[Mb-civic] Critique of Bush speech to UN

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Thu Sep 23 12:16:50 PDT 2004

Tran Africa's Bill Fletcher: Bush's UN Speech Proves He Has "No Moral
Credibility On International Affairs"

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

We get a response to President Bush's comments before the UN General
Assembly on Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and AIDS from Phyllis Bennis of the
Institute for Policy Studies and TransAfrica president Bill Fletcher.
[includes rush transcript]

 President Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly yesterday
marking his fourth appearance before the world body during his term in
office. And for the third year in a row, the main subject of Bush's speech
was Iraq.

 The president defended invading Iraq without UN Security Council backing,
instead speaking about the need for democracy and appealed for help in

 Bush also spoke about Palestine and the crisis in Sudan and listed an array
of proposed initiatives including Third World debt relief, combating AIDS
and global trafficking in women and children.

 Bush's remarks drew applause only once -- at the end of his speech. He
spoke shortly after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the 191-nation
gathering with what many saw as a pointed rebuke to the United States.

    €      Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General addressing the General Assembly,
September 21, 2004.

 Kofi Annan's comments come a week after he called the invasion of Iraq
"illegal." Unlike Bush's speech minutes later, Annan directly addressed the
situation on the ground in Iraq.

    €      Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General addressing the General Assembly,
September 21, 2004.

 Today we are going to take a look at some of Bush's comments before the UN
General Assembly on Iraq, the Palestine-Israel conflict, Sudan and AIDS.

    €      President Bush, comments on Iraq at the United Nations.
    €      President Bush, comments on Palestine-Israel at the United
    €      President Bush, comments on Sudan at the United Nations.
    €      President Bush, comments on AIDS at the United Nations.

 Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington
DC, specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues. She is the author
of the book "Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th
 Bill Fletcher, President of TransAfrica.

This transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us
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AMY GOODMAN: Bush's remarks drew applause only once: at the end of his
speech. He spoke shortly after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the
191-nation gathering with what many saw as a pointed rebuke to the United

 KOFI ANNAN:  As I said a year ago, we have reached a fork in the road. If
you, the political leaders of the world, cannot agree or reach agreement on
the way forward, history will take the decisions for you, and the interests
of your people may go by default. Today I will not seek to prejudge those
decisions, but to remind you of the all-important framework in which they
should be taken, namely the rule of law at home and in the world. The vision
of the government of laws, not of men, is almost as old as civilization

 AMY GOODMAN:  Kofi Annan's comments come a week after he called the
invasion of Iraq illegal. Unlike Bush's speech, minutes later, Annan
directly addressed the situation on the ground in Iraq.

 KOFI ANNAN:  In Iraq, we see civilians massacred in cold blood, while
relief workers, journalists and other non-combatants are taken hostage and
put to death in the most barbarous fashion. At the same time, we have seen
Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Today we're going to take a look at some of Bush's comments
before the U.N. General Assembly. We're joined from Washington, D.C., by
Phyllis Bennis, Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington,
D.C., specializing in Middle East and U.N. issues. She's author of the book,
Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis. We're
also joined by Bill Fletcher, the President of TransAfrica. We begin with
President Bush's comments on Iraq.

 PRESIDENT BUSH: Last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq
have regained sovereignty. Today in this hall, the Prime Minister of Iraq
and his delegation represent a country that has rejoined the community of
nations. The government of Prime Minister Allawi has earned the support of
every nation that believes in self-determination and desires peace. And
under Security Council Resolutions 1511 and 1546 the world is providing that
support. The U.N. and its member nations must respond to Prime Minister
Allawi's request, and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure,
democratic, federal, and free. A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies,
because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free
Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their
ambitions for that region. So, a terrorist group associated with al Qaeda is
now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today, conducting a
campaign of bombings against civilians, and the beheadings of bound men.
Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and
foreign fighters so peaceful nations around the world will never have to
face them within our own borders.

 AMY GOODMAN:  President Bush addressing the U.N. General Assembly
yesterday. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, your response

 PHYLLIS BENNIS: This was an extraordinary example, Amy, of using an
international venue to further Bush's own campaign. As he has been talking
about in his campaign rhetoric, he completely denied the reality on the
ground in Iraq. He denied the escalating levels of death and destruction
going on in that country. The death of U.S. G.I.s, of course, but also most
particularly the massive increase in the deaths of Iraqis that we have seen
just in the last ten days or so. This was an example of ignoring reality
with enormous skill. He spoke of Iraq and Afghanistan as the world's newest
democracies, ignoring the fact that everyone in the world knows that
whatever else we may call what's going on in the streets of Iraq, democracy
is not one of them. He used actually the name of the U.N. Special Envoy of
the Secretary General, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed, of course,
last year when the United Nations was attacked in Baghdad, because it was
seen as operating under the terms of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and he
actually invoked the name of Sergio de Mello saying that the people that are
now working in Iraq are working under his legacy. It was a breathtaking
amount of chutzpah, and I can only imagine that people sitting in U.N.
headquarters in New York who were friends and colleagues of Sergio de Mello
and the other 21 staff members who were killed must have been absolutely
appalled at that abuse of his legacy. It stood in very, very sharp contrast
to Secretary General Kofi Annan's speech, which was a very overt and very
direct slap in the face to the Bush policy in Iraq. But not only in Iraq.
Certainly, there was repeated reference to the Iraq war itself being
illegal, as Kofi Annan had said last week, on the BBC when he said it was
not in keeping with the terms of the charter, and that it is, quote,
³illegal,² but he also referred to other aspects of international law,
including among other things on the question of disarmament, the Secretary
General identified with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, although he didn't
spell it out by name, saying that real disarmament, implying disarmament by
the countries who have arms is a crucial part of preventing proliferation to
other countries who don't. And in that way, he was really coming down very
harshly on the United States and the other official nuclear powers, who are
obligated by treaty to get rid of other nuclear weapons as the payoff for
having other countries agree not to get them. Something that the U.S. has
consistently refused to do. The breadth of Kofi Annan's defense of
international law as something that explicitly applies to the strong as well
as the weak stood in sharp contrast to President Bush's sort of blithe
recitation of false claims about what was happening in the streets of Iraq.

 AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, I want to play a clip of President Bush on
Israel and Palestine.

 PRESIDENT BUSH: This commitment to democratic reform is essential to
resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace will not be achieved by
Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption and
maintain ties to terrorist groups. The long suffering Palestinian people
deserve better. They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing
a free and peaceful Palestinian state. Even after the setbacks and
frustrations of recent months, goodwill and hard effort can achieve the
promise of the roadmap to peace. Those who would lead a new Palestinian
state should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people, and
create the reform institutions of a stable democracy. Arab states should add
incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for
terrorism and establish normal relations with Israel. Israel should impose a
settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily
humiliation of the Palestinian people and avoid any actions that prejudice
final negotiations.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Phyllis Bennis, your response?

 PHYLLIS BENNIS: It was really quite extraordinary listening to that
yesterday, with President Bush saying that Palestinians deserve better, not
that they deserve an end to occupation, but they deserve a better
government. That their government must move towards reform. This was the
only thing that Palestinians deserve, in Bush's view. When he spoke of the
obligations of Israel, he spoke about removing unauthorized outposts, as if
some of the outposts are authorized, which is what, of course, the Israeli
government claims. He did not say there must be an end to occupation. He did
not say that international law must be applied in the occupied territories.
He said that Israel should end the daily humiliation. He didn't say anything
about the daily assaults, about the almost daily murder of occupied
Palestinians by Israeli military. So, the limitations on his willingness to
even use the requirements of the United Nations resolutions and
international law as the basis for what would be the basis of a negotiated
settlement was simply thrown out the window. This was a -- one more sop to
the pro-Israeli forces in the United States in a context of the election. It
was one more use of the U.N. for that purpose.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. [break]

 AMY GOODMAN:  As we continue with President Bush's address to the United
Nations General Assembly yesterday, our guest, Phyllis Bennis of The
Institute for Policy Studies and Bill Fletcher President of TransAfrica.
Let's go to President Bush on Sudan.

 PRESIDENT BUSH: At this hour, the world is witnessing terrible suffering
and horrible crimes in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Crimes my government
has concluded are genocide. The United States played a key role in efforts
to broker a cease-fire and we're providing humanitarian assistance to the
Sudanese people. Rwanda and Nigeria have deployed forces in Sudan to help
improve security so aid can be delivered. The Security Council adopted a new
resolution that supports an expanded Palestinian union force to help prevent
further bloodshed and urges the government of Sudan to stop flights by
military aircraft in Darfur. We congratulate the members of the council on
this timely and necessary action. I call on the government of Sudan to honor
the ceasefire it signed and stop the killing in Darfur.

 AMY GOODMAN:  President Bush speaking at the U.N. General Assembly. Bill
Fletcher joining us from Washington studio, President of TransAfrica.
Welcome, Bill. Can you respond to President Bush's statement about Sudan and
the U.S. now using the term ³genocide?²

 BILL FLETCHER: Well, thank you. Let me just say, in terms of the
President's speech, first of all I think we understand when we look and
listen to that speech why the Bush Administration has no moral credibility
on international affairs. The manipulative use of this speech for political
ends was really quite blatant. It's interesting in looking at his remarks,
listening to his remarks with regard to the Sudan the-- it took a
considerable amount of international pressure to get the Bush
Administration, after countless denials, to actually acknowledge the extent
of the humanitarian crisis that's underway in the Sudan. But when you link
the President's speech with the crisis in the Sudan, you can understand why
many countries are a bit skeptical about endorsing any initiative advanced
by the United States, because they see it as, more often than not, a cynical
adventure in the international realm.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Bill Fletcher, you were arrested along with Danny Glover,
Chair of TransAfrica, in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington. Where
do you see the Bush Administration taking this issue?

 BILL FLETCHER: I actually think, Amy, they're probably not going to take it
very far, that it will depend, to a great extent, on a few other factors.
One is the extent to which people in the United States continue to keep this
issue front and center, particularly as we proceed down the road towards the
November 2nd elections. But I think that it's also going to be very much
influenced by what other countries do and the extent to which China and
Russia, particularly, can be convinced to exert a greater pressure on the
Sudan to pull back from the genocidal path they're conducting.

 AMY GOODMAN:  I want to go to President Bush speaking about AIDS at the
U.N. General Assembly.

 PRESIDENT BUSH: Because we believe in human dignity, America and many
nations have established a global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and
malaria. In three years, the contributing countries have funded projects in
more than 90 countries, and pledged a total of $5.6 billion to these
efforts. America has undertaken a $15 billion effort to provide prevention
and treatment and humane care in nations afflicted by AIDS, placing a
special focus on 15 countries where the need is most urgent. AIDS is the
greatest health crisis of our time and our unprecedented commitment will
bring new hope to those who have walked too long in the shadow of death.

 AMY GOODMAN:  President Bush speaking at the U.N. General Assembly. Bill
Fletcher of TransAfrica, you're shaking your head.

 BILL FLETCHER: It's infuriating, Amy. More people are dying per day as a
result of AIDS than died on 9/11. And yet the Bush Administration
manipulates the issue. They talk about contributing to the Global AIDS Fund.
The U.S. contribution to the U.N. Global AIDS Fund is far less than should
be its share of contributions to the overall costs. And in the midst of the
situation, the Bush Administration, supposedly a conservative regime that
believes in less bureaucracy creates its own bureaucracy to advance the
global AIDS fight. I mean it's simply unbelievable what is being done, and
what's not being done. On top of that, this administration has ideologized
the fight around AIDS where they have penalized those countries that promote
the use of condoms and believe, out of some myth, that the way that one
stops the spread of HIV and AIDS is simply through abstinence. I mean, this
objectively represents genocide on the part of this administration. You add
onto that that this administration has obstructed the ability of countries
to buy or produce generic pharmaceuticals in order to confront this
pandemic. So, one must ask, What are their motives? What are their

 AMY GOODMAN:  Bill Fletcher, as we begin to wrap up this discussion, I
don't want to leave you without talking about Haiti and Grenada right now.
Slightly separate issues, but these countries are absolutely devastated by
the storms, and earthquakes. Ninety percent of Grenada, they say--of the
homes--are destroyed. And in Haiti, something like 250,000 people left
homeless. What can be done right now?

 BILL FLETCHER: In part, the Haitian crisis that¹s a result of the hurricane
has to be understood within the larger crisis of the disruption as a result
of the coup that overthrew President Aristide. Haiti is a mess. It is a
complete and utter mess! There is no basic infrastructure to address the
nature of a hurricane such as Jeanne that struck the country. Where more
than 700 people are dead; thousands, at least, are missing, and, as you
said, hundreds of thousands of other people are in despair. I think that the
United States, as well as the O.A.S. needs to rush in emergency assistance.
I understand this morning that Venezuela has come forward, and it doesn't
surprise me, because of the concern that President Chavez has evidenced for
the country of Haiti, historically.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Also in the headlines today, we read this piece about The
Scotsman newspaper reporting the Bush Administration facing condemnation for
failing to join more than 100 countries as part of a new campaign to raise
an extra $50 billion annually to combat global hunger. The U.S. rejected
proposals to raise money by introducing global tax on financial transactions
and a tax on the sale of heavy arms. The Brazilian President Lula responding
by saying, how many times will it be necessary to repeat that the most
destructive weapons of mass destruction in the world is poverty.

 BILL FLETCHER: I think that President Lula was absolutely right on target.
This administration will not accept that. But every so often, it throws a
bone to the people of the world. So, one of the bones that it threw was that
there will be some level of debt reduction. Africa has somewhere around $300
billion of onerous debt, but this administration is not addressing the depth
of that crisis. The types of steps that were being proposed -- they run
counter to the way this administration looks at confronting poverty. It
basically identifies legitimate poverty and illegitimate poverty, much as it
does here in the United States.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Phyllis Bennis, we have 30 seconds to go. I just wanted to
wrap up with the overall context of where President Bush spoke yesterday, at
the U.N. General Assembly--you having been an observer of, correspondent
from, the U.N. for many years, having written books and numerous articles
about it.

 PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think this was an example of President Bush using the
United Nations in an extraordinarily tactical, partisan, political way. It
was not an expression of recognition of the primacy of the United Nations in
global affairs. Rather, it was seeing the United Nations as a venue for
continuing a thoroughly partisan and aggressive campaign: expecting his
audience to deny reality, expecting his audience to listen to what he said
without acknowledging that it flies in the face of what is actually going on
on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere.

 AMY GOODMAN:  Phyllis Bennis, thank you for joining us, from The Institute
for Policy Studies and Bill Fletcher of TransAfrica. This is Democracy Now!


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