Friday, March 09, 2007

Words of Power #33: A Quarter-Century Ago, Jimmy Carter Warned of This Grim Period, His Prophetic Call was Not Heeded

Image: Frida Kahlo, Love Embrace of the Universe

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One man come, he to justify
One man to overthrow
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss
In the name of love
What more in the name of love . . .

Pride (In The Name of Love), Bono and U2

Words of Power # 33: A Quarter-Century Ago, Jimmy Carter Warned of This Grim Period, His Prophetic Call was Not Heeded -- In the Name of Love, Now What Will You Do?

By Richard Power

In January 1981, after losing the election to a lesser man who was fronting for a corporatist juggernaut, Jimmy Carter delivered a remarkable farewell address to the nation and the world. His words should haunt us all. But, unfortunately, most people either weren't listening then or have never heard them.

In stark and unequivocal language, Carter articulated what he saw as the three greatest threats to the nation and the human race as a whole -- nuclear proliferation, environmental destruction and the abuse of human rights:

For a few minutes now, I want to lay aside my role as leader of one nation, and speak to you as a fellow citizen of the world about three issues, three difficult issues: The threat of nuclear destruction, our stewardship of the physical resources of our planet, and the pre-eminence of the basic rights of human beings.

In stark and unequivocal language, Carter called on the USA as the world's leading light, to face these threats with courage and conscience instead of fear and denial. But we have failed miserably.

Concerning nuclear proliferation, Carter warned:

The danger is becoming greater. As the arsenals of the superpowers grow in size and sophistication and as other governments acquire these weapons, it may only be a matter of time before madness, desperation, greed or miscalculation lets loose this terrible force.

Concering environmental destruction, Carter warned:

There are real and growing dangers to our simple and most precious possessions: the air we breathe; the water we drink; and the land which sustain us. The rapid depletion of irreplaceable minerals, the erosion of topsoil, the destruction of beauty, the blight of pollution, the demands of increasing billions of people, all combine to create problems which are easy to observe and predict but difficult to resolve. If we do not act, the world of the year 2000 will be much less able to sustain life than it is now.

Concerning the struggle for human rights, Carter warned:

If we are to serve as a beacon for human rights, we must continue to perfect here at home the rights and values which we espouse around the world . . .We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. It will be a period of tensions both within nations and between nations -- of competition for scarce resources, of social political and economic stresses and strains. During this period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries but necessities -- not the salt in our bread but the bread itself.

In exhorting his fellow planetary citizens, Carter evoked the oneness of all life:

The same rocket technology that delivers nuclear warheads has also taken us peacefully into space. From that perspective, we see our Earth as it really is -- a small and fragile and beautiful blue globe, the only home we have. We see no barriers of race or religion or country. We see the essential unity of our species and our planet; and with faith and common sense, that bright vision will ultimately prevail.

Even a random and cursory glance at any number of daily news feed reveals how desperately prophetic Carter was and how dismally the US political establishment, the US mainstream news media, and yes, the US populace itself has failed both our guiding principles and our world.

In his brilliant piece, "The Words None Dare Say," George Lakoff sheds the harsh light of truth on the danger of first-strike use of *tactical* nuclear weapons:

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. . . .If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure "success," then the "attack" would constitute nuclear war. The words in boldface are nuclear war, that's right, nuclear war -- a first strike nuclear war. We don't know what exactly is being planned -- conventional GBU-28's or nuclear B61-11's. And that is the point. Discussion needs to be open. Nuclear war is not a minor matter. . . .Bush, Cheney, McCain, Edwards, Clinton, and Obama all say indirectly that they seriously consider starting a preventive nuclear war, but will not engage in a public discussion of what that would mean. That contributes to a general denial, and the press is going along with it by a corresponding refusal to use the words. . . .
George Lakoff, The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War

Meanwhile, accelerated and aggravated by the burning of fossil fuels, global warming has thrust us into a climate crisis that threatens civilization and nature itself:

Nearly 50,000 scientists from 60 countries across the world have enrolled themselves in a two-year intense study of the poles under the International Polar Year program, which was launched on Thursday. The scientists will focus on climate change and investigate how global warming is impacting the poles and what consequences this holds for humanity. . . .Scientists will focus on polar bears, seals, caribou and the Greenland shark while they also undertake to probe into freshwater systems, plant communities, peat lands and seabirds. They will study the problems faced by Inuit societies, which have been greatly affected by global warming as several of their conventional practices have ceased to exist. The study will be a focus on the poles as never before, say the scientists. 50,000 scientists to study impact of climate change on poles under IPY, Earth Times, 3-9-07

And yet, even now, the Bush-Cheney regime continues to restrict the sharing of the government's scientific research with the citizenry it is sworn to serve:

The Bush Administration has issued an order that would halt free and open discussion by scientists and other government officials on the role global warming is playing in threatening the polar bear. In a memo obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups working on the listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration is requiring that all government travel requests "potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears" be accompanied by a memorandum "including a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the Administration's position on these issues."
Bush Administration Restricting Scientific Discussion on Polar Bears and Global Warming, NRDC, 3-8-07

And what about human rights?

The truth of how far the USA has fallen in these past seven years is almost unbearable.

Two recent stories on the courageous struggle of the Iranian women underscore our predicament:

In Iran, the period around Women's Day traditionally has been marked by boisterous street demonstrations by human rights activists demanding an end to Islamic laws condemned as discriminatory or sexist. About 50 demonstrators, none holding placards, showed up Thursday at the capital's Baharestan Square, near the parliament. They were quickly confronted and overwhelmed by riot police, including dozens of young female officers wearing bright green uniforms with red stripes.
At least eight women were arrested and loaded into a minibus. Two men also were arrested before police swarmed the square and sat on the pavement, preventing demonstrators from regrouping. Witnesses said some of the protesters were beaten.
Security forces beat at least one female photojournalist at the scene and briefly detained a television cameraman. . . .
Iran arrests 10 at Women's Day rally, Los Angeles Times, 3-9-07

The Iranian Judiciary should immediately end its prosecution of several women’s rights advocates for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said today. . . . The women on trial are: Nusheen Ahmadi Khorasani; Parvin Ardalan; Sussan Tahmasebi; Shahla Entesari; and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer. . . . The Judiciary filed charges against the women’s rights activists following a public demonstration to protest Iran’s discriminatory laws against women in Tehran on June 12, 2006. . . . Police agents beat the demonstrators with batons, sprayed them with pepper gas, marked them with color spray, and took 70 people into custody. . . . . Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is a lawyer for several of the accused women, told Human Rights Watch that the June 12 gathering fulfilled all of the conditions set forth by Article 27 of the constitution and the Judiciary has no legal grounds for prosecuting the demonstrators. Iran: Women on Trial for Peaceful Demonstration, Human Rights Watch, 2-27-07

The women of Iran (and Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other societies controlled by Islamic fundamentalists) deserve to have the diplomatic power, economic power and ideological power of the USA wielded in their defense.

But because of the Bush-Cheney regime's descent into barbarism (e.g., its willful violations of the Geneva Accord, the UN Charter and our own Bill of Rights), we have no moral authority on this or any other human rights issue. And we will not regain any of that lost moral authority until we adopt the antidote to what has been done in our name since 9/11/01; and the antidote, which I already eluded to in "Hard Rain Journal 2-28-07: Human Rights Update -- Naming Names in Darfur and Ten Steps the USA Must Take to Redeem Itself," has been articulated by Human Rights Watch in its "Ten Steps to Restore US Moral Authority".

You and I and Jimmy Carter are all still alive and at work in this world. There is still time to save ourselves, our country and the planet from ignorance, cruelty, greed, fear and denial. The next ten years are do-or-die in regard to the climate crisis; the next ten years are also the time remaining for all of us to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

In the next decade, we can turn the wheel of the Dharma, collectively, just as it was turned individually by Gautama Buddha thousands of years ago. With our works, minds and hands, we can emblazon the Beatitudes on this particular page in the book of human life. We can liberate the high-borne ideals of the Founder Fathers from the political and economic ugliness of both their times, e.g., slavery, and our own, e.g., militarism (which is not an illness of the military, but of the corporatists).

But it demands that we establish a new agenda, and a different set of priorities:

Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament
Environmental security & sustainability
Universal human rights
Fair elections and a free press (in the USA and throughout the world)

Well, it may seem new, and different, but it was set out for us in January 1981.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Five Most Recent Words of Power Commentaries

Words of Power #32: MLK Day 2007 -- A Call to Conscience in the Corridors of State and Media Power

Words of Power #31: Ghosts of Christmas Past (Katrina) and Future (Iran)

Words of Power # 30: Will the Republic Survive Beyond This Mid-Term Election?

Words of Power #29: The Dalai Lama and The Blade Runner, Spiritual Challenges of the 21st Century Security Crisis, Part III

Words of Power #28: On 9/11/06, Ask Yourself "Is This My Country?"

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and Words of Power. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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