America's Top Criminals: Jimmy Carter

Date: 11 April 2023

Author: Indescribled

Tags: N. America, Internationalism

James Earl “Jimmy” Carter Jr. was the 39th President of the US from 1977 to 1981. Many people regard him positively — citing work with Habitat for Humanity, his humble beginnings as a farmer, the family peanut business, peace, and his faith. For example, the New York Times wrote in February of 2023 that “[t]he man was not what you think. He was tough. He was extremely intimidating. Jimmy Carter was probably the most intelligent, hard-working and decent man to have occupied the Oval Office in the 20th century.” One of Carter’s more famous quotes is “We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war” — painting him as a peaceful President, one of the “good ones”. But was he?


Carter is known as the President who established full diplomatic relations between the US and the People’s Republic of China. According to the Miller Center, normalizing relations between the two countries required the “severing of diplomatic ties and withdrawal of recognition of non-communist Taiwan”. Withdrawing  recognition of the anti-communist Republic of China (ROC) forces in Taiwan was quite significant, as the US recognized the ROC as the sole legal government over China from 1949-1979, despite the establishment of the People’s Republic  in 1949. As we know today, the Taiwan situation is still an incredibly important issue in the international situation, and a core interest of Chinese domestic policy — with the illegal visit of Senator Nancy Pelosi and other American politicians in 2022 sparking concerns of World War III. Let’s see what Deng Xiaoping said about the Carter administration:

Deng Xiaoping meets with Jimmy Carter. 29 January 1979. Gilbert UZAN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

“Most regrettably, during the latter period of the Carter Administration, the U.S. Congress adopted the Taiwan Relations Act, which has become an immense obstacle in Chinese-U.S. relations.”  

Replies to Mike Wallace in September of 1986

“The Carter Administration [1977-1981] committed itself to the withdrawal of American troops from Taiwan, but at the same time it adopted the Taiwan Relations Act, which constituted interference in China’s internal affairs. We therefore need time to work on both the Taiwan authorities and the U.S. government.” 

Speech to Central Advisory Commission of CPC in October of 1984

Deng references the Taiwan Relations Act in both of these quotes, which were to completely different audiences, and two years apart. What are some key aspects of the Act?

There are many other statements and declarations of a similar manner in the Act, which was officially made Public Law on 10 April 1979. We are left with a contradiction: on one hand, diplomatic relations are being normalized and the US no longer recognizes the ROC government, but on the other hand, the US says that activities in Taiwan are of interest to the US, that the US would consider it a “grave concern” if non-peaceful means occurred in determining Taiwan’s future, that the US can provide arms, and the common capitalist, anti-communist argument of caring about “human-rights”. 

The importance of the Act goes beyond Carter, beyond Deng, and even beyond all those after them — the Act is still in place today in 2023. Most importantly, Nancy Pelosi refers to this same Taiwan Relations Act in her article, titled “Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan”. The Act has led to growing hostilities between China and the US, with frequent concerns of active escalations, nuclear war, and more. While not an overt war crime, the ongoing violation of Chinese territorial integrity has brought the world close to destruction numerous times, and is a mark against the supposed peace-loving Carter. 

Cubans voting in municipal elections in Havana, Nov. 27, 2022. | Calla Walsh


On 20 January 1977 the Presidential Directive (PD) was created — used to “promulgate Presidential decisions on national security matters”. All of Carter’s PDs can be found on the Jimmy Carter Library, and they cover a wide range of topics such as Africa, Cuba, Chemical Warfare, SALT, nuclear weapons, and more.

There are two PDs that specifically have Cuba in their title: the first is titled PD06, dated 15 March 1977. A few key points:

The second is titled PD52, dated 04 October 1979. A few key points:

The two PDs are nearly 2.5 years apart, yet show almost completely opposite intent. One wants to establish diplomatic relations, the other considers Cuba as a “source of violent revolutionary change” and has no mention of relations. Numerous PDs were released between 06 and 52, and there are likely a vast range of possibilities that we can grasp at as to why the stance changed; but one PD of particular interest that may help explain the change is PD30, dated 17 February 1978. PD30 is titled “Human Rights”. A few key points:

As one can imagine, the document continues on in great detail. While it does not openly mention socialism or communism, caring about “human rights” is often what capitalists argue for — ignoring the gross violations in their own country, where citizens of the US do not have free education, healthcare, or guarantees to jobs, food, or housing. Likewise, following the publication of PD30, the policy toward Cuba changed — as well as the adoption of the Taiwan Relations Act mentioned previously. 

Continuing the 60+ year blockade on Cuba is itself a violation of human rights, and is a violation of international law. Today, Cuba has a higher life expectancy than the US, but still suffers because of the blockade restricting access to trade in order to acquire necessary medicine, materials, food, and other goods. As Carter said, he did not fire any bullets toward Cuba. But death and modern day war does not have to come from the barrel of a gun. Through such hybrid warfare as the illegal US blockade, America is no less responsible for the suffering it causes the Cuban people — an ongoing act of abstracted, and intentionally obfuscated, imperialist violence. 

Sandinista leader Dora Maria Téllez, as seen in the documentary “‘¡Las Sandinistas!” MCRM Productions

The Miller Institute further noted that “the United States took tangible actions to protest the human rights practices of the governments of Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Uganda.” It seems pertinent to look into what was happening in some of these countries and just who Carter was protesting. 

Sandinista revolutionaries liberated Nicaragua from the reign of President Somoza in 1979, directly in the middle of Carter’s presidency, ending his 46-year dictatorship. Following Somoza’s ousting began a period of protracted conflict between the revolutionaries and the organized gangs of mercenaries and moneyed interests who wished to preserve their “interests” in the country — from the spanish term la contrarrevolución (“the counter-revolution”) these US-backed forces became known as contras. While the majority of the crimes committed by the US-backed contras occurred after Carter was out of office — such as being found guilty by the International Court of Justice for planting mines in 3 harbors in 1987 — the President was still involved in numerous actions against Nicaragua. Near the end of Carter’s presidency, in 1980, Brown University notes that “Carter authorizes a finding that allows the CIA to support resistance forces in Nicaragua with organizing and propaganda…” The majority of contra activity seems to have occurred after Reagan replaced Carter, but that does not make Carter innocent if he laid the foundations for what was to come.

In June 1979, the Organization for American States (OAS) called for an “immediate and definitive replacement” of Somoza. On the surface, such a call sounds positive. However, things are more complicated than they seem. A Latin American proposal “called for formation of a government ‘which will recognize the contribution that the various groups within the country have made in seeking to replace the Somoza regime....’” As the Washington Post noted in 1979, “[t]hat was unacceptable to the United States, which mistrusts the Marxist, pro-Cuban positions of some Sandinista leaders and wants their influence in any government diluted by more moderate forces.” The resulting point that actually passed the OAS was one that called for countries involved to “to take steps to facilitate an enduring and peaceful solution of the Nicaraguan problem” — implying that the Sandinistas were not a solution and the US should take steps to intervene against the wishes of the Nicaraguan people.

Those steps of intervention involved, as reported by the Washington Post in June of 1979,  sending an “OAS delegation to assist in the political transition and consider the need for an inter-American peacekeeping force in Nicaragua.” The Sandinistas responded to the US plan, calling it "an attempt to violate the rights of those Nicaraguans who have almost succeeded in throwing off the Somoza yoke." The New York Times reported that “the US proposal for a peace force … won no support …” Despite not actually sending a force to Nicaragua, even proposing it should be considered a violation of the sovereignty of the Nicaraguan people and their right to self-determination. Finding any information about such a proposal was difficult since it did not officially pass; it was brushed off as a “mistake” of the Carter administration. In typical fashion with US foreign intervention undertakings, complaints were lodged by the US against both Somoza and the Sandinistas. This is a common tactic in order to equate both sides as equal, and equally unfit for self-determination — thus justifying continued US intervention. As highlighted in PD30, adopted roughly a year prior to the Sandinista victory, US concerns related to the Sandinistas were intimately tied into Cold War hysteria and propaganda regarding “human rights.” 

As reported by Gordon Smith for The Prism, the Carter administration was involved in plans for a US military intervention in support of the Somoza regime against the Sandinistas. Following the failure to materialize such an intervention, and the collapse of Somoza’s forces, the Carter administration allegedly ensured not only that the failed dictator was able to be ferried to safety under the guise of the Red Cross — utilizing NGOs for such means is a crime — the Carter administration was likewise directly involved in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s efforts to then re-organize the remaining forces into the contras. If true, this would make Carter directly responsible not only for the later Iran-Contra scandal that rocked the Reagan administration, but also the numerous terrorist acts carried out by the contras themselves.

Salvador Allende during his inaugural parade, 03 November 1970. Naul Ojeda


Socialist candidate Salvador Allende was democratically elected to the Chilean Presidency in 1970. The CIA sponsored a coup in 1973 — during which Allende is believed to have died fighting to defend the capital. Carter was not elected until 1977, so his presidency had nothing to do with Allende, but Carter’s time in office overlapped with the vicious US-backed Chilean dictator who had overthrown Allende — Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was responsible for numerous horrors in Chile:

Department of State, 24 May 1977

Washington Post

Carter often talks about being a champion of human rights and never having fired a bullet. That would imply that he never helped fund a violent ruler that violated human rights and killed people. Or so one would think. If the imagined crimes of the Sandinistas were so horrific as to justify preparations for armed intervention, then surely Carter must have been equally concerned about the known crimes being carried out under the CIA’s watchful gaze. Here we see the double-standard of imperialist “humanitarianism.”

Washington Post

The Carter Administration and Human Rights

Jimmy Carter with Joe Biden in 1978. Barry Thumma / Associated Press


“America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense . . . human rights invented America.”

 — Jimmy Carter

The US tries to paint the facade that nearly all of its Presidents, and the country as a whole, are beacons of democracy, defenders of freedom, and leaders in human rights. Jimmy Carter is no different. It is all merely an act. Carter and his administration directly increased tensions with China lasting 40 years and counting, shifted course to continuing the blockade on Cuba, proposed sending US forces to Nicaragua to combat the Sandinistas, and engaged in questionable potential funding of Pinochet and his murderous dictatorship. Although these are not even all of the acts known or alleged to have been committed under his watch, Carter and his administration are remembered fondly by many. There has never been a “good” US president, and, so long as the dictatorship of bourgeois settler-imperialism remains in power, likely never will be. 

While the popular memory of President Jimmy Carter is one of kindness, and he is often cited as one of the least criminal Presidents in US history, the reality of the Carter administration is that it served as the pivotal moment for the adoption of a new political line in the pursuit of imperialist expansion: the image of human rights created under the Carter administration would be further amended under Reagan, and remains the underlying current of imperialist ideology. This humanitarian cowboy motif, the notion of the US government as a rough-rider dispensing human rights with machine guns and bayonets, remains the popular propaganda image of the US spread around the world. With the rise of the socialist movement at home, and the rise of socialist and anti-imperialist governments and movements abroad, this image is quickly fading. 

Events and organizations supported by the Carter administration not mentioned in this article include Operation Condor, Argentina’s Dirty War, Operation Gladio, the World League for Freedom and Democracy, and much more. These topics will be covered in future articles by Mount Tai Press.