George W. Bush has exploited the suffering of Sept. 11 and turned back decades of efforts to make the world a safer place, former President Jimmy Carter said in an interview with the Guardian.
Attacking Bush and Tony Blair over Iraq, Carter called the war "a completely unjust adventure based on misleading statements." He also criticized Bush for "lack of effort" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and accused him of abandoning nuclear nonproliferation initiatives championed by five presidents.
The U.S. "suffered, in 9/11, a terrible and shocking attack ... and George Bush has been adroit at exploiting that attack, and he has elevated himself, in the consciousness of many Americans, to a heroic commander in chief, fighting a global threat against America," Carter said. "He's repeatedly played that card, and to some degree quite successfully. I think that success has dissipated. I don't know if it's dissipating fast enough to affect the election. We'll soon know."
Carter, 80, was president from 1977 to 1981, but did not win reelection amid the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran. By comparison, support for Bush's Iraq invasion is widespread, something Carter attributes to a transformation in America's national mood. "When your troops go to war, the prime minister or the president changes overnight from an administrator, dealing with taxation and welfare and health and deteriorating roads, into the commander in chief," he said. "And it's just become almost unpatriotic to describe Bush's fallacious and ill-advised and mistaken and sometimes misleading actions."
He blames Bush and Blair for helping to fuel the depth of anti-American feeling in the Islamic world. Denying any link between his handling of the Iranian crisis and the present threat, Carter said: "The entire Islamic world condemned Iran. Nowadays, because of the unwarranted invasion of Iraq by Bush and Blair, which was a completely unjust adventure based on misleading statements, and the lack of any effort to resolve the Palestinian issue, [there is] massive Islamic condemnation of the United States."
American media organizations, he added, "have been cowed, because they didn't want to be unpatriotic. There has been a lack of inquisitive journalism. In fact, it's hard to think of a major medium in the United States that has been objective and fair and balanced, and critical when criticism was deserved."
On nuclear proliferation, the issue that Democratic contender John Kerry has identified as the single most serious threat to national security, Carter attacked Bush for abandoning "all of those long, tedious negotiations" carried out by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and himself.
In recent weeks Carter has also warned of the possibility of a new election fiasco in Florida.
The two presidential candidates spent the weekend focusing their resources and words even more tightly on the small number of swing states considered crucial to the election on Nov. 2. Bush told supporters in Florida that "despite ongoing violence, Iraq has an interim government. It's building up its own security forces. We're headed toward elections in January. You see, we're safer; America is safer with Afghanistan and Iraq on the road to democracy. We can be proud that 50 million citizens of those countries now live as free men and women."
Carter's interview marks the U.K. publication of his book "The Hornet's Nest," a story of the American Revolutionary War and the first novel to be published by a former president. Ironically, he notes, those fighting for U.S. independence could never have triumphed were it not for an alliance with the French.