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BLITZER: Former President Jimmy Carter has been a vocal critic of some Bush administration policies, including the war in Iraq. He has a unique perspective on international conferences fueled by religion and long histories of hatred. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has a new book entitled “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.”
He’s joining us now in the SITUATION ROOM. Mr. President, thanks for coming in.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
It’s a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: A very provocative title. We’ll get to the book shortly. Let’s get through some of the major issues of the day. The president spoke forcefully today about Iraq at the NATO summit, not backing down at all, seemingly repeating the lines he was saying before the Democratic victory in Congress. Listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We’ll continue to be flexible and we’ll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there’s one thing I’m not going to do — I’m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Smart strategy on his part to enunciate that policy the way he is?
CARTER: Well, I think that he and the American people, the members of Congress, everyone in the United States, and maybe around the world, are waiting to see what Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker recommend.
BLITZER: But is that outsourcing foreign policy, sort of kicking, punting the ball down the road to these outside 10 Democrats and Republicans giving him advice? Is that smart?
CARTER: Well, I don’t think he did it. I think this was an initiation by the Congress. He has his own recommendations, to be derived from people in his administration. But I think it would be natural for President Bush to adopt as many of the policies that Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton recommend, and their committee, as he possibly can. If there are some things with which he disagrees, in order to save face, or to show his independence, that he’s still the commander-in-chief, then he will do it. But I think in general, the recommendations of the committee will be seriously considered by the White House and maybe a lot of them will be adopted.
BLITZER: He can reject or he can accept whatever he wants. You used to do the same thing…
CARTER: Sure, he’s the commander-in-chief. Absolutely.
BLITZER: … when you were president. Is this a civil war that the U.S. is involved in in Iraq right now?
CARTER: Well, I know that NBC has ordained that it be called a civil war.
BLITZER: But what do you…
CARTER: But we’re…
BLITZER: What about Jimmy Carter?
CARTER: I think civil war is a serious — a more serious circumstance than exists in Iraq. And I say that based on some of the civil wars with which we’ve been involved in the last few years. For instance, we’ve worked 19 years to try to get a civil war ended in southern Sudan, where two million people died. And we just helped to
hold an election in the Republic of Congo, where four million people have died in the last eight years.
BLITZER: So you’re saying this is not a civil war?
CARTER: Well, I think you can — if you want to call it a civil war, some of the news media, like NBC, or if you want to call it not a civil war, by the White House, it’s a matter of judgment. I think semantics or what you name it. It doesn’t have any real effect.
BLITZER: The U.S. this commission you’re talking about, this bipartisan Lee Hamilton, James Baker Iraq Study Group, one of their proposals that there’s a lot of speculation about, that they’re going to recommend the U.S. starts talking directly with Syria and Iran. Listen to what the president said today about Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We see the struggle in Iran, where a reactionary regime subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders and uses Iran’s resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)