Online Viewpoints

International Reaction to Bush's Speech on Iraq and Terrorism

President George W. Bush speaks to the nation from the Cabinet Room at the White House, Sept. 7. (White House photo/Tina Hager)

The full text of U.S. President George W. Bush’s Sept. 7 speech can be found at the White House’s Web site.

Paris Le Figaro (conservative), Sept. 9: The United States finds itself confronting the greatest possible tension in the Middle East, one year from a decisive presidential election. One has the impression that…something will crack very soon….One doesn’t really know whether the first crack will appear in Iraq or on the Israeli-Palestinian front—or somewhere else, where we least expect it. But the certainty of an imminent crisis is there. And if one needed extra proof, it was there in the complete U-turn President Bush took in his [Sept. 7] speech, when he launched an almost pathetic appeal for help to the European allies whose contributions he had formerly spurned.

Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung (centrist), Sept. 9: George Bush has given a lot of speeches but possibly none was as difficult for him as his latest address to the nation. He of all people, who with unshakable faith in his and America's strength wanted to reorder Iraq and the Middle East, had to eat humble pie and ask for help from his political enemies and critics at home in Washington and in the world. Regardless of whether Bush was driven by "optimism with a touch of naivety," as The New York Times wrote, or whether it was arrogance, conviction, or a series of negative circumstances, one thing is certain: The neo-radicals in Washington must grudgingly admit that the world power of the United States has limits and that they are narrower than they may have supposed.
—Wolfgang Koydl

Toronto Toronto Star (liberal), Sept. 9: There are no signs of a Bush conversion on the road to Baghdad. Instead of coming clean in his speech this week, the president slid back into the muck of misconceptions and myth first constructed to manufacture consent for a war the U.S. administration wanted too much....Now that the Bush Doctrine's underbelly is exposed, now that Saddam [Hussein] is on the threshold of bringing down the son as well as the father, panic is driving a more cooperative approach to international relations....Throwing Bush a lifeline makes good sense and better policy if it restores some global balance. That delicate fulcrum will have to be found at the Security Council, where a significant diplomatic price will be attached to getting the United States out of the Iraq quagmire and perhaps saving Bush's second term. Canada's role is clear. With all available troops committed to the real war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Ottawa can only urge allies to respond to the U.S. cry for assistance and press Washington equally hard to accept conditions that will attract that help.
—James Travers

Sydney Australian Financial Review (centrist), Sept. 9: The most important segment of George Bush's speech to rally support for the faltering effort to pacify Iraq was also the shortest. The U.S. President...devoted just seven or eight short paragraphs to the case for other nations to back the U.S. and British occupying forces in Iraq with troops and money of their own under a new U.N. resolution....Having spent much of the past year disparaging the United Nations and the multilateral ideal, Bush may have to eat a bit more humble pie to achieve this goal. Painful though this may be, he should be prepared to do so....France, Russia, and Germany, which opposed the war and fell out with the United States as a result, must also put aside any lingering resentment and negotiate the proposed new resolution in good faith, recognizing that the United Nations' peacemaking record has been patchy and that the new mandate will need to reflect this.

Milan Il Giornale (conservative), Sept. 8: The U.S. economy is wading in uncertain waters, the Democratic opposition has awakened after a two-year coma having found its voice and its nails, and each step along Palestine's "road to peace" is obstructed by road blocks….Bush confronted all of these problems in a 15-minute message to the nation, his first after the announcement, now revealed to have been premature, of a military victory in Iraq....In a few hours, the United States will, once again, solemnly recall Manhattan's criminal massacre; a few hours ago, the man on whom the United States had placed many hopes retired from the Palestinian scene….In the short- and even in the medium-term, Iraq represents a weak spot in Bush's grand strategy….The "turning point," if it will ever take place, involves more than just "digesting" [French President Jacques] Chirac's and [French Foreign Minister Dominique] de Villepin's manners: It implies returning to the United Nations a role and a credibility it was denied during a moment of indignation and triumph....
—Alberto Pasolini Zanella

Nairobi Daily Nation (independent), Sept. 9: I did not know whether to laugh or cry. But I was disgusted yesterday watching U.S. President George Bush on TV asking the U.N. family to get involved in the continuing efforts to pacify Iraq. This was the same unilateralist Bush who so arrogantly shut out the United Nations and the international community in general as the United States took its so-called war on terror into Iraq to send packing the government of President Saddam Hussein. Now that winning the peace is proving so much harder than winning the war and the body count of U.S. casualties is rising, President Bush has the guts, quite shamelessly, to appeal to a sense of responsibility by the U.N. member-states. Suddenly, the mighty United States is not the Alpha and the Omega, but a nation in doubt about itself and coming to realize that even the greatest power on earth cannot imperiously go it alone.
—Macharia Gaitho

Beijing Sina News (independent online news service) Sept. 9: In an address to the nation that combined policy with patriotic fervor, U.S. President Bush argued Sunday that the United States must stay the course in postwar Iraq despite a mounting cost in lives and money. In his emotional 18-minute speech, Bush did not mention anything about [Osama] Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or weapons of mass destruction—questions that the American public is probably most concerned about—but instead focused on one thing: Money. Bush is not only seeking US$87 billion from the Congress in the name of “antiterrorism” but is also calling for assistance, monetary and military, from the international community….With the presidential election approaching, the Democrats have been targeting the Iraq issue and accusing Bush for having started a “wrong war.” They are also pushing the Bush administration rather vigorously to seek international support on Iraq’s reconstruction. Under such circumstances, Bush has to look around and ask for money. Apparently, this latest Bush speech has lost much of the glamor that was so evident in the one back in May.

London The Guardian (liberal), Sept. 7: Washington's confession of weakness has provoked unhelpful “I told you so” smugness. There is an irony in a bullishly unilateral American administration's asking for the aid of the nations and an institution it belittled so recently. But no one should indulge in point-scoring. The worst thing that could happen would be for the United States, sick of a US$3 billion-a-month price tag and mounting casualties, to pull out entirely. We need America's manpower, financial resources, and its can-do attitude. And, for once, the United States needs the rest of the world. This offers an opportunity to Washington to begin to repair the damage done to international relations in recent months. Tony Blair, with his much-vaunted special relationship with President Bush, is in an especially strong position to help broker an agreement that smoothes over old disputes.

Moscow Vremya Novostei (reformist), Sept. 8: Yesterday evening U.S. President George Bush made a 15-minute speech to the nation—his third in the last six months—devoted to the war in Iraq. On March 20, the day of the war's beginning, the president declared: “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the world with weapons of mass murder.” No banned weapons were uncovered in overthrowing Iraq. “The tyrant has fallen, Iraq is free,” declared aviator Bush, decked out in a uniform on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, announcing the end of the war on May 1. But after [this appearance] the number of U.S. soldiers dying in conflict has become comparable to that of the battlefield losses of the wartime period. And the overall U.S. military fatalities in the “postwar period”—149 soldiers—exceeds the figures for the wartime period of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 (government-owned), Sept. 8: Yesterday George Bush tried to say that [international] disagreements over the attack on Iraq were an issue of the past. In this way he tried to win the support of America's traditional allies and members of the U.N. Security Council to endorse a resolution that could pave the way for dispatching multinational forces to Iraq. But it is a fact that without amending its improper policies and without accepting the U.N.’s role in the reconstruction of Iraq and transfer of power to the Iraqi people, America cannot rationally expect support from the international community. This expectation will not be realized.

Amman Jordan Times (independent), Sept. 10: U.S. President George Bush's address to the nation on Sunday broke no new ground. For most of us who were hoping for more concrete and doable ideas on how to resolve the Iraqi conflict, what we heard instead was the same old “staying the course” stance that has yet to prove efficient….It is now academic whether the United States should have launched a war against Iraq. The war has taken place and was concluded in favor of the United States and Britain. The present central issue is Iraq's sovereignty and the ability of the Iraqis to exercise their right to self-determination. Iraq must be freed as soon as possible from foreign occupation and from domestic tyranny as well. This should be the focus of Washington and the rest of the international community. Sharing the prize of a successful war should not be the main concern of major players in the U.N. Security Council. Iraq is not a pie to be carved up among victors in the war or other powers that chose to stay out of the controversial war.

Jerusalem The Jerusalem Post (conservative, English-language), Sept. 9: U.S. President George W. Bush's rare prime-time address was largely a response to demands he admit that Iraq's postwar transformation will be more costly than budgeted, and that America could use some help from other nations….Bush has taken a lot of undeserved flak for building his case for the war on the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He did this because the world, and his own State Department, clamored for him to seek the imprimatur of the United Nations, and it so happened that Iraq was in flagrant violation of 12 U.N. resolutions requiring it to disarm….But the war in Iraq was even more fundamentally a war of self-defense, as Bush is belatedly beginning to explain….The toppling of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were critical demonstrations that support for terrorism is punishable by regime change. The threat of weapons of mass destruction only compounds the necessity of the war against radical Islam, and there is no contradiction between the two….The West may have been happy to leave tyrannies alone, but they will not leave us alone. It is no longer possible to continue the attitude, after 9/11's taste of mega-terrorism, that the nature of these regimes is none of our business.

São Paulo O Estado de São Paulo (conservative), Sept. 9: In his address on the evening of 7 September, during which he asked Congress for additional $86 billion to [add to] the $79 billion he recently requested for undertakings in Iraq, Bush said without blushing that United Nations' member states now had an opportunity and the responsibility to help rebuild Iraq. In other words, to shoulder part of the political, human, and financial burden of an enterprise that the U.N. Security Council refused to back. The speech was a collection of transparent sophisms to conceal the defeats that will follow in the wake of the military victory hailed on March 1 aboard the USS Lincoln....Bush tried to persuade Americans that the invasion of Iraq made war on the terrorist enemy when in fact it was the invasion that brought terror to Iraq. Bush used the same tone he had used in his most recent speech to veterans of the American Legion on Aug. 26, when he declared that Iraq was “a test in the war on terror.” He now used the expression “central front”…High-sounding words to conceal a position of increasing political vulnerability and the constraint to changing tack viz-a-viz the United Nations.

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), Sept. 10: What did President Bush mean? Ankara found a sentence in his speech two days ago meaningful. In fact, it made Ankara uneasy. The sentence was: “The northern part of Iraq is generally stable. It is moving toward reconstruction and self-government.” What worried Ankara most in Bush's 15-minute speech was the word “self-government.” It was not mentioned by U.S. officials in the past. So why did Bush mention it? What did he mean? What was his objective? Does it point to a change in Washington's policy in favor of the recognition of the right to self-government for the Kurds (in other words, the creation of an opportunity for independence)?....Turkish diplomats have to readjust Turkey's policy on Iraq, including the northern part of that country, in accordance with the new conditions. That requires them to reconsider the old concepts that have now lost their validity, particularly Turkey's “red lines.” It is now time to draw up creative and daring strategies.

Athens Kathimerini (conservative), Sept. 9: The overtone of the presidential address was extremely apologetic. Bush prepared his compatriots for a prolonged war in Iraq, saying that the U.S. effort, “will take time and sacrifices.” And money. A lot of money….This is not such good news, either for U.S. workers, who lost 3 million jobs during his presidency, or the state finances of the superpower, already overburdened by the drastic tax relief program of the Bush administration. Bush was equally apologetic to the increasingly cautious international community. His plea to the U.N. “to undertake a broader role in Iraq” does not sound particularly convincing, given that no other president in U.S. postwar history has caused so much damage to the international organization. The conciliatory pleas to the antiwar “bloc” of Russia and France, accompanied by vague promises of future “benefits,” reflect, surely, on Washington's urgent need to secure the broadest possible international contribution—at a military, economic, and diplomatic level—given the difficult situation in Iraq.

Jakarta Media Indonesia (independent), Sept. 9: Washington is looking morose about developments in Afghanistan and Iraq. In an 18-minute address to the nation yesterday, Bush asked for world participation in securing his policies in the two countries. Bush did not look as strong as he did four months ago when he spoke of U.S. victory over Iraq.…Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of Washington's failure to forge global participation. Not because the world is unaware of the danger of terrorism, but because Washington pushes its own wishes and perceptions too much….Now, when Bush is overwhelmed on the question of funds and soldiers, the United Nations is being wooed to participate in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Through diplomatic means, the United States is trying to convince the United Nations that U.S. interests are global interests. And, as usual, the United Nations, having lost its independence, will sooner or later do what the United States wants.