Sunday, May 20, 2007

Carter blasts Bush, Blair on Iraq

Carter blasts Bush, Blair on Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Jimmy Carter blasted George W. Bush's presidency as "the worst in history" in international relations and denounced British Prime Minister Tony Blair's loyal relationship with Bush in interviews released on Saturday.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said in a telephone interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from the Carter Center in Atlanta.

"The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including (those of) George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me," Carter told the newspaper.

In an interview on Britain's BBC radio, Carter slammed Blair, who leaves office next month, for his tight relations with Bush, particularly concerning the Iraq war.

"Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient," Carter said when asked how he would characterize Blair's relationship with Bush.

"I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world," Carter said.

Carter, who was president from 1977-1981 and won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his charitable work, was an outspoken opponent of the invasion of Iraq before it was launched in 2003.

In the newspaper interview, Carter said Bush had taken a "radical departure from all previous administration policies" with the Iraq war.

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," Carter said.


The White House declined to comment on his statements, but the Republican National Committee struck back at Carter.

"Most Americans will probably take his criticisms with a grain of salt considering he also challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War, and history has since proven him wrong," said RNC spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson.

Carter told the BBC that if Blair had opposed the invasion he could have reduced the ensuing harm by making it tougher for Washington to shrug off critics, even if the British prime minister had not been able to stop the war.

"It would certainly have assuaged the problems that have (arisen) lately," Carter said.

"One of the defenses of the Bush administration in America and worldwide ... has been: 'Okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us,'" Carter said.

"I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made opposition less effective and has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted," he told the BBC.

Blair, who made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Saturday, has said he will step down in June. His Labour Party has named his long-serving finance minister, Gordon Brown, to succeed him.

Brown was a member of the Cabinet that voted in favor of the war, but has said mistakes were made in Iraq and he will review policy there.

In the newspaper interview, Carter, who brokered the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel, also criticized Bush's Middle East policies.

"For the first time since Israel was founded, we've had zero peace talks to try to bring a resolution of differences in the Middle East. That's a radical departure from the past," Carter said.

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff in London)