Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jimmy Carter at eighty-one

Wolf Blitzer interviewed Jimmy Carter last night.
Here is the link.
Carter's opinion piece in the Washington Post has become a lightening rod.
Here is that link.

Critics are stumbling over one another in a rush to pile on the man, calling him everything but a child of God. (Don't you love that expression? It so fits this time.)

This breathtaking statement is from the Q and O blog post sarcastically titled "Saint Jimmy Speaks."

Well, with all due respect to the former president, whose blinding foreign policy successes are so well known, who else should we punish, if not the Palestinian people. They were, after all, the people who, in a mostly free and fair election, elected a Hamas-dominated government. As such, it seems to me that they are precisely the people who bear the responsibility, and, hence the consequences.
Due respect? Please. I have to give credit for clarity. Nothing could be plainer than that. It is now time to stop making a distinction between those who are in charge and the people who elected them.

That thinking removes from the table the last diplomatic hope for peace. Even in the ugliest statements from the cold war -- which lasted most of my life -- there was always a distinction made between the people and their leaders. Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Americans, Brits, whoever...they always seemed to word press releases with "We have no quarrel with the [name of country here] people. Our problem is with [name the leadership here]."

Never mind this: Since August of 2004, Hamas has participated in a cease fire, which I think in Arab is called a hadna (ph). And they have not violated this cease fire all. There have been no terrorist activities attributed to Hamas for the last year and a half, 18 months.
When I met with one of the Hamas leaders after the election, whom I had also met with ten years ago and hadn't seen him since, he told me what the Hamas people want is a peaceful unity government. Whether he's telling the truth, I have no way of knowing.

Or this: And of course, the dream of some ridiculous Hamas leaders and other countries to take over Israel is obviously fallacious and incomprehensible. So I think what's going to happen now is that the more pragmatic leaders of Hamas, including Haniyeh, who is the new prime minister, I think will prevail and the Palestinian people will prevail.
There's no doubt that they expressed their will clearly in the election. And I don't have any desire to speak for Hamas, which I think has been horrible in the past in terrorist activities. But I think we ought to give a chance to the Palestinian people to establish a kind of government that can be constructive and peaceful if the Palestinian people's rights are honored.

Or most obvious of all: Although Hamas won 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas retains the right to propose and veto legislation, with 88 votes required to override his veto. With nine of its elected members remaining in prison, Hamas has only 65 votes, plus whatever third-party support it can attract. Abbas also has the power to select and remove the prime minister, to issue decrees with the force of law when parliament is not in session, and to declare a state of emergency. As commander in chief, he also retains ultimate influence over the National Security Force and Palestinian intelligence.

I would guess that the average American could not distinguish between Abbas and Hamas.
(Any more than he might make any distinction between Saddam and al-Qaida. Such is the depth of ignorance prevailing in the American Street.)

Nothing I say here will have any meaningful impact on the tidal wave of criticism that is engulfing the man. But for sheer courage and sincerity I give him very high marks. At that fragile moment when Hamas pulled off the electoral shock of the decade, while everyone else was trying to catch their breath, Carter was in the midst of the event speaking out, giving it his best shot trying to make the best of a situation that caught the rest of the world by surprise.
...as the blogworld goes all agog over Hugh Hewett's (well-earned) evisceration of Joel Stein (whoever that is) and a pregnant silence rises from Washington as politicians wait to see which way the breeze might be blowing. Jimmy Carter, their favorite whipping boy, is in the thick of things in a non-thumotic effort to tip the scales in the direction of non-violence and a peace process.
(Damn. This is not how to build traffic, is it? Oh well....)

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