Background: Nobel Peace Prize
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TOM BEARDEN: 24 years ago, when the Nobel Committee awarded its peace prize to Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel for the Camp David Accords, it did not honor the mediator of the talks, former President Jimmy Carter. But today the panel said Mr. Carter’s diplomacy at Camp David “was in itself a great enough achievement” to earn the award, let alone his efforts since he left office to resolve conflict and promote democracy and human rights worldwide. In Plains, Georgia, today, Mr. Carter said he was humbled by the award.
JIMMY CARTER: The message that I derive is a commitment to peace, to the honoring of international law, to the partnership the United States must maintain as the only superpower now, but also as an integral part of the world community.
TOM BEARDEN: In the field of conflict resolution, Mr. Carter helped two countries head off threatened U.S. attacks in 1994. He convinced North Korean leaders to freeze their nuclear missile program, and he urged military leaders in Haiti to step down in favor of former President Jean-Bertrande Aristide. Elsewhere, the former President has brought Muslims and Serbs to the peace table in Bosnia and helped negotiate the return of refugees to their homes in Burundi and Rwanda. This year brought Mr. Carter to Cuba for baseball diplomacy, where he urged a thaw in relations between Havana and Washington. As for the current tensions over Iraq, the former President addressed the Nobel Committee chairman’s comment this morning that today’s award represents “a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States.” It was a reference to a possible unilateral attack by the U.S.
JIMMY CARTER: I don’t see it as a kick in the leg. I think it’s significant, as I have said before, by the way, that the international expressions of concern and those in our own country as well have already had a profound and beneficial effect on the policies of Washington leaders. And if you go back to look at statements that have been made by the Secretary of Defense and Vice President and others in the past– that we should act unilaterally; that should have as our primary goal a change of leadership in Iraq; that inspections would be a waste of time; and that we didn’t have to pay attention to the United Nations – those things that have been made in the past — every one of those has now been changed. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that Saddam Hussein does create a threat– not particularly to the United States at this time but potentially in the future. I think we should take every action to make sure he never does get nuclear weaponry. I don’t think that’s likely in the next year or so; he might be a threat to surrounding countries. And I think it’s important that he and others, that the focal point of UN resolutions should be to comply with those resolutions. My hope here is that this entire process will strengthen and not weaken the beneficent influence of the United Nations, and it will encourage all countries to work through the Security Council and not work independently or unilaterally to begin a conflict or war, which I think would be a direct violation of international law.
TOM BEARDEN: Beyond conflict resolution, today’s prize recognized Mr. Carter’s efforts to promote democracy. He was on hand for Indonesia’s first open vote in 1999, rural China’s unprecedented party elections last year, and the year 2000 for the defeat of the PRI Party in Mexico, after seven decades in power. In all, the 39th President has directly observed at least 15 elections on three continents. The Nobel Committee also praised his work in economic and social development. Mr. Carter has led efforts to eradicate infectious diseases in the developing world and to build affordable housing here in the states. In 1996, he told the “NewsHour” how his faith has shaped his public life.
JIMMY CARTER: One of the most interesting verses that I know in the Bible, for instance, is when the Romans ask Paul, “St. Paul, what are the important things in life? What are the things that never change?” And Paul said, interestingly, “they’re the things that you cannot see.” What are the things that you can’t see that are important? I would say justice, truth, humility, service, compassion, love. You can’t see any of those. You can’t prove they’re there, but they’re the guiding lights of life.
TOM BEARDEN: Mr. Carter is the third U.S. President to receive the peace prize, after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.