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International Press Response to Bush's State of the Union Address

Views from Hong Kong, Madrid, Prague, Baghdad, Pyongyang, Munich, Tokyo, Budapest, Jidda, Manila, Beirut, Sydney, New Delhi, Toronto, Banjul, Lilongwe, Nairobi, Brisbane, Johannesburg, and Cali

Bush delivers the State of the Union address
U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledges one of the many standing ovations that greeted his Jan. 28 address to Congress (Photo: Eric Draper/White House).
Read the full text of U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union address here.

International Press Response to Bush's Statements on Iraq:


Hong Kong Hsin Wan Pao (pro-Chinese communist), Jan. 30: After carefully reading the State of the Union Address delivered by President Bush on Tuesday [Jan. 28], one can almost be sure that an attack on Iraq is inevitable. Although President Bush did not clearly declare war, his determination to disarm and topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by resorting to the use of force in the near future is obvious.

Madrid El País (liberal), Jan. 30: With his State of the Union address, George W. Bush has placed the United States and the entire world in a state of war. The message is clear, and that is how the world’s markets and citizens have understood it: Saddam Hussein has missed his “final chance”… Bush read his first state of the nation address last year in a rarefied atmosphere caused by [the terrorist attacks of] Sept. 11, [2001], and the war in Afghanistan. [This year,] while he spoke, U.S. forces in the south of Afghanistan were fighting one of that campaign’s fiercest battles, but the matter was not even worthy of mention, since it would have highlighted the fact that that war is still unfinished. Nor did Bush bring up the subject of Osama bin Laden. The president concentrated on Saddam Hussein and terrorism, comparing Hussein’s regime to Hitlerism, militarism, and communism, in spite of the Bush administration’s being one of the most militarist in U.S. history.

Prague Mlada Fronta Dnes (independent), Jan. 30: George Bush's [State of the Union] address was convincing. For instance, he convinced [the world] that war is sure to come. Those who bet on peace will lose their wagers. Bush did not say anything of the sort directly. But those who can read between the lines see it clearly. The tone has stiffened in recent days…but there is one problem: The war has not yet started and Bush is losing the first battle. He has failed to convince the allies and the Americans to the extent necessary to begin a war. Bush was as eloquent as a priest (he spoke like one at times) and, also like a priest, his claims were based purely on faith.

Baghdad Iraq Satellite Channel Television (government-owned, for external broadcast), Jan. 30: In his recent [Jan. 28] speech, the president of the U.S. “Administration of Evil” mentioned, as he customarily does, a number of fabrications and lies against Iraq in an effort to drive international public opinion, in general, and U.S. pubic opinion in particular, to form a distorted picture [of the crisis.] It was a desperate and cheap attempt to gain support for his hostile and wicked stance, especially after Iraq had exposed all the fabrications he and his henchman, Tony Blair, have made.
U.S. Dept. of State transcription

Pyongyang Korean Central News Agency (government-owned), Feb. 7: Bush termed the system in North Korea a sort of "oppressive regime." This is an intolerable mockery of the Korean people, a brazen interference in North Korea's internal affairs, and a blatant challenge to justice. His reckless remarks only go to prove that he is a political imbecile bereft of any political vision and awareness of the times and, at the same time, a despicable swindler. North Korea does not deceive the world nor blackmail the United States to put it in panic as Bush claims. The Bush regime is the most repressive regime in the world and it is the United States which is putting humankind in the greatest nuclear panic in the world. The United States has a stockpile of more than 20,000 nuclear weapons. Not content with this, the United States keeps developing and producing new type of nuclear weapons. It is brigandish for the United States to groundlessly term those countries which incur its displeasure "repressive regimes."

Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung (centrist), Jan. 30: It is an old trick to rise to great heights rhetorically when one has little to say specifically. The foreign-policy part of George Bush’s address on the state of the union fell into this category. The ideals that Bush proclaimed were so pure, sublime, and noble that the leader of the world superpower sounded at times like a politician who is preaching world revolution. Bush promised America’s support for the freedom of all the oppressed of this earth, including the peoples of the no-longer-so-called “Axis of Evil”—Iran, North Korea, and Iraq.

Toronto The National Post (conservative), Feb. 1: Are you, reader, willing to let your hopes for a more peaceful and secure world be hijacked [by France]? Are you willing to grant the man who sold Saddam Hussein his nuclear reactor [French President Jacques Chirac] the right to veto any plan to disarm that same Saddam? If not, you'll support George W. Bush when he politely but firmly tells his ally Tony Blair: “Sorry Tony—one U.N. resolution is plenty.”

Tokyo Sankei Shimbun (conservative), Jan. 30: President Bush spent some 59 minutes and 40 seconds delivering his State of the Union address. Throughout the speech, he was interrupted 77 times by enthusiastic applause from the members of Congress. The last 20 minutes or so were devoted to the Iraq issue. Making it known that an imminent military attack to remove the Hussein regime is inevitable, he argued passionately for the idea that the use of military force is absolutely necessary…yet he still stopped short of appealing for the United Nations’ and Western Europe’s approval. Instead, he stated, in effect, that the final decision “does not depend on the decisions of others.” This was greeted by a standing ovation and cheers from the members of Congress. Here is a clear manifestation of... a foreign policy strategy premised on U.S. national interests and the use of force. This was the climax of the whole speech.
—Yoshihisa Komori

Budapest Nepszabadsag (liberal), Jan. 30: Bush's speech on Wednesday morning [Jan. 29, Budapest time] was not so much about the State of the Union but about U.S. citizens’ psychological state… A year earlier, Iraq was not much different from the other two “evil” states, Iran and North Korea…. By now, Iraq has become almost exclusively dominant within the “Axis of Evil.” Osama bin Laden, the one who blew up the towers, is nothing compared to Iraq.

Jidda Arab News (pro-government), Jan. 30: President Bush’s State of the Union address and the Israeli election results are a bitter double whammy for the Middle East. They are the worst of news, crushing any hopes of peace in the region. Bush’s address makes it plain that war in Iraq is moving inexorably closer. Ariel Sharon’s election victory means no change in the present bankrupt Israeli policy of confrontation with the Palestinians.… As for George Bush’s State of the Union address, one can only weep tears of bitter despair and wait for the war that must surely now come. Compulsive optimists may say that it was nothing more than posturing designed for domestic consumption and does not necessarily translate into immediate action. Yes, it was designed for the home audience…. He could have sounded a note of conciliation, building on it later. But [the speech] was all threats—and the trouble with threats is that you have to deliver sooner or later or look the fool. Bush has painted himself into a corner.

Manila Philippines Daily (independent), Jan. 29: It would have been a surprise had Bush eased pressure on Iraq to disarm after the report of U.N. weapons inspectors…. There was no such surprise. Bush was even more hawkish than he had been…. The speech was clearly aimed at winning wide international support for an early war and to overcome resistance from U.S. allies demanding more time for inspection. The speech delivered a clear ultimatum: "If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.” But how does he expect to cobble together such a coalition?

Beirut As-Safir (independent), Jan. 30: The “armed prophet,” who has the strongest power of destruction, can discuss the “state of the union” boastfully and arrogantly and install himself as the leader of the world without rival, partner, or ally. Contrast the state of the American union with the state of the Middle East, which might more accurately be termed the “state of infiltration.” Here we see infighting among the Arabs and a sense of humiliation so total that the Arabs are waiting for “democracy” as a gift from the Israeli occupation army (as in Palestine) and from the American occupation army (as in Iraq)…. If Iraq and the neighboring countries did not have these huge oil reserves, would “the leader of the world” be willing to sacrifice for the “liberty” of strangers?
—Talal Salman

Tokyo Asahi Shimbun (liberal), Jan. 30: Bush’s message fails to ease the worries of the world…. Why is the United States in such an apparent rush to attack Iraq? What does the United States intend to do to stabilize postwar Iraq? President George W. Bush's State of the Union address came up short if it attempted to answer these and other concerns harbored by the rest of the world.… People everywhere are perplexed and concerned by the intensity of America’s wrath.

Sydney The Australian (conservative), Jan. 30: George W. Bush spoke as a war president, a commander-in-chief, and a moralist on a God-ordained crusade. This was a leader reconciled to his mission. Bush's State of the Union address was unlike that of 2002, with its “axis of evil” indulgence. This was a powerful and serious speech from a president resolved to war. Bush's technique was a message of irresistible force. He has put Saddam Hussein under new pressure to cut his losses and the Security Council under a new intensity to sanction U.S.-led military action. Just watch the international dominoes shift America's way.
—Paul Kelly

New Delhi The Times of India (conservative), Jan. 30: President George Bush’s State of the Union address snuffed out the last lingering hope that Washington might yet reconsider, if not soften, its position on the threat of war against Iraq…. So far the American intransigence on Iraq has been tantamount to the Wild West mindset of “shoot first, ask questions later.” For a country that prides itself on rule of law, the United States has shown an unreasonable hurry to hang Hussein without a fair trial.

Toronto The Toronto Star (liberal) Jan. 29: [President Bush] is getting fairly anxious. And his anxiety is our anxiety. Nevertheless, it could get a whole lot worse than this, which is precisely what came through loud and clear in his speech…. He still has room, so to speak, to maneuver. But this could dwindle rapidly, especially if the U.N. inspectors prove beyond argument that the only weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein has are a bunch of people with bad colds who are ready to risk all by sneezing in their enemies’ faces. Is George Bush going to turn around and bring home the 160,000 troops he has deployed because Saddam has nothing in his arsenal but suicide sneezers? No. He absolutely is not. Because after all the rhetoric he has expended, after all the propaganda he has cooked up, after all the warnings he has issued, after all the ultimatums he has presented, after all he has done to set himself up as the toughest guy on the block, he can't back down. He can't afford to back down.

On Africa:

Brisbane The Courier-Mail (conservative), Feb. 1: Most of us ignored the first part of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday, the bit that urged Congress to triple HIV/AIDS charity to Africa and the Caribbean. It seemed like a blatant and unconvincing effort to portray the Americans as caring people. America, after all, gives less foreign aid as a proportion of GDP than any other developed nation. But even so, it’s likely this measure will end up saving and improving far more lives than any war on Iraq. It could quite literally save millions of lives.
—Michael Duffy

Banjul The Independent (independent, biweekly), Feb. 3: Now Africa takes second place only to Iraq on America’s public agenda. There is currently a flurry of urgent concern by many international charity organizations and local groups over Africa’s rising predicaments.... It is indeed good that America and the rest of the world are coming to Africa’s aid. A much better solution to Africa’s problems, however, lies with Africans themselves…. Africans [must first] find the ways and means to tackle the biggest crisis facing their continent—the absence of enlightened political leadership. If all the AIDS drugs, food aid, and peace missions in the world were sent to Africa, the continent would still remain poor, destitute, and conflict-ridden if the leadership crisis is not addressed. It is high time that the world moves from treating the symptoms of Africa’s chronic malaise to tackling the root causes of this malaise. Namely, poor and ignorant political leadership: one-man rule, abuse of power, the cult of political mediocrity, maladministration, abuse of human rights and hodge-podge governance with no sense of direction and no idea how to tackle the most basic questions of economic recovery and survival.
—Baba Galleh Jallow

Sydney The Sydney Morning Herald (centrist) Jan. 29: [President George W. Bush] devoted such a long portion of his speech to the disadvantaged and the world’s environmental crisis—a crisis the world is trying to address without, so far, support from America. Whether he means it or not, whether he’ll press hard for implementation or not, the emphasis on a caring, sharing America showed just how anxious he is to convince a divided country to pull together, and to rebuild America’s moral authority to mollify antagonistic world opinion. This part of speech could easily have been said by Bill Clinton. His pledge to apply compassion to “the homeless, the fatherless, the addicted” was one right out of the box… Overall, I felt his tone and rhetoric were more conciliatory than previously.
—Margo Kingston

Lilongwe The Chronicle (independent), Feb. 3: U.S. President George W. Bush announced…in his State of the Nation address that he would urge Congress to approve US$15 billion in funds to battle AIDS in the hardest-hit countries in Africa and the Caribbean over the next five years.... Some experts, however, say the U.S. initiative may be overly optimistic and that with only US$1 billion of the total designated for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the administration’s desire to control most of the money would undermine the fund’s purpose, which is to assure donors that their contributions are channeled in a coherent and cost-effective manner.... Another concern of AIDS activists is that 14 countries selected by the United States for the proposed funds exclude 36 sub-Saharan African countries, including four with some of the world’s highest infection rates: Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Malawi.

Nairobi The East African (independent weekly), Jan. 28: Uganda is the only country in Africa with a positive increase in its life expectancy. Uganda’s success in reducing HIV infection rates is being highlighted by members of President George Bush’s team in their push for sexual abstinence on the part of teenagers in the United States.... Emboldened by Republican gains in the recent congressional elections, the party’s powerful, religious right wing is intensifying its efforts to shift the focus of anti-AIDS education away from encouraging condom use and toward advocating virginity among teenagers and marital fidelity among adults.
—Kevin J. Kelley

Johannesburg Business Day (financial), Jan. 24: The Bush administration has found an ingenious device for shaking off criticism of its positions on race; it has discovered the Africa card. It goes like this. At the 100th birthday party of retiring senator Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, [then] the Republican leader in the senate, intimated that the United States would have been better off if Thurmond, the standard bearer of U.S. apartheid, had won the presidency in 1948.... The quintessence of the Africa card is this: It can make you look good on racial issues while not alienating conservative whites who don’t mind what you do in Africa.
—Phillip Van Niekerk

Cali El País (conservative), Jan. 31: It is necessary to note that President Bush did not make any reference whatsoever to Latin America and its social, political, and economic crisis. Apparently, to the Bush administration, the struggle against AIDS in Africa is more important than the poverty and resultant destabilization currently affecting its neighbors and natural partners. Perhaps the President believes that this crisis will not affect the United States and that solutions to these problems can wait, even though today our regional democracy is in dire straits.

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