Bush’s SOTU: Annotated

President George Bush gave his 2007 State of the Union address on January 23. While the speech covered many domestic issues, Bush also laid out his foreign policy approach to Iraq, Iran, terrorism, and democracy promotion. Excerpts from the president’s speech are in italics; my comments follow.

?Al-Qaida and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country.?

Al-Qaida and like-minded Sunni extremist groups have generally not targeted moderate governments, but have instead focused their efforts against repressive governments, such as the family dictatorships of the Gulf, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and the Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan. Since its inception, al-Qaida has principally targeted Saudi Arabia, a repressive theocratic monarchy that has no constitution or legislature, oppresses women, denies religious freedom, and engages in widespread torture and extrajudicial killings. In any case, unlike traditional guerrilla groups for whom a safe haven for operations is critical, al-Qaida operates through a decentralized network of underground cells and does not need to control any government to organize terrorist operations.

?By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology.?

No public statement by al-Qaida or any of its recognized leaders has ever criticized the United States for supporting liberty. Instead, they have criticized the United States for supporting dictatorial regimes and occupation armies that deny liberty. And, whatever their grievances, there is no serious risk that the United States will retreat from the world. The current debate is whether the United States should continue to exert its power unilaterally through military means or to be a more responsible global citizen that works multilaterally and honors its international legal obligations. And, even if the United States did suddenly pursue an isolationist posture, scores of other countries would do whatever was necessary to prevent al-Qaida from imposing its will or spreading its totalitarian ideology.

?In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah?a group second only to al-Qaida in the American lives it has taken. The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans ? kill democracy in the Middle East ? and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.?

It is grossly misleading to equate these Shia groups with al-Qaida: Hezbollah and a number of other Shia groups do receive Iranian support and do embrace an extremist ideology but?unlike al-Qaida?they are focused primarily on advancing the interests of the Shiite communities in their respective countries and do not have a global terrorist agenda. In addition, rather than trying to ?kill democracy in the Middle East,? it was Shia groups that overcame initial American objections to successfully push for direct elections in Iraq and it is Shia groups that are currently pushing for greater democracy in Bahrain against the U.S.-backed Sunni monarchy. Extremist Shiites have killed Americans in Lebanon and Iraq, but only after American troops intervened in their country and began counter-insurgency campaigns that killed large numbers of civilians. Hezbollah has not killed any Americans in well over 20 years?they stopped not long after U.S. troops withdrew from their country?and has since become a legal Lebanese political party that has successfully competed in Lebanese elections. Furthermore, unlike al-Qaida?which has sought chemical agents and other material for mass killings?there are no indications that any Shiite groups have sought such weapons.

?This war is more than a clash of arms?it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our Nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom?societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies?and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, and reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security ? we must.?

This is an accurate assessment of the roots of terrorism, yet there are no indications that President Bush is considering a change in U.S. policy from its ongoing military, diplomatic, and financial support of more than a dozen dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. Indeed, all of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other U.S.-backed regimes that repress human freedom, governments that still receive billions of dollars worth of American support for their police and military.

?In Iraq ? a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal ? continues to this day. This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.?

Many Iraqis and Western observers repeatedly warned the Bush administration that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would likely unleash the very kind of sectarian conflict that has unfolded. Prior to the U.S. takeover, Iraq had maintained a longstanding history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population despite its sectarian differences. U.S. occupation authorities?in an apparent effort to divide and rule?encouraged sectarianism by dividing up authority in the U.S.-appointed provisional government based not on technical skills or ideological affiliation but ethnic and religious identity. This pattern has continued under subsequent governments, resulting in virtually every political question debated not on its merits but on which group it potentially benefits or harms. This has led to great instability, with political parties, parliamentary blocs, and government ministries breaking down along sectarian lines. Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority has long identified with Arab nationalism and distrusts much of the Shiite leadership in large part because they came to power as a result of the U.S. invasion, and some extremists within the Sunni opposition have targeted Shiite civilians in response. Seeing their government faced with a growing insurgency and their community falling victim to terrorist violence, elements within the Shiite-led government have responded by utilizing death squads to target Sunni civilians, with U.S. forces unable or unwilling to stop it. In other words, U.S. policy has contributed greatly to the sectarian violence and is not likely to reverse it. As a result, most Iraqis?both Sunni and Shiite?want U.S. forces out of their country. Indeed, the presence of American forces is fueling the insurgency and is helping to undermine the legitimacy of the government. As a result, it is not a matter of ?resolve,? but whether ongoing U.S. military operations in Iraq are doing more harm than good.

?We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq ? we are deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down terrorists, insurgents, and roaming death squads.?

Most reputable accounts indicate that the Iraqi armed forces are not yet in a position to lead American forces in counter-insurgency operations, particularly given the high level of infiltration by supporters of both Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. In any case, as with most guerrilla wars against foreign occupation armies, most of the fighters live at home or are otherwise capable of melting into the population and laying low until the army completes its sweep and they can then resume fighting. An additional 20,000 troops in a city of over five million is not likely to clear and secure many neighborhoods for more than a very short period of time.

?And in Anbar province?where al-Qaida terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them?we are sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We did not drive al-Qaida out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.?

Elements allied with al-Qaida only represent a tiny fraction of the insurgency and no al-Qaida operative from Afghanistan has ever been captured or positively identified in Iraq. Most of the insurgency in Anbar consists of homegrown Sunni Islamists, tribal groups, Baathists, and other nationalists. Except for a tiny enclave in the autonomous Kurdish region outside of Baghdad’s control, there were virtually no al-Qaida-affiliated activities in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003. It is the presence of U.S. forces that has resulted in the emergence of whatever al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists do exist in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq.

?If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaida and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country?and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens ? new recruits ? new resources ? and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11th and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq, and to spare the American people from this danger.?

Baghdad was secure from Islamic extremists?both Sunni and Shiite?under the secular regime that the United States overthrew in 2003. Under Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian rule, Iraq was free from chaos, and the successful UN-sponsored disarmament effort had prevented Iraq from threatening other countries in the region. That an American invasion could unleash forces that would foment chaos in Iraq and threaten the stability of the region was widely predicted beforehand. For example, in September 2002, Arab foreign ministers in Cairo issued a warning that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would ?open the gates of hell.? As a result, it is ironic that Bush now uses the very chaos and the rise of Islamic extremism for which he was responsible as an excuse for continuing the war he started. Studies from both U.S. government agencies and independent research institutes indicate that the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq?not the prospect of withdrawal?has led to growing anti-Americanism and Islamic radicalism. The longer the United States continues to prosecute the war in Iraq, the greater the danger to the United States.

?The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. And so I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.?

The decision in October 2002 by the leadership of both parties in both houses of Congress to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing demonstrates the danger of working in close consultation with the Bush administration. Congressional Democrats?even when they are in the majority, as they were in the Senate at the time of that fateful vote?tend to buckle under pressure from the administration on foreign policy. Indeed, the Democratic leadership has ruled out trying to force a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq through cutting funding for the war?the only real tool at their disposal. And it looks as though they will even fail to block funding for the proposed increase of U.S. combat soldiers fighting in Iraq despite polls showing a majority of the American public would like them to do so. Even if Democrats on such an advisory council did actually display some independence from the Bush administration on policy issues, they will not likely be listened to anyway, given President Bush’s failure to heed the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and the Baker-Hamilton Commission.

?The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.?

Meanwhile, the United States has blocked the UN from imposing sanctions on Pakistan, Israel, and India despite those countries’ ongoing violations of UN Security Council resolutions related to their nuclear weapons programs. In addition, the Bush administration severely weakened international non-proliferation efforts by entering into a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Indian government despite that country’s ongoing defiance of UN Security Council resolution 1172, which calls on India to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

?With the other members of the Quartet?the UN, the European Union, and Russia?we are pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.?

In reality, President Bush has undermined peace efforts by the UN and European governments by insisting that the Palestinians unilaterally implement their obligations under Phase I of the Quartet’s Road Map instead of the original emphasis on mutual and simultaneous efforts by both sides. The Bush administration has also blocked international efforts to stop Israel’s ongoing colonization of large swathes of the West Bank (in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions) and Israel’s construction of a separation barrier deep inside the occupied territory (in violation of a ruling by the International Court of Justice). The Bush administration has also vetoed a series of UN Security Council draft resolutions calling on Israel to end its ongoing violations of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. As a result of these Bush administration policies, the Israeli government has been able to move forward with its U.S.-backed ?convergence plan? in which Israel would be able to annex large sections of West Bank territory, leaving the Palestinians in control of a series of non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel and constituting well under 20% of historic Palestine. Such an economically unviable mini-state, closely resembling the infamous Bantustans of apartheid South Africa, would not likely be able to live in peace and security with Israel.

?We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma.?

Unfortunately, the administration refuses to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Azerbaijan, Oman, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Chad, or the many other countries ruled by allied regimes that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses. By only speaking out in support of freedom in countries with autocratic governments the administration does not like but remaining silent in regard to autocratic governments the Bush administration supports, it politicizes the human rights struggle, replaces principle with political expediency, and compromises the struggle for freedom worldwide.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/bushs_sotu_annotated

Bush at the UN: Annotated

President George W. Bush’s address before the United Nations General Assembly on September 19 appeared to be designed for the domestic U.S. audience. Indeed, few of the foreign delegations or international journalists present could take seriously his rhetoric regarding the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, given the reality of U.S. policy in the region.

?This morning, I want to speak about the more hopeful world that is within our reach, a world beyond terror, where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, where the voices of moderation are empowered, and where the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority. This world can be ours if we seek it and if we work together.?

Under President Bush, the United States has seriously undermined the ability of the international community to work together to empower voices of moderation and marginalize extremists. For example, the Bush administration has gone to great efforts to undermine the International Criminal Court, which could play a critical role in bringing to justice extremists responsible for crimes against humanity. Similarly, with bipartisan support in Congress, the Bush administration attacked the International Court of Justice for its landmark 2004 ruling on the obligations of signatories to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention. The United States, the world’s number one arms supplier, has also blocked UN efforts to curb the trade in small arms used by terrorists. Currently, the United States sends more arms and security assistance than any other country to autocratic regimes and other violators of universally recognized human rights in the Middle East and elsewhere.

?Recently a courageous group of Arab and Muslim intellectuals wrote me a letter. In it, they said this: ?The shore of reform is the only one on which any lights appear, even though the journey demands courage and patience and perseverance.’ ? Together we must support the dreams of good and decent people who are working to transform a troubled region ??

What President Bush failed to mention is that that letter, in which 90 of the region’s most prominent intellectuals called on President Bush ?to reaffirm?in words and actions?America’s commitment to sustained democratic reform in the Arab world? also stated that it ?is our belief that the main problem with U.S. policies in the Middle East (in particular in Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere) is precisely their failure to live up to America’s democratic ideals of liberty and justice for all.? The letter also called on President Bush to ?break with 60 years of U.S. support for non-democratic regimes in the region, and to make that known to the world in unequivocal terms? and ?to press for an end to regime repression of democratically spirited liberal and Islamist groups, and to emphatically distance itself from such repression and condemn it in the strongest terms whenever and wherever it occurs.? There is no indication that the Bush administration intends to change its policies, however.

?Some of the changes in the Middle East are happening gradually, but they are real ? The United Arab Emirates recently announced that half of the seats in its Federal National Council will be chosen by elections. Kuwait held elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time. Citizens have voted in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, in parliamentary elections in Jordan and Bahrain, and in multiparty presidential elections in Yemen and Egypt. These are important steps ??

None of the ?elections? that President Bush mentioned is very real or important.

The Federal National Council in the United Arab Emirates serves only as an advisory body. All political power rests in the Supreme Council of Rulers, which consists of the seven dynastic emirs of the federation’s emirates.

In Kuwait, in which only 15% of the country’s population has voting rights, the royal family largely sets the policy agenda, dominates the country’s politics, and controls any real political power. The unelected emir appoints the prime minister and cabinet, and the royal family holds virtually all key posts and can dissolve the parliament at will for years at a time, as it has done twice in recent decades.

Only men are allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia and only for half the seats in municipal councils. There is no constitution, no national legislature, and no political parties. The royal family exclusively wields political power in conjunction with input from the unelected ultra-conservative Islamic ulema. Torture, extra-judicial killings, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression are commonplace.

Few consider the most recent Jordanian elections for the lower house of parliament fair, due to the highly unrepresentative drawing of assembly districts in favor of the monarchy as well as restrictions on the political platforms parties can advocate in order to take part. In any case, the elected lower house cannot initiate legislation and cannot enact laws without the approval of the upper house, which is appointed by the king. The king can also dissolve parliament at will, as he did between 2001 and 2003 without any apparent objections from the Bush administration.

Though a more open society than neighboring Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s most recent parliamentary elections were boycotted by leftists and leading Shiite groups due to electoral gerrymandering and restrictions on political campaigning. The king?who comes from the country’s Sunni minority?has ultimate control over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Around the forthcoming presidential elections in Yemen, the government and police have been openly pushing for the incumbent’s re-election amid widespread allegations of voter intimidation, ballot-rigging, vote-buying, and registration fraud. Just two days before the vote, President Ali Abdullah Saleh?who has held power for 28 years and claimed victory in the last election by 94% of the vote?announced the arrest on ?terrorist? charges of a campaign official of his leading opponent.

Last year’s presidential elections in Egypt were even worse than Yemen’s in that the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime declared the largest opposition party illegal, effectively banned independent candidates, severely restricted media access and publication rights of opposition campaigns, and refused to allow international observers. Only 23% of the electorate bothered to go to the polls, and Mubarak won re-election with an improbable 88% of the vote. Government security forces beat up and arrested protestors demanding more open elections, and the runner up in the presidential race received a five-year jail sentence.

Perhaps the freest elections in the Arab world last year took place in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Within months, however, the United States backed Israeli attacks on these nations that killed hundreds of civilians and caused billions of dollars worth of damage to their civilian infrastructure?an indication of how the United States really feels about free elections.

?Some have argued that the democratic changes we’re seeing in the Middle East are destabilizing the region. This argument rests on a false assumption, that the Middle East was stable to begin with. The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage.?

This is a terribly misleading characterization of the administration’s critics:

First of all, the Middle East has not been seen as a stable part of the world since well before the fall of the Ottoman Empire. For many decades, outside observers have widely recognized the serious ongoing conflicts in that region. There was no ?mirage? here.

More importantly, virtually no one argues that the very limited democratic changes in recent years have destabilized the region. Instead, critics of U.S. policy note correctly that the region has been destabilized by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the large-scale killings of civilians in U.S. military operations, and other U.S. violations of international law and national sovereignty.

?For decades, millions of men and women in the region have been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. And these conditions left a generation disillusioned, and made this region a breeding ground for extremism. Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform: ? you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country’s shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.?

The observation that having so many people ?trapped in oppression? creates ?a breeding ground for extremism? is quite valid. But the most dangerous extremists in the region have come from among Saudis, Egyptians, and Palestinians, all of whom have been victims of political repression by governments backed by the United States. And while extremists do cynically manipulate those suffering under such oppression into supporting their dangerous ideology and tactics, both the ongoing Israeli occupation and the control of a number of other Middle Eastern governments by autocratic rulers is made possible in large part by U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic support. The effected populations already widely recognize this reality, and it is the primary cause of anti-American terrorism.

?To the people of Lebanon: Last year, you inspired the world when you came out into the streets to demand your independence from Syrian dominance. You drove Syrian forces from your country and you reestablished democracy. Since then, you have been tested by the fighting that began with Hezbollah’s unprovoked attacks on Israel. Many of you have seen your homes and communities caught in crossfire ? The United Nations has passed a good resolution that has authorized an international force, led by France and Italy, to help you restore Lebanese sovereignty over Lebanese soil.?

This outreach to the Lebanese people is disingenuous on several fronts. First of all, the United States initially supported Syria’s military intervention into Lebanon in 1976 and their consolidation of power in 1990. Second, Israel planned its assault in close consultation with the Bush administration long before Hezbollah’s July 12 attack on an Israeli border post. Third, Lebanese homes and communities were not ?caught in crossfire? but were victims of massive bombings and shelling by the U.S.-supplied Israeli armed forces, the vast majority of which were many miles from any Hezbollah military activity. Fourth, the United States repeatedly delayed and then ultimately weakened the UN Security Council resolution authorizing an international force.

?To the people of Iran: The United States respects you; we respect your country ? The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions ? We’re working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom?and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.?

Given that the United States was responsible for the coup that overthrew Iran’s last democratic government back in 1953 and subsequently backed the Shah’s brutal dictatorial regime for a quarter century, platitudes regarding respect for the people of Iran and hope that they may live in freedom do not carry much weight. Indeed, though Iran’s electoral process is seriously flawed on many levels, elections there have tended to be freer and more representative than those in the seven U.S.-backed regimes praised by President Bush.

Regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions, the UN Security Council has indeed passed a resolution requiring Iranian compliance with the unusually strict safeguards demanded by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, President Bush has shown little regard for the enforcement of other UN Security Council resolutions regarding nuclear issues. For example, the United States has not only blocked enforcement of UN Security Council resolution 1172 requiring Pakistan and India to eliminate their nuclear weapons arsenals but President Bush has also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with India and has announced the sale of sophisticated nuclear-capable jet fighter-bombers to Pakistan. In addition, the United States has blocked enforcement of UN Security Council resolution 487 requiring Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the trusteeship of the IAEA and has continued to provide Israel with nuclear-capable jets and missiles.

Finally, given the Bush administration’s rejection of Iranian diplomatic overtures, its lack of support for European diplomatic initiatives, and widespread reports of Pentagon preparations for a U.S. military assault on Iran, there are serious questions as to whether the Bush administration is really ?working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis.?

?To the people of Syria: ? Today your rulers have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism. In your midst, Hamas and Hezbollah are working to destabilize the region, and your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran. This is increasing your country’s isolation from the world. Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror, and living in peace with your neighbors, and opening the way to a better life for you and your families.?

While the Syrian regime certainly does not have clean hands, that country is hardly a ?crossroad of terrorism.? Few governments, for example, have been more helpful to the United States in the struggle against al-Qaida. Syria has also ended support of the Kurdish PKK.

The political wing of Hamas has offices in Damascus, as it does in a number of other Arab capitals. But their military operations are based in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, not Syria. Similarly, Hamas’s financial support has traditionally come from the U.S.-backed monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula, not Syria. In addition, Syria has long ceased its once-active support for leftist Palestinian groups guilty of a series of terrorist attacks in the 1970s.

Syria has substantially reduced its ties with Hezbollah, which had not attacked Israeli civilians for well over a decade until Israel began attacking Lebanese civilians on July 12. Similarly, Hezbollah ended its attacks on Israelis when Israel ceased its attacks on Lebanese. Indeed, the European Union and most governments do not characterize Hezbollah as a terrorist group anymore.

No educated observer sees Syria, with its strong tradition of Arab nationalism, as ?a tool of Iran.? Ironically, Bush administration officials have recently been claiming that Syria was backing Sunni Iraqi factions fighting Iranian-backed Shiite Iraqi factions.

And rather than refusing to ?live in peace with your neighbors,? Syria has offered a peace treaty and full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from Syrian territory seized in the 1967 war. The current Israeli government has refused to consider such a proposal, however, with no apparent objections from the Bush administration.

Finally, Syria is hardly isolated from the world, having recently signed trade deals with Russia, Turkey, and the European Union and having won election just a few years ago to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

?I’m committed to two democratic states?Israel and Palestine?living side-by-side in peace and security. I’m committed to a Palestinian state that has territorial integrity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel ? Yet extremists in the region are stirring up hatred and trying to prevent these moderate voices from prevailing. ?

This is a good and important vision. But?as with President Bush’s visions of a democratic Middle East?his actual policies tell a very different story.

In endorsing Israeli Prime Minister’s Ehud Olmert’s ?convergence plan,? President Bush has demonstrated he is not really interested in a viable Palestinian state existing alongside Israel. The Israeli government, with the support of the Bush administration and a large bipartisan majority in Congress, appears ready to annex large swathes of occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank that would leave the Palestinians with a small non-contiguous archipelago of territories surrounded by Israel. Across this archipelago, Israel would control air space, water rights, and the movements of people and goods between each segment of the Palestinian ?state? and neighboring Arab states.

Finally, the hatred one finds in many parts of the Palestinian community toward Israel stems from years of suffering under a brutal and humiliating U.S.-backed Israeli occupation. Instead of blaming “extremists” for ?stirring up? such hatred, the best way to help moderate voices to prevail is to press Israel to end its illegal occupation and colonization of occupied Palestinian land.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/bush_at_the_un_annotated

Bush on 9/11: Annotated

Despite promises from the White House that the address to the nation on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy would be non-political, President George W. Bush devoted much the speech to defending his unrelated policy on Iraq.

Below are some annotated excerpts from President Bush’s speech:

“[T]he regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat?and after 9/11, Saddam’s regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.”

Saddam Hussein’s stockpiles of banned weapons had been destroyed and his biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons program had been completely dismantled long before 9/11. His armed forces were just a fraction of their original size, and a strict international arms embargo had made rearmament impossible. In 2002, the United Nations correctly insisted that UN arms inspectors be allowed to return to verify that Iraq had indeed disarmed. When Saddam Hussein consented and the inspectors were allowed unimpeded access inside the country, the UN Security Council recognized that Iraq was no longer a threat and thus did not authorize the use of military force as the Bush administration demanded.

“The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.”

Though one of the world’s worse tyrants, Saddam Hussein’s ability to do harm to other nations had been severely limited as a result of the UN-imposed disarmament regime, military sanctions, and imposed limitations on military movements within the country. Today, however, the extraordinary violence, instability, civil conflict, foreign intervention, and possible breakup of the country threaten to destabilize the entire region. In addition, a new generation of radical foreign jihadists, which has come to Iraq to fight the U.S. occupation, is now getting invaluable training that could be used later against other countries.

“Al-Qaida and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East.”

According to extensive interviews with captured insurgents in Iraq, their motivation appears to be the same as what motivated extremists who came to Afghanistan in the 1980s: to fight what they see as a Western neo-colonial conquest of an Islamic nation. Furthermore, Freedom House and other groups that monitor levels of freedom rank at least a half dozen Middle Eastern countries as having greater freedom than Iraq. So if the goal of al-Qaida and other extremists was really to stop the rise of free societies in the Middle East, they would presumably be fighting in those countries instead.

“We’re training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation. We’re helping Iraq’s unity government grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done.”

By all accounts, despite three and a half years of training Iraqi troops and supporting the Iraqi government, the United States appears to have made little progress in creating a functioning government in Iraq or an armed forces capable of defending it. During the 1980s, the Soviets provided extensive military training and government support for the Afghan regime. Prior to that, the United States provided extensive military training and government support to the South Vietnamese regime. What ultimately mattered, however, was that the people of those countries did not see these foreign-installed regimes as legitimate, and as a result, were not willing to fight and die to defend them. This appears to be what is happening in Iraq. As a result, the United States will be in Iraq for a long, long time.

“Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us.”

This assertion is simply a retread of the long-discredited line used to justify the U.S. war in Vietnam: “If we don’t fight them over there, we will have to fight them here.” Despite this often-repeated phrase by both Republicans and Democrats in the White House, Capitol Hill, and the mainstream media during the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, not once in the more than three decades since the National Liberation Front marched into Saigon has the United States had to fight the Vietnamese or any other communists in our country. The Vietnamese stopped killing Americans when our troops left Vietnam. Presumably, Iraqis would do the same once we got out of their country.

“The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad ? If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; they will use Iraq’s resources to fuel their extremist movement.”

There are dozens of different armed militias battling U.S. forces. Supporters of Osama bin Laden represent only a tiny percentage of the insurgency. Even if the U.S.-backed Iraqi government falls, supporters of al-Qaida could in no way end up in control of that country. Their ideology and tactics are opposed not only by the vast majority of Iraqis but by the majority of the insurgents as well. The safety of America is threatened by a continuation of the U.S. occupation and the bloody counter-insurgency war that is fueling anti-American extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

“We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom. Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom. For 60 years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither. So we changed our policies, and committed America’s influence in the world to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. With our help, the people of the Middle East are now stepping forward to claim their freedom. By standing with democratic leaders and reformers, by giving voice to the hopes of decent men and women, we’re offering a path away from radicalism.”

There is no question that people in the Middle East want freedom; for President Bush to imply that those who disagree with his policies feel otherwise is incredibly misleading. Despite a shift in rhetoric, however, U.S. policy regarding freedom and democracy in the Middle East has not changed. Under President Bush, U.S. security assistance and arms transfers to autocratic regimes in the greater Middle East has actually increased. The United States still provides unconditional military and police support for the brutal Islamic fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia and other family dictatorships of the Persian Gulf. U.S. taxpayers continue to give billions of dollars annually to prop up the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. It was from these countries that the 9/11 hijackers, the al-Qaida leadership, and the terrorist organization’s financial support came, not from Iraq and Afghanistan, whose despotic governments were overthrown by U.S. forces, nor from Syria or Iran, whose repressive governments are now the focus of U.S. threats.

In addition, in the two years after 9/11, President Bush provided over a billion dollars of aid to the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan “which has massacred hundreds of pro-democracy activists” and will shortly be welcoming the corrupt dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev of neighboring Kazakhstan to his summer home in Maine. From Pakistan to Azerbaijan to Tunisia to Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, the Bush administration has provided aid and comfort to the forces of repression. By contrast, soon after the people of Lebanon and Palestine voted in free elections, the Bush administration backed brutal military assaults against those countries by the government of Israel. And, rather than being a model for democracy, the U.S. backed government in Iraq and militias of its ruling parties have engaged in widespread extra-judicial killings, torture, ethnic cleansing, and other gross and systematic human rights abuses.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/bush_on_911_annotated

A Mis-statement of the Union Address

This essay evaluates some of the key claims made by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address of January 31, 2006.

“In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom—or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy—or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting—yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people… the only way to secure the peace… the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership—so the United States of America will continue to lead.”

This is an extraordinarily simplistic formulation of a series of complex issues facing the United States and the world. Opposing a foreign policy that includes the invasion of sovereign nations on the far side of the globe and prosecuting bloody counter-insurgency wars is not a call to “retreat from our duties.” Opposing neoliberal international economic policies that favor powerful multinational corporations at the expense of American jobs, labor rights, consumer protection, and a healthy environment is not a call to “shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity.” Challenging such dangerous policies of the Bush administration is not advocating “isolationism and protectionism.”

More fundamentally, the pursuit of a foreign policy based upon reckless unilateralism and militarism—which has alienated our country from the vast majority of the international community—is not the same as “leadership.”

Terrorism, Authoritarianism, and Freedom

“On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.”

Actually, the “problems” that led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States did not originate in Afghanistan. Sixteen of the nineteen hijackers were from the oppressive, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Saudi Arabia and others were from the oppressive, U.S.-backed dictatorships in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Most of them had received more “training” in flight schools in the United States than they ever did in Afghanistan and the terrorist cells from which the 9/11 hijackers emerged did not coalesce in “failed and oppressive states,” but in Germany and the United States. Furthermore, the rise of the Taliban and the chaos that did take place in the “failed and oppressive state” of Afghanistan came about in part as a result of the $5 billion of aid the U.S. government sent to radical Islamic militias in that country during the 1980s.

“Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror.”

Again, this is an incredibly simplistic formulation: The United States is a democracy, but it has sheltered Cuban and Nicaraguan terrorists implicated in attacks that have killed scores of civilians. Similarly, the United States—along with such democracies as Great Britain, France, India, and Israel—have pursued and possess nuclear weapons. Furthermore, a number of democratic nations have failed to respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors. For example, Israel has invaded and occupied its neighbors and India has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its citizens in Kashmir, the Punjab, and its eastern states.

Conversely, there are scores of dictatorships that do not shelter terrorists or seek weapons of mass destruction.

“Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122.”

First of all, this impressive figure ignores the fact that there were only about 60 independent countries in the world in 1945; there are nearly 200 today. So, while there has been a five-fold increase in the total number of democratic governments, if one measures in terms of overall percentage, it is an increase of barely 50%.

More significantly, in those intervening years, the United States helped facilitate the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Guatemala, Iran, Chile, and several other countries and actively supported dictatorial regimes that suppressed popular movements for freedom in scores of others.

As a result, the advance of freedom is an important and laudable achievement, yet it has in large part taken place despite of, rather than because of, U.S. foreign policy.

“We are writing a new chapter in the history of self-government, with … men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom.

Despite longstanding domination by Syria, men and women in the Republic of Lebanon have been openly debating individual rights and the necessity of freedom for decades, long before the Bush administration assumed office. The Lebanese people significantly advanced their freedom when they finally forced Syrian troops out of their country through a massive nonviolent uprising they initiated on their own. Though supportive of the Syrian withdrawal, it is important to remember that the United States backed Syria’s decision to send its troops into Lebanon back in 1976 as well as its consolidation of power in 1990. The United States also backed Israel’s 1978 and 1982 invasions and its 22-year occupation of the southern part of that country, also raising questions as to the sincerity of professed U.S. support for Lebanese freedom.

Meanwhile, Egypt is still under the grip of the U.S.-backed Mubarak dictatorship, which has beaten, arrested, jailed, and tortured hundreds of pro-democracy activists while enjoying its status as the second-largest recipient of U.S. military and economic aid. Egyptians may indeed debate “the rights of individuals and necessity of freedom,” but they do so at their own jeopardy.

“At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half—in places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran—because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well.”

It is revealing that the only governments President Bush bothered to mention by name are among the minority of autocratic regimes that are not supported by the United States. By contrast, he notably failed to mention Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Brunei, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Cameroon, Chad, or scores of other dictatorial regimes that have received billions of dollars worth of police and military assistance from the United States since President Bush came to office.

“Terrorists like bin Laden … aim to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world.”

First of all, al-Qaida is a decentralized network of underground terrorist cells which has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to launch terrorist attacks around the world without controlling any country.

Secondly, Salafi Sunni extremists of the likes of Osama bin Laden make up only a small minority of the armed Iraqi resistance, so it’s hard to conceive how they would be able to seize power even in the unlikely event of an insurgent victory.

Finally, it is important to remember that outside of a tiny enclave in the northeastern corner of the autonomous Kurdish region outside of Saddam Hussein’s control, Islamist terrorists had no active presence in Iraq until after the United States invaded in 2003. As a result, whatever threat may actually exist of such Salafi Sunni extremists taking over Iraq is a direct consequence of Bush administration policy.

“If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores.”

Despite similar claims during the Vietnam War that “if we don’t fight them over there we’ll have to fight them here,” the Vietnamese fighting U.S. forces did not move the battlefield to America once U.S. troops got out of their country. The Afghans fighting Soviet forces did not move the battlefield to Russia when the Soviets got out of their country. Similarly, the Iraqis fighting U.S. forces will not move the battlefield to America once we get out of their country. It is the ongoing occupation of Iraq by U.S. forces, the bombing and shelling of Iraqi cities, the torture of Iraqi detainees, and the chaos and destruction inflicted upon that ancient land as a result of the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation that is prompting the insurgency. The U.S. war in Iraq is creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.

On Iraq

“There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat.”

There is no peace or honor in violating the United Nations Charter, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and other international legal principles by invading a sovereign nation on the far side of the world and torturing and killing its people.

“And we are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory.”

In reality, U.S. forces are increasingly relegated to defensive positions. The much hyped “plan for victory” put forward by the administration at the end of last year has since been revealed to have been written not by military commanders or strategic planners, but by a public relations firm.

“First, we are helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased, and the insurgency marginalized.”

Virtually all accounts of what is really happening in Iraq indicate the following: The government that is emerging, like the outgoing regime, will likely be dominated by Iranian-backed Shiite fundamentalists who have engaged in widespread human rights abuses against the country’s Sunni minority. Ethnic tensions have increased dramatically since the U.S. invasion and are getting worse. And the insurgency is growing.

“Second, we are continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom.”

The Bush administration has essentially eliminated additional funding for reconstruction and diverted much of what was originally allocated for security. Corruption is endemic and the economy has largely collapsed. Millions of Iraqis lack freedom from fear or freedom from want, making it difficult to appreciate the post-Saddam right to elect their own government. The “modern economy” imposed in the early months of the U.S. occupation has included the massive privatization of public enterprises, allowing unlimited foreign ownership and repatriation of profits, a 15% flat tax, and scores of other measures restructuring the economy on neoliberal lines, which has proven decidedly unpopular with the Iraqi people, currently suffering from record unemployment and poverty.

“At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan for victory … Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.”

Infiltration by foreign terrorists was virtually non-existent in Iraq in the years immediately preceding the American conquest, but—as a result of the U.S. invasion—it has become a serious problem and has increased every year since. Similarly, areas of Iraq controlled by insurgents have grown each year since U.S. forces took over that country. Few Iraqi units can be trusted to maintain control over much territory without an active U.S. presence alongside them. Furthermore, virtually every published independent strategic analysis as well as leaked documents from a number of U.S. military and intelligence sources reveal that the United States is not winning the war.

“The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels—but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, DC.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly overruled advice from military commanders regarding Iraq since the early planning stages for the invasion. The decision to invade Iraq and place American forces in an extremely vulnerable urban guerrilla warfare situation could have only been made by politicians—few American commanders would support such a foolish decision on their own—but they were the pro-war politicians, not the anti-war politicians to whom President Bush refers. The growing numbers of Democratic members of Congress who have belatedly called for a withdrawal of U.S. forces have done so in large part not out of their own initiative, but in response to the demands of their constituents who elected them to office and to whom they are accountable.

The Bush administration has also repeatedly exaggerated the state of readiness of the Iraqi armed forces. As a result, there are serious questions as to whether a military victory is even possible.

“Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq. We have adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction.”

The Bush administration, despite its earlier promises, has essentially given up on serious reconstruction efforts. And, while U.S. forces have improved their tactics as a result of nearly three years of fighting, so have the insurgents. And there is not much of a coalition to speak of at this point. The British are the only foreign forces remaining in the “coalition” that are still engaged in active combat operations.

“Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.”

Recognizing that the war is probably unwinnable is not defeatism. It is realism. Aiming for an unachievable military “success” is not responsible. It is a folly of tragic proportions. And insisting the Bush administration be held accountable for the lies, the negligence, and the tragic blunders which have resulted from this ongoing tragedy is a patriotic duty.

“A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison … put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country … and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress, however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our Nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.”

First of all, Iraqis are already experiencing death and prison as the war and repression continue.

Secondly, after fighting to rid American and British foreigners from their soil, it’s hard to imagine the highly nationalistic and predominantly Shiite Iraqis would tolerate being ruled by a Saudi or Jordanian Sunni extremist.

Thirdly, the strength of such terrorists is growing as long as the United States continues to prosecute its bloody counter-insurgency war in the heart of the Islamic world. Most significantly, the United States has already broken perhaps its most solemn pledge: The United Nations Charter, which resulted from a global awareness that the tragic events of World War II would not be repeated and the writing of which was heavily influenced by Americans, mandates that no nation can engage in an aggressive war. The use of force is recognized as legitimate only if explicitly authorized by the UN Security Council as a last resort to ensure collective security or in self-defense against an armed attack. When the United States signed and ratified the UN Charter in 1945, it made a pledge to the world that it would never engage in anything like the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Similarly, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, treaties signed and ratified by the United States are Supreme Law. When President Bush launched the invasion and when members of Congress authorized the invasion, they chose to pursue a policy in direct contravention of the treaty obligations of the United States, thereby violating their oath of office in which they pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution.

“Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East.”

The United States remains the number one supplier of armaments and police training in the world, most of which goes to governments which engage in a pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations. U.S. military aid to the Middle East is six times U.S. economic aid. In addition, U.S. arms sales to that region surpass that of consumer goods, high technology, and agriculture as the number one commercial export. If President Bush were serious about promoting political freedom and peaceful change, he would end U.S. support of repressive governments and stop fueling the deadly arms trade.

Democracy in the Middle East

“The great people of Egypt have voted in a multi-party presidential election—and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism.”

This “multi-party presidential election” barred the largest opposition party from participating, effectively banned independent candidates, and refused to allow for international election monitors. It could not even remotely be considered a free and fair election. While President Bush’s call for the Mubarak regime to “open paths of peaceful opposition” are good words, he has refused to back them up with action, categorically rejecting calls by human rights activists to condition U.S. military and economic aid to the Egyptian government ending its human rights abuses.

“The Palestinian people have voted in elections—now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace.”

While such demands are valid, it is noteworthy that President Bush says nothing about ending Israel’s ongoing occupation and illegal colonization of the West Bank, which has resulted in the dramatic growth of that radical Islamist movement.

“Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform—now it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts.”

These “first steps”—some male-only elections for a minority of seats on some local legislative councils—are quite meager. By almost any measure, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains a family dictatorship whose Islamic fundamentalist rule and lack of accountable government is significantly worse than even that of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions—and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”

It is significant that President Bush chooses to make an issue over Iran’s nuclear program, which is years away from producing nuclear weapons, while making no mention of Israel, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, already possesses nuclear weapons, and continues to defy the world through its violation of UN Security Council resolution 487, which calls on that country to place its nuclear program under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Nor does President Bush mention India and Pakistan, which have also refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, already possess nuclear weapons, and continue to defy UN Security Council resolution 1172, which calls on those countries to eliminate their nuclear programs altogether. Indeed, President Bush has sent billions of dollars worth of highly sophisticated weapons to Israel, has agreed to sell nuclear-capable jet fighters to Pakistan, and has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

“And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.”

If this is really the case, why did the United States overthrow Iran’s last democratic government, that of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh? If the United States really respects the rights of the Iranian people to choose their own future, why did successive U.S. administrations support the tyrannical regime of Shah Reza Pahlavi, installed by the United States following Mossadegh’s ouster, whose dreaded CIA-trained SAVAK secret police tortured and murdered thousands of dissidents, thereby spawning the Islamist revolution that has since come to power?

Counter-Terrorism and Civil Liberties

“It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack—based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute—I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have—and Federal courts have approved the use of that authority. This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it—because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.”

First of all, there is nothing under the existing 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court approval before or immediately after the executive branch orders electronic surveillance, that prevented the Bush administration from monitoring the overseas phone calls to al-Qaida operatives prior to 9/11.

Secondly, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution which gives the president the authority to order wiretaps without judicial or Congressional approval.

Thirdly, Congress never granted statutory authority for President Bush to engage in warrantless wiretaps.

Fourthly, previous presidents who have ordered wiretapping have generally done so only with court approval. When President Richard Nixon was discovered to have ordered warrantless wiretaps, it was incorporated in the articles of impeachment that drove him from office.

Most importantly, President Bush has failed to present any evidence whatsoever that warrantless wiretaps have “helped prevent terrorist attacks” or that it is somehow “essential to the security of America.” The choice is not one of either violating the civil liberties of Americans or “sitting back and waiting to be hit again.”

“Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy—a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress. And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.”

Unfortunately, President Bush’s foreign policy agenda has for the most part been embraced by a bipartisan majority of Congress. The Congressional Democratic leadership joined President Bush in deceiving the American public about non-existent Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction,” authorized the invasion of Iraq, and continues to support funding the war. They have also supported his policy of threatening war against Iran while backing other regimes which violate human rights and develop nuclear weapons. Similarly, they have defended President Bush’s support for Israel’s occupation and colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and they have helped the Bush administration undermine international law and discredit the United Nations.

Such policies do not protect America, however, since such policies only increase anti-Americanism and the appeal of extremist ideologies and terrorist groups. They do not support the men and women of the armed forces, who are taken from their homes and families to fight in a bloody and fruitless counter-insurgency war in a faraway land. And they do not lead the world toward freedom, since such policies include the backing of dictatorial regimes and occupation armies.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/a_mis-statement_of_the_union_address

President Bush’s Foreign Policy Discussion in the 2005 State of the Union Address

The foreign policy segments of President George W. Bush’s state of the Union address spoke to values and concerns that resonate with the majority of Americans from across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, much of what was said during his speech was quite misleading.

Below are excerpts from the February 2 State of the Union address, followed by a short critical analysis.

“There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction?but no longer without attention and without consequences.”

The world has long paid attention to regimes that seek weapons of mass destruction. That is why the international community developed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxic Weapons, along with their enforcement bodies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Indeed, not only does there not seem to have been any more attention or additional threat of consequences to regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction as a result of the Bush administration?s actions, but the administration has tried repeatedly to discredit and undermine the authority of these enforcement bodies.

Iraq had eliminated its chemical weapons and its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs over ten years ago and had allowed unfettered inspections by United Nations officials to resume, yet the United States invaded anyway. By contrast, North Korea restarted its nuclear program and has continued to bar inspectors, but it has not been invaded. The message from U.S. policymakers appears to be that the most serious consequences will result if you stop seeking weapons of mass destruction and allow in UN inspectors.

?In Iraq, 28 countries have troops on the ground, the United Nations and the European Union provided technical assistance for the elections, and NATO is leading a mission to help train Iraqi officers.?

The vast majority of these ?troops? are not combat troops and most of these contingents consist of well under fifty participants. The UN and EU role in the elections, along with the NATO training programs, has been somewhat more tangible, but nevertheless limited and have taken place primarily outside of Iraq. America?s ?coalition? partners continue to dwindle. Iraq continues to be an overwhelmingly American operation, with only the British providing substantial assistance.

?In the long term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom?. And we have declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world?

?Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.?

President Bush is certainly correct regarding the correlation between autocratic governance and the rise of extremism. However, the United States has long been the primary backer of repressive governments in the Middle East and, under President Bush, military and security ties with these dictatorships has increased. It is important to note that sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, whose family dictatorship has received tens of billions of dollars worth of military hardware and security assistance from the United States since President Bush came to office. The man believed to be the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Attah, is Egyptian, whose autocratic Mubarak regime receives more than two billion dollars worth of taxpayer-provided military and economic aid annually. None of the hijackers or any prominent al-Qaida leader has come from Iran, Syria, Palestine, Taliban Afghanistan, or Saddam?s Iraq, the countries that President Bush most commonly cites as needing greater freedom in order to support American security interests.

If President Bush was serious about promoting freedom, he would call for an immediate cessation of arms transfers and any forms of security assistance to Middle Eastern governments which do not ?respect their own people and their neighbors.? He has not done so, however.

To cite just one example, there have been few greater allies of freedom than Egypt?s Saad El-Din Ibrahim and his Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, and its journal Civil Society. Among the Center?s activities was monitoring elections and workshops and civic education. Unfortunately, in 2001, Egyptian authorities arrested Saladin and twenty-seven associates, shut down the Ibn Khaldun Center, and banned their journal. Despite this, U.S. aid has continued to flow to Mubarak?s corrupt dictatorship.

Finally, democracies do not necessarily respect their neighbors. Israel is an exemplary democracy (at least for its Jewish citizens), but it has maintained an oftentimes repressive occupation of its Palestinian neighbors since 1967, including widespread and ongoing violations of international humanitarian law.

?The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. ?Secretary of State Rice?will discuss with [Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent democratic state.?

Pro-democracy activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the harshest critics of the corrupt and autocratic rule of the late Yasir Arafat, have long argued that the greatest obstacle to the creation of peaceful, independent and democratic Palestinian state is the Israeli occupation. President Bush has not demanded that Israel end its military occupation, which continues to deny the Palestinians their freedom and which has resulted in the terrorist backlash.

?To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach?and America will help them achieve that goal.?

First of all, the $350 million figure hardly covers the damage inflicted upon Palestinian society and infrastructure by Israel in recent years, including the U.S.-backed military offensive during the spring of 2002. That figure is also less than one-tenth of what the administration sends annually to the far more prosperous government of Israel, much of which goes to support the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is the major impediment to peace.

While Bush is the first president to so explicitly call for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, there are serious questions as to what kind of ?state? he has in mind. He has refused to endorse the Geneva Initiative, the model peace agreement signed in December 2003 by leading Israeli and Palestinian moderates which calls for the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces and colonists from lands seized in 1967 (with minor and reciprocal border adjustments), a shared co-capital in Jerusalem, strict security guarantees for Israel, and no mass return of Palestinian refugees into Israel. Instead, President Bush has endorsed the Sharon Plan, which?while calling for the withdrawal of Israel?s illegal settlements from the occupied Gaza Strip?allows Israel to annex the vast majority of its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and surrounding Palestinian lands, leaving the Palestinians with only a series of small non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel. Israel would control the air space, water resources, and the movement of people and goods within the archipelago of Palestinian territory as well as between this Palestinian territory and neighboring Egypt and Jordan. In short, the ?Palestinian state? that Bush envisions appears to bear a far closer resemblance to the infamous Bantustans of apartheid South Africa than a viable independent country.

?To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to? pursue weapons of mass murder.?

The Bush administration has refused to confront Israel regarding its arsenal of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, even though Israel is required through UN Security Council resolution 487 to place its nuclear program under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has refused to confront Pakistan and India in their refusal to disarm as well, despite UN Security Council resolution 1172 requiring these nations to get rid of their nuclear weapons; in fact, the Bush administration dropped sanctions imposed under President Clinton against these two countries. The Bush administration has also failed to confront Egypt, despite its maintaining an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

The Bush administration?s attitude appears to be that it is only willing to confront Middle Eastern countries which ?pursue weapons of mass murder? if they are not strategic allies. Indeed, the Bush administration has rejected calls by such diverse countries as Jordan, Syria, Iran, and Egypt for the establishment of a WMD-free zone for the entire Middle East, instead opting for a kind of WMD apartheid where the United States alone has the authority to say which countries can develop these dangerous weapons and which ones cannot. Even putting aside the legal and moral concerns of such double standards, they simply will not work; any attempt to impose a regime of haves and have-nots from the outside will only encourage the have-nots to try even harder to become one of the haves.

?Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. ? We expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.?

Syria?like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states?indeed must open its door to freedom, both for its own people as well as for the people of Lebanon, over whose government Syria exercises considerable influence. However, the State Department has acknowledged that Syria has not directly engaged in terrorist operations for more than twenty years.

The Hizbullah movement in Lebanon, which has received limited Syrian support, is now a legal political party with representation in the Lebanese parliament. It appears that its armed wing has not engaged in any acts of international terrorism for more than a decade and it has restricted its attacks against Israeli occupation forces in southern Lebanon and disputed border regions of Syria. Some tiny leftist groups composed of radical Palestinian exiles remain in Syria, but they are largely defunct at this point and are no longer much of a threat. Hamas has a political office in Damascus, as it does in a number of Arab capitals, but its military operations have come almost exclusively from within the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank. In short, Syria is at most a very minor actor in international terrorism and has been an active ally against al-Qaida.

In addition, for well over a decade, the Syrian government has pledged strict security guarantees and even full diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for Israel returning Syrian land conquered in the 1967 war. A series of UN Security Council resolutions have called on Israel to rescind its annexation of the Golan region, end its ongoing colonization and?in return for security guarantees like those offered by the Damascus government?return the territory to Syria. However, the U.S.-backed Sharon government of Israel has thus far refused to even consider living up to its international obligations. Syria has repeatedly called for a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel, which came tantalizingly close to a final settlement in early 2000 under the more moderate Labor government of Ehud Barak, but the hard-line Sharon has refused the offer.

While much positive can be said about Israel?s democratic institutions and traditions and much negative can be said about the autocratic Assad regime in Syria, the fact remains that it is Israel, not Syria, which is primarily responsible for the failure of the peace process between these two nations.

?Today, Iran [is]? pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for you own liberty, America stands with you.?

Just as he did with Iraq, despite his inability to provide credible evidence to support his assertion, President Bush is now insisting that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Though Iran?s potential to develop nuclear weapons is far greater than that of Iraq during the final decade of Saddam Hussein?s rule and certainly cannot be ruled out, the Islamic Republic?s nuclear program?which began with U.S. support under the Shah?s regime?appears to be restricted to the development of nuclear energy, which (despite its environmental risks and other concerns) is perfectly legal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Unfortunately, the United States has not been working with the Europeans in their thus far successful efforts to prevent Iran from further developing its nuclear program. In fact, the Bush administration has been rather hostile to the efforts of both the Europeans and the International Atomic Energy Agency for its strategy of negotiations, insisting instead on strict sanctions and threatening possible military action.

The past year or so has seen serious setbacks in the gradual political opening Iran had been experiencing over the past decade. However, the Bush administration?s concerns for the Iranian people?s struggle for liberty should not be taken seriously. It is important to remember that Iran was once free and democratic back in the early 1950s. This bold democratic experiment was cut short, however, when the CIA overthrew the constitutional government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and replaced him with the tyrannical Shah who?with active U.S. support of his brutal SAVAK secret police?largely succeeded in subsequent years to wipe out the democratic opposition. Unable to get inside the mosques enough to eliminate the Islamist opposition, when a popular revolt finally ousted him in 1979, the country became dominated by hard-line clerics. The United States has never apologized for its illegal coup against Mossadegh and its quarter century of support for the Shah?s repression.

It should also be noted that leading Iranian democrats have defended their country?s nuclear program and have argued that support of their efforts by the Bush administration hurts their credibility and opens them up to further repression.

It should also be noted that leading Iranian democrats have defended their country?s nuclear program and have argued that support of their efforts by the Bush administration hurts their credibility and opens them up to further repression.

Extremist Islamic groups have coalesced in Iraq today for the same reason they came together in Afghanistan during the 1980s: to support a popular resistance movement in a Muslim society that had been invaded and occupied by a foreign power which sought to impose its system upon them. Most Iraqis, like most Afghans, want to be free from the violence imposed upon them by both terrorists and foreign occupation policies and to determine their own future free from outside influence.

?Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home.?

This is simply a retread of the rationalization so often given during the 1960s and early 1970s as to why U.S. forces could not leave Vietnam: ?If we don?t fight them over there, we will have to fight them here.? Nearly thirty years after the communists completed their takeover of South Vietnam, however, the Vietnamese have yet to attack the United States. In fact, they are becoming increasingly valuable trading partners. Vietnamese stopped killing Americans when American forces got out of their country and stopped killing them. So, presumably, would the Iraqis.

?And the victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.?

It is noteworthy that reformers in Syria and Iran have been quite critical of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, arguing that it has actually provoked the rise of extremist elements in the Middle East and strengthened the repressive regimes in Damascus and Tehran which rationalize for their tightening control due to security concerns along their border with Iraq. Research by leading think tanks?as well as the Pentagon, State Department, and the CIA?indicate that U.S. intervention in Iraq has actually increased the risks from terrorism through heightened anti-American sentiment and has contributed to the instability of the region by strengthening the appeal of these extremist groups.

?We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty ?as they showed the world last Sunday?.

?Americans recognize that spirit of liberty, because we share it. In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility; for millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all?

?We will succeed in Iraq because Iraqis are determined to fight for their own freedom, and to write their own history.?

Despite the many problems and limitations of the January 30 Iraqi election, it was indeed a remarkable testament of the Iraqi people?s desire for self-determination and for accountable government.

However, little credit should be given to President Bush. It should be remembered that the Bush administration, during most of the first year of the U.S. occupation, strongly opposed holding direct elections. Initially, the United States supported the installation of Ahmed Chalabi or some other compliant exile as leader of Iraq. Then, U.S. officials tried to keep their viceroy Paul Bremer in power indefinitely. Next, the Bush administration pushed for a caucus system where appointees of American appointees would choose the new government. It was only after Ayatollah Sistani brought hundreds of thousands of Shiites out onto the streets in January 2004 demanding direct elections that President Bush did give in, but?instead of going ahead with the poll in May as proposed?he postponed it until the following January after the security situation had deteriorated so badly that most of the large and important Sunni Arab minority was unable or unwilling to participate. Furthermore, the insurgency has now reached the point where it appears that the new government will be largely dependent on the ongoing presence of American troops for their survival.

In addition, there are still serious questions as to whether the United States will even allow the Iraqi people to fully exercise their freedom and write their own history. Prior to his departure, Bremer established a series of Transitional Administrative Laws, which included the privatization of much of the country?s public assets, unrestricted foreign investment and repatriation of profits, and other controversial economic measures that are almost impossible for the new government to overturn. U.S. citizens in Iraq continue to enjoy extraterritorial rights, meaning they cannot be prosecuted in Iraq for any crime, no matter how serious. U.S. forces can move and attack at will anywhere in the country without the government?s assent. Americans have a major presence in virtually every Iraqi government ministry and largely control their budgets. U.S. appointees with terms lasting through 2009 are in charge of ?control commissions? which oversee fiscal policy, the media, and other important regulatory areas. U.S. appointees also dominate the judiciary, which has the power to overturn government laws.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/president_bushs_foreign_policy_discussion_in_the_2005_state_of_the_union_address

A Critique of the Most Misleading Statements in the Foreign Policy Segments of President Bush’s 2005 State of the Union Address

The foreign policy segments of President George W. Bush’s state of the Union address spoke to values and concerns that resonate with the majority of Americans from across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, much of what was said during his speech was quite misleading.

Below are excerpts from the February 2 State of the Union address, followed by a short critical analysis.

“There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction “ but no longer without attention and without consequences.”

The world has long paid attention to regimes that seek weapons of mass destruction. That is why the international community developed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxic Weapons, along with their enforcement bodies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Indeed, not only does there not seem to have been any more attention or additional threat of consequences to regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction as a result of the Bush administration”s actions, but the administration has tried repeatedly to discredit and undermine the authority of these enforcement bodies.

Iraq had eliminated its chemical weapons and its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs over ten years ago and had allowed unfettered inspections by United Nations officials to resume, yet the United States invaded anyway. By contrast, North Korea restarted its nuclear program and has continued to bar inspectors, but it has not been invaded. The message from U.S. policy makes appears to be that the most serious consequences will result if you stop seeking weapons of mass destruction and allow in UN inspectors.

“In Iraq, 28 countries have troops on the ground, the United Nations and the European Union provided technical assistance for the elections, and NATO is leading a mission to help train Iraqi officers.”

The vast majority of these “troops” are not combat troops and most of these contingents consist of well under fifty participants. The UN and EU role in the elections, along with the NATO training programs, has been somewhat more tangible, but nevertheless limited and have taken place primarily outside of Iraq. America”s “coalition” partners continue to dwindle. Iraq continues to be an overwhelmingly American operation, with only the British providing substantial assistance.

“In the long term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom”. And we have declared our on intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”.

“Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.”

President Bush is certainly correct regarding the correlation between autocratic governance and the rise of extremism. However, the United States has long been the primary backer of repressive governments in the Middle East and, under President Bush, military and security ties with these dictatorships has increased. It is important to note that sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, whose family dictatorship has received tens of billions of dollars worth of military hardware and security assistance from the United States since President Bush came to office. The man believed to be the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Attah, is Egyptian, whose autocratic Mubarak regime receives more than two billion dollars worth of taxpayer-provided military and economic aid annually. None of the hijackers or any prominent Al-Qaeda leader has come from Iran, Syria, Palestine, Taliban Afghanistan or Saddam”s Iraq, the countries that President Bush most commonly cites as needing greater freedom in order to support American security interests.

If President Bush was serious about promoting freedom, he would call for an immediate cessation of arms transfers and any forms of security assistance to Middle Eastern governments which do not “respect their own people and their neighbors.” He has not done so, however.

To cite just one example, there have been few greater allies of freedom than Egypt”s Saad El-Din Ibrahim and his Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, and its journal Civil Society. Among the Center”s activities was monitoring elections and workshops and civic education. Unfortunately, in 2001, Egyptian authorities arrested Saladin and twenty-seven associates, shut down the Ibn Khaldun Center, and banned their journal. Despite this, U.S. aid has continued to flow to Mubarak”s corrupt dictatorship.

Finally, democracies do not necessarily respect their neighbors. Israel is an exemplary democracy (at least for its Jewish citizens), but it has maintained an oftentimes repressive occupation of its Palestinian neighbors since 1967, including widespread and ongoing violations of international humanitarian law.

“The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. “Secretary of State Rice . . . will discuss with [Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent democratic state.”

Pro-democracy activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the harshest critics of the corrupt and autocratic rule of the late Yasir Arafat, have long argued that the greatest obstacle to the creation of peaceful, independent and democratic Palestinian state is the Israeli occupation. President Bush has not demanded that Israel end its military occupation, which continues to deny the Palestinians their freedom and which has resulted in the terrorist backlash.

“To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach “ and America will help them achieve that goal.”

First of all, the $350 million figure hardly covers the damage inflicted upon Palestinian society and infrastructure by Israel in recent years, including the U.S.-backed military offensive during the spring of 2002. That figure is also less than one-tenth of what the administration sends annually to the far more prosperous government of Israel, much of which goes to support the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is the major impediment to peace.

While Bush is the first president to so explicitly call for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, there are serious questions as to what kind of “state” he has in mind. He has refused to endorse the Geneva Initiative, the model peace agreement signed in December 2003 by leading Israeli and Palestinian moderates which calls for the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces and colonists from lands seized in the 1967 (with minor and reciprocal border adjustments), a shared co-capital in Jerusalem, strict security guarantees for Israel, and no mass return of Palestinian refugees into Israel. Instead, President Bush has endorsed the Sharon Plan, which “ while calling for the withdrawal of Israel”s illegal settlements from the occupied Gaza Strip “ allows Israel to annex the vast majority of its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and surrounding Palestinian lands, leaving the Palestinians with only a series of small non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel. Israel would control the air space, water resources, and the movement of people and goods within the archipelago of Palestinian territory as well as between this Palestinian territory and neighboring Egypt and Jordan. In short, the “Palestinian state” that Bush envisions appears to bear a far closer resemblance to the infamous Bantustans of apartheid South Africa than a viable independent country.

“To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to . . . pursue weapons of mass murder.”

The Bush administration has refused to confront Israel regarding its arsenal of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, even though Israel is required through UN Security Council resolution 487 to place its nuclear program under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has refused to confront Pakistan and India in their refusal to disarm as well, despite UN Security Council resolution 1172 requiring these nations to get rid of their nuclear weapons; in fact, the Bush administration dropped sanctions imposed under President Clinton against these two countries. The Bush administration has also failed to confront Egypt, despite its maintaining an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

The Bush administration”s attitude appears to be that it is only willing to confront Middle Eastern countries which “pursue weapons of mass murder” if they are not strategic allies. Indeed, the Bush administration has rejected calls by such diverse countries as Jordan, Syria, Iran and Egypt for the establishment of a WMD-free zone for the entire Middle East, instead opting for a kind of WMD apartheid where the United States alone has the authority to say which countries can develop these dangerous weapons and which ones cannot. Even putting aside the legal and moral concerns of such double-standards, they simply will not work: any attempt to impose a regime of haves and have nots from the outside will only encourage the have nots to try even harder to become one of the haves.

“Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. “ We expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.”

Syria “ like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states “ indeed must open its door to freedom, both for its own people as well as for the people of Lebanon, over whose government Syria exercises considerable influence. However, the State Department has acknowledged that Syria has not directly engaged in terrorist operations for more than twenty years.

The Hizbullah movement in Lebanon, which has received limited Syrian support, is now a legal political party with representation in the Lebanese parliament. It appears that its armed wing has not engaged in any acts of international terrorism for more than a decade and it has restricted its attacks against Israeli occupation forces in southern Lebanon and disputed border regions of Syria. Some tiny leftist groups composed of radical Palestinian exiles remain in Syria, but they are largely defunct at this point and are no longer much of a threat. Hamas has a political office in Damascus, as it does in a number of Arab capitals, but its military operations have come almost exclusively from within the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank. In short, Syria is at most a very minor actor in international terrorism and has been an active ally against Al-Qaeda.

In addition, for well over a decade, the Syrian government has pledged strict security guarantees and even full diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for Israel returning Syrian land conquered in the 1967 war. A series of UN Security Council resolutions have called on Israel to rescind its annexation of the Golan region, end its ongoing colonization and “ in return for security guarantees like those offered by the Damascus government “ return the territory to Syria. However, the U.S.-backed Sharon government of Israel has thus far refused to even consider living up to its international obligations. Syria has repeatedly called for a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel, which came tantalizingly close to a final settlement in early 2000 under the more moderate Labor government of Ehud Barak, but the hard-line Sharon has refused the offer.

While much positive can be said about Israel”s democratic institutions and traditions and much negative can be set about the autocratic Assad regime in Syria, the fact remains that it is Israel, not Syria, which is primarily responsible for the failure of the peace process between these two nations.

“Today, Iran [is] . . . pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror

“And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for you own liberty, America stands with you.”

Just as he did with Iraq, despite his inability to provide credible evident to support his assertion, President Bush is now insisting that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Though Iran”s potential to develop nuclear weapons is far greater than that of Iraq during the final decade of Saddam Hussein”s rule and certainly cannot be ruled out, the Islamic Republic”s nuclear program “ which began with U.S. support under the Shah”s regime “ appears to be restricted to the development of nuclear energy, which (despite its environmental risks and other concerns) is perfectly legal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Unfortunately, the United States has not been working with the Europeans in their thus far successful efforts to prevent Iran from further developing its nuclear program. In fact, the Bush administration has been rather hostile to the efforts of both the Europeans and the International Atomic Energy Agency for its strategy of negotiations, insisting instead on strict sanctions and threatening possible military action.

The past year or so has seen serious setbacks in the gradual political opening Iran had been experiencing over the past decade. However, the Bush administration”s concerns for the Iranian people”s struggle for liberty should not be taken seriously. It is important to remember that Iran was once free and democratic back in the early 1950s. This bold democratic experiment was cut short, however, when the CIA overthrew the constitutional government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and replaced him with the tyrannical Shah who “ with active U.S. support of his brutal SAVAK secret police “ largely succeeded in subsequent years to wipe out the democratic opposition. Unable to get inside the mosques enough to eliminate the Islamist opposition, when a popular revolt finally ousted him in 1979, the country became dominated by hard-line clerics. The United States has never apologized for its illegal coup against Mossadegh and its quarter century of support for the Shah”s repression.

It should also be noted that leading Iranian democrats have defended their country”s nuclear program and have argued that support of their efforts by the Bush administration hurts their credibility and opens them up to further repression.

“Our generational commitment to the advance of freedom, especially in the Middle East, is now being tested and honored in Iraq. That county is a vital front in the war on terror, which is why the terrorists have chosen to make a stand there. Extremist Islamic groups have coalesced in Iraq today for the same reason they came together in Afghanistan during the 1980s: to support a popular resistance movement in a Muslim society that had been invaded and occupied by a foreign power which sought to impose its system upon them. Most Iraqis, like most Afghans, want to be free from the violence imposed upon them by both terrorists and foreign occupation policies and to determine their own future free from outside influence.

“Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home.” This is simply a retread of the rationalization so often given during the 1960s and early 1970s as to why U.S. forces could not leave Vietnam: “If we don”t fight them over there, we will have to fight them here.” Nearly thirty years after the communists completed their takeover of South Vietnam, however, the Vietnamese have yet to attack the United States. In fact, they are becoming increasingly valuable trading partners. Vietnamese stopped killing Americans when American forces got out of their country and stopped killing them. So, presumably, would the Iraqis.

“And the victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

It is noteworthy that reformers in Syria and Iran have been quite critical of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, arguing that it has actually provoked the rise of extremist elements in the Middle East and strengthened the repressive regimes in Damascus and Tehran which rationalize for their tightening control due to security concerns along their border with Iraq. Research by leading think tanks “ as well as the Pentagon, State Department and the CIA “ indicate that U.S. intervention in Iraq has actually increased the risks from terrorism through heightened anti-American sentiment and has contributed to the instability of the region by strengthening the appeal of these extremist groups.

“We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty — as they showed the world last Sunday”.

“Americans recognize that spirit of liberty, because we share it. In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility; for millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all”

“We will succeed in Iraq because Iraqis are determined to fight for their own freedom, and to write their own history.”

Despite the many problems and limitations of the January 30 Iraqi election, it was indeed a remarkable testament of the Iraqi people”s desire for self-determination and for accountable government.

However, little credit should be given to President Bush. It should be remembered that Bush administration, during most of the first year of the U.S. occupation, strongly opposed holding direct elections. Initially, the United States supported the installation of Ahmed Chalabi or some other compliant exile as leader of Iraq. Then, U.S. officials tried to keep their viceroy Paul Bremer in power indefinitely. Next, the Bush administration pushed for a caucus system where appointees of American appointees would choose the new government. It was only after Ayatollah Sistani brought hundreds of thousands of Shiites out onto the streets in January 2004 demanding direct elections did President Bush give in, but “ instead of going ahead with the poll in May as proposed “ he postponed it until the following January after the security situation had deteriorated so badly that most of the large and important Sunni Arab minority was unable or unwilling to participate. Furthermore, the insurgency has now reached the point where it appears that the new government will be largely dependent on the ongoing presence of American troops for their survival.

In addition, there are still serious questions as to whether the United States will even allow the Iraqi people to fully exercise their freedom and write their own history. Prior to his departure, Bremer established a series of Transitional Administrative Laws, which included the privatization of much of the country”s public assets, unrestricted foreign investment and repatriation of profits, and other controversial economic measures that are almost impossible for the new government to overturn. U.S. citizens in Iraq continue to enjoy extraterritorial rights, meaning they cannot be prosecuted in Iraq for any crime, no matter how serious. U.S. forces can move and attack at will anywhere in the country without the government”s assent. Americans have a major presence in virtually every Iraqi government ministry and largely control their budgets. U.S. appointees with terms lasting through 2009 are in charge of “control commissions” which oversee fiscal policy, the media, and other important regulatory areas. U.S. appointees also dominate the judiciary, which has the power to overturn government laws.

http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0205-27.htm

President Bush’s UN Speech: Idealistic Rhetoric Disguises Sinister Policies

Commentators in the mainstream media seem genuinely perplexed over the polite but notably unenthusiastic reception given to President George W. Bush’s September 21 address before the United Nations General Assembly. Why wasn’t a speech that emphasized such high ideals as democracy, the rule of law, and the threat of terrorism better received?

The answer may be found through a critical examination of the assumptions underlying the idealistic rhetoric of the U.S. president’s message. Below are a number of examples:

“We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. We know that oppressive governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their midst.”

Notwithstanding the clear moral preference of democracy over dictatorship, this formula fails to withstand closer scrutiny. There are many dictators in the past and present—-as nasty as they may have been toward their own people—-who have not engaged in acts of aggression against other nations and have not supported terrorists. Furthermore, the United States—-one of the world’s oldest democracies—-has demonstrated through its invasion of Iraq, as well as its earlier invasions of Panama, Grenada, and other countries, that it can certainly be “quick to choose aggression.” Similarly, the decision by the Bush administration a few weeks ago to allow into the country a group of right-wing Cuban exiles who had been implicated in a series of attacks against civilian targets-—including an attempt to set off a series of explosions in a crowded auditorium at a Panamanian university in 1998, and the blowing up of an airliner in Barbados in 1976-—as well as the active U.S. support for the Contra terrorists who attacked civilian targets in Nicaragua during the 1980s—-demonstrate that democracies do indeed allow “terrorists in their midst.”

“We’re determined to prevent proliferation, and to enforce the demands of the world [demanding that nations] fully comply with all Security Council resolutions.”

In reality, U.S. policy is not nearly as categorical as this statement implies. For example, since 1998, India and Pakistan have been in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1172, which calls upon these governments to cease their development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Since 1981, Israel has stood in violation of UN Security Council resolution 487, which calls upon that government to place its nuclear facilities under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States has repeatedly blocked the United Nations from enforcing those resolutions, even as it insisted that Iraqi noncompliance with similar resolutions required that the UN authorize an invasion of that country and the overthrow of its government. It appears that the Bush administration, like preceding Republican and Democratic administrations, is only concerned with UN resolutions regarding nonproliferation if the target of the resolution is a government they don’t like. Such double standards make a mockery of law-based efforts toward non-proliferation, however, and will likely encourage, rather than discourage, regimes to develop weapons of mass destruction.

“The Russian children [in Beslan] did nothing to deserve such awful suffering, and fright, and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder. These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures, and the principles of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers.”

All true. Yet the numbers of innocent civilians killed in recent years by American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as by U.S.-armed Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and by U.S.-armed Turkish forces in Kurdistan have far surpassed those killed by all Middle Eastern terrorist groups combined. While a case can certainly be made that the killings of civilians by the United States and its allies was, in most cases, not as wanton as the killings in these terrorist attacks, the callous disregard for civilian lives in many of these military operations did constitute clear violations of international humanitarian law.

“The dictator [Saddam Hussein] agreed in 1991, as a condition of a cease-fire, to fully comply with all Security Council resolutions—-then ignored more than a decade of those resolutions. Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say ‘serious consequences,’ for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world.”

First of all, the majority of member states that voted in favor of UN Security Council 1441-—which warned of “serious consequences” for continued Iraqi non-compliance-—explicitly stated that this was not an authorization for the use of force and that a subsequent resolution would be needed. The two times in its history that the UN Security Council has authorized the use of military force to enforce its resolution—-in response to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990-—such authorization was quite explicit.

Secondly, if one were to accept President Bush’s interpretation of “serious consequences” as simply another term for a foreign invasion of a sovereign nation, it is downright Orwellian to claim that such “serious consequences” must be inflicted “for the sake of peace.”

Finally, at the time the United States launched its invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi government had allowed United Nations inspectors back in with unfettered access to wherever they wanted to go whenever they wanted to, and they were in the process of confirming the fact that Iraq had indeed dismantled, destroyed, or otherwise rendered inoperable its proscribed weapons, delivery systems, and WMD programs. Therefore, the U.S.-led invasion did not “enforce the just demands of the world” since the demands were already being enforced without the use of military force.

“More than 10 million Afghan citizens-—over 4 million of them women-—are now registered to vote in next month’s presidential election. To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer.”

Currently in Afghanistan, vote-buying, intimidation, and the enormously disproportionate resources allocated to pro-government candidates raise serious questions as to how democratic these upcoming elections will be. Currently, there are more Afghan males registered to vote than there are eligible Afghan male voters; duplicate voting cards are commonplace and can be sold on the open market. The regime, which lacks solid control of much of the country outside the capital of Kabul, was largely hand-picked by the United States. The ongoing violence and chaos in the country, along with extremely high rates of illiteracy, raise serious questions as to whether the Western-style election the United States is trying to set up will have any credibility among the Afghans themselves.

No one should question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies. However, Afghanistan under U.S. domination is no more a model of a democratic society than Afghanistan under Soviet domination 20 years ago was a model of a socialist society.

“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.”

This assumes that the armed resistance in Iraq is not because a Western power invaded and occupied their country, failed to provide basic services and security, sold off key sectors of their economy to foreigners, and installed a puppet regime, but simply because its members don’t want democracy. It also fails to explain why when other Middle Eastern states have taken even further steps toward democracy than Iraq, there has not been this kind of terror. Indeed, the opposite is true: For example, there was virtually no terrorism when Algeria democratized its political system in the late 1980s, but then saw an enormous rise in terrorism after a military coup short-circuited its democratic experiment at the end of 1991.

“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.”

First of all, well over 90% of the fighting is by U.S. forces, hardly a “coalition.”

Secondly, there are indeed terrorists among the dozen or more opposition groups in Iraq, but the majority of the armed opposition has been targeting U.S. occupation forces, not civilians, and therefore should not be considered terrorists. Similarly, there are foreign fighters among them, but most credible sources put the percentage of foreigners in the various resistance groups—-terrorist and otherwise-—at well under 5%.

Thirdly, this idea that if the United States withdrew, these terrorists would suddenly leave Iraq and start attacking the United States and other countries is specious. This is simply a retread of the rationalization used during the Vietnam War that “if we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them here.” Despite the U.S. withdrawal and the Communist victory nearly 30 years ago, the Vietnamese have yet to attack the United States. The Vietnamese stopped killing Americans when American forces got out of Vietnam. One can similarly assume that the Iraqis will stop killing Americans when American forces get out of Iraq.

“For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability. Oppression became common, but stability never arrived. We must take a different approach. We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations.”

These are noble words, but the reality of U.S. policy is very different: Under the Bush administration, U.S. military aid, police training, and financial assistance to Middle Eastern governments that engage in patterns of gross and systematic human rights violations has dramatically increased. Since the Bush administration came to office, thousands of reformers have been jailed, tortured, and murdered by governments supported by the United States.

“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.”

This statement assumes that if Palestinian President Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority cleaned up their act, Israel would allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state, which is the key requisite for peace. In reality, the right-wing Israeli government of Ariel Sharon, with the support of the United States, has embarked upon a plan to annex nearly half of the occupied territories and divide up the remainder into small, non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel, where the Israelis would control the borders, the airspace, the ports, and the water resources. This will clearly make the establishment of a viable Palestinian state impossible, whatever the nature of the Palestinian leadership. Israel—-again, with U.S. support-—has also rejected consideration of withdrawal from occupied Syrian territory, despite promises by the Damascus government of strict security guarantees.

It is important to remember that Kuwait’s rulers during the early 1990s also intimidated opposition, tolerated corruption, and maintained ties to terrorist groups. That did not stop the United States, along with the rest of the international community, from demanding that Iraq end its occupation of that country. There are no such U.S. demands, however, that Israel end its occupation.

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President Bush’s May 24 Speech on Iraq: A Critique

The most striking element of President George W. Bush’s May 24th speech at the Army War College regarding the situation in Iraq was that it could come across as quite convincing as long as you agreed with the following assumptions:

* Only the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq would lead to “the rise of a free and self-governing Iraq.”

* Conversely, if the U.S. forces withdrew, either unilaterally or as part of a transfer to United Nations authority, the result would be a totalitarian government which would “embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings and more murders of the innocent around the world.”

Such assumptions, however, are extremely dubious.

Most Iraqis and other observers argue that it is the ongoing presence of American forces which is driving the insurgency and radicalizing elements of the diverse resistance to the U.S. occupation.

The claim by President Bush in his speech that he “sent American troops to Iraq to defend our security, not to stay as an occupying power” would ring hollow to the millions of Iraqis who knew that their country was no threat to America’s security and that—well over a year after the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime—U.S. troops remain in charge.

Similarly, his claim that “Our agenda . . . is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people” will not be seen as credible by a nation that has seen the U.S. occupation bring war, chaos, repression, record unemployment, and a breakdown of basic services.

While most Iraqis presumably prefer a system which promotes individual freedom, they—like most peoples who have a history of suffering under foreign rule—place an even higher priority on national freedom. As a result, by contrasting the goals of Iraqis fighting U.S. occupation forces and the U.S. occupation simply as “one of tyranny and murder, the other of liberty and life” is a false dichotomy.

Despite repeated assertions to the contrary, the United States will not “transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens” on June 30. It appears that the “sovereign Iraqi government” the Bush Administration claims will assume power on that date will lack many of the attributes generally associated with a sovereign state. For example, the United States, not the Iraqi government, will continue to control Iraq’s security, including Iraqi police and military personnel. This interim Iraqi authority will not have the power to enact new legislation or overturn laws imposed during the U.S. occupation. In addition, given the chaos engulfing the country and the widespread non-cooperation with U.S. occupation forces, there are questions as to how much governing power the United States has to transfer anyway.

Furthermore, there is so much ill will toward the United States at this point that the legitimacy of virtually any Iraqi-led government that emerges, will—whether rightly or wrongly—be questioned.

Then, as has become typical of presidential addresses since the U.S. invasion, there is the rewriting of history:

For example, President Bush claimed, “Over the decades of Saddam’s rule, Iraq’s infrastructure was allowed to crumble.” In reality, most of the damage to the country’s infrastructure was a direct result of the heavy U.S. bombing during the Gulf War in 1991, subsequently compounded by U.S.-led economic sanctions over the next dozen years, as well as additional bombings and the failure to prevent massive looting and vandalism immediately following the U.S. takeover last year.

President Bush spoke of the lack of freedom and democracy in the Middle East as simply “a tragedy of history,” ignoring the role of the United States—which has long been the principal supporter and arms supplier of the region’s authoritarian regimes and occupation armies—in denying Middle Eastern peoples democracy and freedom.

His claim that “At every stage, the United States has gone to the United Nations” ignored the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq came in open defiance of the UN.

Despite growing evidence of the systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners held by American occupation forces, President Bush dismissed it simply as a matter of some “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops” at just one facility.

President Bush boasted of the accomplishments of the Iraqi Governing Council, such as their approval of “a new law that opens the country to foreign investment for the first time in decades.” This ignores the fact that the council was appointed by U.S. occupation authorities and that the Iraqi people never had a say in its key decisions, such as selling off public assets to American multinational corporations with close ties to the Bush Administration.

His claim that U.S. forces are in Iraq to defeat “terrorism at the heart of its power” ignores the fact that terrorism by extremist groups inside Iraq was virtually non-existent until after the United States invaded and occupied the country.

Perhaps most misleading is President Bush’s assertion that the Iraqi resistance—consisting of more than a dozen separate groups with diverse tactics and ideology—are all simply “terrorists,” “foreign fighters,” and “Saddam loyalists.”

According to President Bush, “They seek the total control of every person in mind and soul; a harsh society in which women are voiceless and brutalized. They seek bases of operation to train more killers and export more violence. They commit dramatic acts of murder to shock, frighten and demoralize civilized nations, hoping we will retreat from the world and give them free reign. They seek weapons of mass destruction to impose their will through blackmail and catastrophic attacks.”

This is largely an effort to portray the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq not as an act of aggression—as most of the international community sees it—but as an act of self-defense. By extension, it seeks to portray those who oppose the ongoing U.S. occupation as supporters of totalitarianism and violence.

Interviews of Iraqi resistance fighters by the international media and social scientists, however, have shown no such grandiose designs. Their overriding concern is simply to rid their own country of a foreign occupation.

The rhetoric emanating from the Bush Administration bears a striking resemblance to similar efforts by the Johnson and Nixon administrations to portray the South Vietnamese guerrillas, primarily made up of nationalist peasants, as part of some grand unified communist conspiracy to take over the world. Interviews of these guerrillas similarly showed that they had no desire to conquer and occupy other countries, but to simply rid their own country of what they saw as a U.S. occupation. (They did not see the Saigon regime as a legitimate sovereign government, but as a hand-picked American creation, similar to how the Iraqis will likely see, at least initially, whatever government emerges in Baghdad.)

Unfortunately, despite polls showing a majority of the American public in opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq, the Democratic Party is choosing as its presidential nominee a supporter of the U.S. invasion and occupation. Senator John Kerry, like President Bush, has also made a series of misleading statements, falsely claiming that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” and, like President Bush, insists that a continued U.S. occupation is necessary to bring peace and security to the region.

As a result, outside of the insurgent Nader campaign, the election cycle will not likely provide the forum to challenge the lies and misleading statements coming from the White House.

This then requires that ordinary Americans must take the lead in challenging President Bush, Senator Kerry, and all those who have gotten us into this tragic mess, continue to mislead us, and refuse to get us out.

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Annotate This! Misleading Rhetoric in 2004 State of the Union Address

As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure.

Though no one should question the commitment and bravery of American servicemen and women, their missions of invading and occupying foreign countries and engaging in high altitude bombing and urban counterinsurgency operations that kill civilians has brought more fear than hope, delivered more violence than justice, and has created an unprecedented level of anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world and beyond that has actually made America less secure.

We have faced serious challenges together and now we face a choice: We can go forward with confidence and resolve or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us.

This assumes that those who believe that the Bush administration’s policies are illegal, immoral, and counterproductive are living under illusions that deny the dangers from terrorists and despots. This rhetorical device ignores the many national security analysts and ordinary Americans who are fully aware of the forces arrayed against the United States yet believe the country must choose better means to protect itself than continuing the policies of the Bush administration.

The first to see our determination were the Taliban, who made Afghanistan the primary training base of al Qaeda killers. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the boys and girls of Afghanistan are back in school. With help from the new Afghan Army, our coalition is leading aggressive raids against surviving members of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

While life has improved markedly in the capital of Kabul, the vast majority of Afghanistan is under the grip of warlords, ethnic militias, opium magnates, and overall lawlessness. While women and girls are now legally able to attend school and go out of their houses unaccompanied, many are now too afraid to do so because of the breakdown of law and order.

Furthermore, the aggressive raids led by the United States are unfortunately not just against surviving members of the Taliban and al Qaeda, but often end up being against innocent villagers. Indeed, more Afghan civilians have been killed from U.S. bombing raids than American civilians were killed from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the people of Iraq are free.

The United Nations did not demand an invasion of Iraq or an end to Saddam’s regime. It demanded that the Iraqi government destroy its weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems and open up to intrusive inspections to confirm that it had done so. Iraq eventually came into compliance with these demands, allowing UN inspectors to return to conduct unimpeded inspections anywhere in the country in 2002 and apparently eliminating its WMDs and delivery systems some years earlier. An invasion was not necessary for Iraq to comply with the demands of the United Nations since it had already done so.

While the people of Iraq are free from Saddam Hussein’s rule, they are not free. They are living under a foreign military occupation and the United States occupation authorities has thus far rejected popular demands by the Iraqis for direct elections to choose their own government.

Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq, just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein’s evil regime.

While Baathists are apparently taking the dominant role leading the armed resistance to the U.S. occupation, increasing numbers of Iraqis fighting U.S. forces are not supporters of the former regime, but are non-Baathist nationalists who resent their country being controlled by a foreign army. If U.S. forces were simply battling remnants of the old regime and some foreign supporters, it would largely be a mopping up operation where attacks would be decreasing over time. Instead, the resistance has been growing. While those planting bombs in crowded civilian areas are undeniably thugs and terrorists, the vast majority of attacks are against uniformed foreign occupation forces which, while most unfortunate, are generally recognized as legitimate acts of resistance under international law.

Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We are working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration and its handpicked Iraqi Governing Council are trying to set up a government through regional caucuses that they can control, rejecting popular demands for direct elections. Under this system and with U.S. occupation forces remaining in the country, it would be a stretch to consider the establishment of such a government full Iraqi sovereignty. The United Nations has thus far been understandably reluctant to support the establishment of what many would see as a puppet regime.

As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.

By defining the U.S. occupation as democracy and those who are fighting the occupation as enemies of freedom who are trying to shake the will of our country, President Bush is trying to make Americans and others who are calling for a U.S. withdrawal appear to be unprincipled cowards.

Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime’s weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible and no one can now doubt the word of America.

This is misleading on several counts. First of all, Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs had been well-developed, whereas Libya’s WMD efforts were in their infancy. Secondly, there was no direct diplomacy between the United States and Iraq in the twelve years prior to the invasion: there were sanctions, threats, and air strikes. Most importantly, the implication that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was what led Libya to give up its program flies in the face of logic: Not only did Iraq give up its WMD programs through United Nations efforts prior to the U.S. invasion, but despite dismantling its weapons and opening up to inspections the United States invaded anyway.

Let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam in power. Already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.

Last year, President Bush falsely claimed Iraq had large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. At most, all he can claim now is that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction-related program activities. These were virtually all legal and inconsequential remnants of old programs, not new WMD programs starting up again that posed a potential threat. With strict sanctions remaining in place against the importation of military equipment, dual use technologies, and raw materials to Iraq that could be used for WMD development (which, unlike the economic sanctions, were strongly supported worldwide) it is hard to imagine how Saddam Hussein could have ever restarted his WMD programs.

Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world.

Not only does it appear that Iraq was apparently in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions at the time of the U.S. invasion, there are more than ninety UN Security Council resolutions currently being violated by countries other than Iraq, the vast majority by governments supported by the Bush administration. U.S. policy has done far more than Saddam Hussein in weakening the authority of the United Nations.

The world without Saddam Hussein’s regime is a better and safer place.

Putting aside the fact that previous Republican administrations helped keep the regime in power during the 1980s (its most dangerous and repressive period), many of Iraq’s neighbors and independent strategic analysts believe that a weak and disarmed Iraqi regime even under Saddam’s oppressive rule represented a better and safer environment than the current situation, where Iraq is torn by guerrilla warfare, terrorist attacks, separatist movements, and a rising tide of Islamic extremism.

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq.

Despite some notable exceptions, most of the 34 countries contributing to the U.S. occupation have sent only very small and highly specialized units (such as medical teams or construction workers) and have done so only under diplomatic pressure and financial incentives. Americans make up over 85% of the occupation forces and have control over virtually all of the political, military, and reconstruction operations by these other countries. By contrast, most of those who are calling for internationalizing the operations in Iraq are advocating placing Iraq under a United Nations trusteeship similar to that which guided East Timor to independence following the 1999 Indonesian withdrawal.

From the beginning, America has sought international support for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people.

In reality, it was not a few nations, but an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations that opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, public opinion polls show that even in countries whose governments did support the U.S. invasion, the majority of these countries’ populations opposed it. It is highly unlikely that there would be any opposition in the United Nations Security Council or anywhere else for the U.S. government to defend the security of our people. The invasion of Iraq, however, was not about defending the security of the American people but an illegal act of aggression, according to the United Nations Charter, which has been signed and ratified by the United States and virtually every country in the world.

As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair, and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror, and expect a higher standard from our friends.

The unfortunate reality is that the United States is not pursuing a strategy of freedom, but continues to be the primary military, financial, and diplomatic supporter of the majority of tyrannical regimes in the Middle East. The United States supplies the equipment and training for internal security forces for dictatorial governments in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Uzbekistan that crush popular movements for reform as well as providing the military equipment for occupation armies that suppress movements for national self-determination from Western Sahara to the West Bank.

Our aim is a democratic peace, a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great republic will lead the cause of freedom.

No country has given more military and economic support to more dictatorships and occupation armies in the Middle East and in the world as a whole than has the United States . The monetary value of U.S. military aid to Middle Eastern countries is six times our economic aid. The top commercial export from the United States to the Middle East is not consumer items, high technology, or foodstuffs but armaments. Virtually all the recipients of such weaponry are governments that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses. Unfortunately, U.S. policy has little to do with peace or freedom.

Perhaps even more disheartening than these misleading statements by President Bush during his State of the Union address is that, in their formal responses to Bush’s speech, Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle failed to challenge them other than a vague appeal for stronger diplomatic efforts. None of the analysts on the major networks challenged these misleading statements either. Meanwhile, the two Democratic presidential contenders who dominated the Iowa caucuses the previous evening were senators who have largely supported Bush administration policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

President Bush can get away with such misleading rhetoric because he knows the mainstream media and the Democratic Party will allow him to do so. Unless the American public demands greater accountability from the news media and the Democratic Party leadership, George W. Bush will have four more opportunities to make similar State of the Union speeches.

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An Annotated Refutation of President George W. Bush’s September 23 Address Before the United Nations

“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.”

This is an ironic statement from a man who defied basic principles of international law and rebuked those who called for peaceful alternatives.
Afghanistan’s president, who is here today, now represents a free people who are building a decent and just society, a nation fully joined in the war against terror.

The people of Kabul, which is virtually the only part of Afghanistan under the firm control of President Hamid Karsai, are relatively free as compared with their lives under the Taliban regime. However, most of the rest of the country has fallen into chaos, as war lords, ethnic militias and opium magnates battle for control. This has led to a resurgence of the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies in parts of Afghanistan.

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.

Unfortunately, much of the Security Council was not alarmed when Saddam Hussein engaged in mass murder through the use of chemical weapons, in large part because the United States and other great powers were at that time backing his regime. Nor was the Iraqi regime seriously confronted for such atrocities, in large part because the U.S. government falsely claimed that it was the Iranians — then the preferred enemy — who were responsibly for the infamous Halabja massacre and similar attacks. Indeed, throughout much of the 1980s, the United States, along with other advanced industrialized nations, provided the dictator with much of the raw materials and technology needed for his WMD programs.

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.

This is incredibly misleading on several counts:

First of all, the Security Council never specified the consequences and never authorized any member states to enforce alleged Iraqi non-compliance through military means.

Secondly, once Iraq allowed inspectors back into the country in November, released its accounting of proscribed items (which UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix now says was probably accurate), and acceded to UNMOVIC’s demands regarding surveillance flights, interviews, etc. there is reason to believe that Iraq was actually in compliance of UN Security Council resolutions for at least several weeks prior to the U.S. invasion.

Thirdly, since when is one country invading another an act of “defending the peace?”

Fourthly, the United States has done more than any country — including Iraq — to damage the credibility of the United Nations: 1) over the past thirty years, the United States has used its veto power more times than all other members of the Security Council combined during that same period; 2) Iraq was hardly the only country in alleged defiance of UN Security Council resolutions: over ninety UN Security Council resolutions are currently being violated, but the United States has blocked enforcement of most of them since they usually involved a strategic ally (for example, Morocco, Israel and Turkey each are in violation of more Security Council resolutions than was Iraq at the height of its defiance); 3) the invasion of Iraq itself was a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter.

“Iraq is free, and today we are joined by representatives of a liberated country.

Though Iraq is free from Saddam’s dictatorial regime, it is still not free. The country is under foreign military occupation. The Iraqi “representatives” at the United Nations during President Bush”s speech were hand-picked by the U.S. occupiers.

“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.”

Actually, the scale of Saddam’s cruelty was fairly well-known by human rights activists for quite a few years, revealed in reports by Amnesty International and other reputable human rights groups as far back as the 1980s. During this period — the height of Saddam’s repression — the United States was quietly backing the regime. It was the United Nations that was largely responsible for curbing the worst of the regime’s human rights abuses. These included unprecedented efforts by the Security Council, including the use of Chapter VII, to impose strict limits on the Iraqi government’s ability to mobilize its forces within its internationally-recognized borders and to establish a large autonomous zone within Iraq for the country’s Kurdish minority. In addition, the UN Security Council’s imposition of a total ban on imports of military and police hardware dramatically lessened Saddam’s ability to engage in mass murder more than a decade prior to the U.S. invasion.

“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.”

The primary hardships for the Iraqi people stem not from any democratic transition, but from the lack of basic services, the breakdown of law and order, severe damage to the civilian infrastructure, massive unemployment, and related hardships resulting from the U.S. invasion and its aftermath. Unfortunately, despite the ouster of a brutal dictatorship, the majority of Iraqis believe that their quality of life has not improved as a result of the U.S. invasion, but has actually deteriorated.

“Across the Middle East, people are safer because an unstable aggressor has been removed from power.”

In reality, Saddam Hussein’s ability to engage in acts of aggression had been neutralized some years prior to his ouster as a result of losses in the 1991 Gulf War and the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems, and other offensive weaponry under the UN inspections regimes that followed.

“Across the world, nations are more secure because an ally of terror has fallen.”

According to the CIA and the State Department, Iraqi support for international terrorism peaked during the 1980s, a time when the U.S. government actually dropped Iraq from its list of states sponsoring terrorism. (Iraq was put back on the list when it invaded Kuwait in August 1990 despite lack of any evidence of increased terrorist activity.) Subsequent to 1993, most credible analyses both in and out of the U.S. government of state-sponsored terrorism reveal that Iraqi support for international terrorism was relatively minor and indirect and far less than that of a number of other Middle Eastern countries, including U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia. Today, however, due to the country”s great instability and because — like Afghanistan under Soviet occupation in the 1980s — U.S.-occupied Iraq has become a magnet for extremists from throughout the region, nations are actually less secure from the threat of terrorism arising out of Iraq than they were prior to the U.S. invasion.

“Our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were supported by many governments, and America is grateful to each one. “

The initial U.S. military response in Afghanistan was indeed supported by many governments, though it lessened as the United States took sides in the country”s civil war and civilian casualties from unnecessarily heavy high-altitude bombing increased. By contrast, very few governments supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Most of those that did support the invasion did so contrary to preferences of the vast majority of their populations; a number of poor countries were subjected to promises of increased aid and trading privileges in exchange for their support and threatened with loss of such vital transactions for their refusal.

“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.”

In reality, there is enormous disagreement between the United States and most other nations in the United Nations regarding the role of the world body. Most nations see the UN as a quasi-legislative body based on certain clear legal structures designed to build an international consensus for the promotion of collective security against aggression and to seek non-military means of conflict resolution. By contrast, the Bush Administration has essentially demanded that the UN be used to advance its foreign policy agenda. Unfortunately, many if not most of the UN member states violate basic human rights and the Bush Administration supports some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.

“These permanent commitments call us to great work in the world, work we must do together. So let us move forward.”

In practice, this appears to mean “do what we say.” (This attitude is not new to the Bush Administration, however: recall that President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated, also in reference to Iraq, that the United States “will act multilaterally when we can and unilaterally when we must.”)

“First, we must stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as they build free and stable countries. The terrorists and their allies fear and fight this progress above all, because free people embrace hope over resentment, and choose peace over violence.”

Afghanistan is far from stable and the United States has opposed strengthening the international peacekeeping forces to extend their operations beyond Kabul. Iraq is not only unstable as well, but as long as the U.S. maintains its occupation, the United Nations will have a hard time standing with the people of Iraq. A bigger question is this: Has the U.S. invasion and occupation created an environment where the people of Iraq feel free, embrace hope and choose peace? Or, has it created a situation where people feel they are under foreign military occupation and thereby embrace resentment and violence?

“In the nation of Iraq, the United Nations is carrying out vital and effective work every day. By the end of 2004, more than 90 percent of Iraqi children under age five will have been immunized against preventable diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, and measles thanks to the hard work and high ideals of UNICEF.”

This figure would be comparable to childhood immunization rates in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991 and subsequent sanctions that largely destroyed the country’s public health system.

“Iraq’s food distribution system is operational, delivering nearly a half-million tons of food per month, thanks to the skill and expertise of the World Food Program.”

The World Food Program has also reported that malnutrition is much higher now than it was prior to the U.S. invasion.

“Our international coalition in Iraq is meeting its responsibilities.”

First of all, given that the United States is providing 85% of the personnel and an even higher percentage of the financial costs, it can hardly be called a “coalition.” More to the point, the United States has failed miserably in living up to its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Conventions in such areas as providing basic security and public services.

“We are conducting precision raids against terrorists and holdouts of the former regime.”

Unfortunately, there has been tragically little precision in quite a few cases, resulting in widespread civilian casualties. In addition, an increasing number of targets of the raids are neither terrorists nor holdouts of the former regime, but non-Baathist nationalists who are fighting U.S. occupation forces, not civilians. As tragic as every death of an American soldier may be, international law makes a clear distinction between terrorism (which targets innocent civilians and is always a war crime) and armed attacks against uniformed soldiers of a foreign occupying army (which is considered a legitimate form of warfare.)

“These killers are at war with the Iraqi people.”

Actually, far more Iraqi civilians have been killed by U.S. occupation forces.

“They have made Iraq the central front in the war on terror and they will be defeated.”

In reality, only a tiny percentage of the armed attacks have been directed at civilian non-combatants and therefore considered acts of terrorism. Furthermore, “the central front in the war on terror” should be directed toward Al-Qaeda, which really does present a serious threat, rather than Iraqis who would probably stop fighting once U.S. occupation forces got out of their country. Finally, given the steady increase in anti-American violence and indications that a growing percentage of the attacks are coming from non-Baathist nationalists rather than the remnants of Saddam’s regime or foreign terrorist cells, it will not be defeated very easily.

“Our coalition has made sure that Iraq’s former dictator will never again use weapons of mass destruction”.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons of mass destruction for at least five to eight years prior to the U.S. invasion. He last used such weapons (in the form of deadly chemical agents) in 1988, a full fifteen years before the U.S. invasion. It was the UN inspections regime, not the U.S. invasion, that eliminated his WMD programs. Similarly, it was the UN-imposed embargo, not the U.S. invasion, that denied the regime access to needed technologies and raw materials to rebuild such programs in the future. In other words, the U.S. “coalition” had nothing to do with eliminating the possibility of the former Iraqi dictator using weapons of mass destruction as he did during the 1980s.

“We are now interviewing Iraqi citizens and analyzing records of the old regime, to reveal the full extent of its weapons programs and long campaign of deception.”

So far, both the records of the old regime and interviews with Iraqis involved with WMD programs appear to indicate that the weapons programs were terminated and the proscribed weapons and delivery systems destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable by the mid-1990s.

“We are training Iraqi police, border guards, and a new army, so that the Iraqi people can assume full responsibility for their own security.”

As long as the United States remains the occupying power, these police, border guards and new army will have little credibility among large segments of the Iraqi population. Until they do, the situation on the ground will remain highly unstable.

“At the same time, our coalition is helping to improve the daily lives of the Iraqi people. The old regime built palaces while letting schools decay, so we are rebuilding more than a thousand schools.”

Iraq actually had one of the best education systems in the Third World prior to the U.S.-led bombing campaign during the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent sanctions.

“The old regime starved hospitals of resources, so we have helped to supply and reopen hospitals across Iraq.”

As virtually any development worker — whether with the United Nations or with any number of non-governmental organizations — in Iraq during the past dozen years will testify, it was the U.S.-led sanctions that starved hospitals of resources.

“The old regime built up armies and weapons, while allowing the nation’s infrastructure to crumble. So we are rehabilitating power plants, water and sanitation facilities, bridges, and airports.”

First of all, thanks to its enormous oil wealth (as well as exports and loans from the United States and other countries), Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1980s was able to provide both guns and butter — developing an over-sized military while building power plants, water and sanitation facilities, bridges, and airports. By contrast, Iraqi military spending during the 1990s was widely estimated to be only about one-tenth of its previous levels. Meanwhile, the heavy U.S. bombing during the 1991 Gulf War was largely responsible for the destruction of Iraq’s power plants, water and sanitation facilities, bridges, and airports and the U.S.-led sanctions that followed made it almost impossible for Iraq to import the parts needed to rebuild them. Finally, it is important to note that the Bush Administration — with bipartisan support in Congress — is itself busy building up armies and weapons while allowing our own nation’s infrastructure to crumble.

“I have proposed to Congress that the United States provide additional funding for our work in Iraq, the greatest financial commitment of its kind since the Marshall Plan. Having helped to liberate Iraq, we will honor our pledges to Iraq.”

The financial commitment to Iraq does not come anywhere close in real dollars to the Marshall Plan and is actually quite paltry compared to what the administration has been willing to spend to bomb, invade, and occupy the country. In addition, there has not been a clear accounting of the funding earmarked for reconstruction work and much of that money has gone to politically well-connected U.S. corporations that gained exclusive contracts through non-competitive bidding. Additional billions of dollars have gone to bribe foreign governments to commit token numbers of soldiers to make up for insufficient manpower from the U.S. military and to make the U.S. occupation look like a broad coalition.

“And by helping the Iraqi people build a stable and peaceful country, we will make our own countries more secure.”

Iraq is actually far less stable and peaceful than it was prior to the U.S. invasion and occupation and the enormous anti-American resentment that has sprung up in the Islamic world as a result increases the risks of deadly terrorist attacks.

“The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by orderly and democratic means. This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis, neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties.”

If this was really the primary goal, then why doesn’t the United States end the occupation and turn interim administration over to the United Nations, as was done with East Timor between the withdrawal of Indonesian occupation forces in 2000 and the country’s independence two years later? A number of UN agencies have extensive experiences in recent years with successfully transitioning war-ravaged states to orderly and democratic self-governance; the U.S. military does not.

“And the United Nations can contribute greatly to the cause of Iraqi self-government. America is working with friends and allies on a new Security Council resolution, which will expand the UN’s role in Iraq. As in the aftermath of other conflicts, the United Nations should assist in developing a constitution, training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections.”

A careful reading of the U.S.-sponsored resolution reveals that it essentially forces much of the financial and logistical burdens of overseeing the post-war, post-sanctions and post-dictatorship transition upon the United Nations while leaving the United States primarily responsible for shaping the military, political and economic future of the country. As part of a UN Trusteeship, UN workers would be more likely to build cooperative relationships with the Iraqi people. As simply a part of a U.S. occupation, however — as would be the case under the U.S. draft — they would just become additional targets of an increasingly restive population.

“Iraq now has a Governing Council, the first truly representative institution in that country. Iraq’s new leaders are showing the openness and tolerance that democracy requires, and also showing courage.”

The Governing Council is representative only in the sense that its members are drawn from a diverse segment of Iraq’s ethnic and religious mosaic; they are not necessarily representative of the political will of the majority of the population. Their perceived openness and tolerance may stem largely from the knowledge that they are serving only at the pleasure of the U.S. occupation authority. Their courage stems from the recognition that they are seen by many Iraqis as collaborators and therefore fear they could suffer from the same fate as has befallen collaborators with military occupations in other countries throughout history.

“Yet every young democracy needs the help of friends. Now the nation of Iraq needs and deserves our aid, and all nations of good will should step forward and provide that support.”

Countries throughout the world have expressed a willingness to provide large-scale aid and assistance in the form of security, technical expertise, money and logistics as long as the country is under a UN trusteeship, not an American military occupation.

“The success of a free Iraq will be watched and noted throughout the region. Millions will see that freedom, equality, and material progress are possible at the heart of the Middle East. Leaders in the region will face the clearest evidence that free institutions and open societies are the only path to long-term national success and dignity.”

This is ironic statement from the government that is the world’s primary economic, diplomatic and military backer of autocratic leaders throughout the Middle East. Since coming to office, the Bush Administration has actually increased military and economic assistance to dictatorial regimes that deny their people free institutions and open societies.

“And a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world, by undermining the ideologies that export violence to other lands.”

Then why not encourage such a transformation by first ending U.S. support for the dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt — long considered America”s two most important Arab allies — that not only deny their people the political freedom that President Bush claims to support, but have (not coincidentally) produced most of Al-Qaeda”s members and leadership.

“Iraq as a dictatorship had great power to destabilize the Middle East.”

It did during the 1980s, when the U.S. was supporting it. Subsequent to Iraq”s defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, however, after its military capacity was largely destroyed and they were no longer able to import the necessary weapons, technology and raw materials from advanced industrialized countries, the Iraqi dictatorship was barely a shell of its once formidable military prowess.

“Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East. The advance of democratic institutions in Iraq is setting an example that others, including the Palestinian people, would be wise to follow.”

The primary obstacle to Palestinian democracy is the Israeli occupation — armed and financed by the United States — which denies the Palestinians their right to self-determination and their ability to create and sustain their own democratic institutions.

“The Palestinian cause is betrayed by leaders who cling to power by feeding old hatreds, and destroying the good work of others.”

Actually, Palestinian public opinion is more militant than most of the Palestinian Authority”s leadership, which has called for resuming negotiations and implementing the road map that would lead to a Palestinian state encompassing the now-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside a secure Israel with a shared co-capital of Jerusalem. While some demagogues — particularly among radical Islamic groups — are indeed exacerbating the conflict, the violence from the Palestinian side stems less from “old hatreds” as it does from the very current and ongoing occupation and colonization of their land and the ongoing repression and harassment of their people.

“The Palestinian people deserve their own state, committed to reform, to fighting terror, and to building peace.”

Then why is the United States spending billions of dollars, vetoing UN Security Council resolutions, and shipping massive amounts of armaments to enable Israel to maintain the very occupation that prevents the Palestinians from establishing a viable state? In addition, thus far President Bush has shown no indication that his vision of a Palestinian “state” is anything more than right-wing Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon”s plans to offer the Palestinians a bare 40% of the occupied territories (less than 10% of historic Palestine), subdivided into a series of non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.

“A second challenge we must confront together is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Outlaw regimes that possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons — and the means to deliver them — would be able to use blackmail and create chaos in entire regions. “We are determined to keep the world’s most destructive weapons away from all our shores, and out of the hands of our common enemies. Because proliferators will use any route or channel that is open to them, we need the broadest possible cooperation to stop them. Today I ask the UN Security Council to adopt a new anti-proliferation resolution. This resolution should call on all members of the UN to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; to enact strict export controls consistent with international standards; and to secure any and all sensitive materials within their own borders.”

It is noteworthy how the United States exempts itself and such Southwest Asian allies as Israel and Pakistan from anti-proliferation resolutions while focusing solely on governments it doesn”t like. It is also revealing that the Bush Administration has rejected calls from Middle Eastern nations — ranging from allies like Jordan to adversaries like Syria — for the establishment of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone for all of the Middle East, comparable to treaties that already exist in Latin America and the South Pacific. It is also worth noting that the United States has also been notoriously lax in its own export controls of dual-use technologies.

““There is another humanitarian crisis, spreading and yet hidden from view. Each year, an estimated eight to nine hundred thousand human beings are bought, sold, or forced across the world’s borders. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, who fall victim to the sex trade. This commerce in human life generates billions of dollars each year, much of which is used to finance organized crime. There is a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life, an underworld of brutality and lonely fear. Those who create these victims, and profit from their suffering, must be severely punished. Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. And governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery.”

Most development organizations and advocates for Third World women recognize that the sex trade and other human trafficking has grown most dramatically in countries where traditional economies have collapsed as a result of neo-liberal economic policies imposed by U.S.-backed international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. The selling of one”s daughter or oneself becomes a matter of survival. Shifting to a development policy that emphasizes sustainable development and grassroots economic initiatives (such as micro-lending programs) will do far more to lessen this human tragedy than relying on law enforcement alone.

“As an original signer of the UN charter, the United States of America is committed to the United Nations. And we show that commitment by working to fulfill the UN’s stated purposes, and give meaning to its ideals.”

Then why did the United States violate the UN Charter by invading a sovereign member nation?

“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.”

This is an excellent summation of why the policies of the Bush Administration are subject to growing opposition both at home and abroad.

“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.”

Indeed, individuals and nations must demonstrate enormous courage and struggle nonviolently against the policies of what is being seen increasingly as a rogue superpower whose quest for domination so seriously threatens the rule of law, basic moral principles, human freedom and any hope for real peace and security

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0924-02.htm

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0924-02.htm

President Bush’s February 26 Speech on the Future of Iraq: A Critique

Considerable attention has been given to President George W. Bush’s February 26 speech before the right-wing American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC outlining his vision of the Middle East in the aftermath of a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq. The speech was broadcast live over national radio and television and given widespread coverage in the print media, yet few critical voices questioning the major points raised in this sanctimonious and highly misleading address were given the opportunity to offer commentary. Below are excerpts of some key portions of the speech followed by some critiques that listeners and viewers were unable to hear:

“In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world–and we will not allow it.”

The Bush administration has yet to provide any proof that Iraq is currently building or hiding such weapons. Even if in the likely event that the Iraqi regime has squirreled away certain proscribed materials, it is unclear as to how they would be able to dominate the Middle East or intimidate the “civilized world.” Two other countries in the region (Israel and Pakistan) already have nuclear weapons and several others are believed to have chemical and biological weapons, all in excess to even the most alarmist assessments of what Iraq may currently possess. Iraq, alone among these countries, is under strict military and economic sanctions that deny them access to much of the raw materials and technology that enabled them to initially develop their weapons of mass destruction during the 1980s, virtually all of which were accounted for and destroyed during the 1990s. As a result, it is unclear as to how Iraq could develop an arsenal that could dominate and threaten anybody, particularly with the United States and its heavily armed allies acting as a deterrent.

“This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country–and America will not permit it.”

The Bush administration has been unable to put forward any evidence that Iraq or any other government in the region has any intent to pass on weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist group. Reports from the U.S. State Department, the FBI, and the CIA have indicated a marked decline in Iraqi support for international terrorism over the past fifteen years, largely as a result of a fear of American retaliation. In particular, Bush administration claims that the Islamist Al Qaeda–by far the most dangerous terrorist network–has any ties with the secular Baathist government in Iraq have, upon closer examination, proved groundless.

“The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people, themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war, and misery, and torture.”

The scarcity of basic food and medicines are a direct result of the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq. Prior to the imposition of the sanctions in 1990, Iraqis had the highest per capita caloric intake in the Arab world and one of the Middle East’s most advanced health care systems. Furthermore, most visitors to the country report that at this point the Iraqis’ greatest fear by far is the threat of a foreign invasion.

“Their lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein–but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us.”

There is little evidence to support the claim that Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to the U.S. government. During the height of Saddam Hussein’s repression during the 1980s, the United States provided military and economic aid to his government and even covered up for Iraqi human rights abuses, such as falsely claiming that the Iranians were responsible for the Halabja massacre and other atrocities. The heavy U.S.-led bombing campaign during the 1991 Gulf War targeted much of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, including the country’s irrigation and water purification systems. The subsequent sanctions have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, mostly children. In addition, U.S. air strikes killed at least 5,000 civilians during the Gulf War and several hundred have died from subsequent U.S. military action. At the end of the Gulf War, thousands of retreating Iraqi soldiers–mostly unwilling conscripts with no loyalty to the regime–were slaughtered by U.S. forces.

“If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine to the sick, and we are now moving into place nearly 3 million emergency rations to feed the hungry.”

According to United Nations, as a result of the destruction of large segments of the country’s infrastructure during the 1991 Gulf War and the subsequent sanctions, at least 60% of Iraq’s population of 24 million is directly dependent on the Iraqi government and its distribution network for daily food supplies, which would come to a virtual halt in the event of war. Few Iraqis have food supplies lasting for more than a few days. Three million emergency rations will be woefully inadequate.

“We’ll make sure that Iraq’s 55,000 food distribution sites, operating under the Oil For Food program, are stocked and open as soon as possible. The United States and Great Britain are providing tens of millions of dollars to the UN High Commission on Refugees, and to such groups as the World Food Program and UNICEF, to provide emergency aid to the Iraqi people.”

U.S. contributions to United Nations humanitarian agencies is among the lowest per capita in the industrialized world. The Bush administration has recently shown its contempt for these UN agencies by vetoing a UN Security Council resolution this past December that criticized Israel for its destruction of the World Food Program’s food warehouse in the occupied Gaza Strip and its killing of several UN relief workers in Palestinian refugee camps.

“We will also lead in carrying out the urgent and dangerous work of destroying chemical and biological weapons.”

If the Bush administration knows that such weapons actually exist and where they are located, why have they not told United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC), which has a mandate to destroy them? If the Bush administration does not have such information and UNMOVIC cannot find these alleged weapons, how will the United States be able to find them in the chaos of a post-invasion Iraq when rogue agents may try to smuggle them out of the country?

“We will provide security against those who try to spread chaos, or settle scores…”

Given the utter failure of the United States to do this in Afghanistan–where the United States has refused to deploy peacekeeping forces outside of Kabul and rural areas have descended into an anarchy of feuding war lords, ethnic militias, and opium magnates–how can he expect to do this in Iraq?

“… or threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq.”

Why, then, has the United States encouraged Turkey to invade and occupy the northern part of Iraq in the event of a U.S. war against Saddam Hussein’s regime, particularly given the strident opposition to such intervention by the Kurds who populate that part of the country and have experienced a large degree of autonomy since 1991? The Turkish government is notorious for its longstanding and severe repression against Kurdish people inside its borders, raising serious concerns about the security of the ethnic Kurdish population in Iraq in the event of a U.S.-backed Turkish occupation.

“We will seek to protect Iraq’s natural resources from sabotage by a dying regime, and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners–the Iraqi people.”

Historically, the United States has shown great hostility when Middle Eastern countries have sought to control their oil resources. For example, when neighboring Iran nationalized a foreign-controlled oil conglomerate in the 1950s, the CIA staged a coup that toppled the constitutional government and installed the Shah as dictator. The Shah then promptly turned over most of the country’s oil resources to American oil companies.

“The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.”

The United States has a long history of determining the form of government in Third World countries, at times even selecting a country’s leaders, and frequently showing little regard for the rights of citizens. Today, the leading candidates floated by the United States to replace Saddam Hussein have little in the way of democratic credentials and some–such as some former Iraqi generals who are on the list–have in the past engaged in war crimes.

“After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.”

In Chile, Iran, Guatemala, and a number of other countries, the United States helped overthrow democratic governments and replaced them with brutal military dictatorships. To this day, throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, the United States supports autocratic, corrupt, and militaristic regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and other countries, as well as occupation armies in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, northern Cyprus, and Western Sahara. There is little reason to believe that the Bush administration would suddenly adopt a radically different policy of supporting reform-minded and freedom-loving leaders.

“There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of Iraq–with its proud heritage, abundant resources, and skilled and educated people–is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.”

There are some key differences between Germany and Japan of 1945 and Iraq today. Germany had a democratic parliamentary system prior to Hitler seizing power in the early 1930s and Japan had some semblance of a constitutional monarchy prior to the rise of militarism in the late 1920s, whereas Iraq has never had a representative government. Germany and Japan were homogeneous societies with a strong sense of national identity, whereas Iraq is an artificial creation thrown together from three Ottoman provinces by colonial powers that has only been truly independent for 45 years; fighting between Arabs and Kurds and between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands in recent decades. In addition, most Germans and Japanese recognized that their defeat and occupation was a direct result of their leaders’ aggression against its neighbors, whereas the Iraqis–whose government has been far weaker and less aggressive now than it was in the past–are more likely to see an American takeover as an act of Western imperialism and will thereby likely make it more difficult to establish a widely accepted and stable regime. Finally, the idealistic New Deal liberals who helped create open political systems in post-war Germany and Japan arguably had a stronger personal commitment to democracy than the right-wing neoconservatives in the Bush administration, who have a history of supporting dictatorial governments that support U.S. strategic and economic interests.

“Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. The passing of Saddam Hussein’s regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers.”

While the Iraqi government has offered some financial aid to families of Palestinians killed in their struggle against Israel–including relatives of suicide bombers–there is no evidence that Iraq has actually sent any money. Most of the funding of terrorist groups in Palestine comes from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally that annually receives billions of dollars worth of arms transfers as well as military and police training from the Bush administration. Iraq has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at this stage. The major obstacles to a democratic Palestinian state are the internal corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation, not Iraq.

“And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated.”

This will be highly unlikely as long as the United States maintains its close strategic and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia and refuses to extradite or prosecute Nicaraguan and Cuban exiles living in the United States wanted for acts of terrorism during the 1970s and 1980s.

“Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are working for reform and long for democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders.”

The major obstacle to Palestinian democracy and their ability to choose new leaders is the ongoing Israeli occupation, made possible by the Bush administration’s insistence on providing large-scale military, economic, and diplomatic support to the rightist Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

“A Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful state that abandons forever the use of terror.”

If the United States continues to deny Palestinians the right to establish such a state by continuing to support the Israeli occupation, terrorism will only continue. By contrast, demanding an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories so that the Palestinians could finally exercise their right to self-determination would be by far the most effective means of ending the terrorism. Terrorism by Zimbabweans struggling for freedom from white minority rule (1970s), Algerians for freedom from French colonialism (1950s), and Israelis for freedom from British colonialism (1940s) virtually ended once independence was established.

“For its part, the new government of Israel–as the terror threat is removed and security improves–will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state–and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end.”

Why should an Israeli halt to its illegal settlement activities be delayed until progress is made toward peace? According to the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council resolutions 446, 452, and 465, Israel is required to withdraw from those settlements immediately, regardless of the security situation. Indeed, the U.S.-backed occupation and colonization of Palestinian land occupied by Israel since 1967 has been the primary cause of the Palestinian terrorism, not the other way around.

“And the Arab states will be expected to meet their responsibilities to oppose terrorism, to support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state clearly they will live in peace with Israel.”

The Arab states have already done so, as when Arab League in their March 2002 summit in Beirut unanimously supported the Abdullah Plan that offered peace, security guarantees, and full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for a total withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from lands seized in the 1967 war. The Bush administration, however, failed to respond positively to the initiative or to encourage Israel to negotiate on the basis of that proposal.

“The United States and other nations are working on a road map for peace. We are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. It is the commitment of our government–and my personal commitment–to implement the road map and to reach that goal.”

In reality, the Bush administration blocked the publication of the “road map” put together by the U.S., Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations prior to the Israeli election for fear it would hurt the re-election chances of the hard-line right-wing Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon against his more moderate challenger Amram Mitzna. Sharon’s government–the largest recipient of U.S. military and economic aid–opposes the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel approximating his country’s internationally recognized borders and instead seeks to illegally annex at least half of the occupied Palestinian territories, leaving the Palestinians with barely one-tenth of historic Palestine and with that divided into scores of non-contiguous enclaves.

“Old patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken, if all concerned will let go of bitterness, hatred, and violence, and get on with the serious work of economic development, and political reform, and reconciliation. America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of peace. And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity.”

Given Iraq’s isolation within the Arab world, much less the rest of the Middle East, it is hard to understand why Iraq is seen as an obstacle to these goals. By contrast, a U.S. invasion of Iraq and the many thousands of deaths that would result will only spawn more bitterness, hatred, and violence and will greatly retard economic development, political reform, and reconciliation in the resulting chaos and backlash that will likely follow.

“The global threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction cannot be confronted by one nation alone. The world needs today and will need tomorrow international bodies with the authority and the will to stop the spread of terror and chemical and biological and nuclear weapons.”
The Bush administration has actually blocked efforts to strengthen international treaties preventing the spread of biological and chemical weapons and successfully instigated an effort to remove the highly effective director of an international program overseeing the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles around the world. In addition, the United States has blocked the United Nations from enforcing UN Security Council resolution 487, which calls on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguard of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Furthermore, administration spokespersons have repeatedly belittled the IAEA and its effectiveness.

“A threat to all must be answered by all. High-minded pronouncements against proliferation mean little unless the strongest nations are willing to stand behind them–and use force if necessary.”

According to UN Security Council resolution 687, on which all subsequent resolutions regarding Iraqi disarmament and the inspections regimes are based, Iraqi disarmament should take place within the context of regional disarmament. This point was reiterated by UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix in his address before the UN Security Council in January. However, the Bush administration has refused to support or even acknowledge this segment of the resolution. Furthermore, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty–to which both the United States and Iraq are signatories–requires that, in return for countries like Iraq not developing such weapons themselves, the United States and other existing nuclear powers must make good-faith efforts to disarm.

“If the Council responds to Iraq’s defiance with more excuses and delays, if all its authority proves to be empty, the United Nations will be severely weakened as a source of stability and order.”

Over the past three decades, the United States has used its veto power to defeat UN Security Council resolutions more times than all other members of the Security Council combined. In almost every case, the United States cast the sole negative vote. Furthermore, the United States has blocked the UN Security Council from enforcing more than eighty resolutions that did pass because they were directed at U.S. allies like Morocco, Israel, and Turkey. Indeed, no country has done more to undermine the credibility of the UN Security Council than has the United States.

“If the members rise to this moment, then the Council will fulfil its founding purpose.”
The founding purpose of the UN Security Council is to protect international peace and security, not to legitimize the invasion of one country by another.

“We go forward with confidence, because we trust in the power of human freedom to change lives and nations. By the resolve and purpose of America, and of our friends and allies, we will make this an age of progress and liberty. Free people will set the course of history, and free people will keep the peace of the world.”

This is why free people in the United States and around the world must work even harder to stop President Bush from invading Iraq.

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0308-10.htm

An Annotated Overview of the Foreign Policy Segments of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address

“This threat is new; America’s duty is familiar. Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world. In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit. In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism, and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances, and by the might of the United States of America. Once again, we are called to defend the safety of our people, and the hopes of all mankind. And we accept this responsibility.”

The attempt to put Baathist Iraq on par with Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia is ludicrous. Hitler’s Germany was the most powerful industrialized nation in the world when it began its conquests in the late 1930s and Soviet Russia at its height had the world’s largest armed forces and enough nuclear weapons to destroy humankind. Iraq, by contrast, is a poor Third World country that has been under the strictest military and economic embargo in world history for more than a dozen years after having much of its civilian and military infrastructure destroyed in the heaviest bombing in world history. Virtually all that remained of its offensive military capability was subsequently dismantled under the strictest unilateral disarmament initiative ever, an inspection and verification process that has been resumed under an even more rigorous mandate. By contrast, back in the 1980s, when Iraq really was a major regional power and had advanced programs in weapons of mass destruction, the United States did not consider Iraq a threat at all; in fact, the U.S. provided extensive military, economic and technological support to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“America is making a broad and determined effort to confront these dangers. We have called on the United Nations to fulfill its charter and stand by its demand that Iraq disarm.”

There is nothing in the UN Charter about the unilateral disarmament of a member state. By contrast, articles 41 and 42 of the Charter ( reiterated in the final article of UN Security Council 1441 ) make clear that the UN Security Council alone has the authority to authorize the use of force to enforce its resolutions. It should also be noted that there are over ninety UN Security Council resolutions currently being violated by governments other than Iraq, most of them by such U.S. allies as Morocco, Israel and Turkey. The United States has blocked the United Nations from enforcing these resolutions, however.

“We’re strongly supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency in its mission to track and control nuclear materials around the world.”

The IAEA has received very little support from the Bush Administration. For example, the U.S. has blocked the United Nations from enforcing UN Security Council resolution 487, which calls on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguard of the IAEA. In addition, administration spokespeople have repeatedly belittled the organization and its effectiveness.

” We’re working with other governments to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, and to strengthen global treaties banning the production and shipment of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction.”

The Bush Administration has actually blocked efforts to strengthen international treaties preventing the spread of biological and chemical weapons and successfully instigated and led an effort to remove the highly-effective director of an international program overseeing the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles around the world. In addition, the Bush Administration has cut funding for programs to remove nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union and rejected a proposed treaty by Russia that would have destroyed thousands of nuclear weapons, insisting that they instead simply be put into storage. Finally, the Bush Administration has rejected calls for a nuclear-free zone for all the Middle East.

“We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny — and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.”

It was the United States, through its Central Intelligence Agency, that overthrew Iran’s last democratic government, ousting Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. As his replacement, the U.S. brought in from exile the tyrannical Shah, who embarked upon a 26-year reign of terror. The United States armed and trained his brutal secret police ( known as the SAVAK ) which jailed, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Iranians struggling for their freedom. The Islamic revolution was a direct consequence of this U.S.-backed repression since the Shah successfully destroyed much of the democratic opposition. In addition, the repressive theocratic rulers that gained power following the Islamic Revolution that ousted the Shah were clandestinely given military support by the U.S. government during the height of their repression during the 1980s. As a result, there is serious question regarding the United States’ support for the freedom of the Iranian people.

“Throughout the 1990s, the United States relied on a negotiated framework to keep North Korea from gaining nuclear weapons. We now know that that regime was deceiving the world, and developing those weapons all along. And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed.”

Indications are that North Korea kept its commitment during the 1990s but ceased its cooperation only recently. It is widely believed that North Korea decided to renege on its agreement as a direct result of last year’s State of the Union address, when President Bush declared North Korea to be part of an “axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran. Seeing the United States prepare to invade Iraq and increase its bellicose rhetoric against Iran and themselves, the North Koreans apparently decided that they needed to create a credible deterrent in case they were next. They have offered to end their nuclear program in return for a guarantee that the United States will not invade them.

“America is working with the countries of the region — South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia — to find a peaceful solution, and to show the North Korean government that nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation, and continued hardship. The North Korean regime will find respect in the world and revival for its people only when it turns away from its nuclear ambitions.”

Actually, the United States has been at odds with North Korea’s neighbors, taking a far more hard-line position toward the communist regime than those who have far greater grounds for concern about any potential threat. Perhaps more significantly, given that the United States has good relations with other countries that have developed nuclear weapons in recent years ( such as India, Pakistan and Israel ) and has demonstrated hostility toward North Korea well prior to the start of its nuclear program, the North Koreans may have reason to doubt that curbing their nuclear ambitions will make much of a difference.

“Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States.”

There was a very real threat of Iraq dominating the region in the 1980s. During this period, however, the United States provided Saddam Hussein’s regime with military, economic and technological assistance, even as it invaded Iran and its internal repression and support of terrorism was at its height. Now that the country is only a fraction of its once formidable military prowess and it has little direct access to its oil wealth, it is hard to imagine how it could realistically dominate the region again, much less threaten the United States.

“Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq’s regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed.”

UNMOVIC director Hans Blix and IAEA director Mohamed El-Baradei have expressed concerns that Iraq was not sufficiently forthcoming in some potentially key areas, though they also noted areas where there had been a high level of cooperation in some other areas. This is far short of “utter contempt.” Similarly, their mission is far from being a scavenger hunt, given the extensive records from the eight years of UN inspections during the 1990s. It is noteworthy that the UNSCOM inspectors did not find any more hidden materials during their last four years of operations despite expanding the scope of their searches. Though these inspectors were withdrawn under pressure from President Bill Clinton in late 1998 before they could complete their job, satellite surveillance and other intelligence gathering since then has given this new round of inspections ( which have an even tougher mandate regarding the timing and extent of their searches ) a good idea of where to look and what to look for. Furthermore, they have equipment that can detect radioactive isotopes and other telltale signs of WMD development at a great distance from their source. It is noteworthy that after insisting that Iraq’s four-year refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors to return was cited as grounds for an invasion, the Bush Administration has suddenly challenged the inspectors’ effectiveness since they resumed inspections. Furthermore, the United States has yet to put forward any proof that Iraq currently has any banned weapons.

“The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax — enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it. The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin — enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure.”

This is like saying that a man has enough sperm to impregnate several million women. Theoretically true, but if you don’t have sufficient delivery systems, it simply cannot be done. There is no evidence that Iraq has any delivery systems that can effectively disseminate biological weapons in a way that could endanger large populations.

“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.”

This figure is far higher than most independent estimates. The former chief weapons inspector for UNSCOM stated that at least 95% of Iraq’s chemical weapons had been accounted for and destroyed by 1998. With the embargo preventing the import of new materials, satellites eyeing possible sites for new production, and the return of UN inspectors, it is highly dubious that Iraq could develop an offensive chemical weapons arsenal, particularly since virtually all of their ballistic missiles capable of carrying such weapons have also been accounted for and destroyed. In addition, if Saddam Hussein’s possession of chemical weapons is really such a major concern for the U.S. government, why did the United States send Iraq tons of toxic chemicals during the 1980s, even when it became apparent that they were being used for weapons?

“The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.”

True. What the president failed to mention is that in 1998 the International Atomic Energy Agency also reported that Iraq’s nuclear capability had been completely dismantled. More recently, IAEA director El-Baradei, in his January 27 report to the UN Security Council, reported there was no evidence to suggest that Iraq had resumed its nuclear program.

” Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.”

As “60 Minutes” and other independent investigations have revealed, these aluminum tubes also have commercial applications. The IAEA has investigated the matter and has reported that there is no evidence to suggest they were intended for a nuclear program.

“Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack”

This is hardly the “only possible explanation.” The most likely reason for a country in a heavily-armed region within missile range of two nuclear powers to pursue weapons of mass destruction is for deterrence. Even the CIA has reported that there is little chance that Iraq would use WMDs for offensive purposes in the foreseeable future. By contrast, so says this CIA analysis, there is a far greater risk that Saddam Hussein would use whatever WMDs he may possess in the event of a U.S. invasion, when deterrence has clearly failed and he no longer has anything to lose.

“And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.”

Reports from the State Department, the CIA and other intelligence agencies have found no credible proof of any links between the Islamist al Qaeda movement and the secular Iraqi government. In fact, they have been at odds with each other for many years. Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism peaked in the 1980s, when the U.S. dropped Iraq from its list of states sponsoring terrorism in order to make the regime eligible to receive U.S. military and technological assistance. Furthermore, most biological weapons ( the only WMDs threat that Iraq realistically might possess at this point ) do leave fingerprints and could easily be traced to Iraq.

“Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans — this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.”

Again, there is no evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, who has called the Iraqi dictator “an apostate, an infidel, and a traitor to Islam.” Iraq has never threatened nor been implicated in any attack against U.S. territory and the CIA has reported no Iraqi-sponsored attacks against American interests since 1991. It is always easy to think of worst case scenarios, but no country has the right to invade another on the grounds that the other country might some day possess weapons that they might decide to pass on to someone else who might use these weapons against them.

“The dictator who is assembling the world’s most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages — leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.”

The use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi armed forces against Kurdish villages took place in the 1980s when the U.S. was backing Saddam Hussein’s government. The U.S. even covered up for the Halabja massacres and similar atrocities by falsely claiming it was the Iranians ( then the preferred enemy ) who were responsible. Human rights organizations have indeed reported torture and other human rights abuses by the Iraqi regime and did so back in the 1980s when the U.S. was supporting it. As a result, one can only assume that this professed concern about human rights abuses is insincere, particularly since the Bush Administration is currently sending military and police aid to repressive regimes such as Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Egypt and others that are guilty of similar human rights abuses. If President Bush really thinks that this constitutes evil, why does he support governments that engage in such crimes?

“We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him”.

To invade Iraq without authorization of the United Nations Security Council would be direct violation of fundamental legal norms and would make the United States an international outlaw. A unilateral U.S. invasion and the repercussions of such an act of aggression would be a far greater threat to the safety of Americans and the peace of the world than maintaining the current UN strategy of rigorous inspections, military sanctions and deterrence.

“Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American Armed Forces: Many of you are assembling in or near the Middle East, and some crucial hours may lay ahead. In those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you. Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and America believes in you.”

No doubt the thousands of armed forces personnel currently assembling in that region do believe in America. Hopefully, America will believe in them enough to not abandon them as they did the veterans of the previous war against Iraq who suffer the debilitating effects of Gulf War Syndrome without the support and recognition of the government that sent them into combat. It is also ironic to hear such high praise of the men and women readying for combat from a man who ( despite his support for the Vietnam War ) refused to fight in it, instead using family connections to get into a National Guard unit from which he was AWOL for much of his time of service. In addition, it is Orwellian to claim that an army poised to bomb and invade a sovereign nation are there to “keep the peace.” The best way American servicemen and servicewomen can keep the peace would be to refuse to obey any illegal orders of their commander-in-chief that command them to fight in an illegitimate war.

“We seek peace. We strive for peace… If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military — and we will prevail.”

The palpable eagerness of the Bush Administration to go to war belies any claims of seeking peace. Iraq has neither attacked nor threatened the United States, so it cannot be said that war is being forced upon the country. Virtually all of America’s allies oppose this threat of war. In the United States, the Catholic bishops and every mainline Protestant denomination have gone on record declaring that a U.S. invasion would not constitute a just war, a sentiment echoed by religious leaders around the world. The U.S. record of sparing the innocent in its recent wars has been quite poor, with upwards to 5000 civilians killed in the first Gulf War, an estimated 500 civilians in Yugoslavia and approximately 3000 civilians in Afghanistan. Most scenarios predict a far higher level of civilian casualties in a U.S. invasion of Iraq, particularly should American troops have to seize Baghdad ( a city of five million ) by force.

“And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies — and freedom”.

The United States has spent only a miserly amount of money for food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan relative to the billions of dollars spent to bomb that country. Despite greater political pluralism in Afghanistan under the post-Taliban regime, most of the country is not enjoying freedom, but is subjected to the abuse of war lords, opium magnates and ethnic militias that have gained in power since the U.S. intervention.

“Americans are a resolute people who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world and to ourselves. America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.”

The character and resoluteness of the American people is worthy of praise. Unfortunately, the United States government has frequently used its military and economic power to suppress liberty, such as supporting the overthrow of democratically-elected governments in countries like Guatemala and Chile while backing scores of dictatorial regimes throughout the world. The United States has also used powerful international financial institutions to force poor countries to weaken environmental and labor laws to enhance the profits of U.S-based multinational corporations.

“Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”

What would God think of a government that supplies more weapons, training and logistical support to more dictatorships and other human rights abusers than any other? If freedom and liberty are indeed the will of God, the foreign policy of the Bush Administration is nothing short of blasphemy.

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0129-09.htm