TOPICS > World

Jimmy Carter on Ukraine, Israel and addressing injustices faced by women around the world

March 26, 2014 at 6:32 PM EDT
Former President Jimmy Carter sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss Russia’s annexation of Crimea, progress and limitations of working with Israel for the Obama administration and his own commitment to fight discrimination and violence against women and girls around the world. Carter has written his 28th book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.”
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a conversation with former President Jimmy Carter.

His newest book is “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.”

I spoke with him late today about the commitment by him and the Carter Center to fight discrimination and violence against women and girls around the world. That followed our talk about current news developments.

President Jimmy Carter, thank you very much for joining us.

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Judy, it’s good to be with you again. Thank you for letting me come.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you’re here to talk about your book. And we are going to talk about that, but, first, just a few questions about what’s in the news, starting about Ukraine.

JIMMY CARTER: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you believe that President Putin and Russians are paying enough of a price for going in and taking Crimea?

JIMMY CARTER: Judy, I never have thought that anything could have deterred Putin from taking over Crimea.

No matter what the Western world had done, he would still have done this, because Russians have always considered Crimea to be part of theirs. And, as you know, a majority of the Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia, so that was inevitable.

But I think now he has to be stopped and prevented from taking any further military action. And I don’t really think he’s going to. I may be wrong, but I don’t think he’s going to. I watched his speech very carefully.

And I think he’s going to seduce the Eastern Ukrainians who speak Russian about how attractive Russia is by banishments and loans and grants and trade concessions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you don’t think any further punishment for taking Crimea should happen?

JIMMY CARTER: I don’t think so. But I think, if he escalates, then yes, but, at this point, I don’t think so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What if he does though go into another country, what should happen there?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I don’t want to tell people what to do who are in office now, know more than I do about it, but I remember what happened when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in — Christmas Day, 1979.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When you were president.

JIMMY CARTER: Yes.

Well, I was very forceful, because I saw the danger of them going further. And that’s similar to what it is now. And I sent Brezhnev a direct message that if you go any further, we will take military action, and we will not exclude any weapons that we have. And I almost broke diplomatic relations. Through my ambassador, I declared an embargo against him.

And I began to arm the freedom fighters in Afghanistan who were repelling the Soviet troops. So, I took a lot of bold and very aggressive actions, some of which I think would be excessive now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Excessive? So…

JIMMY CARTER: I think so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … shouldn’t — should not happen today?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I think we — it is perfectly legitimate, in fact, I think it would justified to arm the Ukrainian military effectively and let everybody know that they’re being armed, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me — there’s a whole lot to talk about with Ukraine, but there are a number of other things I want to ask you about.

JIMMY CARTER: OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You — so much of your presidency was devoted to making peace in the Middle East.

You of course were responsible, you and Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, for the Camp David peace accords. A number of presidents have tried to do more since then. Right now, Secretary of State John Kerry very focused on that area. Do you think he’s making real progress?

JIMMY CARTER: He’s making more progress than has been made, I would say, in the last 15 or 20 years. And he has done it almost on his own, apparently.

And I stay in touch with him. I give him some subtle advice by e-mail what I think might be done. But I hope that he will be bold and aggressive and lay down a so-called benchmark or a working process guidance by which they can be — both sides can be persuaded.

But I think that he, by himself, can’t do anything in order to be effective, at least in Israel. The president of the United States has to be directly involved and get the whole weight of the United States government behind any controversial proposal. In that case, I think they have a chance to succeed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You said last night — you told Charlie Rose in an interview last night you don’t think the Palestinians will ever agree to the Israeli demand that they be — that it be declared a Jewish state.

And you said that — that you didn’t think the Israelis would ever agree to give the Palestinians right of return. I mean, that basically says the current talks aren’t going anywhere.

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I don’t know what’s going to be proposed by Secretary Kerry.

But I think it’s almost impossible for an Arab who lives in the West Bank to agree that Israel is a Jewish state, because about a fourth of the population of Israel itself are Arabs. And they can’t deny their own fellow Muslims just because they live across the border.

And I never have thought that it was possible at all for Palestinians to be permitted to come back into Israel in any sort of unrestrained way. I think their best alternative there is not to let them come back into Israel, but into the West Bank and Gaza, and then to pay those in Israel, maybe, if the international community decides to, some reparations for the property that they lost.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to also ask you about spying by the U.S. government. It’s a story…

JIMMY CARTER: OK.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … that is very much in the news these days.

We know — we learned more this week about what they’re doing. But you said in an interview just in the last few days that you expect that the NSA, the government’s been looking at your e-mails, listening in on your phone calls, so when you have got something important to say, you say you send it by snail mail.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you sure no one is reading your snail mail?

JIMMY CARTER: I can’t tell — I can’t guarantee that.

But I don’t feel paranoid about it. But it’s been generally acknowledged that every telephone call made, every one that you make, every one that you receive, by e-mail including, is recorded. And they claim that they don’t read those messages, but they know that you made the call and to whom you made it and how long it lasted.

And if they later want to see your particular call, they can do so. And I think that’s very excessive. And I had to deal with that when I was president as well by passing the so-called FISA Act, and that was designed to prevent any American intelligence agency from monitoring any single call of an American. And now, of course, they record them all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let me move on.

JIMMY CARTER: All right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the book, it’s titled “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.”

You have said this is the most important book you have ever written.

JIMMY CARTER: It is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why?

JIMMY CARTER: Because the crimes against women and girls exceed almost anything that I have known in my lifetime as far as human rights abuses.

And it goes all the way from intense commitment of slavery, human trafficking in this country and around the world. About 100,000 girls in the United States of America were sold into slavery last year, according to the State Department, 800,000 in the world across international borders.

And I think the most horrible statistic that’s included in this book that is quite accurate is that there — there have been about 160 million little baby girls killed in this generation by their own parents because they didn’t want to have girls. They wanted boys.

JUDY WOODRUFF: By abortions, you mean?

JIMMY CARTER: And that includes most recently abortions, because now, with the advent of sonograms even in the poorest countries, they can detect the sex of a fetus when it’s being developed, and they abort it.

Otherwise, they just wait until the girl is born and then strangle her to death. Now, 160 million is compared to, say, 30 million or 40 million people that were killed in the Second World War. So, there’s an entire generation of females that are no longer living, about 50 million or 60 million of these in China and India.

In fact, there’s one area of India where, for every 1,000 men living, there’s only 650 women living. And they have been killed by their parents. And now there’s a great shortage of brides to marry men in some of those countries, China, even South Korea. And women are now sold excessively as slaves around the world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m curious, President Carter, about why, at this stage of your life, your career, this is something you want to focus on.

JIMMY CARTER: Well…

JUDY WOODRUFF: How — how did you — this is, what, your 28th book and…

JIMMY CARTER: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And why this, and what do you think can be done about it?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, the Carter Center has been active in 79 countries around the world, very active. We have had specific projects in that many countries.

And a lot of them are in the developing world. And we have seen the deprivation of women’s rights much more than it is in the United States with those areas, with genital mutilation cutting, and with honor killings and something — things like that.

And so this, to me, is a thing that I might do in the remaining years of my life that be — would bear the richest dividends, if I can just get the world aroused to the actual facts about what’s happening to women and girls and get us to act in concert. In every crime against females that’s mentioned in this book, I have got specific recommendations on what we can do, particularly here in the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you are saying this is something you want to continue to put focus on?

JIMMY CARTER: Yes, I will continue that as long as I live.

And I want the Carter Center to be kind of a center for people who want to join with us in this — I will call it a crusade to protect women and girls. The United States is very culpable. You know, not only do we deprive women of equal pay, but, on our university campuses, we have probably the worst sexual abuse of any other place in America.

There are only 4 percent of the rapes on college campuses even reported, because the college — the university presidents of the greatest universities don’t want to report sexual abuse on their campuses, because it brings discredit to them. So they discourage female students from reporting rapes.

And what this does is result in a few boys on the campus, a few men on the campus who know they can rape a girl with impunity, because they’re not going to be reported. And, if they are reported, they’re not going to be criminally prosecuted for it. And the same thing applies, as you well know, in our U.S. military.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Jimmy Carter not shying away from the tough, tough subjects out there.

We thank you very much for being with us.

JIMMY CARTER: I enjoyed it, Judy. Thank you.