Kermit Snelson on Thu, 5 Sep 2002 22:01:35 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Troubling New Face of America

Former US president Jimmy Carter has published a strong statement in this
morning's _Washington Post_.  I think it deserves a careful read, as it
helps explain the true nature of the right-wing anti-European and
anti-"Tranzi" rhetoric that has recently horrified/ amused us here.

As he suggests, such rhetoric does not (yet) reflect a US declaration of
war on the world.  It reflects, instead, the climax of a war within and
against the US government itself, part of a decades-long effort by "a core
group of conservatives", as Carter puts it, to undermine established
principles of international and constitutional law.  Although not new,
this group is now, for the first time in history, close to seizing power
because of the nation's current and unprecedented "trifecta" of political,
economic and military crisis.

It is a hopeful sign that statesmen as diverse as Carter and James Baker,
joined by most of the country's military leadership, have recently taken
very public stands against this insanity.  But it is also worrisome, as it
indicates that the division within the US government is becoming critical.
One can only hope at this point that Bush's recent pledge to consult the
UN, Congress and the allies on any pending action against Iraq is a sign
that he has decided, despite intense pressure from the right, not to
preside over the destruction of the rule of law.  As Carter's last
paragraph suggests, it is perhaps not yet too late for such a hope.

Kermit ======

The Troubling New Face of America
By Jimmy Carter
The Washington Post
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

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

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

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

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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