Carter viewed Khomeini as more of a religious holy man in a grassroots revolution than a founding father of modern terrorism. Carter's ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, said "Khomeini will eventually be hailed as a saint." Carter's Iranian ambassador, William Sullivan, said, "Khomeini is a Gandhi-like figure." Carter adviser James Bill proclaimed in a Newsweek interview on February 12, 1979 that Khomeini was not a mad mujahid, but a man of "impeccable integrity and honesty."
Only Carter and his own ignorant yes-men could believe this. Khomeini had been railing against the West for more than a decade from his exile location in (where else?) Paris. Khomeini did not call for love, self-determination and uplifting the poor; he called for Islamification and turning Iran away from the West. And Carter helped:
WHEN CARTER entered the political fray in 1976, America was still riding the liberal wave of anti-Vietnam War emotion. Carter asked for an in-depth report on Iran even before he assumed the reins of government and was persuaded that the shah was not fit to rule Iran. 1976 was a banner year for pacifism: Carter was elected president, Bill Clinton became attorney-general of Arkansas, and Albert Gore won a place in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
In his anti-war pacifism, Carter never got it that Khomeini, a cleric exiled to Najaf in Iraq from 1965-1978, was preparing Iran for revolution. Proclaiming "the West killed God and wants us to bury him," Khomeini's weapon of choice was not the sword but the media. Using tape cassettes smuggled by Iranian pilgrims returning from the holy city of Najaf, he fueled disdain for what he called gharbzadegi ("the plague of Western culture").
Carter pressured the shah to make what he termed human rights concessions by releasing political prisoners and relaxing press censorship. Khomeini could never have succeeded without Carter. The Islamic Revolution would have been stillborn.
Gen. Robert Huyser, Carter's military liaison to Iran, once told me in tears: "The president could have publicly condemned Khomeini and even kidnapped him and then bartered for an exchange with the [American Embassy] hostages, but the president was indignant. 'One cannot do that to a holy man,' he said."
A reprehensible president.