September 23, 2003


President Bush Addresses United Nations General Assembly (The United Nations, New York, New York, 9/23/03)

Mr. Secretary General; Mr. President; distinguished delegates; ladies and gentlemen: Twenty-four months ago -- and yesterday in the memory of America -- the center of New York City became a battlefield, and a graveyard, and the symbol of an unfinished war. Since that day, terrorists have struck in Bali, Mombassa, in Casablanca, in Riyadh, in Jakarta, in Jerusalem -- measuring the advance of their cause in the chaos and innocent suffering they leave behind.

Last month, terrorists brought their war to the United Nations itself. The U.N. headquarters in Baghdad stood for order and compassion -- and for that reason, the terrorists decided it must be destroyed. Among the 22 people who were murdered was Sergio Vieira de Mello. Over the decades, this good and brave man from Brazil gave help to the afflicted in Bangladesh, Cypress, Mozambique, Lebanon, Cambodia, Central Africa, Kosovo, and East Timor, and was aiding the people of Iraq in their time of need. America joins you, his colleagues, in honoring the memory of Senor Vieira de Mello, and the memory of all who died with him in the service to the United Nations.

By the victims they choose, and by the means they use, the terrorists have clarified the struggle we are in. Those who target relief workers for death have set themselves against all humanity. Those who incite murder and celebrate suicide reveal their contempt for life, itself. They have no place in any religious faith; they have no claim on the world's sympathy; and they should have no friend in this chamber.

Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order, and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change, and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man, and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame.

Between these alternatives there is no neutral ground. All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization. No government should ignore the threat of terror, because to look the other way gives terrorists the chance to regroup and recruit and prepare. And all nations that fight terror, as if the lives of their own people depend on it, will earn the favorable judgment of history.

The former regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq knew these alternatives, and made their choices. The Taliban was a sponsor and servant of terrorism. When confronted, that regime chose defiance, and that regime is no more. Afghanistan's President, who is here today, now represents a free people who are building a decent and just society; they're building a nation fully joined in the war against terror.

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world. The Security Council was right to be alarmed. The Security Council was right to demand that Iraq destroy its illegal weapons and prove that it had done so. The Security Council was right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply. And because there were consequences, because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace, and the credibility of the United Nations, Iraq is free, and today we are joined by representatives of a liberated country.

Saddam Hussein's monuments have been removed and not only his statues. The true monuments of his rule and his character -- the torture chambers, and the rape rooms, and the prison cells for innocent children -- are closed. And as we discover the killing fields and mass graves of Iraq, the true scale of Saddam's cruelty is being revealed.

The Iraqi people are meeting hardships and challenges, like every nation that has set out on the path of democracy. Yet their future promises lives of dignity and freedom, and that is a world away from the squalid, vicious tyranny they have known. Across Iraq, life is being improved by liberty. Across the Middle East, people are safer because an unstable aggressor has been removed from power. Across the world, nations are more secure because an ally of terror has fallen.

Our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were supported by many governments, and America is grateful to each one. I also recognize that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions. Yet there was, and there remains, unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations. We are dedicated to the defense of our collective security, and to the advance of human rights. These permanent commitments call us to great work in the world, work we must do together. So let us move forward. [...]

As an original signer of the U.N. Charter, the United States of America is committed to the United Nations. And we show that commitment by working to fulfill the U.N.'s stated purposes, and give meaning to its ideals. The founding documents of the United Nations and the founding documents of America stand in the same tradition. Both assert that human beings should never be reduced to objects of power or commerce, because their dignity is inherent. Both require -- both recognize a moral law that stands above men and nations, which must be defended and enforced by men and nations. And both point the way to peace, the peace that comes when all are free. We secure that peace with our courage, and we must show that courage together.

May God bless you all.

From the way anti-Bush columnists were writing about this speech, you got the impression they thought he'd break down sobbing like Jimmy Swaggart and beg forgiveness for violating the UN Charter. Instead, predictably, he went in and told them how we're realizing the ideals of the UN on our own and questioned the seriousness of their commitment to same. One would guess they aren't serious.

Here's a representative instance of pundit chagrin, Bush to World: Drop Dead!: The president lays an egg at the U.N. (Fred Kaplan, September 23, 2003, Slate)

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

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 nothing.

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 terrorists.

And some symptomatic Democrat hysteria, Bush's U.N. Speech Gets Scathing Reviews on Capitol Hill (DAVID STOUT, 9/23/03, NY Times)
President Bush's speech to the United Nations received scathing reviews today from Capitol Hill Democrats, including some who would like to have Mr. Bush's job.

"I think the president lost an opportunity," Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader, told reporters. "He came before the international community and he could have made the case for more troops, for more resources. He didn't do that."

Mr. Daschle, who is not running for president, continued: "He has now asked for $87 billion more. And I wish he would have made a stronger case, a better case with more specificity about a plan. He hasn't presented a plan to the United Nations. He hasn't presented one to this country or to this Congress. It was a missed opportunity, and that's very disappointing."

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said Mr. Bush's rhetoric was becoming "more stirring."

"But once again he has failed to tell us exactly what role he expects the United Nations to play now and what timetable he envisions for the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people," said Mr. Kerry, who is running for president.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, another White House hopeful, called the speech an "11th-hour, half-hearted appeal" delivered in an "I told you so" tone that makes it more difficult to secure international help in Iraq.

And Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, another presidential candidate, said that Mr. Bush had "missed an opportunity" to expand international support for American policy in Iraq by not offering to broaden participation in decision making.

Another Democrat with his eye on the White House, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, accused Mr. Bush of taking a "my way or the highway" approach by trying to force other nations to comply with Washington's demands.

Do these guys really know their fellow citizens so little that they think it could ever hurt the President to be seen smacking the UN around?

-Bush holds line on Iraq: President appealed for UN support for reconstruction, but faced skeptics. (Howard LaFranchi, 9/24/03, CS Monitor)
-UN loses patience with the American way (Gary Younge, September 24, 2003, The Guardian)

Old transatlantic wounds within the United Nations security council were reopened yesterday, as France condemned American unilateralism and demanded a rapid transition to democracy and the United States defended the war and insisted the move to Iraqi sovereignty would not be rushed.

On the face of it their positions seem to have hardened. "In an open world, no one can isolate themselves, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules," said the French president, Jacques Chirac, in one of his most explicit attacks to date. "There is no alternative to the United Nations."

Meanwhile the US president, George Bush, insisted it had been right to fight the war, even raising the issue of weapons of mass of destruction and linking the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, to terrorism.

"The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world," he said.

But behind the rhetoric the battle lines were being drawn. The French were making it clear who was to blame for the mayhem in Iraq. The Americans wanted everyone to know that while they had returned to the UN for help, this was not an admission of guilt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 23, 2003 7:31 PM

"The founding documents of the United Nations and the founding documents of America stand in the same tradition. Both assert that human beings should never be reduced to objects of power or commerce, because their dignity is inherent. Both require -- both recognize a moral law that stands above men and nations, which must be defended and enforced by men and nations."

Thank you Mr. President! Now, take that thought and run with it...over and over again.

(Also, let us all savour the politically incorrect use of "men".)

Posted by: Peter B at September 23, 2003 8:41 PM

Tom Daschle get disappointed so often, he must be a candidate for long-term depression therapy. But he will be even more disappointed next November, when the American electorate puts away the love of the UN for another 4 years. And Fred Kaplan's use of the word impertinent to describe Bush's speech is outrageous. Who does he think Kofi Annan is, a revered teacher? If Kaplan wants to live under UN wisdom, he can go live in Rwanda.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 23, 2003 11:26 PM

Not to be overly worried.

Indeed, telling the truth to a group of scoundrels has always been, and will always be, viewed as a great impertinence.

The nation should be proud.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 24, 2003 1:55 AM

Chirac says that there's no alternative to the United Nations. Not for a despicable, has-been former nation and future caliphate like France that is. Maybe Kofi Annan should send UN troops to French cities to save elderly French from their careless and self-absorbed offspring.

Posted by: Peter at September 24, 2003 4:01 AM


Wait a couple years, the Germans will send in troops just to stay in practice.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 8:28 AM

He made me proud.

Posted by: genecis at September 24, 2003 10:13 AM

I'm with Mr. Meislin. Could someone point out what part of the cite from Kaplan is negative about President Bush's speech? I thought Kaplan got it right. I'm sure Bush's speech was in fact baffling impertinent to his audience.

It reminds me strongly of the epithet "cowboy" that gets hurled at Bush, which is considered nasty by the hurlers but complimentary by the recipient. In the same way I agree with Kaplan but view all of that as something to be proud of.

And of course, OJ is exactly right that the only people who will be aghast at Bush laying down the smackie on the UN are the minority who are never going to vote for him anyway, whereas it's going to play very well to his base and the independents.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 24, 2003 10:15 AM

I think I now understand why this administration
has not cut the cord with the U.N. This is in
many ways the ultimate bully pulpit. He basically
says "We're living up to the ideals of the U.N.
and you Aint!".

However, I still would like to see that body
dissolved. It still serves mostly to legitimize
tyrannies and embodies international socialism at
its worst.

Unfortunately outside the petri dish of conservative media many Americans still believe
in it.

Posted by: J.H. at September 24, 2003 10:19 AM

"May God bless you all."

Who gave him permission to say THAT?

Posted by: John J. Coupal at September 24, 2003 11:13 PM
« THE DEMOCRATS' CHOICE OF EVILS (via Glenn Dryfoos): | Main | NEXT BIG THING: »