Special Report

Jimmy Carter’s Dead Ambassador

Background music of appeasement gave both Obama and Carter murdered diplomats.

By 10.23.12

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His name was Adolph "Spike" Dubs.

He was Jimmy Carter's Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Where, on February 14, 1979, Ambassador Dubs was kidnapped and murdered by a pro-Communist Afghan faction known as the Setami Milli. The victim of what might be called the Jimmy Carter Apology Tour -- which preceded the Obama Apology Tour by over 30 years. 

Ambassador Dubs' death is being recalled these days in a most interesting fashion.

Following the murder in Benghazi of Barack Obama's Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, along with two Navy Seals and Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, the Stevens murder is being frequently noted, as here in the New York Times, as "the first time since 1979 that an American ambassador had died in a violent assault." 

Incredibly, after the death of Ambassador Stevens and the others, the President said flatly in last night's debate: "The Libyans stand with us." Wow. If that is true, why are the Ambassador, two Navy Seals and a Foreign Service officer dead at the hands of Libyans? The very fact that Ambassador Stevens wrote in his journal that he feared for his life clearly indicated the blanket assessment that "the Libyans stand with us" was simply not true.

There has been zero reference to Ambassador Dubs, the President whom he served -- not to mention the foreign policy that resulted in his death.

Much less is there any analysis of just why it is that the last time a United States Ambassador was murdered by a group hostile to America happens to coincide with the modern president to whom Barack Obama is most frequently compared -- Jimmy Carter.

So let's go back, shall we? Climb in the time capsule and we'll rocket back in time. Let's find out: what exactly did happen to Ambassador Adolph Dubs?

And why?

It is the night of February 14, 1979.

In Washington, President Carter is getting ready to leave for a crucial diplomatic trip to Mexico the next morning at eight o'clock sharp. Things were not well between the two countries, and Carter, who spoke Spanish, had decided to personally undertake a mission to soothe the Mexicans in the person of their president, Lopez Portillo.

On February 14, at 8:45 in the morning in Kabul -- 11:15 P.M. Washington time -- Ambassador Dubs' unguarded car was abruptly stopped by four men wearing the uniform of Kabul traffic policemen as the Ambassador traveled across Afghanistan's capital city.

At gunpoint, Spike Dubs was dragged from his car and whisked away to what was then the Hotel Kabul in the downtown section of the nation's capital. He was hustled to Room 117 and locked inside with his captors.

At 12:08 A.M. Washington time the State Department Operations Center learned of the kidnapping. By noon Kabul time the hotel was completely surrounded by the Afghan security forces.

Who were the Ambassador's kidnappers?

In the early "fog of war" the State Department first said they were "unidentified." The next day the New York Times was reporting from Pakistan that the kidnappers were something new: "right-wing Moslem terrorists" or "Moslem 'religious figures.'"

Stop.

But were they? Answer: No.

In February of 1979 the Government of Afghanistan was in the hands of pro-Soviet Communists -- specifically the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan or PDPA. The PDPA, with an assist from the Afghan army, had taken power in a violent 1978 coup d'état. In fact, the Ambassador's kidnappers proved eventually to be members of a rival Communist faction to the PDPA -- the Maoist "Setami Milli."

The Setami Milli was insisting the PDPA had arrested and was holding its leader, one Badruddin Bahes. The PDPA government, begged by the U.S. Embassy to negotiate for the life of its Ambassador, refused.

What to do? The President was scheduled to leave for Mexico this very morning at eight. An American Ambassador was suddenly a hostage. Tensions rose inside the White House.

The Soviet Union was already on hand in Kabul with "advisers" and, it turned out, had begun to "advise" the Afghan security forces. The Afghan police. The advice? The Afghans were to mount an assault on the hotel room.

Tensions kept rising.

Suddenly, out of the blue, another call came into the State Department Operations Center. And it wasn't from Afghanistan.

At 2:15 A.M. a U.S. Marine at the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran, called to report that, in the words of the Times, there were "crowds converging on the embassy." There was the possibility of an attack. U.S. Ambassador William H. Sullivan was inside the embassy -- and abruptly the Carter White House had not one but two Ambassadors in very real danger. And in Iran, the entire Embassy was vulnerable.

The Marine was put on speakerphone, the sounds from Tehran booming through the Operations Center's loud speakers. The sound of machine gun fire was suddenly heard -- coming from the swarming crowds outside the Embassy gates. At 3 A.M. the line to the American Embassy in Iran went dead.

In the White House, Jimmy Carter was awakened by a 3:00 A.M. phone call from his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance. Vance, wrote Carter in his diary, had news "concerning a difficulty with our Iranian embassy."

Twenty minutes later, at 3:20 A.M. word came in from Kabul. The Afghan police, advised by the Soviets, their pro-Soviet government refusing to negotiate with the competing Maoist Setami Milli, had rushed the hotel.

In the cross fire between pro-Soviet Communists and Maoist Communists, Ambassador Dubs was shot to death.

Jimmy Carter, ready to depart the White House for Mexico at 8:00 in the morning, was furious.

The discussion was held: should the Mexican trip be canceled?

Through the diplomatic good graces of the British and Danish embassies, the Ayatollah Khomeini had agreed to help the Americans trapped in the American Embassy. At 6 A.M. Washington time came the word from Tehran. The forces loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini had, in the words of the Times, "promised to do all they could for the Americans." The attack on the embassy magically ceased.

Jimmy Carter left for Mexico on schedule at eight that morning.

In the course of the next few days Ambassador Dubs' body was flown home to the United States. He was given a hero's burial at Arlington National Cemetery attended by Vice President Mondale and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

What to do about the mess in Afghanistan?

Jimmy Carter instructed his State Department to file a "strong protest" (in the words of the Times) with the Soviet-backed Afghan government. The Soviet Ambassador to the United States was summoned to the State Department. Where Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin was treated to his usual privilege of avoiding the front entrance of State and those pesky reporters in favor of being driven into the State Department's underground garage. Where the Soviet Ambassador was, again as usual, escorted to the private elevator of the Secretary of State for his ride up into the building. Once inside, Carter's State Department informed the Soviet Ambassador that they were making a "formal protest" to the Soviet government over the killing of Spike Dubs. The actions of the Soviets were "impossible to justify," said State.

Thus admonished, Dobrynin took the Secretary's private elevator back to the garage and departed.

The response from the Soviet government? The Soviet news agency Tass put out an indignant statement denying responsibility. The other Communists in this set piece, the Setami Milli, were eventually rewarded when the Soviet-backed government made a Setami Milli leader the Minister of Justice.

And when Jimmy Carter got to Mexico? He was promptly, humiliatingly and quite publicly reprimanded by President Portillo for his policies toward Mexico. Carter was so angry he was reported to have instructed aides that he never wanted to see Portillo again.

In short: February of 1979 proved to be a bad month for Jimmy Carter's foreign policy. In fact, it proved fatal for Ambassador Spike Dubs.

But why?

AND WHAT DOES THE MURDER of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi in 2012 have to do with the murder of Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs some 33 years earlier?

Indeed, no one is asking why it is that both Obama and Carter -- not Reagan or the Bushes or Bill Clinton -- wound up having an American enemy think it was safe to kill an American Ambassador.

There is a reason. And it certainly is appropriate to suggest that the reason has to do with the similarity in conducting foreign policy exemplified by both Presidents Carter and Obama.

Let's start with Carter.

On May 22, 1977, the new American President Carter traveled to the University of Notre Dame where he gave a speech in which he proclaimed:

We are now free of that inordinate fear of Communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in our fear.

Over the next three years Carter repeatedly sent signals to the Communist world -- and unwittingly, to the Muslim world -- that:

 Our goal is to be fair to both sides, to produce reciprocal stability, parity, and security.

The results? By 1979, the world was in chaos.

• On January 16, 1979, the Shah of Iran fled his country.

• On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran.

• On February 14, 1979, the American Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs is kidnapped and murdered by the Setami Milli, a Maoist faction of Afghan Communists.

• On July 19, 1979, the Communist Sandinistas took control of the capital of Nicaragua.

• On November 4, 1979, Iranian Islamic radicals, students, stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran. This time Khomeini did not interfere, the radical Islamics taking 52 American diplomats hostage. They would be held for 444 days.

• On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union, no longer content to simply have advisers on scene, invaded Afghanistan. Carter pronounced himself "shocked."

In three short years -- from his inaugural in January of 1977 until the close of 1979 -- Jimmy Carter's foreign policy had turned the world upside down, making it a cauldron of Communist revolution and invasion. 

Long before Barack Obama, it was Carter who led the original Apology Tour. The result? The Cold War did not cool down, it heated up.
 
And it is decidedly worth noting that when Obama dismissed Romney's thinking on Russia by saying "the Cold War has been over for 20 years" -- when it was up to Jimmy Carter (not to mention even or especially Carter's 1980 primary opponent the late Senator Ted Kennedy -- Obama's major supporter in 2008) -- liberals of the day demanded America follow a policy that would have kept the Cold War alive and well to this day. When Ronald Reagan defeated Carter, liberals spent the rest of the Cold War vociferously protesting Reagan's successful efforts to win it. Now they boast that it's over, as if their thinking and decades of blundering, costly policies have somehow been vindicated -- and should be repeated. 

And the same exact approach Carter employed with the Communist world was applied to the Islamic revolutionaries in Iran -- unleashing the Islamic fundamentalist whirlwind on the world.

This time around the problem is another American president -- Barack Obama. And unsurprisingly, in his September 4th video address to the Democrats in their Charlotte Convention, it was Jimmy Carter who claimed Obama was seen as a "leader among nations."

Said the man who led and left the world in chaos in his single term:

Overseas President Obama has restored the reputation of the United States within the world community. Dialogue and collaboration are once again possible with the spirit of trust and goodwill in our foreign policy.

Seven days later, Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered by Islamic terrorists.

And the Middle East was in flames, with violent protests breaking out throughout the world.

Why was this happening? And happening again?

Because one more time an American president has led with weakness. With policies that Romney last night correctly labeled a "rising tide of chaos." Chaos. The main link that ties the results of the Carter and Obama policies so tightly together. 

• By ostentatiously signing the order to close Guantanamo -- and being unable to keep his promises.

• By releasing a video addressed to the Iranian mullahs asking for a Carteresque "new beginning" in the American relationship with Iran "that is honest and grounded in mutual respect," enabling Iran to "take its rightful place in the community of nations… [not] through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization." In response, Iran continues its work to get a nuclear weapon.

• By insisting his administration replace the word "terrorism" (and others) terms like "man-caused disaster" because, as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano put it in an interview in Der Spiegel

… In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.

 • By going to Cairo University and making the Obama equivalent of Carter's "inordinate fear of Communism" Notre Dame speech. Saying, among other things:

… I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

• By telling his then-Russian counterpart, the outgoing President Dmitri Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin: "This is my last election. After my election, I'll have more flexibility." To which Romney said of Putin in last night’s debate: "After the election he'll get more backbone" in dealing with Obama.
 
• By remaining silent as the Iranian people tried to stand up for their freedoms in the "Green Revolution" -- against the very Iranian mullahs who helped end Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Time after time after time Obama has sent signals of weakness to the world.

And on September 11, 2012 -- just as on February 14, 1979 -- the policy of appeasement and weakness that caught up with Jimmy Carter finally caught up with Barack Obama.

In 1979 that foreign policy resulted in the death of Spike Dubs. In 2012, the Ambassador who wound up murdered was Chris Stevens.

What was Carter's answer when he finally faced off with Ronald Reagan in 1980? Carter and his allies tried to paint Reagan as a not very smart warmonger. A dangerous man.

But perhaps with Spike Dubs on his mind, five days after the Ambassador's murder Reagan grimly told an audience in Ohio:

I'm beginning to wonder if the symbol of the United States pretty soon isn't going to be an ambassador with a flag under his arm climbing into the escape helicopter.

This is now the exact same tactic of the Obama campaign with Mitt Romney. With the Obama foreign policy disintegrating, they are trying to paint Romney as a not very smart guy and a warmonger.

The problem?

Just like Jimmy Carter, a dead Ambassador has become a symbol of Obama's failed foreign policy.

And there is a reason for it.

That reason? The Obama foreign policy is being conducted exactly like the Carter foreign policy. The Carter Apology Tour, from a speech about the "inordinate fear of communism" to slapping the wrists of the Soviets over the death of Ambassador Dubs to the Iranian hostage crisis, sent a message and produced results, all of them bad. Or, as Romney said last night about the Obama foreign policy in words that echoed the sentiments of Reagan about Carter's foreign policy: "I don't see our influence growing around the world -- I see our influence receding."  

It is receding indeed.

To the background appeasement music of Neville Chamberlain's tapping umbrella.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.