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Living dangerously

President Bush’s speech to the United Nations on Iraq was like deja vu all over again. America has made the world’s bed; now we’ve all got to sleep in it and pay for it By Jill Nelson.
/ Source: contributor

As Congress commences hearings on the Bush administration’s request for an additional $87 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans and the rest of the world’s citizens should be very, very worried.

We can only hope that this time around, unlike in April when Congress approved $79 billion or a year ago when they were deafened by the drumbeats for war, members of Congress — particularly those running for president — will stand firm in challenging the latest round of funding for what from its inception has been an ill-conceived and executed “war on terrorism.”

It’s clear that in spite of the bodies and bombings, the administration is steadfast in its refusal to recognize the debacle of its own making. George W. Bush’s speech yesterday to the U.N. General Assembly was like déjà vu all over again (with apologies to Yogi Berra, who, unlike Bush, was on a winning team).

There was no acknowledgement from the president that the war in Iraq has plunged the United States and the world into a quagmire with no end in sight. Or that to unilaterally wage a war that was opposed by most of the nations of the world undermines democracy and the possibility of world peace. Or that, having done so to disastrous effect, the United States now desperately needs the help of the United Nations to stabilize and rebuild of Iraq and provide a patina of legitimacy. Instead, Bush was the wolf in sheep’s clothing, mouthing words of democracy, humanitarian concern and peace, while not budging on crucial issues such as the relinquishing control over that devastated nation.

In spite of the pundits’ strenuous efforts to spin the Bush speech as something new and important, the truth is that it was the same old, same old. Bush’s passing mention of the need for AIDS relief, aggressive action against the international sex trade, and an end international slavery was overshadowed by the ominous cloud of Iraq and his self-declared “war on terrorism.”

In the end, what the president wants from American taxpayers, Congress and the members of the United Nations is not critical discussion and united action, but money and bodies for Iraq. With an election in 2004, Americans are already saddled with a failing economy; the prospect of having to ante up another $87 billion to rebuild post-war Iraq — that’s just the latest installment. With our sons and daughters being shot and blown up by insurgents there, we might not be so eager to pull the lever and give Bush four more years without someone else to help us pay the monetary and human price.

No matter that the invasion of Iraq is a debacle by any standards: more American soldiers killed since the war ended than during it. Daily sniper attacks. Political chaos and religious fervor growing. The bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19. The murder of Saddam Hussein’s sons and the public display of photographs of their bodies. And still the question remains, where are Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction used by the Bush administration to justify this war?

Instead, America’s president stood before the world and made no concessions, contradicted the obvious fact that the world is now a far more dangerous place than it was two years ago, and called upon the United Nations to help pay for and support our disastrous venture with bodies and bucks. Bush’s message boiled down to simply this: America has made the world’s bed; now we’ve all got to both lie in it and pay for it. Is it any wonder that the response of the majority of this august body might politely be described as tepid at best?

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, most of the vaunted American free press declined to broadcast the speeches of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan before Bush or French President Jacques Chirac afterward. Both of these world leaders spoke eloquently of the pitfalls of any nation of the world acting unilaterally, of the dangerous precedents such actions set, and of the threat to world stability that America’s actions have exacerbated.

Is anyone surprised that Bush himself didn’t even deign to stay for Chirac’s speech? Instead, the media went to its usual stable of paid political pundits, whose job it is to convince Americans that Bush is either “presidential,” “strong,” “clear” or all of the above and then some.

Yet try as they might, you don’t need glasses to see that the president has no clothes. That with the exception of a very few allies, the United States is hanging out there alone, naked for the world to see. The question is, when will the American people recognize what a sham and disaster this administration is, both abroad and at home, and refuse to continue funding such madness?

The world can only hope it’s before November, 2004.

Jill Nelson is a journalist, teacher and author. She is a regular contributor to