In Faith and Freedom, former American President, Jimmy Carter, an evangelical Baptist, poses a direct challenge to both Conservative evangelicals and secular intellectuals. Condemning inhumane treatment of prisoners, disrespect for human rights, the destruction of the environment and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, Faith and Freedom demonstrates the ways that Christian values can inform and animate progressive politics. He also challenges the lazy stereotype of the blinkered evangelical favoured by many intellectuals in Britain.
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Extract from FAITH AND FREEDOM
By Jimmy Carter
A basic question to be asked is, "Has the Iraqi war reduced the threat of terrorism?" Unfortunately, the answer is "No". Not only have we lost the almost unanimous sympathy and support that was offered to us throughout the world after the attack of 9/11, but there is direct evidence that the Iraqi war has actually increased the terrorist threat. In testimony before the Congress, CIA Director Porter Goss stated, "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.s. jihadists [holy warriors].... These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focus on acts of terrorism." He added that the war "has become a cause for extremists."
To corroborate his opinion, the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center reported that the number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled in 2004. "Significant" attacks grew to more than 650, up from the previous record of about 175 in 2003. Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks to 198, or nine times the previous year's total - after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government. It is obvious that the war has turned Iraq into the world's most effective terrorist training camp, perhaps more dangerous than Afghanistan under the Taliban. Also, instead of our being able to use Iraq as a permanent base from which to pressure Iran and Syria, there seems to be a growing allegiance between the evolving Iraqi government and its fundamentalist Shiite neighbors, which may greatly strengthen Iran's strategic position in the Middle East.
The adoption of preemptive war as an American policy has forced the United States to renounce existing treaties and alliances as unnecessary constraints on our superpower's freedom to act unilaterally. Another serious consequence of this policy is the likelihood that other aggressive nations will adopt the same policy of attacking to remove leaders they consider to be undesirable.
When the United States orchestrated the first step toward potential democracy in Iraq early in 2005, there was a dramatic demonstration of courage and commitment to freedom as a large number of Shiite Muslims and Kurds went to the polls in the face of intimidation from Sunni dissidents and terrorist groups. The next steps toward writing a constitution and then forming a representative government are still not predictable as I write this text, but there is great concern about whether Sunnis will cooperate and how dominant the religious laws will be. The ruling Shiite religious parties are demanding that provisions of the Koran, called Sharia, become the supreme authority on marriage, divorce, and inheritance issues. It would be ironic if crucial women's rights that survived Saddam Hussein's regime were lost under the new "democratic" government sponsored and protected by the United States.
It will be a notable achievement if success can be realized, and despite the uncertainties and an increase in the fervor of terrorists, this effort to bring democracy to Iraq deserves the world's support.
There is no doubt that America must accomplish its fundamental objectives before withdrawing our troops from Iraq, but those goals have never been clearly delineated. It is likely that political pressures from a disillusioned American public will be a major factor in setting the minimal goals and time schedule for U.S. troop withdrawal. We should provide the people with water, sewage, communications, electricity, and the ability to produce and market their oil. The Iraqis must have a security force as effective as the one we dismantled, to support a stable and democratic government.
A basic question that will determine the final outcome is whether American leaders will insist on permanent military bases and dominant economic involvement in the country, or make it clear that we have no plans to maintain a continuing presence for our own benefit.
To a surprising and disturbing degree, most Arabs in the region do not agree with my favourable assessment of the democratic effort. In a respected survey done by Zogby International in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates and reported in March 2005, an overwhelming majority of Arabs did not believe that U.S. policy in Iraq was motivated by the spread of democracy in the region, and believed that the Middle East had become less democratic after the Iraq war and that Iraqis were worse off than they had been before the conflict. Overall approval ratings of the United States were at an unprecedented low of 2 percent in Egypt, 4 percent in Saudi Arabia, 11 percent in Morocco, 14 percent in United Arab Emirates, 15 percent in Jordan, with a high of only 20 percent in Lebanon.
These were the Arab countries that had the closest historical ties with America. More than three-fourths of the Arab respondents professed support for democratic principles of government, but they strongly condemned the attack on Iraq and the apparent bias of the United States against the rights of the Palestinians. Despite our admirable democratic efforts, these are not good omens for our policies in the region.
Reproduced by permission of Duckworth.
© Jimmy Carter, 2005
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