Friday, September 23, 2005

Response to Bush's UN Address

Better late than never, MADRE recently deciphered the UN speech Bush made on September 14th. It is a much needed reality check on how the president has lived up to his words, point by point.

"Either hope will spread, or violence will spread—and we must take the side of hope."

As the world's biggest arms exporter, the US has clearly taken the side of violence. On Bush's watch, US arms sales have outpaced the second-largest arms dealer (Russia) two-to-one. More than half of these weapons went to governments known for human rights abuses against civilians, such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Colombia. 1

"The terrorists must know that wherever they go, they cannot escape justice."

Oh no? While the Bush Administration has been busy killing civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, al Qaeda has regrouped to become a more diffuse network of local units able to strike with greater frequency in multiple countries. Osama bin Laden, meanwhile, cannot be found because—as Bush famously explained—"he is hiding."2

"The Security Council has an opportunity to put the terrorists on notice when it votes on a resolution that condemns the incitement of terrorist acts."

The resolution, which was passed after Bush's speech, bans incitement without defining the term. It thereby gives governments a powerful instrument to silence political opponents, shut down organizations critical of their policies, and quash peaceful dissent.

"We must send a clear message to the rulers of outlaw regimes that sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass murder: you will not be allowed to threaten the peace and stability of the world."

Apparently that prerogative is reserved for the Pentagon, which just last week updated plans for using nuclear weapons preemptively.3 In a move that the UN Secretary General labeled "a disgrace," Bush's UN Ambassador, John Bolton, blocked a call for nuclear disarmament from the Summit's outcome document.

"Confronting our enemies is essential, and so civilized nations will continue to take the fight to the terrorists."

More bad news for the people who happen to live in the battle zone. While Bush was making this callous remark, 150 Iraqi civilians were killed in the worst single day of attacks since the 2003 US invasion.

"We are committed to the Millennium Development Goals."

This must have been news to Bolton, who tried to delete every mention of the goals from the Summit's outcome document.

"I call on all the world's nations to implement the Monterrey Consensus."

The Monterrey Consensus (named for a 2002 economic summit in Mexico) includes a commitment by rich countries to spend 0.7 percent of their national income (less than three-quarters of a percent) on development—something that the US has fought tooth and nail against and still refuses to do. In fact, the US—the word's richest country—spends less than a quarter of one percent on development (0.18 percent). Bush is much more enthusiastic about the other provisions of the Monterrey Consensus: poor countries implementing political and economic reforms demanded by wealthy countries in exchange for aid and debt relief.

"Tying aid to reform is essential to eliminating poverty."

Actually, untying aid from "reforms" imposed by donor countries would go a lot farther. These "reforms" center on policies such as privatization, trade liberalization, and debt servicing, which have worsened poverty in poor countries, and resulted in a net flow of about $200 billion a year from poor to rich countries (compared to about $50 billion a year that poor countries receive in aid).4 And while ending government corruption (to which Bush was ostensibly referring) is crucial, it is the citizens of poor countries, not rich foreign governments, who should have the power to demand accountability from their leaders.

"At the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, we set a clear goal: an AIDS-free generation in Africa. And I challenge every member of the United Nations to take concrete steps to achieve that goal."

Some of Bush's "concrete steps":

  • Bush demanded that African governments spend US funding exclusively on drugs patented by US companies, instead of generics (the patented drugs cost about $15,000 a year per patient compared to $350 a year for generics).5
  • Bush's UN Ambassador refused to allow the World Summit to "encourage pharmaceutical companies to make anti-retroviral drugs affordable and accessible in Africa."
  • Bush insists on prevention programs that promote abstinence over proven "safer sex" approaches, put stringent restrictions on condom use, and demand that groups receiving funds formally oppose abortion and prostitution.
  • Bush promised in 2003 to spend $15 billion to fight AIDS, but took most of this money from existing programs, including child vaccination initiatives—a move that The New York Times described as "forcing the babies of Africa to pay for their parents' AIDS drugs."6

"We've pledged to increase our funding for malaria treatment and prevention by more than $1.2 billion over the next five years."

Another lie. Only about nine percent of this is new money; the rest was slated to be spent anyway.7 Malaria is the number one killer of African children, yet Bush is undermining international cooperation in the fight against malaria (and AIDS) by refusing to adequately fund the UN Global Fund to Fight AIIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"We agreed to cancel 100 percent of the debt for the world's most heavily indebted nations."

This is a frequently repeated distortion of the agreement reached by the G8 countries (the world's richest countries) in July 2005. Debt cancellation was offered to only a limited number of countries (18 of the 62 that need it in order to achieve the minimum standards of the MDGs).8 In dollar terms, the deal is worth only about $1.5 billion a year (or about 6 percent) of the $25 billion that Africa needs to achieve the MDGs.9 And it comes with a catch: to qualify, countries must "boost private sector development" and eliminate "impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign." These conditions are designed to bring the G8 countries more money than they write off.

"And when Iraqis complete their journey, their success will inspire others to claim their freedom, the Middle East will grow in peace and hope and liberty, and all of us will live in a safer world."

This delusion has already cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 2,000 US soldiers and pushed Iraq to the brink of becoming an Islamic state. In fact, the example of Iraq's "journey" has undermined democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond by instilling fear that "regime change" could result in foreign military occupation, mass killings, and civil war.


Post a Comment

<< Home