FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Starring Jimmy Carter, in War and Peace

Now they’ve given Jimmy Carter the Nobel Peace Prize. Looking at the present, wretched incumbent, Democrats feel smug about their paladin of peace.

But there’s continuity in Empire. Presidents come and Presidents go. There are differences, but over much vital terrain the line of march adopted by the Commander in Chief doesn’t deviate down the years. Is George Bush “worse” than, say, Jack Kennedy, who multiplied America’s military arsenal, nuclear and nonnuclear, and dragged the world to the edge of obliteration forty years ago? Sure, Carter wasn’t as bad as Reagan. By the low standards of his office, he did his best in the Middle East. But how bad is bad? Carter’s projected military budgets for the early 1980s were higher than the ones Reagan presided over. Remember his plan to run MX missiles by rail around the American West?

Recall when Carter said America would not stand idly by while Nicaragua tried to set forth on a different path after the Sandinistas threw out Anastasio Somoza? Carter told them they had to retain the National Guard, which had been Somoza’s elite band of US-trained psychopathic killers. The Sandinistas said no. So Carter ordered the CIA to bring up the officers and torturers running the Argentine death squads to train a force of Nicaraguan exiles in Honduras scheduled for terror missions across the border. They called them the contras.

El Salvador? In October 1979, a coup by reformist officers overthrew the repressive Romero dictatorship and pledged reforms, including land reform. But within weeks, it became clear that the reformers among the new rulers had been outmaneuvered, so they resigned en masse as the real leaders stepped up frightful repression in the countryside, killing close to 1,000 people a month. Some 10,000 were killed in 1980, most of them peasants and workers.

The Carter Administration sent millions in aid and riot equipment to the Salvadoran military, dispatched US trainers and trained Salvadoran officers in Panama. The Administration cast the conflict as one between the “extremes” of left and right, with the junta trying to steer a “moderate” course. In fact, 90 percent of the killings were carried out by the army or paramilitary death squads acting under army or government supervision. The Carter Administration continued to push this line throughout 1980, not suspending aid until the killing of four Maryknoll nuns in December. It’s all coming back to you? Yes, it was the Carter Administration that restored the Khmer Rouge to military health after the Vietnamese kicked them out of power in Cambodia.

And he harked to the pain of South Korea, where students and workers were demonstrating against the military dictatorship of Chun Doo Hwan, notably in Kwangju. Carter’s envoy advised the South Korean military to hit back hard, and it did on May 17, 1980, killing at least 1,000, the most horrible massacre since the Korean War. The White House instructed the local US military commander to release a South Korean force from border duty to attack the demonstrators, which they did with terrible brutality.

In his introduction to Lee Jai-eui’s Kwangju Diary, Bruce Cumings reviews the documents unearthed by Tim Shorrock and says the record “makes it clear that leading liberals-such as Jimmy CarterSand Zbigniew Brzezinski; and especially Richard Holbrooke (then Under Secretary of State for East Asia), have blood on their hands from 1980: the blood of hundreds of murdered or tortured students in Kwangju.”

Carter presided over the dispatch of arms to Indonesia, fresh from its invasion of East Timor, which makes him, oh, just one more American to get the Nobel Peace Prize after sponsoring genocide in Asia. And he started the covert CIA operation in Afghanistan, rallying the mujahedeen to fight the Soviets. Soon the CIA would bring the Saudis, and Saudi cash, to Afghanistan, not least among them Osama bin Laden.

As Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, who’s just finished a history of the first years of the Nicaraguan revolution, put it to me after the news of Carter’s Nobel, “‘Benign’ Carter was the source of so many bad things, including the rise of the Christian right (his endless public pronouncements of his faith and his sister’s leadership in the actual Christian right gave the movement a new legitimacy), the erosion of the UN, the destruction of the New International Economic (and Information) Order, etc. And no one seems to recall that he led a campaign to free Lieutenant Calley [of My Lai infamy] when Carter was governor of Georgia.”

Remember that the late 1970s were years of great optimism at the UN, with reforming agendas such as the report of the Brandt Commission, which called for radical transformation of the world economic order, with transfer of technology and development financing from North to South. The Carter Administration decided to undercut one 1980 UN Special Session, echoing its behavior at the UN Conference on Racism in 1978. The United States sent a very low-level delegation to announce its noncooperation with the terms of the discussion and generally disrupt the proceedings.

That whole initiative for readjustment of the economic relationship of North and South came to nought. We headed into the Reagan 1980s, when the deregulatory philosophy embraced by Carter came to full flower, both at home and abroad, with the destruction of public infrastructure and social services across the world, the collapse of healthcare in Africa, the onset of the plague years. At home, too, the post-Nixon/Ford years were times of hope. Carter presided over their demolition. Neoliberalism won the day on his watch.

Now he’s a peace prize winner. He’s been campaigning for it for years. In the end, how could he have missed, unless the peace prize committee had decided to compress the whole process and give it to George Bush? Maybe Bush will get it next year, in partnership with Ariel Sharon.

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail