Deconstructing George W. Bush: A Critical Analysis of the 2002 State of the Union Address
By Stephen Zunes
January 31, 2002
Foreign Policy In Focus
President George W. Bush's State of the Union address on January 29, 2002 was the first in many years to focus primarily on foreign policy. Despite widespread accolades in the media and strong bipartisan support in Congress, a careful examination of the language and assumptions in the address raise disturbing questions about the direction of U.S. foreign policy under the current administration. What follows are some excerpts consisting of the majority of the speech addressing foreign policy issues and interspersed with some critical commentary. This should not be interpreted as in any way minimizing the very real danger from terrorism, or the need for a decisive response, nor to imply that Bush administration policy regarding terrorism and other foreign policy issues has been totally negative. Yet the failure to recognize the misleading verbiage and to recognize the dangerous implications of such words--however eloquent and reassuring to a nation that has experienced such trauma in recent months--will not only make us less safe from the threat of terrorism, but will deprive Americans of our greatest defense and asset: our freedom to question and challenge government policies that are not in the best interests of our country and the world.
The annotated State of the Union Address:
"In four short months, our nation has comforted the victims;
. . .begun to rebuild New York;
. . . rallied a great coalition;
. . .captured, arrested and rid the world of thousands of terrorists;
. . .destroyed Afghanistan's terrorist training camps;
. . .saved a people from starvation;
. . .and freed a country from brutal oppression.
"The American flag flies again over our embassy in Kabul...
"Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantanamo Bay.
"And terrorist leaders who urged followers to sacrifice their lives are running for their own.
"America and Afghanistan are now allies against terror. We will be partners in rebuilding that country...
"When I called our troops into action, I did so with complete confidence in their courage and skill.
For reasons too numerous to mention, this is difficult even to define, much less measure.
"The men and women of our armed forces have delivered a message now clear to every enemy of the United States: Even 7,000 miles away, across oceans and continents, on mountaintops and in caves, you will not escape the justice of this nation.
"Our military has put the terror training camps of Afghanistan out of business, yet camps still exist in at least a dozen countries. A terrorist underworld--including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Jaish-i-Mohammed--operates in remote jungles and deserts and hides in the centers of large cities.
"My hope is that all nations will heed our call and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own. Many nations are acting forcefully. But some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake: If they do not act, America will.
"Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.
"Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since Sept. 11. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.
"Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.
"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade.
"This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children.
"This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors.
"This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.
"We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.
"We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack.
"The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
"Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch, yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch. We cannot stop short. If we stopped now, leaving terror camps intact and terror states unchecked, our sense of security would be false and temporary.
"It costs a lot to fight this war. We have spent more than a billion dollars a month, over 30 million dollars a day, and we must be prepared for future operations. Afghanistan proved that expensive precision weapons defeat the enemy and spare innocent lives, and we need more of them.
"My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high: whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay it.
"America will lead by defending liberty and justice, because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture, but America will always stand firm for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance.
"We seek a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror. In this moment of opportunity, a common danger is erasing old rivalries. America is working with Russia, China, and India in ways we never have before to achieve peace and prosperity.
"In every region, free markets and free trade and free societies are proving their power to lift lives. Together with friends and allies from Europe to Asia, from Africa to Latin America, we will demonstrate that the forces of terror cannot stop the momentum of freedom.
"Our enemies send other people's children on missions of suicide and murder. They embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice, made long ago, on the day of our founding. We affirm it again today. We choose freedom and the dignity of every life. Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on. We have known freedom's price; we have shown freedom's power, and in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory.
General Fair Use Notice
This reposted page may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Globalissues.org is making this article available in efforts to advance the understanding of the workings, impact and direction of various global issues. I believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use,” you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.