Jimmy Carter on Why the US Is Hated and What We Can Do about It.
On 12/10/02, Former US President Jimmy Carter will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. On 11/15/02, Carter and his wife Rosalynn were the guests on CNN’s Larry King Live. The following are excerpts from that remarkable conversation.
November 29, 2002

Former US President and Nobel Peace Prizewinner Jimmy Carter.
LARRY KING: Mr. President, do you fear actual biological, chemical kind of attacks in this country?

JIMMY CARTER: I don’t have any fear of it. I know there’s always a possibility.

One of the things that the United States government has not done is to try to comply with and enforce international efforts targeted to prohibit the arsenals of biological weapons that we ourselves have and others have, and also to reduce and enforce the agreement to eliminate chemical weapons. And the same way with nuclear weapons.

The major powers need to set an example, Larry, where we're willing to comply with international standards in reduction. This applies to land mines and the proliferation of new kinds of nuclear weapons and the canceling of existing nuclear agreements.

I think quite often the big countries that are responsible for the peace of the world set a very poor example for those who might hunger for the esteem or the power or the threats that they can develop from nuclear weapons themselves. I don't have any doubt that it's that kind of atmosphere that has led to the nuclearization, you might say, of India and Pakistan.

And I think we, ourselves, and the British and the French and the Russians and the Chinese, have to be willing to make some sacrifice on our own part in order to convince the rest of the world this is a right way to go.

KING: Mr. President, you've traveled the world extensively. I don't know anyone who travels more than you. Why do so many people hate this country?

CARTER: Larry, Rosalynn and I have been in more than 120 nations in the world, mostly the very poorest and most destitute and needy people. We have programs at the Carter Center now in 65 countries, 35 of them in African and not coincidentally. And it's given us a chance to have an incident into the lives of those people and the attitude of those people.

And I think there is a sense that the United States has become too arrogant, too dominant, too self satisfied, proud of our wealth, believing that we deserve to be the richest and most powerful and influential nation in the world. I think they feel that we don't really care about them, which is quite often true. Because they see that a tiny bit of financial help would change their lives for the better.

I think there's a feeling, too, that our emphasis has been on countries in the Third World that have oil, and countries like Mali or Burkina Faso or Ghana or Benin or even Haiti and Guyana are not even on our radar screen.

They all know, the ones that are at all educated, that among the developed, industrialized nations on earth, the United States is at the bottom, way at the bottom, in providing humanitarian aid for peace and for human rights and for housing and for health and education. We give about one-thousandth of our Gross National Product for development assistance. That's one-tenth of one percent. And the average European country gives four times as much. For every time an American gives a dollar, a citizen of Norway gives $17.

And I think that we — maybe after the tragedy of 9/11, we'll begin to see that a very tiny investment of help in those poverty- stricken countries will prevent the hopelessness and lack of self- respect and despair and anger and violence and potential terrorism. And that will be of great benefit to our own country.

KING: Rosalynn, you wanted to add something on that question of why we're not liked?

ROSALYNN CARTER: I do, because it's not the American people. The American people don't see what we see. They don't see the ravages of war. We go into these countries and see people who have lost everything, even their babies. And if the American people could see that, they would respond overwhelmingly.

We're talking about the government and our foreign aid program. But if people in our country could see, as I've said before, the poverty and the terrible conditions these people live in. And when we're there, they don't ask us what the United States can do to help them. They ask us if we know anybody in Japan or if we know anybody in Norway, because those countries give more.

But I still want to impress on you that is not the American people, who are good, and you know how they respond to if there's a tornado, an earthquake in a country, and we see it on television and so forth, people respond to it.

KING: Well, Mr. President, isn't the government the made up of the people?

J. CARTER: Well, in a way, Larry, but you know, there's an interesting thing that has been kind of surprising to me.

When I go to Belgium or to the Netherlands or to Norway or Sweden or Denmark or Finland, even to other countries, I may not name them all, when they run for Parliament, one of their most attractive political planks is, "If I'm elected, I'm going to make sure that our country will do everything in its power, say in Africa, to promote justice and peace and freedom and democracy and human rights, and alleviate suffering there." And it's a very popular thing.

But can you imagine what would happen for an American candidate for Congress to say, "If I'm elected, I'm going to increase foreign aid?" It would be suicidal. So you put your finger on it; foreign aid in this country has a bad name, but in other countries it's a right thing for the government to do. And that's where we at the Carter Center quite often have to turn.

KING: Moving to another area, were you disappointed to learn about North Korea and nuclear weaponry?

Credit: The Carter Center (www.cartercenter.org)
J. CARTER: Well, this was a very familiar subject with me. As you may or may not remember, I went over to North Korea in 1994, Rosalynn and I did, as a Carter Center mission. Because Kim Il Sung, the dictator of North Korea, was developing a plutonium capability, which is very frightening.

And we were able to defuse that and to get him to shut down his plutonium generating reactors — reactor, and to let international inspectors come in. And he has complied with that agreement, or his son has complied with that agreement.

We promised to build North Korea two, more safe, water-moderated reactors to develop their nuclear -- their electric power. Our governments did. The United States and Japan and South Korea, primarily. We have not done that.

And we also promised to provide them with the fuel oil to replace the nuclear power generation that they had shut down….

My own belief is that the North Koreans don't have the capability of a nuclear explosive yet. And my belief is — I think I have some information about this — that it is primarily a kind of a threat to bring attention to themselves as a negotiating ploy. It was a serious mistake on their part, and from every information that I have, the North Koreans would like to get out of this problem and have some genuine negotiations with our country and others.

And they have offered, as you know, to have international inspectors come in to have a complete end of their nuclear program, if we could have good faith negotiations. I hope that will take place.

KING: Mr. President, what happened to your party?

J. CARTER: I don't really know what happened to it. I — there are a lot of local issues that took place, and as you know, some of the losses that the Democratic Party suffered for the U.S. Senate were very close calls. And I think with that narrow margin of victory for the Republicans, they were primarily determined by local issues.

The main issue in Georgia, strangely enough, was the Georgia flag, where the governor courageously, and I think properly, changed the flag to do away with the so-called Confederate emblem. And it was a matter of great emotional disturbance. And the people that were for the old flag were fervent and worked day and night, all supporting the Republican candidates. And that has created a major change in Georgia.

So I think it's still a close call, and I was not involved in it, except I was a personal friend of Max Cleland. I hated to see Max Cleland be defeated. I think he was a wonderful senator, and he'd been a friend of mine for 30 years. And, as you know, was a Vietnam veteran and he was basically defeated because his opponent alleged that Max was not adequately patriotic.

KING: All right, Mr. President, something you were very involved in. Your thoughts on the Middle East: Are you optimistic about anything there?

J. CARTER: Larry, the Nobel Committee pointed out in this statement to me, in a public statement, that they looked at the Camp David Accords and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which by the way, not a word has been violated for the last 23 years. But primarily the work of the Carter Center in the last 20 years was the reason for my being honored.

And I have obviously had a deep emotional and political interest in the Middle East. For a number of years after I left the White House, I was over there regularly.…

I'm very disturbed about it; I don't see any hope for progress in the altercation between Israelis and Palestinians with the present leadership. And the fight, apparently, for control of the Likud Party is between Sharon and Netanyahu, each one trying to outdo the other about how they can be most abusive toward the Palestinians and avoid any relationship of a negotiating nature with Arafat. So I don't see how you make any progress there….

I do know that the people want peace, and even public opinion polls in Israel say that a good majority of Israelis would be willing to withdraw from the occupied territories in exchange for genuine peace. But they don't trust Arafat, the Palestinians don't trust the Israeli leaders, and our country now is concentrating mostly on Iraq….

I would personally like to see a change in the Israeli government and in the Palestinian community. I think the proposal or idea that Arafat, if he is elected president, would be a titular leader and that a trusted prime minister might represent the Palestinians. I think that's one avenue, which obviously has been promulgated quite widely by the White House.

KING: Isn't it interesting, Mr. President, that when the Carter Center opened, some of the concerns in the world were Iran, the Middle East, Afghanistan? They're still around.

CARTER: Yes…. But those are the ones that are that of which our country is aware, but the biggest problems, actually, then, were in Sudan and Ethiopia and Sri Lanka and in Fiji Islands. And in different places around the world that never come on the radar screen of American consciousness. And really, that's where the Carter Center has oriented our efforts since that time.

So, you know, we still are not aware of the suffering and the deprivation and the constant wars and the loss of life every day that far exceed what we lost on 9/11, as far as death and destruction and despair is concerned.

And my hope is that part of the effort of the Carter Center and part of the recognition that will come with the Nobel Prize will go for a greater awareness by the world of what we must do and can do in those areas.

The complete transcript is available on-line at: www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0211/15/lkl.00.html. For more information on the Carter’s efforts for peace in the world, contact The Carter Center, One Copenhill, Atlanta, GA, 30307, www.cartercenter.org.

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