The Corner

Jimmy Carter and the Distortion of News

The Hill has quoted former president Jimmy Carter complaining that Fox distorts news. That’s rich coming from Carter, who was caught writing one thing when his diary and note-taker showed quite another. The money graphs from “My Problem with Jimmy Carter’s Book”:

After reading Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, I was troubled by a passage recounting a meeting Carter and I had attended with Assad at his presidential office in March 1990. I revisited my notes and saw discrepancies between them and the story Carter recounts. When discussing the Syrian dispute with Israel, Assad, as always, chose his words carefully. The notes (see Figure 1) show the following passage:

JC: Your severest critics know you keep your word—would you accept demilitarization of [the] Golan Heights?

A: Today, Peres [Israel’s foreign minister] said Syria would accept [a] demilitarized Golan. But we cannot accept this because we are sacrificing our sovereignty.

A: In the past we have said that things must be done mutually on both sides of the Golan—international forces, semi-demilitarization—on equal footing. If anyone can ask for additional measures, we should ask for a larger DMZ [demilitarized zone] from their part.

But, in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter wrote:

When I visited Damascus in 1990, President Assad informed me that he was willing to negotiate with Israel on the status of the Golan Heights. His proposal was that both sides withdraw from the international border, with a small force of foreign observers and electronic devices to monitor the neutral zone. When I asked him if each nation would have to fall back an equal distance, he replied that Syria might move its troops farther from the border because of the terrain. He also gave me permission to report his proposal to Washington and to the Israelis, which I did in Jerusalem three days later.

Carter reworded the conversation to suggest that Assad was flexible and the Israelis were not. Assad did not say he would accept a demilitarized zone; to do so would be to sacrifice his sovereignty. Nor did he say he would withdraw deeper from his side of the border. This was not a slip of memory for Carter; Carter received a full set of my notes of the March 1990 trip after its conclusion. These were intentional distortions.

Michael Rubin — Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East ...

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