Guest blogged by David Edwards
President Jimmy Carter appeared on the NBC's Today Show this morning to promote his new book Our Endangered Values.
President Carter spoke about several of the many scandals that the Republicans and Bush White House are now facing. In particular, Carter holds strong views against torture, the outing of Valerie Plame and the misused intelligence and lies prior to the invasion of Iraq.
PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Good morning, it's good to be with you.
LAUER: Let me ask you about David's piece there. Do youthink the nomination of Samuel Alito by President Bush to the Supreme Court, isa deliberate attempt to pick a fight with the Democrats and shift attentionaway from some other problems?
PRESIDENT CARTER: I don't think it's deliberate, I think he had toappoint another nominee and so it was inevitable that he would do it. Thismight be a propicious time to bring it to the forefront, but I think the newsthis morning, about torture around the world by Americans, is going to take alot of the news as well.
LAUER: Well the report as I read it this morning, doesn'tactually say torture is going on, but it does say there are some secret prisonsbeing set up around the world. I was looking at your face as that report wasairing, trying to see if there was any sense of shock on your face. Are yousurprised by the report?
PRESIDENT CARTER: No, in the last five years there has been a profoundand radical change in the basic policies, or moral values, of our country. This is just one indication of what has been done under this administration tochange the policies that have persisted all the way through our history,including the policies of George Bush, Sr., of Gerald Ford, of Ronald Reagan, ofDwight Eisenhower, as well as Democratic Presidents. And the insistence, byour government, that the CIA or others have the right to torture prisoners, inGuantanamo and around the world is just one indication of what thisadministration has done that's a radical departure from past policies.
LAUER: If you, though, were President today facing this samewar on terrorism that President Bush is now waging and the threat of Al-Qaeda,would you not see it necessary to take certain steps to combat that enemy, thatmight seem outside the box and the legal, or maybe even moral box?
PRESIDENT CARTER: No, this is an International agreement, to whichevery nation has suscribed, called the Geneva Accord, where every countrypledges not to torture prisoners taken in time of war. My own uncle was aprisoner, as I mentioned in my book, and he was tortured by the Japanese. Soafter the II World War, this was imposed voluntarily on all nations. So everyPresident that we've had since then, has agreed we won't torture prisoners andwe expect the rest of the world not to torture our prisoners. But this is justone example of our nation's abandonment of the basic moral values that havemade our country great. It's not just a Republican vs. Democrat, or a Liberalvs. Conservative, it's a basic change in the values of our country.
LAUER: Let me ask you about this CIA leak investigation. There are two different schools of thought here. One school says that aftertwo years of an investigation, the Special Prosecutor showed no deliberateconspiracy in an attempt to out a CIA officer. The other school of thought is,the indictment of Scooter Libby shows that top administration officials cannotbe trusted to tell the truth. Where do you come down?
PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, I think that what the Democrats did yesterdayis going to be very helpful, to require an investigation of why we went to war,which I think was completely unnecessary, an unjust war, and how much did wedeliberately, or inadvertently, distort the available intelligence to try tomislead the American people into going to war and I think that…
LAUER: Not to interrupt, but do you think though theRepublican leadership, especially in the Senate Intelligence Committee, hasdragged it's feet?
PRESIDENT CARTER: There's no doubt about it.
LAUER: To protect the administration?
PRESIDENT CARTER: Well certainly. I don't think there's any doubtabout that and I believe that was proven yesterday in the closed session,because even Republicans agreed, okay now we will at least move forward and I …
LAUER: But they said they had agreed to that anyway.
PRESIDENT CARTER: But they agreed about 18 months ago and hadn't done adarn thing. So I think now, they're going to have to do something.
LAUER: In your book, you say, you criticize the decision togo to war in Iraq for several reasons, including what you refer to as militaryaction taken “based on erroneous, or deliberately distorted, intelligence”.
PRESIDENT CARTER: Exactly.
LAUER: Those are very different things. We all know theintelligence was erroneous. Have you seen any proof that says it wasdeliberately manipulated to make a case for war?
PRESIDENT CARTER: Well I haven't seen proof yet, I think that's what'sgoing to come out, but there's all kinds of allegations which have not beendenied, that the British and American leaders agreed, far in advance even ofthe attack, that we would go to war against Iraq. And I don't think there'sany doubt, based on the public writings of the Vice President and others, evenbefore George W. Bush was elected. We're going to go to war against Iraq, because George Bush, Sr., should have removed Saddam Hussein from power. And so itwasn't 9/11 that precipitated the attack, this was a culmination of a long termplan, we're going to attack Iraq and then we're going to establish an Americanmilitary base of a major character in the Middle East, in Iraq, and still in the process remove Saddam Hussein. I think that the claims that Saddamwas involved in 9/11 and the claims that they had massive weapons of massdestruction that would threaten our country were manipulated at least, tomislead the American people into going to war.
LAUER: Not a lot of time left and a tough question to endon, but in the darkest times of your administration, 1979, you talked to theAmerican people and you said there's a crisis of confidence here and you askedyour cabinet basically to resign. Do you think there is a similar crisis ofconfidence with this administration and if you were advising President Bush,and he probably wouldn't listen, but if you were, how would you recommend thathe fix it.
PRESIDENT CARTER: I think tell the American people the truth, would beone major start, about what happened during, to bring the country into war. Ithink another thing is to abandon the radical policies concerning going towar. We now say we're not going to wait until our country's security's indanger, we're going to have preemptive war, we're going to go to war ahead oftime, because of our massive military might. The abandonment of basic humanrights, the derrigation of American civil liberties and personal privacy, the vastrewarding in the time of war, of extremely rich Americans at the expense ofworking class people, the abandonment of protecting the American environment –all of these things are massive and radical departures from what our countryhas seen under every President in the last hundred or more years in ourcountry. It's not just Republicans vs. Democrats, it's this administration vs.every administration that has preceded it.
LAUER: Quite a laundry list and it's the things you writeabout in your book, called “Our Endangered Values”. President Carter, thank'sso much, nice to have you here.
PRESIDENT CARTER: It's good to be here, Matt, thank you.