Carter, Jimmy: This isn't the real America

11/14/05 "Los Angeles Times" -- -- IN RECENT YEARS, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican ....

THEMES: Carter, Jimmy
YEAR: 2005
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PEOPLE: Carter, Jimmy | *President
THINGS: Ethics | Moral | Politics
TIME: 2005

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This isn't the real America

By Jimmy Carter

11/14/05 "Los Angeles Times" -- -- IN RECENT YEARS, I have become
increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now
threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations,
Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and
social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with
truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect,
state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the
restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing
global agreements — including agreements on nuclear arms, control of
biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless
our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of
"preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally
to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious
differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and
refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top U.S. leaders
to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.

These revolutionary policies have been orchestrated by those who believe
that our nation's tremendous power and influence should not be
internationally constrained. Even with our troops involved in combat and
America facing the threat of additional terrorist attacks, our declaration
of "You are either with us or against us!" has replaced the forming of
alliances based on a clear comprehension of mutual interests, including the
threat of terrorism.

Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of
national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated exclusively on
the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to fight in the quagmire
of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been asked to make any sacrifice,
and every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of

Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human rights, we
now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly violated under some
extreme provisions of the Patriot Act.

Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords
and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay,
and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called
extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president
and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate
"cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in U.S.

Instead of reducing America's reliance on nuclear weapons and their further
proliferation, we have insisted on our right (and that of others) to retain
our arsenals, expand them, and therefore abrogate or derogate almost all
nuclear arms control agreements negotiated during the last 50 years. We
have now become a prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation. America
also has abandoned the prohibition of "first use" of nuclear weapons
against nonnuclear nations, and is contemplating the previously condemned
deployment of weapons in space.

Protection of the environment has fallen by the wayside because of
government subservience to political pressure from the oil industry and
other powerful lobbying groups. The last five years have brought continued
lowering of pollution standards at home and almost universal condemnation
of our nation's global environmental policies.

Our government has abandoned fiscal responsibility by unprecedented favors
to the rich, while neglecting America's working families. Members of
Congress have increased their own pay by $30,000 per year since freezing
the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour (the lowest among industrialized

I am extremely concerned by a fundamentalist shift in many houses of
worship and in government, as church and state have become increasingly
intertwined in ways previously thought unimaginable.

As the world's only superpower, America should be seen as the unswerving
champion of peace, freedom and human rights. Our country should be the
focal point around which other nations can gather to combat threats to
international security and to enhance the quality of our common
environment. We should be in the forefront of providing human assistance to
people in need.

It is time for the deep and disturbing political divisions within our
country to be substantially healed, with Americans united in a common
commitment to revive and nourish the historic political and moral values
that we have espoused during the last 230 years."

JIMMY CARTER was the 39th president of the United States. His newest book
is "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis," published this month by
Simon & Schuster.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times