Hay Ride: Jimmy Carter Crosses the Line

Here's a thought experiment. Try to imagine a major American political figure boldly calling on Europe to break with the United States, unilaterally lift the blockage on Gaza and negotiate directly with Hamas, the democratically-elected government of Palestine.

He then goes on to reveal -- from his access to the most highly classified intelligence -- that Israel, far from being at risk from "destruction" by Iran or anyone, possesses a minimum of 150 nuclear weapons: the first time that any such high-level U.S. official has ever publicly confirmed the existence of Israel's arsenal, much less detailed its size.

What's more, this Establishment renagade then calls for the complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, combined with pledges of massive aid to rebuild Iraq "from the destruction we've caused."

This fantasy became a reality yesterday in the drenching rain of a Welsh border town. Former President Jimmy Carter had come to Hay-on-Wye for the annual literary festival, and held forth in a wide-ranging interview before a large crowd. Carter denounced the policies of the so-called "Quartet" -- the U.S., EU, UN and Russia -- which have led to the strangulation of Gaza and immense suffering to the people "imprisoned" there, in Carter's words:

The blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza, imposed by the US, EU, UN and Russia - the so-called Quartet - after the organisation's election victory in 2006, was "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth," since it meant the "imprisonment of 1.6 million people, 1 million of whom are refugees". "Most families in Gaza are eating only one meal per day. To see Europeans going along with this is embarrassing," Carter said....

Referring to the possibility of Europe breaking with the US in an interview with the Guardian, he said: "Why not? They're not our vassals. They occupy an equal position with the US."

Here, of course, Carter has crossed perhaps the brightest glaring red line in American politics: equating a bunch of foreigners with the divinely blessed denizens of the shining city on the hill. No country, anywhere, is allowed to be the equal of the United States, in anything, at any time. This is not just a deeply ingrained part of the national psyche; it is also the avowed policy of the "unipolar dominationists" who have long controlled the commanding heights of American power. As we've noted before:

this goes back to the first Bush Administration, when then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney asked two of his top aides, Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby, to draw up a "Defense Guidance Plan" to shape American strategy in the post-Cold War world. They produced an aggressive, ambitious document calling for the unilateral use of American military might to "discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Military intervention would be "a constant fixture" of what Wolfowitz and Libby called a "new order" which the United States – not the United Nations – would "establish and protect."

As we all know, this document was refined, revised and expanded by the dominationists in their various think-tanks and corporate sinecures for years, reaching its fullest expression in the infamous PNAC paper of September 2000 (also known as the "boy, we sure need a new Pearl Harbor" document). It was later incorporated virtually whole cloth into the official "National Security Strategy" of the United States.

Carter has already been in hot water with the Establishment because of his recent dealings with Hamas. Barack Obama joined in the denunciations of Carter, declaring that he -- the self-proclaimed agent of hope and change -- would never negotiate with Hamas.

This brings up a curious point. Obama has taken a great deal of undeserved heat for his common-sense declaration that he would be willing to sit down with the leaders of hostile nations, such as Iran; but he adamantly refuses any negotiation with Hamas. In other words, he is (rightly) willing to negotiate with enemies of the United States -- but not with an enemy of Israel. This position is actually more hardline than that of the Israelis themselves, the majority of whom favor direct negotiations with Hamas.

Carter's unprecedented explicitness regarding Israel's nuclear weapons somehow escaped the notice of the Guardian -- which sponsored the festival and conducted the interview -- but The Times picked it up:

Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, former President Jimmy Carter said yesterday, while arguing that the US should talk directly to Iran to persuade it to drop its nuclear ambitions.

His remark...is startling because Israel has never admitted having nuclear weapons, let alone how many, although the world assumes their existence. Nor do US officials deviate in public from that Israeli line.

But Carter, who as president had full access to America's secret knowledge about Israel's arsenal, steamrolled right over the long-held public line. The existence of this arsenal is of course the true context of Middle East relations: the fact that Israel can "obliterate" any of its antagonists in a matter of minutes, while none of them poses, even remotely, a similar "existential threat" to Israel. Yet the entire U.S. "bipartisan foreign policy establishment" gears much of its Middle Eastern policies around the professed goal of guaranteeing the survival and security of Israel.

The plain fact is that Israel is more than capable of guaranteeing its own survival. As for its manifold security problems, these might be better addressed by a more realistic, pragmatic engagement with its neighbors, and with the Palestinians locked down under its control. But as long as Israeli leaders can count on the full backing of the United States -- financially, diplomatically and militarily -- no matter what they do, they will have no incentive to come to any viable terms, and can continue their own dominationist policies, which over the years have only bred more suffering, more radicalization and more intransigence in their opponents.

Carter's position on Iraq is, of course, the only sensible alternative left after years of needless slaughter and ruin: complete withdrawal and massive reparations. It goes without saying that neither of these essential elements play a part in the "withdrawal" plans of any of the remaining presidential candidates. [Carter's remarks on Iraq are not in the on-line Guardian story, but appeared in the print-only version.]

Carter's emergence as a dissident from the Establishment line is one of those bitter ironies in which history delights. As we have noted here before, Carter bears a large share of responsibility for the dismal state of the modern world. It was he who, on the advice of his foreign policy guru, Zbigniew Brzezinski, helped lay the foundations of the global jihad movement, giving guns, money and training to some of the most violent and retrograde extremists in the world -- in a deliberate, and successful, attempt to goad the Soviet Union into intervening to save its client government in Afghanistan. From this seed -- cultivated on a massive scale later by the Reagan-Bush administrations -- violent sectarianism spread across the world, helped at every point by the United States or its allies in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. This shadow world -- where covert ops, terrorism, organized crime and state policy mix inextricably together, sometimes colluding, sometimes falling out -- has now enveloped the globe.

Still, to paraphrase the great philosopher Donald Rumsfeld, you oppose mass murder, torture, repression and imperial aggression with the deeply tainted, grossly hypocritical public figures you have, not the saintly, unspotted agents of transformation you wish you had. Carter's remarks represent a welcome crossing of lines by a prominent Establishment figure. Too bad that no one in America will ever hear them.