Saturday, June 09, 2007

How Jimmy Carter helped Robert Mugabe grab power in Zimbabwe

James Kirchick of the New Republic has a detailed look at the history of how Mugabe rose to power through threatening violence and corrupt elections, but with the support of Jimmy Carter and Andrew Young. They preferred the communist-backed Mugabe to the more moderate Methodist bishop Abel Muzorewa who had been elected in Zimbabwe's first democratic election.
The Carter administration had declared that though the 1979 election of Muzorewa had been conducted in a "reasonably fair way," it did not merit the United States' support because Mugabe was not involved. The 1980 election, on the other hand, which Mugabe won largely by threatening violence, the Carter administration declared to be "free and fair," leading to the lifting of sanctions. Mugabe, it seems, would have liked to return the favor. In 1980, mere months before Carter would resoundingly lose his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan, Zimbabwe's new prime minister told African-American leaders at a White House ceremony that if Carter "were running in our territory, he would be assured of victory."
Of course Carter has no apologies for his role in bringing on Mugabe's tyrannical rule that has destroyed Zimbabwe known now for "torture and murder of thousands, starvation, genocide, the world's highest inflation and lowest life expectancy."
Carter is unrepentant about his administration's support for Mugabe. At a Carter Center event in Boston on June 8, he said that he, Young, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had "spent more time on Rhodesia than on the Middle East." Carter admitted that "we supported two revolutionaries in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo." He adopts the "good leader gone bad" hindsight of Mugabe's early backers, stating that "at first [Mugabe] was a very enlightened president." While conceding that Mugabe is now "oppressive," Carter stressed that this murderer of tens of thousands "needs to be treated with respect and assured that if he does deal with those issues [democratization and human rights], he won't be punished or prosecuted for his crimes." Though it has supervised elections in over 60 countries, the 25-year-old Carter Center has no projects in Zimbabwe, nor has Carter (who demonstrates no compunction about lecturing others) attempted to atone for the ruin that his policies as president wreaked.

History will not look kindly on those in the West who insisted on bringing the avowed Marxist Mugabe into the government. In particular, the Jimmy Carter foreign policy--feckless in the Iranian hostage crisis, irresolute in the face of mounting Soviet ambitions, and noted in the post-White House years for dalliances with dictators the world over--bears some responsibility for the fate of a small African country with scant connection to American national interests. In response to Carter's comment last month that the Bush administration's foreign policy was the "worst in history," critics immediately cited those well-publicized failures. But the betrayal of Bishop Muzorewa and of all Zimbabweans, black and white, who warned what sort of leader Robert Mugabe would be deserves just as prominent a place among the outrages of the Carter years.