President Carter Deserves Degree
Re: “Critical eye on Jimmy Carter”
In last week’s Queen’s Journal, alumnus Michael Shafron argued that President Jimmy Carter’s honorary degree from Queen’s University should be revoked. What followed in the pages of this newspaper was nothing less than a series of half-truths, non-sequiturs and complete fabrications. One could conceivably fill many pages documenting Mr. Shafron’s misrepresentation of facts and fallacious arguments, but I will focus here on a few.
Mr. Shafron seems to think that the Iranian revolution was President Carter’s fault. In fact, President Carter and his predecessors were ardent supporters of the Shah of Iran — a remorseless despot whose internal security agency, the SAVAK, was responsible for untold numbers of deaths. Indeed, the United States was responsible for overthrowing the democracy that Mr. Shafron cherishes so adamantly when in 1953 the CIA conducted a coup in Iran to oust the elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh.
The revolution in Iran had absolutely nothing to do with President Carter. When Khomeini supporters attacked the US embassy and held American hostages for 444 days, it was President Carter who cut off ties with Iran. Even after he had lost the election, President Carter worked up until the minute he left the White House to secure the release of the hostages who were freed minutes after the Carter presidency ended.
Mr. Shafron next blames Carter for the Iranian nuclear program and for meeting with leaders of autocratic regimes. On the first instance, either Mr. Shafron is deliberately misrepresenting the truth or he simply has not read anything about Iran’s nuclear program. It was in the 1950s, not the 1970s that the program began and President Carter refused to sell Iran missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It was Tel Aviv, not Washington, which conducted secret dealings with the Shah to sell nuclear-capable missiles.
President Carter’s 2008 meeting with Khaled Mashal, the leader of the Hamas government in Gaza led to Hamas declaring support for a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines — which is also the American position — and a 10 year truce offer. Carter’s 2010 meeting with Hamas ended the impasse between the two sides over Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli corporal. Hamas should be held accountable for its actions (as should Israel), but refusing to meet with leaders you dislike is amateurish and the ultimate form of weakness.
The broader question here is this: Does Mr. Shafron think that Western statesmen should meet only with leaders with whom they agree? President Nixon met with Chairman Mao and reestablished relations with China. President Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev numerous times in the pursuit of peace. I would like to remind Mr. Shafron that it was the late Moshe Dayan — Israel’s legendary defense minister — who said, “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
The most egregious part of Mr. Shafron’s incoherent bromide against President Carter is that he mentions the Camp David Accords only in passing. Jimmy Carter was the first and only president to achieve Middle East peace and US-brokered deal is the linchpin of regional security today.
Israeli-Egyptian peace is the reason why a ceasefire was reached in the recent Gaza War. Again, it is unclear whether Mr. Shafron was trying to deliberately mislead readers or he simply did not know how important the Camp David Accords were.
President Carter was not a perfect president. His support for the Afghan resistance and unsuccessful attempt in 1980 to rescue American hostages by military means had long-standing consequences. Carter’s ineffectual response to the 1979 energy crisis is still remembered by many. Yet, at the same time, President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaties, continued constructive relations with China, signed a second round of nuclear arms reduction treaties with the Soviet Union, and appointed Paul Volcker to the Federal Reserve where he would eventually crush stagflation. Also, it must be noted, President Carter deregulated the American beer industry.
I am proud to have graduated from a university wise enough to grant President Jimmy Carter an honourary degree. At my current university in England, I have told my peers about Queen’s decision to widespread acclaim. President Carter has been awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as a Nobel Peace Prize.
He holds honorary degrees from too many universities to count, but among them are the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University
and the University of Haifa. His Queen’s University degree will hang alongside degrees from these and many other esteemed institutions of learning.
I only hope that President Carter was not handed last week’s edition of the Journal while he was in Kingston, as his regard for the academic reputation of this University may have dwindled markedly after reading Mr. Shafron’s benighted polemic.
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