|Subject: DN: Carter on East Timor
excerpt from democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/10/1518224 . Audio and video also available.
Monday, September 10th, 2007 Fmr. President Jimmy Carter on "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," Iraq, Greeting the Shah of Iran at the White House, Selling Weapons to Indonesia During the Occupation of East Timor, and More
In his first interview with Democracy Now!, former President Jimmy Carter talks about what led him to write "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid", his controversial book that argues Israel's settlements in the Occupied Territories are the main barrier to peace. Carter also discusses his regrets over sending arms to Indonesia during the occupation of East Timor and recounts his dealings with the Shah of Iran. The 39th president also assesses the Iraq war and reflects on the 25th anniversary of the Carter Center, which has focused on election monitoring and health initiatives around the world. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: You have human rights defenders here at the Carter Center. One is a woman from Indonesia.
JIMMY CARTER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering, in your time as president, the period that Indonesia occupied Timor, if you regret the allowing of Indonesia to buy US weapons at a time when it was one of the worst times for the people of Timor?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, as you may know, I had a policy when I was president of not selling weapons if it would exacerbate a potential conflict in a region of the world, and some of our allies were very irate about this policy. And I have to say that I was not, you know, as thoroughly briefed about what was going on in East Timor as I should have been. I was more concerned about other parts of the world then.
Since I've been here head of the Carter Center, though, we've taken a great interest in Indonesia. We were the only monitors in the first election, when Indonesia started moving toward democracy, and we've been for both elections there. And after the first election, the Carter Center sent a delegation to negotiate with people in East Timor, and we joined with the United Nations in conducting the first elections in East Timor, and this year, just a few months ago, again, in East Timor, trying to help them assuage the potential violence in that country and have them have a stable government. So we've played a great role not only in Indonesia, bringing democracy and relative peace, but also in the independence of East Timor in that referendum, and now to perpetuate democracy there.
AMY GOODMAN: Along those lines, as a president, what do you think are the reasons why you can be so isolated, a president, for example, in the case of Timor, saying now you wish you had known more at the time what was going on?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, a president, almost by definition, is immersed literally in hundreds of issues every week. You're not only dealing with domestic issues, like energy or environment or education, health and welfare, also you've got the Congress, in budget affairs, preparing the budget for the military, as well as other things, developing new weapons, trying to make sure that we address the crises that confront us in an effective way. This was a time of a Cold War, when I was constantly aware of the fact that the Soviets could launch a missile, and twenty-six minutes later it would strike the United States with devastating effect. I had to be prepared for that.
I became deeply immersed in some long-festering issues. For instance, the Panama Canal treaties had been almost a matter of conflict between America and Latin American nations, including Panama, since the time of Lyndon Johnson. I just got back from helping to start the expansion of the Panama Canal. And the Mideast peace process had never been consummated in any substantial way since Israel was founded as a nation. I've worked on that. So there are so many different things that the President has to do that are pressing and crisis that you can't really expect any president, including me or my predecessors or successors, to know the details of things like East Timor. I wish I had, but I didn't.