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Tuesday, February 14, 2006
An ex-President on Cuba and "our endangered values"

By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle

AS THE governments of Cuba and Venezuela continue to cope with enormous destabilising politics from the George Bush Administration, it may be useful for those who insist in defending U.S foreign policy in our Caribbean to read what former President Jimmy Carter has to say.

Speaking with the conscience of a proud, self-confessed 'born again' Christian, and a widely hailed commitment to human rights, democracy and international peace, Carter's overview of the threats to long cherished values of the American people is a must-read.

In just 200 pages, he presents in a most reader-friendly manner, free from cliches, demagoguery and abuse, a collection of refreshing analyses, supported by hard, relevant data, his latest and timely book on `Our Endangered Values’.

This work by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose name is associated worldwide with electoral democracy and human rights, linked to projects and activities of the Atlanta-based `Carter Center’, deals what he presents, with a deep sense of disappointment and apprehension, as "America's moral crisis" - including vexing attitudes on abortion, homosexuality and same-sex union.

Perhaps the most familiar friendly face of any American President to have visited our Caribbean region, Jimmy Carter is quite on the offensive in his candid assessments of, for instance, the "Christian right" in American politics.

So too, is he on the politicking of the neo-conservatives and, most decisively, on the grave implications of the hawkish policies of the George Bush Administration.

Those in our midst who are in the habit of expediently confusing criticisms of America's foreign policy and self-appointed policing role in international affairs as criticism of the American people, should consider the facts, the arguments offered by Carter through the pages of what he sees as America's "endangered values" and challenges for world peace and friendship.

U.S Foreign Policy

Today's column deals largely with what the former President's views on "the distortion of American foreign policy" and, in particular, my own focus on his assessment of Cuba-U.S relations.

Having visited, at different periods, both Cuba and Venezuela, countries in which the Carter Center maintains keen interest in governance, and currently engaged in the latest displays of verbal warfare with a Washington Administration, the author of `Our Endangered Values’ - the latest in a long line of books he wrote:

"Although there are many other complicating political factors, the tendency of fundamentalists (political and religious) to choose certain emotional issues for demagoguery and to avoid negotiation with dissenters has adversely affected American foreign policy.

"One notable example is that some American political leaders have adopted Fidel Castro as the ultimate human villain, and have elevated the small and militarily impotent nation of Cuba as one of the greatest threats to our nation's security and culture..."

If there were "justified concerns" about a security threat to the U.S from Cuba some four decades ago at the time of the missiles crisis’ during the presidency of John Kennedy, Carter argues that since then, America's "fixation" on Cuba has become "ludicrous and counter-productive."

He sees the 43-year-old U.S-imposed trade, economic and financial embargo against the small Caribbean nation 90 miles off America's shore, as quite "punitive" against "an already suffering Cuban people".

Further, that the freedom of America's own citizens to visit and trade with Cuba has been seriously curtailed; and cultural as well as humanitarian cooperation "outlawed".

Engagement He outlined what he did as President to improve the climate for U.S-Cuba engagement in the interest of their peoples and wider hemispheric cooperation and peace. He also recalls his historic visit to that Caribbean nation on the invitation of President Castro and related developments.

Carter gave a touching example of how Americans are also suffering from hostile U.S policies on Cuba by referring to the case of an American Sergeant (Carlos Lazo).

Having courageously participated in a ferocious counter-attack while serving in Iraq, Lazo returned home and sought permission to visit his two sons living in Cuba. He was flatly denied.

"It is troubling to realise", said Carter, "that Sergeant Lazo could visit his sons if he were a citizen of any other nation in the world".

As he sees it, and reflecting a perspective widely held across the Caribbean-Latin American region, Carter said that American policy toward our entire hemisphere has been "misshaped by this obsession (with Castro)....

"It has become almost impossible for any career diplomat who does not demonstrate a near-fanatic commitment to the isolation of the Cuban people to acquire a high post in the State Department; and this philosophy permeates American embassies throughout the region..."The former President also offers some rather scathing criticisms about American foreign policy with the tendency of the current Bush administration to categorise as "axis of evil", or "rogue states" nations in the Middle East and Asia with which a Washington administration has difficulties in pursuing enlightened diplomacy.

Examples cited included Iran and North Korea, accompanied by his own approaches while he served as President. Carter also leaves no doubt whatsoever about his opposition to what he views as a most dangerous doctrine of the Bush Administration - pre-emptive war as unleashed against Iraq following the 9/11 terrorist attack on the USA. Worse, when such a "war" is based on falsehood.

Not just American religious leaders of the fundamentalist school, who are often engaged in a "bizarre admixture of religion and government", should find time to read Carter's `Our Endangered Values’.

So too should our own Christian leaders of the Caribbean region - whether or not they share the views of Jimmy Carter on politics, religion and government; or on such very important, sensitive issues of our time as abortion, homosexuality and same-sex union.

(`Our Endangered Values’, recently published by Simon and Schuster, (New York, NY) is dedicated by its author to "our children and grandchildren, for whom America's basic moral values must be preserved").