In August, I wrote an article titled “Jimmy Carter’s Blood-Soaked Legacy” about how the former President’s record in office contradicted his professed concern for human rights. Despite campaigning on a promise to make respect for human rights a central tenet of the conduct of American foreign policy, Carter’s actions consistently prioritized economic and security interests over humanitarian concerns.
I cited the examples of Carter’s administration providing aid to Zairian dictator Mobutu to crush southern African liberation movements; financially supporting the Guatemalan military junta, and looking the other way as Israel gave them weapons and training; ignoring calls from human rights activists to withdraw support from the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia as they carried out genocide in East Timor; refusing to pursue sanctions against South Africa in the United Nations after the South African Defence Forces bombed a refugee camp in Angola, killing 600 refugees; financing and arming mujahideen rebels to destabilize the government of Afghanistan and draw the Soviet Union into invading the country; and providing aid to the military dictatorship in El Salvador, despite a letter from Archbishop Oscar Romero — who was assassinated by a member of a government death squad weeks later — explicitly calling for Carter not to do so.
This list was not meant to be exhaustive, but merely to highlight some of the most prominent contradictions between Carter’s ideals and his actions. After subsequent research and reader feedback, I realized there were many examples I had not mentioned. Their significance to the history of American foreign policy, and the repercussions they produced, is worth exploring in a subsequent analysis.