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Carter: Americans were misled on war

Former president says Bush policy is a 'radical departure'

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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday that there isn't "any doubt" the American people were misled about the war in Iraq and that President George Bush's policy on the war is a "radical departure from the policies of any president."

In an interview with CNN, Carter addressed some of the comments made in his new book, "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis." In the book he says the Bush administration was determined to attack Iraq using "false and distorted claims after 9/11."

Carter said the Bush administration spoke of mushroom clouds, weapons of mass destruction and the threat of thousands of Americans dying to garner support for the war. No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. (Watch Carter's interview -- 8:33)

He was careful to say he didn't know whether intelligence was misinterpreted or purposely twisted, and Carter praised the attempts by his fellow Democrats in Congress to press efforts to look into the matter. (Watch how the Senate went into secret session over the intelligence used to back the war -- 3:05)

"If the investigation would go ahead and proceed, as Democrats have been trying to in the Senate now for more than 18 months, then we will know the circumstances under which the American people -- and I think an entire world -- was misled about what was going on in Iraq," he said.

Carter added that he had seen no evidence the White House was involved in the CIA leak investigation that ensnared Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, last week.

Libby is accused of lying to investigators and a grand jury probing the disclosure of the identity of a CIA officer whose husband had challenged administration claims that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been trying to restart his nuclear weapons program.

Carter also said that the administration's pre-emptive strike doctrine directed against the possible future use of weapons of mass destruction is a spurious basis for a war when there is no immediate threat to America's security.

"We'll bomb, strafe and send missiles against their people even though our security's not directly threatened," he said. "This is contrary to international law. It's also contrary to what every president has done in this country for more than 100 years, Democrat or Republican."

As the former president spoke from the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, protests in Mar del Plata, Argentina -- where Bush is attempting to promote free trade among the 34 nations comprising the Summit of the Americas -- had turned violent. (Full story)

Shown live footage of the protests, Carter said the United States' reputation in the world is as low as it's been in his lifetime and that the United States has lost its prestige, authority and influence in Latin America. He added, however, that the chief opponent to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is a "demagogue." (Read about Congressional passage of the Central American Free Trade Act)

Before the protests turned violent, Chavez denounced capitalism to thousands of demonstrators from his perch in front of a six-story banner of communist revolutionary Che Guevara. Protesters, including Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, listened as Chavez claimed he would "bury" the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposal. Maradona wore a shirt accusing Bush of war crimes, while protesters called the U.S. president a "terrorist" and a "fascist." (Watch the protests -- 1:25)

Carter defended Bush and dismissed as rhetoric the words of the Venezuelan president.

"The personal attacks on the president and the condemnations of America by Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, I think, are completely unjustified and uncalled for," Carter said. "Chavez is a difficult person with whom to deal personally. I know from my own experience."

Carter was voted out of office in 1980 -- 25 years ago on Friday -- after Iranian militants took Americans captive in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The hostages were freed after 444 days as Carter left office.

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