Oct. 1, 2006 — -- Jimmy Carter has long been a critic of the war in Iraq. Now, he has stepped up the attack, calling the war "a terrible mistake" and "a flat disaster."
Former President Carter expressed his views to ABC's Ron Claiborne on "Good Morning America Weekend."
"First of all, I thought it was a horrible mistake to abandon Afghanistan and the war against al Qaeda and the effort to capture Osama bin Laden. And left that half undone and go into Iraq, which was an unjustified war," Carter said.
"Since then, of course, terrorism has increased in the world," Carter continued. "And that was the main reason I was against the war in Iraq."
Former President Carter has largely stayed out of the political spotlight in the 25 years since he left office after a single term.
He is better known for his humanitarian work, human rights efforts and his writing -- he's authored 21 books.
But this fall he is back on the campaign trail, in Nevada, where his eldest son, Jack, is the Democratic nominee for Senate. He, too, is a critic of the war in Iraq.
Claiborne asked if Carter thought President Bush has been honest with the American people about the situation in Iraq.
"Well, I am a former president and I have been very careful not to criticize President Bush personally," Carter said. "But his administration and particularly the vice president and the secretary of defense have, I think, quite often deliberately misled the American people about the danger in Iraq to begin with, the causes for going to war in Iraq, and they have also misled the American people about what is happening in Iraq since we invaded."
While he disagrees with Bush's administration, he doesn't criticize the president himself.
"[I] think he makes -- he rationalizes what happened, which I did when I was in office, so I don't really feel inclined to personally criticize President Bush."
Carter did say he thinks Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should step down.
"Almost every strategic decision that he has made has proven to be faulty or erroneous and a mistake. Every one," Carter said.
And he staunchly defended the efforts by fellow Democrat Bill Clinton to go after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
"He made every possible effort to do it. I knew about it. Everybody in the nation knew that President Clinton was making the best possible effort to go after Osama bin Laden and to go after al Qaeda. Of course, that was before 9/11, but there's no doubt that he tried the best he could."
Carter didn't have the same faith in the Bush administration before 9/11.
"I don't -- I have never seen any evidence that they tried. There have been some secret things going on, but I never heard about it," he said.