Bush Defends Iraq War at U.N., Asks for Help
Wext: Wednesday, 22.September. @ 00:00:00 CEST
21 / 09 / 2004, UNITED NATIONS ( Reuters ) — Two years after warning the United Nations to act against Iraq or risk irrelevancy, President Bush on Tuesday defended the U.S.-led invasion and urged skeptical world leaders to help Iraq become a democracy in the face of a deadly insurgency.
In a U.N. speech with election-year overtones, Bush made no apologies about his decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003 without U.N. Security Council backing based on claims Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were not found.
Instead, he acknowledged the presence of Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister of Iraq, and declared, "Since the last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq have regained sovereignty."
Later, he added, "The U.N., and its member nations, must respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request, and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal, and free."
Bush's 21-minute speech was met mostly with stony silence, save for polite applause at the end.
He appeared at the United Nations at a time of rising violence in Iraq, with suicide car bombings and beheadings, and some lawmakers in his own Republican Party are questioning his Iraq policy. Democrats warn of a quagmire for U.S. troops.
His opponent in the Nov. 2 election, Democratic Sen. John Kerry , wasted little time in declaring Bush's speech a failure for not leveling with world leaders about the depth of the situation in Iraq.
"Iraq is in crisis, and the president needs to live in the world of reality, not in a world of fantasy spin," Kerry told reporters in Jacksonville, Florida. He said Bush "does not have the credibility to lead the world."
In his speech, Bush did portray Iraq as a dangerous place, with militants "conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians and the beheadings of bound men."
He predicted more violence in the days ahead as both Iraq and Afghanistan attempt to hold national elections -- next month in Afghanistan, and in January in Iraq.
"The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat -- it is to prevail," he said.
'DEFYING' PESSIMISTIC PREDICTIONS
Taking a few questions from reporters in a subsequent meeting with Allawi, Bush all but dismissed a CIA report leaked last week that offered a gloomy outlook in Iraq with the worst scenario a civil war.
"The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like," he said. "The Iraq citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions."
Allawi blamed the media for ignoring good news in Iraq.
Bush's speech was mostly free of the combativeness of his address in 2002 when he warned world leaders that Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering danger and that they must act to back up past U.N. resolutions or else be irrelevant.
He reminded the General Assembly of the Security Council's refusal to go along with the U.S.-led coalition in backing up with action a resolution passed unanimously before the war that threatened serious consequences for Iraq.
"The commitments we make must have meaning," Bush said. "When we say serious consequences for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week the war was illegal and in a speech before Bush talked, condemned Iraqi prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.
"In hindsight, experience shows that actions taken without a mandate which has been clearly defined in a Security Council resolution are doomed to failure," Swiss President Joseph Deiss said in a speech to the assembly.
Bush cast the Iraq conflict as a moment of opportunity for transforming the Middle East, and in a direct challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, urged Israel to impose a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and to dismantle "unauthorized outposts."