Tuesday, September 25, 2007

President Bush Speaks to UN

The AP reported today on President Bush's speech before the UN General Assembly.

President Bush announced new sanctions Tuesday against the military dictatorship in Myanmar, accusing it of imposing "a 19-year reign of fear" that denies basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship. "Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma," the president said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Instead of Iran, the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma, was drawing Bush's ire. He was announcing new visa restrictions and financial sanctions against the regime and those who provide it financial aid.

The policies come as Myanmar's military government issued a threat Monday to the barefoot Buddhist monks who led 100,000 people marching through a major city. It was the strongest protest against the repressive regime in two decades.

The AP writer, Ben Feller, couldn't resist a little jab at the President, a non sequitur in the midst of a couple paragraphs about the original goals of the UN:

The president heads to the forum, though, with his clout weakened by the plodding war in Iraq.

The article focused on " the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma," as well as the way Bush's speech didn't focus on Iran. So I went to the full text of the speech, and the reality is different from the AP's slant. The speech wasn't momentous, but it had praise and criticism to go around--it wasn't as narrow as the AP would have us believe. Here are a couple excerpts.

The United States salutes the nations that have recently taken strides toward liberty -- including Ukraine and Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and Mauritania and Liberia, Sierra Leone and Morocco. The Palestinian Territories have moderate leaders, mainstream leaders that are working to build free institutions that fight terror, and enforce the law, and respond to the needs of their people. The international community must support these leaders, so that we can advance the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.

I love the first sentence. Any progress toward liberty should be commended. But President Bush seems blinded by his allegiance to Mahmoud Abbas, who comes across as being as two-faced as any of the other terror-supporting leaders in the Middle East.

Every civilized nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship. In Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear....

In Cuba, the long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its end. The Cuban people are ready for their freedom. And as that nation enters a period of transition, the United Nations must insist on free speech, free assembly, and ultimately, free and competitive elections.

In Zimbabwe, ordinary citizens suffer under a tyrannical regime. The government has cracked down on peaceful calls for reform, and forced millions to flee their homeland. The behavior of the Mugabe regime is an assault on its people -- and an affront to the principles of the Universal Declaration. The United Nations must insist on change in Harare -- and must insist for the freedom of the people of Zimbabwe.

In Sudan, innocent civilians are suffering repression -- and in the Darfur region, many are losing their lives to genocide. America has responded with tough sanctions against those responsible for the violence. We've provided more than $2 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping aid. I look forward to attending a Security Council meeting that will focus on Darfur, chaired by the French President. I appreciate France's leadership in helping to stabilize Sudan's neighbors. And the United Nations must answer this challenge to conscience, and live up to its promise to promptly deploy peacekeeping forces to Darfur.

It would have been criminal if he had ignored Zimbabwe, where the latest reports I saw said inflation is now back under 7000%. As though 6600% inflation is some sort of blessing.

And I'm not sure I agree with the UN sending peacekeeping forces to Darfur--not since there have been so many reports of the "peacekeepers" involved in sexual abuse of the people they're supposed to be protecting. The Sudanese people in Darfur don't need any more abuse.

The speech was pretty good, as presidential speeches before the UN go. The praise was good, and the slams weren't body blows. And nothing will change, because the UN will refuse to do anything the US recommends, just to prove it's not America's lackey.

And the AP will keep slanting its articles so they're sticking it to the President as much as they can without appearing too, too biased.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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