President Carter's most recent moralizing on American foreign policy in the Middle East is exasperating particularly in light of President Mugabe's misrule of Zimbabwe, where Mr. Carter's role in bringing the dictator to power has been mostly forgotten.
Mr. Mugabe is one of the nastiest dictators in Africa — he has inflicted a "silent genocide" by starving his own people. The effects of his authoritarian rule have been made all the worse by his staying power. In more than 27 years as head of state, Mr. Mugabe has turned one of Africa's most productive economies into a shambles. A country whose currency once beat the British pound now boasts an inflation rate nearing 10,000% per annum and a land that once exported beef and grain now has a population desperately in need of food and humanitarian aid.
Last month, Mr. Carter termed the American and Israeli government's boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government "criminal." It would be more enlightening though to hear what he thinks of the terrible situation he helped to create in Zimbabwe.
In 1978 Ian Smith, the prime minister of white-ruled Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, who had just declared two years earlier that majority rule would not come for "1,000 years," reached an agreement with black moderate leaders for a transition government. Under this plan, termed the "internal settlement," whites, who represented about 4% of the population, would be reserved 28 out of 100 parliamentary seats as well as control over certain government ministries — privileges that seem ripe for condemnation today but hardly unusual for an African country emerging from nearly a century of colonial rule.
The plan facilitated by the American and British governments that Mr. Mugabe would eventually accept in 1980 put aside 20 out of 100 seats for whites — eight less than the arrangement stipulated by the internal settlement.
In April of 1979, the first fully democratic election in Zimbabwe history's occurred. Of the eligible black voters, 64% participated, braving the threat of terrorist attacks by Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, which managed to kill 10 people. Prior to the election, Mr. Mugabe had issued a death list with 50 individuals he named as "traitors, fellow-travelers, and puppets of the Ian Smith regime, opportunistic running-dogs and other capitalist vultures." Nevertheless, Bishop Abel Muzorewa of the United Methodist Church emerged victorious and became prime minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as the new country was called.
Yet the Carter administration, led by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, would have none of it. Mr. Young referred to Mr. Muzorewa, one of the very few democratically elected leaders on the African continent, as the head of a "neo-fascist" government. Mr. Carter refused to meet Mr. Muzorewa when the newly elected leader visited Washington to seek support from our country, nor did he lift sanctions that America had placed on Rhodesia as punishment for the colony's unilateral declaration of independence from the British Empire in 1965.
Messrs. Carter and Young would only countenance a settlement in which Mr. Mugabe, a Marxist who had repeatedly made clear his intention to turn Zimbabwe into a one-party state, played a leading role. Mr. Young, displaying the willful naiveté that came to characterize Mr. Carter's mindset, told the London Times that Mr. Mugabe was a "very gentle man" whom he "can't imagine … ever pulling the trigger on a gun to kill anyone."
Mr. Mugabe already had pulled the trigger on many innocent people, though. And not long after taking power in 1980, he killed about 25,000 people belonging to a minority tribe, the Ndebele. In spite of this, in 1989, Mr. Carter launched his "Project Africa" in Zimbabwe, a program aimed at helping African countries maintain food sustainability.
Now, however, the Carter Center maintains no programs in Zimbabwe. There is probably more of a reason for this than simply due to Mr. Mugabe's recent ban on foreign aid groups.
Since Mr. Carter was thrown out of office by the American people in 1980, he has spent his post-presidential years lecturing others on morality. The same year Mr. Carter lost a democratic election, Mr. Mugabe ascended to power in a violently flawed one. Yet over the past 27 years Mr. Mugabe has escaped being a target of Mr. Carter's frequent hectoring.
Rather than criticizing the American and Israeli governments for their stance towards Hamas, perhaps Jimmy Carter ought to focus his efforts on how to rid the world of the murderous despot in Zimbabwe whom he helped create.
Mr. Kirchick, the assistant to the editor in chief of the New Republic, reported from Zimbabwe last year.