Friday, 13 June 2008

How the Guardian helped Carter 'maintain his purity'

In one of my previous blogs I highlighted the way in which Fleet Street's profiling of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore, had tended to glorify him and ignore 'the blood on his CV'. For instance, he had backed the terrorist Contras against the Sandinistas in the 1980s, backed the neutron bomb, the Gulf massacres of 1991 - and so on.

The Guardian Weekend colour supplement fell into a similar routine in their adulatory profile on former US president Jimmy Carter, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, on June 7. Carter's own assessment of his record in office went like this: 'We established human rights as the basis of our foreign policy, whereas in the past our government had been in bed with every dictator on earth if they supported our economic framework. We normalised diplomatic relations with China. We brought peace to the Middle East, between Israel and Egypt. We kept the peace with the Soviet Union. We told the truth. We kept our country at peace, we never dropped a bomb, we never launched a missile.' And this assessment went unchallenged.

The 'truth' (Carter's word) was very different. He certainly gave the Indonesian dictatorship his full backing after their illegal invasion of East Timor in 1975. According to Noam Chomsky (see him quoted in Understanding Power: edited by Peter Mitchell and John Schoeffel: page 295), the worst phase of the slaughtering of the East Timorese was during the Carter administration. 'At that time, the casualties were about the scale of the Pol Pot massacres in Cambodia. Relative to the population they were much greater.' Moreover, Carter sent new supplies of armaments to Indonesia because their army was running out of weapons in the course of the slaughter. On all of this, the mainstream media in the US and UK remained largely silent.

In addition, Carter sent millions in aid to the military dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala, ordered the CIA to train the Contra terrorists in Honduras to fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and backed the Shah in Iran. He also authorised the covert CIA operation in Afghanistan in June 1979 which ultimately led to the formation of the mojahedin under the leadership of Osama bin Laden: the rest is history.

Another dictator Carter ('the first born-again Christian to serve as president', according to the Guardian profile) supported was Pakistan's Zia ul Haq along with his military and intelligence services. Much of the aid to Pakistan was funded by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International whose head, the Pakistani tycoon Agha Hassan Abedi, enjoyed close ties to Carter. The bank was forced to close down in 1986 following a massive sleaze and corruption scandal involving fraud and bribes.

Carter also helped secretly re-arm Pol Pot and his genocidal Khmer Rouge forces in Thailand after they were destroyed by the Vietnamese army in 1979. John Pilger, writing in Covert Action Quarterly in the fall of 1997 (see <> ), also highlighted Carter's backing for the Khmer Rouge to occupy the Cambodia seat at the United Nations.

Moreover Carter led a campaign for the release of Lt William Calley, head of Charlie Company, after he had been found guilty of the mass murder at My Lai in South Vietnam of more than 200 villagers, old men, women and children on March 18, 1968.

Carter certainly could claim to have brought amity between Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin through the Camp David agreement of 1978. Egypt recognised Israel's existence and Israel gradually withdrew from the Sinai. But as Tariq Ali stresses: 'There was nothing in the accords about the Israeli settlements and while Carter had Begin's word that there would be a freeze, he immediately went against this agreement. The accords actually weakened the Palestinian position since they removed Egypt, its strongest ally, from the equation.'

Carter's claim to have 'kept the peace' also seems to be at odds with his decision to send off Delta Force troops in April 1980 in a bid to rescue the 52 US diplomats held hostage in Ayatollah Khomeini's Tehran. The mission ended in a humiliating fiasco in the desert. The Guardian profile actually raises this issue - but then allows Carter to defend himself by once again playing around with the semantics: '..he branded the Iran hostage rescue effort a humanitarian, rather than a military, mission so as to maintain the purity of his record'. So that's all right.

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