The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Bush to World: Drop Dead!

Bush to World: Drop Dead!
The president lays an egg at the U.N.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2003, at 2:23 PM PT

Has an American president ever delivered such a bafflingly impertinent
speech before the General Assembly as the one George W. Bush gave this

Here were the world's foreign ministers and heads of state, anxiously
awaiting some sign of an American concession to realism-even the sketchiest
outline of a plan to share not just the burden but the power of postwar
occupation in Iraq. And Bush gave them nothing, in some ways less than

In the few seconds he devoted to that subject, he cited only three areas in
which the role of the United Nations (or any other nations) should be
expanded: writing an Iraqi constitution, training a new corps of civil
servants, and supervising elections. None of these notions is new.

Otherwise, Bush's message can be summarized as follows: The U.S.-led
occupation authority is doing good work in Iraq; you should come help us; if
you don't, you're on the side of the

The speech seemed cobbled from the catchphrases of last year's playbook, as
if Bush were trying to replicate the success of his previous appearance
before the General Assembly-his September 2002 speech, which roused the
Security Council to warn Saddam Hussein of "serious consequences"-without
showing the slightest recognition that the old words have grown stale and

Bush dredged out the familiar formula-weapons of mass destruction plus
terrorism equals the enemy in Iraq-forgetting, or perhaps not caring, that
it didn't persuade the United Nations back in November, when Saddam was
still in power, and couldn't hope to win backers now.

He described the guerrilla war, still ongoing, as a battle against
"terrorists and holdouts of the previous regime"-ignoring a recent finding
of the U.S. intelligence community that the main, and most rapidly growing,
threat these days comes from ordinary Iraqis, resentful of the occupation.

He laid out the context of the battle as a contest between "those who work
for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters." Yet it is
hard to see how Bush's pre-emptive-war doctrine fits the former category,
and it's painful to observe that many Iraqis would say the U.S.
occupation-whose soldiers have pounded down so many doors in the middle of
the night-fits the latter.

He acknowledged no mistakes, either in the intelligence that preceded the
war or in the planning (or lack thereof) that followed it.

He did acknowledge that "some of the sovereign nations of this assembly
disagreed" with his decision to go to war, but added that it is time to move
on. "Every young democracy needs the help of friends," he said. "All nations
of goodwill should step forward and provide that support."

He painted the United States as following the true principles of the U.N.
charter, which call on all nations to "stand with the people of Afghanistan
and Iraq," as they build freedom. As for a timetable for turning over power,
he said only that the process should be "neither hurried nor delayed."

"The United States of America is committed to the U.N.," Bush added, "by
giving meaning to its ideals"-but not, apparently, by sharing authority with
its constituents.

Bush spent the remainder of the speech exhorting his fellow leaders to join
forces against nuclear proliferation, AIDS, and the international sex-slave
trade. Such sentiments would be inoffensively bromidic in a typical address
before the General Assembly. But Bush cheapened the causes by linking them
with the unfinished business in Iraq. All of these issues, he said in his
conclusion-Iraq, terrorism, and WMD, as well as AIDS and teen
sex-slaves-require "urgent attention and moral clarity."

The rest of the world's leaders, who had remained conspicuously silent
throughout the speech, greeted its conclusion with, at best, polite
applause, which is the most it deserved. By comparison, the droningly
convoluted speech that followed, by French President Jacques Chirac, was a
model of perspicacity.

One section of Bush's speech is worth very serious note. "Success of a free
Iraq," he said, "will be watched and noted throughout the region." A free
and democratic Iraq would provide a shining example that could transform the
Middle East, and "a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world."

Bush is absolutely right on this point, which is why he needs to get over
his hang-ups about France, the Security Council, and the diplomatic
disasters of last November, and to get serious about working out a common
solution to the much bigger disaster that looms in Iraq. His speech could,
and should, have signaled a new opening. Instead, it seemed to close off
every option.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]