Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still paying the consequences

I sometimes wonder whether Jimmy Carter (whose brand of utter incompetence boggles the mind) ever feels guilty about the incredible number of disasters his policies have caused or at least inflamed. One example is the violent misrule of Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe. James Kirchik goes over the history briefly in the Wall Street Journal to remind us of a litte known fact: the Rhodesian civil war would have reached a peaceful and democratic conclusion, if not for Carter's obtuseness.
The events of the past few months echo those of nearly 30 years ago, when Zimbabwe was a rebellious British colony called Rhodesia. In April 1979, three million blacks (64% of the native population) voted in the country's first multiracial election in hopes of putting an end to its brutal civil war between the white-led government and black liberation groups. After five days of balloting, the black Methodist bishop Abel Muzorewa was duly elected prime minister of the newfangled Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
Under the plan agreed to by the white government and moderate black leaders, whites would get 28 out of 100 parliamentary seats and retain control over some government agencies for 10 years. This was hardly a perfect compromise, but Zimbabwe-Rhodesia's "internal settlement" offered the best opportunity to end white supremacy and establish multiracial democracy.
Mugabe, the Chinese-funded, Marxist-Leninist guerilla leader, threatened to kill anyone who participated in that election. Militias led by him and Joshua Nkomo of the Zimbabwe African People's Union killed 10 people. While he claimed that the "internal settlement" was a "bourgeois" swindle, Mugabe really wanted to rule the country by force.
In solidarity with Mugabe and Nkomo, the administration of President Jimmy Carter refused to send election observers. Two weeks after Mr. Muzorewa was elected, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the administration to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, which President Carter ignored.
It's heartbreaking to think what might have been if the US had defended Zimbabwe's democratically elected government when it counted.

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