Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bush at the UN: Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform

George Bush spent today at the United Nations, representing the US to the entire world. Oh good.

At an exchange of toast with Kofi Annan, Bush said, “I’ve talked to him a lot of times during my time as President, and a lot of times my discussions with him came from when he was in far away places, because he cares deeply about the world.” And frequent-flier miles.

And he addressed the General Assembly. He said that “the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace.” And which were you again?

Actually, he talked about moderates or the “forces of moderation” nine times during the speech (“we have seen the forces of freedom and moderation transform entire continents”). A visitor from Mars would think that moderation was an ideology or a political philosophy, rather than merely a position on a spectrum. So remember: moderation good, extremism bad.

He praised elections in, um, Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. But what about Middle Eastern countries that aren’t quite so, um, democratic? He paints this chilling picture, which is like the worst after-school special ever:
Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You’re 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, 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.
Also: kids, don’t do drugs.

“Today, I’d like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East: My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false, and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror.” He added, “See, doesn’t that clear everything up? It was all just a big misunderstanding.”

He then spoke to the people of Iraq: “We will not yield the future of your country to terrorists and extremists.” The people of Iraq might be forgiven for wondering why the future of their country is George Bush’s to yield or not yield. He went on, “Working together, we will help your democracy succeed, so it can become a beacon of hope for millions in the Muslim world,” adding, “That’s beacon, not bacon, I know you people don’t like crispy delicious bacon. Mm, bacon.”

Then he spoke to the people of Afghanistan (he was speaking in reverse-clusterfuck order), said he’d stand by them blah blah blah.

Then he spoke to the people of Lebanon, many of whom, he said, “have seen your homes and communities caught in crossfire” between Hezbollah and Israel. Crossfire? Was Hezbollah dropping bombs on Lebanese homes?

Then he spoke to the people of Iran, telling them they “deserve an opportunity to determine your own future” and “Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.” Mixed message, really.

Then he spoke to the people of Syria, whose rulers, he said, “have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism.” Crossroad? I’ll bet no one’s running a red light at that intersection. Interestingly, in this section, unlike the one on Iran, he doesn’t call for regime change, saying “Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror (etc.)”

Then he spoke to the people of Darfur, who are suffering “unspeakable violence” (some would say that’s the problem, the lack of speaking). He says he’s appointing a Presidential Special Envoy, one Andrew Natsios, who knows something about the plight of persecuted minorities, being a Republican from Massachusetts. Natsios’s resumé suggests he know something about humanitarian aid, nothing at all about stopping genocide.

Talking about Israel & Palestine, but without speaking to their people, he said that “President Abbas is committed to peace” and “Prime Minister Olmert is committed to peace,” and once again it’s just those fucking extremists that’re making all the trouble.

“Freedom, by its nature, cannot be imposed -- it must be chosen.” Funny, ‘cause I thought we invaded all those countries to... oh, never mind.

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