Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States and the 2002 Nobel Peace laureate. He is also the most respected living former US President by me especially after I read his article “Just War — or a Just War?” (about the then pending war in Iraq) in New York Times on March 9, 2003. His clear insights, if they were followed, would have kept the world on a much safer path, in my humble opinion. Here are some excerpts from that article, [K: emphasis in original text]
For a war to be just, it must meet several clearly defined criteria.
The war can be waged only as a last resort, with all nonviolent options exhausted. In the case of Iraq, it is obvious that clear alternatives to war exist. These options — previously proposed by our own leaders and approved by the United Nations — were outlined again by the Security Council on Friday. [...]
The war’s weapons must discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Extensive aerial bombardment, even with precise accuracy, inevitably results in “collateral damage.” [...]
Its violence must be proportional to the injury we have suffered. Despite Saddam Hussein’s other serious crimes, American efforts to tie Iraq to the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been unconvincing.[...]
The attackers must have legitimate authority sanctioned by the society they profess to represent. The unanimous vote of approval in the Security Council to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction can still be honored [...]
The peace it establishes must be a clear improvement over what exists. Although there are visions of peace and democracy in Iraq, it is quite possible that the aftermath of a military invasion will destabilize the region and prompt terrorists to further jeopardize our security at home. [...]
When an insightful man like President Carter speaks, I pay attention. He was interviewed by Washington Post for today’s article entitled, “Peace Provocateur – Jimmy Carter’s New Hammer? It Looks an Awful Lot Like a Book.” which was part of the promotion for his 21st book “Palestine: peace not apartheid“. I have now put this new book on my to-read/scan list. Here is an excerpt about the controversial title of the book in the WaPo article,
The publisher didn’t quarrel with it [the title of the book]?
“Quarrel, no. Question, yes.”
He had “probably five or six versions of that same title,” he says, “and then later, with different punctuation.” In the end, he went with a stripped-down version, which he parses for audiences and interviewers again and again.
He’s not talking about Israel itself, where Arabs have the same citizenship rights as anyone else. He’s talking about what’s happening in the occupied territories: the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
It’s what he hopes for; it’s why he wrote the book.
But there can be no peace, in Carter’s view, when Palestinians are “deprived of basic human rights,” their land “occupied and then confiscated and then colonized by the Israeli settlers.” A system of required passes for Palestinians; a network of roads they mostly can’t use and often can’t even cross; security barriers being constructed, on Palestinian land, to segregate the peoples — are all part of Carter’s apartheid charge.
Summing up, he writes that there are “two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace”: the belief of some Israelis that they have the right to land in the occupied territories and the belief of some Palestinians that suicide bombing is a proper counterargument.
I highly recommend the Washington Post article and President Carter’s new book to gain some insight on this deep seeded Middle East conflict. With the upcoming holiday seasons, may we have peace on earth and it is indeed our duty to make the world a better place. We are borrowing this earth from our children and grandchildren so lets ensure we have the earth in one piece when our time is up.
P.S. As an aside, I saw the deeply insightful documentary Checkpoint (2003) where we see “Documentary filmmaker Yoav Shamir’s depiction of the checkpoints that the Israel Defense Forces man in the Palestinian Authority.“
Dec 21 Update: Carter has replied to some of his critics in this Newsweek interview.