At UN, Obama highlights break with Bush policies


UNITED NATIONS - President Barack Obama was one of the first world leaders to speak here this morning at the opening of the 65th UN General Assembly. He painted a dire yet hopeful picture of the world, highlighting the continuing problems of economic turmoil, war, environmental degradation and terrorism.

The president walked a fine line. He took pains to show respect for all the world's cultures - for example, he referred to Iran by its full name, the Islamic Republic of Iran. But he also stressed a universal concept of freedom, democracy and human rights, saying that "each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people, yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty."

He spoke hawkishly about North Korea, calling it a "regime that enslaves its own people." But he rejected former President Bush's militarist foreign policy, saying, "Make no mistake, the ultimate success of democracy in the world won't come because the United States dictates it. It will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed."

Obama's boldest statements came in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He noted progress in the fact that the leaders of Israel and Palestine met at the White House and are continuing direct face-to-face negotiations.

Dismissing "cynics" who say a solution to the conflict is impossible, Obama told the assembled heads of state that, if all goes well, "when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations - an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel." (Currently, the Palestinians' official UN status is as representatives of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.)

Obama urged world leaders, and the public, to "think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire."

He urged supporters of both sides to help advance a peaceful resolution. "Those of us who consider ourselves friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine, one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity," he said.

On the other hand, he said, the Arab countries who have put forward the Arab Peace Initiative, widely accepted as the basis for a peace agreement, need to turn words into action. He chastizeed certain countries, without naming them, to accept that "Israel's existence is not a subject for debate" and that "the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance; it's injustice."

On the issue of terror, Obama said, "Underneath these challenges lie deeper fears: that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control." Global coordination is necessary to address the problem, he said.

He also emphasized global coordination and equality in regard to the economy. "We made the G-20 the focal point for international cooperation," he said, "because in a world where prosperity is more diffuse, we must broaden our circle of cooperation to include emerging economies."

Previously, the G-8, or Group of Eight, which included only the world's richest countries, worked to coordinate economic policy without any voice from developing countries. The move to working through the G-20, which includes Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China, India and countries from every region of the world, has been hailed as a move towards a more equitable global order.

"The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of depression," the president said, and then vowed not to rest until the "seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, for all Americans, and for people around the globe."

Obama also highlighted the withdrawal of 100,000 troops from Iraq and his plan to begin drawing down in Afghanistan. He also noted work with Russia on a new nuclear treaty.

While speaking of progress on reversing the growing trend towards nuclear armament, the president chastised Iran for being, of all the signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the only nation unable to demonstrate its compliance. "Actions have consequences," he said, but added, "the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it."

The UN gathering, which will be attended by a total of 190 leaders, is the largest meeting of heads of state in history.

Photo: President Obama addresses world leaders at the UN General Assembly, Sept. 23. (United Nations photo)


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  • Obama got it right when he said, "Make no mistake, the ultimate success of democracy in the world won't come because the United States dictates it. It will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed." Except the outcome will be democracy based on the struggles of the people against U. S. imperialism in the over one hundred countries with U. S. military bases. Democracy will not come as a dictate from the U. S., but in spite of it.

    Even if Obama demonstrates a glimmer of a break with the Bush policies,isn't it time to widen those cracks with an anti-imperialist movement. The trillion dollars spent on aggression are robbing the working class of jobs and health care.

    U. S. Peace Council, now more than ever!

    Posted by David Bell, 09/25/2010 11:08am (5 years ago)

  • True, minor differences exist between the Obama foreign and military policy and that of Bush.

    If all one does is parse President Obama's speeches, it's easy to exaggerate those minor differences.

    The bigger truth, however, is the fundamental continuity. Obama's war secretary, Robert Gates, a Republican, has worked for eight presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2 and now Obama. Five Republicans; three Democrats.

    That's continuity.

    Like all presidents since 1945 Obama has increased the military budget. In some respects, Obama's foreign policy is more brutal than Bush's. Ask the people of Honduras and Afghanistan. In many respects, it is as bad. Ask the victims of "rendition."

    Posted by Thomas Kenny, New York, NY, 09/24/2010 9:31am (5 years ago)

  • Fine journalistic reporting.............Really!!

    Am awaiting politico-economic analysis.

    Posted by Sheffield Newton, 09/23/2010 7:21pm (5 years ago)

  • This article doesn't make sense. The U.S. NIE said in 2007 that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Their is no evidence that it has restarted that program and hasn't violated any part of international law. All the Arab countries, have accepted the existence of Israel for years. Its the Palestinians who are being slaughtered and starved. The impasse in the peace process is caused by the Israeli side.

    Posted by Sean Mulligan, 09/23/2010 6:04pm (5 years ago)

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