions by President Bush to the tragedy of Sept. 11, but
others seem to be developing from a core group of
conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up
ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against
terrorism.

Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent
champion of human rights, our country has become the
foremost target of respected international organizations
concerned about these basic principles of democratic life.
We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support
our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens
as "enemy combatants," incarcerating them secretly and
indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or
having the right to legal counsel. This policy has been
condemned by the federal courts, but the Justice Department
seems adamant, and the issue is still in doubt. Several
hundred captured Taliban soldiers remain imprisoned at
Guantanamo Bay under the same circumstances, with the
defense secretary declaring that they would not be released
even if they were someday tried and found to be innocent.
These actions are similar to those of abusive regimes that
historically have been condemned by American presidents.

While the president has reserved judgment, the American
people are inundated almost daily with claims from the vice
president and other top officials that we face a devastating
threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and with
pledges to remove Saddam Hussein from office, with or
without support from any allies. As has been emphasized
vigorously by foreign allies and by responsible leaders of
former administrations and incumbent officeholders, there is
no current danger to the United States from Baghdad. In the
face of intense monitoring and overwhelming American
military superiority, any belligerent move by Hussein
against a neighbor, even the smallest nuclear test
(necessary before weapons construction), a tangible threat
to use a weapon of mass destruction, or sharing this
technology with terrorist organizations would be suicidal.
But it is quite possible that such weapons would be used
against Israel or our forces in response to an American
attack.

We cannot ignore the development of chemical, biological or
nuclear weapons, but a unilateral war with Iraq is not the
answer. There is an urgent need for U.N. action to force
unrestricted inspections in Iraq. But perhaps deliberately
so, this has become less likely as we alienate our necessary
allies. Apparently disagreeing with the president and
secretary of state, in fact, the vice president has now
discounted this goal as a desirable option.

We have thrown down counterproductive gauntlets to the rest
of the world, disavowing U.S. commitments to laboriously
negotiated international accords.

Peremptory rejections of nuclear arms agreements, the
biological weapons convention, environmental protection,
anti-torture proposals, and punishment of war criminals have
sometimes been combined with economic threats against those
who might disagree with us. These unilateral acts and
assertions increasingly isolate the United States from the
very nations needed to join in combating terrorism.

Tragically, our government is abandoning any sponsorship of
substantive negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
Our apparent policy is to support almost every Israeli
action in the occupied territories and to condemn and
isolate the Palestinians as blanket targets of our war on
terrorism, while Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian
enclaves shrink.

There still seems to be a struggle within the administration
over defining a comprehensible Middle East policy. The
president's clear commitments to honor key U.N. resolutions
and to support the establishment of a Palestinian state have
been substantially negated by statements of the defense
secretary that in his lifetime "there will be some sort of
an entity that will be established" and his reference to the
"so-called occupation." This indicates a radical departure
from policies of every administration since 1967, always
based on the withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories
and a genuine peace between Israelis and their neighbors.

Belligerent and divisive voices now seem to be dominant in
Washington, but they do not yet reflect final decisions of
the president, Congress or the courts. It is crucial that
the historical and well-founded American commitments
prevail: to peace, justice, human rights, the environment
and international cooperation.

Former president Carter is chairman
of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company




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