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The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage
by Stefan Kanfer
The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage.
 
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Stefan Kanfer
Peace at any Prize
Dictator-coddling ex-president Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize puts him in the company he deserves.
17 October 2002

Jimmy Carter—ex-president, globe-trotter, and self-promoter—described himself as “humbled” by his new award: the Nobel Peace Prize. Actually, the proper word is “used.” The Nobel Committee claimed that the recipient had a record of “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.” But Nobel chairman Gunner Berge unwittingly gave the show away. The award to Carter, he stated, “should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken . . . it’s a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States.”

Translation: President George W. Bush is lining up international support for an attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Carter stands adamantly opposed to such action. What better way to politicize the prize and criticize the 43rd President than to use the 39th as a marionette—particularly since Carter would respond to the slightest twitch of the strings?

After Bush graciously congratulated him for the award, Carter told the press that he “never mentioned” the subject of Iraq. In the ungraciously sanctimonious tone that characterizes so many of his public utterances, he went on, “I haven’t spent the last 22 years walking around saying what I would or wouldn’t do if I were still president. Just because I won this award, doesn’t mean I’m going to do that.” Jimmy conveniently overlooked an inflammatory piece he recently contributed to the Washington Post, excoriating the present administration. Bush, he maintained, is leading “a core group of conservatives . . . trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism.”

Carter is in many ways the ideal candidate for the Pinocchio de nos jours. He and truth are often strangers, despite a front of innocence and good intentions. Yes, he is a perpetual volunteer to negotiate among nations; yes, he founded the Carter Center to aid in conflict resolution; and yes, he heads Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds homes for the poor. Yet there is another Jimmy Carter, unknown to the young and forgotten by too many who should know better. (Let’s exempt the Nobel Committee here: it rarely knows better.)

In fact, rather than promote concord, Carter’s own foreign policy helped to aggravate conflict. He found Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s horrific leader, to be “vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well-informed” and enthused over Nicaragua’s Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega. Worse still, he practically wore a “Kick Me” sign when negotiating with the Soviet Union, which took his feeble Strategic Arms Limitations Talks with a grain of salt. Carter was especially indulgent to dictatorships in the Middle East. During his administration, OPEC swelled in power and influence: between 1978, the year the Shah of Iran fell, and 1979, oil prices rocketed upward more than 50 percent, triggering double-digit inflation in the U.S. Jimmy’s response? Rather than criticize the emirs and sheiks who profited mightily, he took after America’s “profligate, energy-wasting wasteful life-style.” We needed to moderate the bad habits of capitalism with conservation—“The Moral Equivalent of War” (appropriate acronym: MEOW).

As for Carter’s ability to negotiate difficult international problems, he had his rendezvous with destiny on November 4, 1979, when Iranian “students” invaded the American embassy in Teheran and took hostages. Although the Islamist captors later confessed that they expected their gesture to be short-lived—they assumed a muscular U.S. response—Carter did . . . nothing. His lack of action emboldened radical terrorist groups in the Middle East, which now began to think that the U.S. was a clueless, impotent giant. Had he instantly demanded release of our hostages, on pain of reducing the city of Qum to ashes, he might have spared the world 30 years of hijacking and terrorism. The Commander in Chief finally stirred in 1980, ordering a rescue mission against the advice of his own Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance. Three of eight helicopters were damaged in a sandstorm and the operation aborted—but not before eight soldiers lost their lives. Cyrus Vance resigned. These messages, too, weren’t lost on the terror merchants, who gleefully watched the hostages held for a total of 444 days, before their release on the Inauguration Day of Ronald Reagan, who had beaten Carter in a humiliating landslide.

Carter’s dictator coddling has continued since he left office. He persuaded a credulous Clinton administration that America could bribe North Korea out of its nuclear weapons program by helping it to build “peaceful” nuclear facilities—and we now see, all too clearly, where that counsel led. Carter helped to strengthen the Haitian dictatorship, while finding many reasons to excoriate the Middle East’s only democracy. Though the ex-president has no use for suicide bombers, he clearly detests Ariel Sharon for past and present policies. “His rejection of all peace agreements included Israeli withdrawals of from Arab lands, his provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the destruction of villages and homes, the arrests of thousands of Palestinians.”

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that, according to one recent report, some of the Carter Center’s major financial contributors include Sultan Qaboss bin Said Al Said of Oman; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Government of the United Arab Emirates; and Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdallah of Morocco. Then again, maybe not. In any case, after a decades-long lobbying campaign, Carter has finally achieved his ambition to win the Peace Prize. He deserves to be in the company of other prizewinners, such as Yassir Arafat, who has made a parody of peace, and Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan Marxist who lied about her life and did not even write the novel that brought her fame.

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More by Stefan Kanfer:
Summer Shorts in a Wide Range of Styles
Operatic Naiveté
Neanderthals on the Hudson
More . . .
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