Israel had no right to respond with force when it was attacked by Hezbollah and the United States has lost its moral way because of the leadership of George W. Bush and “fundamentalists” run amok, according to former President Jimmy Carter.

The Democrat, who’s spent his post-White House years in humanitarian efforts, also said in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine that fundamentalist Christians in the United States believe they speak for God and can make no mistakes.

“The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God’s ideas and God’s premises on the particular issues,” Carter said. “Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong.

“And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases – as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world – it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant,” Carter said.

The magazine titled the published interview, “The US and Israel Stand Alone” and asked Carter “about the danger posed to American values by George W. Bush. …”

Carter previously had written about that issue in his book “Our Endangered Values,” and said that only the American people will be able to make certain the U.S. government “returns to the country’s old moral principles.”

“There’s no doubt that this administration has made a radical and unpressured departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents,” Carter responded.

“Under all of its predecessors there was a commitment to peace instead of pre-emptive war. Our country always had a policy of not going to war unless our own security was directly threatened and now we have a new policy of going to war on a pre-emptive basis.”

Carter, a dark horse Washington outsider in 1976 who defeated incumbent Republican Gerald Ford in the election following Watergate, also said he shares the religious policies of Thomas Jefferson.

“Another very serious departure from past policies is the separation of church and state,” he said. “This has been a policy since the time of Thomas Jefferson and my own religious beliefs are compatible with this.”

He served as a Sunday School teacher in a Christian church throughout his political career and prayed regular during his presidency. He said he had been influenced once by a sermon titled, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

As president he oversaw the transfer of the Panama Canal from U.S. to Panamanian control, worked on the Camp David Accords, created full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and championed human rights.

However, the capture of hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Iran, and their detainment for 444 days overshadowed his other accomplishments. The U.S. military during that hostage crisis attempted a military rescue of those hostages, but failed.

The hostages were released 20 minutes after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, who captured 91 percent of the electoral votes in a landslide.

It was also during his tenure the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and inflation in the U.S. was rampant.

Carter especially took aim in the Der Speigel interview at Israel.

“I don’t think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that’s justified, no,” he said.

He said it’s really George Bush’s fault that the war between Israel and Hezbollah happened.

Der Spiegal based its questions on assumptions about the United States. “Take your fellow Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton. These days she is demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But she, like many others, allowed President Bush to invade Iraq under a false pretext,” the magazine propositioned.

Carter agreed.

“As you know ever since Israel has been a nation the United States has provided the leadership. Every president down to the ages has done this in a fairly balanced way, including George Bush senior, Gerald Ford, and others including myself and Bill Clinton. This administration has not attempted at all in the last six years to negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement between Israel and any of its neighbors or the Palestinians.”

Carter said, however, he’s confident the United States will “self-correct.” He suggested that the primary election defeat of political statesman and one-time Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman in Connecticut is an example. Lieberman supported President Bush in his war on terror; his primary opponent is making demands that U.S. soldiers leave the Middle as soon as possible.

Carter also said he believes he “represents the vast majority of Democrats in this country.”

“I think there is a substantial portion of American people that completely agree with me.”

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