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View Diary: Human Rights Advice from a Past President to a President-Elect (207 comments)

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  •  I'm kind of annoyed by the notion that (1+ / 0-)
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    diplomacy with leaders who are recklessly poor at their job is inherently evil. Its that philosophy that got us into our current situation with Iran. They pretty much offered to stop their nuclear program in return for normalized relations in 2001, they were completely ignored and this failure of the moderates is part of the reason for the more conservative rule they have now. And what the hell is up with our (non-)relations with Cuba? etc.

    The issues listed in the blog of Carter actually providing material support to death squads is far more troubling then a president inviting a hundred Stalins to the White House.

    •  I didn't do a very good job (1+ / 0-)
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      of making clear the distinction between "diplomacy" and an official State Visit, eean, so I thank you for making me do it now.

      An official State Visit goes far beyond mere diplomacy. If Jimmy Carter had called Ceauşescu  to the White House for some talks, I'd have no problem with that whatsoever.

      To hold an official State Visit for Ceauşescu, replete with an official State Dinner, is to give the man an official Stamp of Approval. Carter's remarks only reinforce this. He doesn't utter one single word of reproach.

      As for your remark about "a hundred Stalins" being less troubling to you than paramilitary death squads, I suggest you do a bit of research before diminishing Stalin's (or his brethren's) destructiveness. In the Ukranian Famine alone -- a mass-starvation resulting from Stalin's forced collectivisation policies -- Stalin managed to murder between six and seven million people in a single year. No mass-murder in human history has killed so many people so quickly.

      Stalin's decision and the methods used to implement it condemned millions of peasants to death by starvation. Party officials, with the aid of regular troops and secret police units, waged a merciless war of attrition against peasants who refused to give up their grain. Even indispensable seed grain was forcibly confiscated from peasant households. Any man, woman, or child caught taking even a handful of grain from a collective farm could be, and often was, executed or deported. Those who did not appear to be starving were often suspected of hoarding grain. Peasants were prevented from leaving their villages by the NKVD and a system of internal passports.

      These actions hardly seem to fit your definition of "leaders who are recklessly poor at their job." Stalin was astoundingly good at his job, which was to brutally repress and exploit his own people.

      I don't think the President of the United States should be inviting these people to the White House to throw them an official party of celebration. You & I differ on that.

      "Someone who does not see a pane of glass does not know that he does not see it." --Simone Weil

      by AgnesBee on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 05:43:20 PM PST

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      •  heh I'm well aware of what a monster Stalin was (1+ / 0-)
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        Why I used him.

        Sorry, not a single Romanian died because their leader was eating some good food at the White House. In fact I could easily see such high-level engagement as a tool to bring monster leaders into the sun.

        From Wikipedia it looks like Romania was acting as a PLO<->Israel go between. The other scenario is that he was trying to poke the eye of the USSR, which obviously isn't as laudable. Either way I don't think you can universally condemn such "stamp of approval" meetings without the context of their purpose.

        But when you talk about supporting death squads, that's blood on his hands and is ethically atrocious. Its possible to be pragmatic about human rights and have tea with despotic murders, its not possible to actively support flagrant human rights abuse. .

        •  We'll have to agree (1+ / 0-)
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          to disagree on the how harshly Carter should be judged for Ceauşescu's State Visit and the ensuing lovefest Carter conducted during the State Dinner.

          I'll conclude by saying that the United States loses any moral authority it might have when it openly celebrates dictators (as it has far too often in its history). It provides that leader with instant credibility at the same time as it demoralizes the oppressed people from the dictator's country who might be looking to the U.S. (and the world) as their only hope for freedom.

          To stay silent in the face of human brutality is evil. To celebrate it is beyond evil.

          If George Bush had invited the president of Sudan to the White House for a State Dinner, the world would (rightly) explode in a frenzy of condemnation. Jimmy Carter deserves no better.

          I would also argue that economically propping up one of Eastern Europe's most brutal dictatorships did indeed lead to increased Romanian suffering and death, since that money was not used to ease their suffering nor prevent their deaths but rather to strengthen the system causing their suffering & deaths.

          You're correct to point out the potential geopolitical considerations that might've gone into Carter's botched decision, but I'm no fan of such a foreign policy. (I'm not saying that you are.) While a purist foreign policy is not possible, we can do better than the old saw, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

          It should be noted that the same geopolitical argument could be made in favor of Carter's support for the anti-Soviet El Salvadoran regime.

          That Carter, so often lauded as a humanitarian, failed so often and so miserably was the real target of my comment.

          In the end, we're in total agreement as to the atrocity of Carter's (indirect) monetary support of Salvadoran death squads. Yet Carter never invited Roberto D'Aubuisson to the White House for an official celebration of his human destructiveness.

          To raise his glass to butchers like Ceauşescu is beyond the pale.

          "Someone who does not see a pane of glass does not know that he does not see it." --Simone Weil

          by AgnesBee on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 07:10:38 PM PST

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          •  I guess I care less about moral authority (0+ / 0-)

            and more about shit that actually happens. Eg. economically propping up such a regime is a far worse then toasting.

            And not having state functions with isn't far from not agreeing to talk with at all. The same logic your using is why George W. Bush's diplomacy was so poor, and why no sitting president has given Castro the time of day leading to our ridiculous antique Cuban foreign policy.

            A lot worse can come of our leaders not talking to each other, so I'd really rather they error on side of toasting each others greatness.

            •  If you can't see the difference between (1+ / 0-)
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              having substantive discussions with a potential enemy (which I'm in favor of) and throwing a party to uncritically praise a brutal dictator (which I'm against), there's no sense in going further here.

              How you deduce that I'm somehow against talking to Castro because I criticized Carter for celebrating a dictator is beyond logic.

              Deciding not to celebrate a brutal dictator at an exclusive and rather expensive state function is markedly different in every respect from deciding not to have serious, respectful, substantive discussions with that same leader.

              If F.D.R. met with Hitler in 1938 to negotiate a treaty to prevent further hostilities, that would be a good thing. If he invited Hitler to the White House in order to publicly celebrate the man at an official state dinner, that would be a bad thing. (By 1938, Hitler's human rights abuses were well-documented and widely reported, just as Ceauşescu's were in 1978.)

              Thanks for the discussion.

              "Someone who does not see a pane of glass does not know that he does not see it." --Simone Weil

              by AgnesBee on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 08:48:59 PM PST

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