America transformed (is Mr. Hyde here to stay?)

There is, unfortunately, almost no precedent for the kind of attack this former President today directed against the current White House occupants.

Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process -- largely without definitive debates (except, at times, within the administration). [President Carter here describes "a core group of conservatives who are trying to realize long-pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism."]

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Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent champion of human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life. We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens as "enemy combatants," incarcerating them secretly and indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or having the right to legal counsel.

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While the president has reserved judgment, the American people are inundated almost daily with claims from the vice president and other top officials that we face a devastating threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and with pledges to remove Saddam Hussein from office, with or without support from any allies. As has been emphasized vigorously by foreign allies and by responsible leaders of former administrations and incumbent officeholders, there is no current danger to the United States from Baghdad.

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We have thrown down counterproductive gauntlets to the rest of the world, disavowing U.S. commitments to laboriously negotiated international accords.

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Tragically, our government is abandoning any sponsorship of substantive negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Our apparent policy is to support almost every Israeli action in the occupied territories and to condemn and isolate the Palestinians as blanket targets of our war on terrorism, while Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian enclaves shrink.

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Belligerent and divisive voices now seem to be dominant in Washington, but they do not yet reflect final decisions of the president, Congress or the courts. It is crucial that the historical and well-founded American commitments prevail: to peace, justice, human rights, the environment and international cooperation.


Former president Carter is chairman of the Carter Center in Atlanta.