- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, President Bush made a strong argument on behalf of Washington’s efforts to rebuild Iraq and create a stable, democratic Middle East. The president rightly didn’t give any ground to foreign and domestic critics of the policies he has pursued with extraordinary determination since the September 11 attacks. Instead, he took advantage of the opportunity to address the U.N. to re-emphasize the reality that we make progress in the war on terrorism by encouraging democracy in dangerous, volatile regions like the Middle East.

Mr. Bush’s speech hardly embodied the sort of confrontational, “cowboy” approach his political opponents use to caricature him. For example, he praised the late senior U.N. diplomat in Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was murdered in an August 19 terrorist attack and hailed the U.N.’s work in immunizing Iraqi children against diseases like polio and measles. But the president made clear through body language and eye contact with the assembled delegates and world leaders that the burden is on the U.N. member-states (in particular, France and Germany) to demonstrate that they can play a constructive role in stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and fighting terrorism.

Noting that “the deadly combination of outlaw regimes, terror networks and weapons of mass destruction is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away,” he challenged the Security Council to adopt a resolution that would criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The president also pointed out that the fall of Saddam Hussein creates a new opportunity to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instituting democracy in Iraq, Mr. Bush said, will set an example which the Palestinians would do well to follow. Along those lines, the president was blistering in his criticism of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and his continuing support for terrorism: “The Palestinian cause is betrayed by leaders who cling to power by feeding old hatreds, and destroying the good work of others.”



Now comes Mr. Bush’s most formidable challenge: persuading Congress to agree to fund his $87 billion emergency spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan. Democratic lawmakers — their political appetites whetted by the president’s recently declining poll numbers — are complaining about the cost of the war on terror and objecting — absurdly, we think — to the inability of Mr. Bush to provide them with a date certain for the end of the conflict. (Many in the Democratic Party seek to use the spending request to force Mr. Bush to accede to a tax increase. Still others say they cannot abide spending money to fix infrastructure problems abroad when we have not solved all of our problems here.)

But objections of this sort are unworthy of a proud nation that has critical leadership responsibilities in the world. When President Truman proposed and Democratic and Republican statesmen in Congress voted to fund the Marshall Plan at the start of the Cold War, we had no idea how much it was going to cost in order to bring freedom and democracy to Western Europe, or how long the Cold War was going to last. But Congress acted responsibly, and the result was that Western European democracies survived and four decades later managed to defeat Soviet Communism.

It is demagogic and morally obtuse when Democrats complain that money spent on repairing infrastructure in strategically critical states like Iraq is money taken away from domestic social programs. Today, money spent in stabilizing places like Iraq constitutes an investment in our national security. It is unworthy of Washington politicians to treat prudent investments in our national security as if they are merely another domestic pork barrel.

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