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Carter and The Terrorists, Sitting in a Tree…

Once again the Palestinian people had an opportunely to vote, and once again they chose Hamas, who vows to destroy Israel, by a huge margin.

Jimmy Carter, the most incompetent president in my lifetime, was there to encourage the terrorists. He’s called for them to be recognized by other nations because maybe they might kinda sorta renounce violence sooner or later someday.

I lived through the Carter presidency. After the disaster that was Richard Nixon Americans voted in the mild mannered peanut farmer. His presidency was marked by exactly one accomplishment: he helped broker peace between Egypt and Israel. But everything else he did was a disaster.

carter_hamas.jpgBack then I was selling audio and video equipment at a store called Sounds Great. This was long before Best Buy and Circuit City. When you wanted a decent stereo you went to one of independent stores or small chains populated by salesmen who actually knew something about the equipment they were selling.

Under Carter inflation hit a whopping 18%. People were walking into the store carrying wads of cash, announcing they had just emptied their savings accounts and wanted to spend all their money while it was still worth something. This only lasted for a few months, but sales in the store rocketed to an all time high as people made a desperate attempt to spend all their money as fast as possible. But even that was minor compared to what was in store overseas.

America’s embarrassment started when fundamentalist Muslims in Iran toppled the Shah (who had been put there by Americans) and replaced him with the Ayatollah Khomeini. It came as a complete surprise. The ever clueless CIA was unaware of any trouble brewing until they read about it on the front page of the New York Times. Shortly after installing Khomeini Iranians attacked the American embassy and took more than sixty Americans hostage.

Carter’s response was to do nothing except talk, while asking Johnny Carson to avoid the subject in his nightly monologues. I still remember, a month later, watching Steve Martin break the ice with a Khomeini joke. Man, that felt great. Our silliest comic was the first person to stand up to the tyrant.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks turned into months, and still Carter took no action. Some hostages were released early because of health problems. Carter bravely promised he wouldn’t leave the White House until the rest of them were returned.

Americans were pissed and had been demanding action for months when Carter finally decided to do something. He sent a few helicopters on a rescue mission. The mission was a complete failure, with most of the helicopters never even making it to their destination. Khomeini’s popularity skyrocketed.

The hostages never were released under his presidency. They spent four hundred and forty four days being tortured and abused by Iranians. Their release wasn’t negotiated until Reagan won the election, and took place just a few minutes after he took the oath of office. Iran knew better than to keep up their nonsense with Reagan in charge of the military.

Imagine how different things would be now if, back then, Carter was in possession of testicles. He could have given Iran a very short time to release the hostages, perhaps the week or so that it would have taken to get our military in place. And if they still refused he could have gone in with the full might of the American military. They could have razed everything in their path on the way to the hostages.

Imagine the aftermath of that. Sure, there would be moaning and protests and hand wringing and vilifying of the US, but more importantly we would have sent a very important, unforgettable message to the world, especially the Muslim countries: Don’t fuck with us. The consequences are just too terrible.

Would 9/11 have happened? How about the reign of terror leading up to it? We’ll never know, because Gutless Jimmy blew his chance.

As Reagan began to win the cold war, Carter shuffled off and started Habitat for Humanity, a very cool charity that helped low income people become homeowners without giving them handouts. For a decade or so it looked like he might make up for being one our of our worst presidents by becoming one of our best ex-presidents.

But now he’s blown it again, hob-knobbing with terrorists. At a reception he literally hugged and kissed one of them. He’s even spewing their spew, referring to Israel as occupiers.

This, then, is Carter’s legacy. After kowtowing to terrorists while in office, he’s traveling the globe and kissing them. This makes him something far worse than a pathetically incompetent president. This makes him a despicable human being.

Cartoon Credit: Mike Lester, Cagle Cartoons

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6 Comment(s)

  1. A few mistakes.

    1) You accidentally refer to Iran as Iraq in the following sentence: “America’s embarrassment started when fundamentalist Muslims in Iraq toppled the Shah (who had been put there by Americans) and replaced him with the Ayatollah Khomeini.”

    2) Operation Eagle Claw was more than just sending a few helicopters. It was a pretty sizable military operation that failed because:

    -The US wasn’t ever prepared to go into Iran (it was a bigger ally than Israel for years) at the time, so the US military was unprepared to go through the sand dunes and mountains of the Iranian countryside

    -The operation could only take place from aircraft carriers. The US did not have a significant presence in Saudi Arabia at the time and carriers were the only way to reach Iran. Also, Tehran where the hostages were held, is deep within Iran, so the Iranians would’ve had advanced warning of any attempt to rescue the hostages by helicopter (which was the only way it could have been accomplished)

    -US special operations units only had scant counter-terrorism and hostage rescue training at the time

    3) The US could not use air strikes because precision bombing technology wasn’t accurate enough until the 1980s and any large scale military operation that resulted in the deaths of a lot of Iranian civilians–such as air strikes or an invasion–would have likely resulted in the murder of the hostages.

    4) The CIA was well aware of the growing hostility towards the Shah. Several of the leaders of Iranian Revolution were actually pretty progressive for Muslim clerics. Although mullahs and clerics were the biggest portion of the opposition, there were also secular components to the Revolution. What ended up happening was the head reformist Ayatollah ended dying just after the Revolution and Khomeini used the power vacuum to consolidate his power and kill off his rivals.

    5) The release of the hostages had less to do with fear of Reagan than hatred of Carter. The Iranians in charge hated Carter and wanted to humiliate him. That is why they released the hostages while Reagan was being sworn in, they wanted it to be known that the entire Iranian Hostage Crisis lasted right up until he no longer was President. Not that they liked Reagan, but they wanted the whole incident to be associated with Carter, it was a symbolic gesture. Iran also threaten US shipping in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq-Iran War and they also had a hand in the suicide bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, so they weren’t that afraid of Ronald Reagan.

    I would like to make it clear that I’m no fan of Carter, he seems like a decent enough guy, but I think he’s very naive when it comes to dealing with tyrants and thugs and that he was generally very ineffectual as a President. Maybe it had a lot to do with lousy times of 70s, when everyone was hurting, but he certainly didn’t make it any better.

    Harley | Apr 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. 1) Corrected. Thanks.

    2) Operation Eagle Claw involved 8 helicopters and one c-130 plane. The plane and 5 helicopters made it to the first staging site, where one of the helicopters crashed into the c-130. It was a complete fuster cluck.

    3) The US could have taken it’s time to amass a large enough force to wage a significant war against Iran. It would not have been easy, but just putting the resources in place would have been enough to let Iran know we were serious. It’s possible that the threat of invasion would have been enough.

    4) The CIA never recommended closing the embassy as a precaution. This indicates, to me, that they severely underestimated the threat level.

    5) We can only guess at Iran’s motivations. Yes, they hated Carter, but I think they were more interested in humiliating America than humiliating one politician. They succeeded. And while they remained belligerent while Reagan was in power, I think they knew that he would take decisive and very destructive action if the hostages weren’t released.

    I agree that Carter, on the surface, *seems* like a decent guy, but you’ve got to consider his actions, not is demeanor. As president his actions (or more accurate, lack of action) made the US look week and ineffective to the Muslim world. And now he’s out there cavorting with terrorists, currying their favor, and trying to get everyone else to play nice with them.

    Times are *always* lousy in one way or another. The president’s job is to improve things, and barring that, at least not make them any worse. Carter did neither.

    Dave Hitt | Apr 22, 2008 | Reply

  3. In response to your answer to #3, does this strategy make sense in terms of the Bush admin’s history in the middle east? Did “putting the resources in place” help with Iraq? Is it helping now with Iran?

    Also, is blaming NLCB and the 70s oil crisis on Carter really smartenizing anybody?

    I don’t think his work in the middle east has been in naive. Regardless of what he did or didn’t accomplish in office, since his presidency has ended he’s done a lot for peace. It’s not always obvious because of parties with a disincentive for peace who are working against it.

    Here’s what *is* naive: Thinking that the whole middle east thing, including 9/11, might have turned out just fine if Jimmy hadn’t “blown his chance.” We don’t know that razing a path to the hostages would have worked. It might not have been “gutless,” but that doesn’t make it smart.

    Here’s what Middle Eastern tyrants are good at: Exploiting the dilemmas of the major powers. Fight or negotiate? Either way we lose. This is not the playground bully who will back off if you just fight back once or twice. This is the bully who goads you into attacking in front of the teacher so that no matter what you do you lose. If we had gone in with guns blazing we likely would have lost all the hostages and set up a new wave of violence and today we’d still be blaming him for the state of the middle east.

    Also, crediting Reagan with winning the cold war is almost as short-sighted as blaming the middle east on Carter. These things take decades. The cold war was won because tyrannical communism is/was not stable.

    Carter screwed up because there aren’t any good options. I hope, Dave, you aren’t resorting to the tactic of over-simplifying the moral dilemma to make it an easy target. Is that smartenizing anybody?

    Dan Pearson | Apr 23, 2008 | Reply

  4. Iraq was never a threat to us, so the current war is incredibly stupid.

    I thought I made it clear that I was *speculating* about how different things *might* be if Jimmy had the guts to show force, and use it if necessary, instead of cowering in the rose garden. I *think* that a credible threat to raze a path, putting the military in place, might have worked. If it didn’t, actually razing that path *probably* would have taught that part of the world a lesson they’d still remember today. We could have shown them that we were real tigers, and pulling our tail was deadly dangerous. Instead we demonstrated that we were paper tigers, and they took *that* lesson to heart.

    Reagan did win the cold war. Previous presidents helped push the USSR into spending more on their military than they could afford, pushing them near the edge of the cliff. Reagan, by building up our military and pushing the unworkable Star Wars missile defense system, pushed them over that cliff. It was a game of “who will go broke first?” With more and better resources, we won.

    Every president is faced with situations where there are no good options. That’s an important part of the job. Carters standard response, most of the time, was inaction, which is usually the worst response to any escalating situation.

    Hittman | Apr 23, 2008 | Reply

  5. Clueless is the best word I have to describe Jimmy Carter. I remember thinking “what are we doing?”. We had no response. It was absolutely pathetic that our government waited for so long to even make any type rescue effort. And what a lame effort it was. Poor planning from the beginning, and no back-up plan. If I remember correctly, the helicopters removed air filters to save weight. In the desert….no air filter…sand and dust…the effort was doomed before it started. And don’t forget his brother, Billy. He hung around with other Arab leaders and partied at the same time as the hostage crisis. I believe he was with Gaddafi when he was drinking his “Billy Beer”, got out of the car, and (pardon the word) pissed on the airport tarmac. What a sad time in my life.

    Barry Tetenbaum | Apr 25, 2008 | Reply

  6. I can agree that Jimmy Carter may be incredibly clueless and incompetent…. but I think he honestly believes that he’s doing the right thing for his country. I may be wrong on that… but as I read the situation I’m not sure that you’re accurate in portraying him as a “despicable human being”

    Parrot | Apr 27, 2008 | Reply

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