- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, President Bush made a compelling, unapologetic case for his approach to the war against Islamist terror and its state sponsors, and his belief that the furtherance of democracy was essential to winning the war.

Much as he had done in his speech to the General Assembly one year ago this week, the president carefully delineated the critical differences between democratic nations and those where Islamist radicalism and more secular forms of tyranny hold sway. While both the Declaration of Independence and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim “the equal value and dignity of every human life,” that dignity “is dishonored by oppression, corruption, tyranny, bigotry, terrorism and all violence against the innocent,” Mr. Bush said. Free governments, he observed, fight terrorists who menace them, while oppressive governments are more likely to provide aid and comfort to terrorists.

Mr. Bush forcefully rebutted the false assertion that nations could stay out of war by standing on the sidelines and hoping that terrorists would decide to target others instead. For many years, the world averted its eyes because the targets of terrorism were Americans or Israelis. But the killing of several hundred schoolchildren by Chechen terrorists in the Russian city of Beslan earlier this month, Mr. Bush noted, illustrates “how the terrorists measure their success on the deaths of the innocent …The Russian children did nothing to deserve such awful suffering.”

Mr. Bush added: “Eventually, there is no safe isolation from terror networks or failed states that shelter them or outlaw regimes or weapons of mass destruction. Eventually there is no safety in looking away, seeking the quiet life by ignoring the struggles and oppression of others.” He also said that “all civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers.”

Much as he did in his address to the General Assembly one year ago, the president forcefully rebutted assertions that the United States had rushed to war last year in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power. He noted that the Iraqi dictator had agreed in 1991, as a condition of his cease-fire with U.S.-led coalition forces, that he would comply with Security Council resolutions on Iraq. Then, for more than a decade, Saddam ignored all of them. To have allowed this to continue (as France, et al. wanted) would have rendered meaningless the authority of the Security Council.

“As members of the United Nations, we all have a stake in the success of the world’s newest democracies. Not long ago, outlaw regimes in Baghdad and Kabul threatened the peace and sponsored terrorists. These regimes destabilized one of the world’s most vital and most volatile regions,” Mr. Bush observed. Today, he added, new governments are being created that will pose no threat to their neighbors. In Afghanistan, he pointed out, more than 10 million citizens — 4 million of them women — are now registered to vote. And in Iraq, more than 35 nations have contributed money and expertise to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

On the Arab-Israeli peace process, Mr. Bush reiterated that both Israelis and Palestinians must do more. Regarding Israel, Mr. Bush called for a settlement freeze and the dismantling of unauthorized outposts. Regarding the Palestinians, Mr. Bush was even tougher, demanding an end to incitement in the media and a cutoff of funding for terrorism. He also urged world leaders to withdraw all support from “any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.”

In sum, the president made a tough-as-nails case that promoting democracy and ousting corrupt despots goes hand-in-hand with fighting terrorism and curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

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