In U.N. Speech, Bush Focuses on Terrorism
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 -- On a day when other world leaders largely focused on the global economic crisis, President Bush sought to turn the attention of the United Nations to his core foreign policy goals of fighting terrorists and promoting freedom around the world.
Bush's administration has had a testy relationship with the United Nations, particularly because of the widespread belief here that he took the United States to war in Iraq without a proper international mandate. In his address Tuesday, his final speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush seemed to hold out an olive branch, citing the group's extraordinary "potential" to solve world problems, while urging greater transparency, accountability and dedication to the "war on terror."
"For eight years, the nations in this assembly have worked together to confront the extremist threat. . . . We witnessed successes and setbacks, and through it all a clear lesson has emerged: The United Nations and other multilateral organizations are needed more urgently than ever," Bush told the delegates.
Bush did try to assure the delegates that the United States is taking steps to put its economic house in order, telling them of his confidence that "we will act in the urgent time frame required." But his focus on terrorism and democracy was a contrast to the emphasis of other leaders gathered here, some of whom expressed alarm that the U.S. economic crisis could worsen poverty, rising food prices and other global problems.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the "global financial crisis is endangering" U.N. efforts to combat poverty and avert an environmental cataclysm caused by global warming.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on major financial powers to build new institutions to manage the financial markets. "We cannot wait to bring ethics to financial capitalism," he said. "We can no longer govern today's world, the world of the 21st century, with the institutions of the 20th century."
Some of the leaders vented their feelings about what they consider a freewheeling, under-regulated financial industry that has saddled the world with huge debts and caused the suffering of ordinary people. They prodded the United States and other wealthy governments to take action to prevent the crisis from worsening.
"The euphoria of speculators has spawned the anguish of entire peoples, in the wake of successive financial disasters that threaten the world's economy," said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. "Only decisive action by governments, especially in countries in the heart of the crisis, will be able to control the disorder that has spread through the world's financial sector."
In years past, Bush has been the focus of the annual gathering of world leaders for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, but on Tuesday he vied with other figures, especially the GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is here to meet some of them.
As in recent years, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his turn at the lectern to offer an incendiary attack on the United States and Israel, blaming "a minuscule minority" of "Zionists" for causing the financial crisis.
"American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road, and its next rulers must limit their interference to their own borders," Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly, in a speech that drew polite applause. He said that a "small but deceitful number of people called Zionists" have dominated U.S. and European financial, monetary and political decisions "in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."
The U.S. and Israeli delegations were both represented by a single note-taker. Ahmadinejad attended Bush's speech, at one point flashing a thumbs-down sign to an aide.