President Speaks to the United Nations General
United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
September 21, 2004
11:00 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished
delegates, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for the honor of addressing this
General Assembly. The American people respect the idealism that gave life to
this organization. And we respect the men and women of the U.N., who stand for
peace and human rights in every part of the world. Welcome to New York City, and
welcome to the United States of America.
During the past three years, I've addressed this General Assembly in a time
of tragedy for my country, and in times of decision for all of us. Now we gather
at a time of tremendous opportunity for the U.N. and for all peaceful nations.
For decades, the circle of liberty and security and development has been
expanding in our world. This progress has brought unity to Europe,
self-government to Latin America and Asia, and new hope to Africa. Now we have
the historic chance to widen the circle even further, to fight radicalism and
terror with justice and dignity, to achieve a true peace, founded on human
The United Nations and my country share the deepest commitments. Both the
American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights proclaim the equal value and dignity of every human life. That dignity is
honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women,
protection of private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious
tolerance. That dignity is dishonored by oppression, corruption, tyranny,
bigotry, terrorism and all violence against the innocent. And both of our
founding documents affirm that this bright line between justice and injustice --
between right and wrong -- is the same in every age, and every culture, and
Wise governments also stand for these principles for very practical and
realistic reasons. We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while
free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. We know that oppressive
governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their
midst. We know that free peoples embrace progress and life, instead of becoming
the recruits for murderous ideologies.
Every nation that wants peace will share the benefits of a freer world. And
every nation that seeks peace has an obligation to help build that world.
Eventually, there is no safe isolation from terror networks, or failed states
that shelter them, or outlaw regimes, or weapons of mass destruction.
Eventually, there is no safety in looking away, seeking the quiet life by
ignoring the struggles and oppression of others.
In this young century, our world needs a new definition of security. Our
security is not merely found in spheres of influence, or some balance of power.
The security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind.
These rights are advancing across the world -- and across the world, the
enemies of human rights are responding with violence. Terrorists and their
allies believe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Bill
of Rights, and every charter of liberty ever written, are lies, to be burned and
destroyed and forgotten. They believe that dictators should control every mind
and tongue in the Middle East and beyond. They believe that suicide and torture
and murder are fully justified to serve any goal they declare. And they act on
In the last year alone, terrorists have attacked police stations, and banks,
and commuter trains, and synagogues -- and a school filled with children. This
month in Beslan we saw, once again, how the terrorists measure their success --
in the death of the innocent, and in the pain of grieving families. Svetlana
Dzebisov was held hostage, along with her son and her nephew -- her nephew did
not survive. She recently visited the cemetery, and saw what she called the
"little graves." She said, "I understand that there is evil in the world. But
what have these little creatures done?"
Members of the United Nations, the Russian children did nothing to deserve
such awful suffering, and fright, and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem
and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder.
These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures, and the principles
of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all
must fight the murderers.
We're determined to destroy terror networks wherever they operate, and the
United States is grateful to every nation that is helping to seize terrorist
assets, track down their operatives, and disrupt their plans. We're determined
to end the state sponsorship of terror -- and my nation is grateful to all that
participated in the liberation of Afghanistan. We're determined to prevent
proliferation, and to enforce the demands of the world -- and my nation is
grateful to the soldiers of many nations who have helped to deliver the Iraqi
people from an outlaw dictator.
The dictator agreed in 1991, as a condition of a cease-fire, to fully comply
with all Security Council resolutions -- then ignored more than a decade of
those resolutions. Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences
for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say
"serious consequences," for the sake of peace, there must be serious
consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the
Defending our ideals is vital, but it is not enough. Our broader mission as
U.N. members is to apply these ideals to the great issues of our time. Our wider
goal is to promote hope and progress as the alternatives to hatred and violence.
Our great purpose is to build a better world beyond the war on terror.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have
established a global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. In three
years the contributing countries have funded projects in more than 90 countries,
and pledged a total of $5.6 billion to these efforts. America has undertaken a
$15 billion effort to provide prevention and treatment and humane care in
nations afflicted by AIDS, placing a special focus on 15 countries where the
need is most urgent. AIDS is the greatest health crisis of our time, and our
unprecedented commitment will bring new hope to those who have walked too long
in the shadow of death.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have joined
together to confront the evil of trafficking in human beings. We're supporting
organizations that rescue the victims, passing stronger anti-trafficking laws,
and warning travelers that they will be held to account for supporting this
modern form of slavery. Women and children should never be exploited for
pleasure or greed, anywhere on Earth.
Because we believe in human dignity, we should take seriously the protection
of life from exploitation under any pretext. In this session, the U.N. will
consider a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica calling for a comprehensive ban on
human cloning. I support that resolution and urge all governments to affirm a
basic ethical principle: No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for
the benefit of another.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have changed
the way we fight poverty, curb corruption, and provide aid. In 2002 we created
the Monterrey Consensus, a bold approach that links new aid from developed
nations to real reform in developing ones. And through the Millennium Challenge
Account, my nation is increasing our aid to developing nations that expand
economic freedom and invest in the education and health of their own people.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have acted to
lift the crushing burden of debt that limits the growth of developing economies,
and holds millions of people in poverty. Since these efforts began in 1996, poor
countries with the heaviest debt burdens have received more than $30 billion of
relief. And to prevent the build-up of future debt, my country and other nations
have agreed that international financial institutions should increasingly
provide new aid in the form of grants, rather than loans.
Because we believe in human dignity, the world must have more effective means
to stabilize regions in turmoil, and to halt religious violence and ethnic
cleansing. We must create permanent capabilities to respond to future crises.
The United States and Italy have proposed a Global Peace Operations Initiative.
G-8 countries will train 75,000 peacekeepers, initially from Africa, so they can
conduct operations on that continent and elsewhere. The countries of the G-8
will help this peacekeeping force with deployment and logistical needs.
At this hour, the world is witnessing terrible suffering and horrible crimes
in the Darfur region of Sudan, crimes my government has concluded are genocide.
The United States played a key role in efforts to broker a cease-fire, and we're
providing humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people. Rwanda and Nigeria
have deployed forces in Sudan to help improve security so aid can be delivered.
The Security Council adopted a new resolution that supports an expanded African
Union force to help prevent further bloodshed, and urges the government of Sudan
to stop flights by military aircraft in Darfur. We congratulate the members of
the Council on this timely and necessary action. I call on the government of
Sudan to honor the cease-fire it signed, and to stop the killing in Darfur.
Because we believe in human dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the
advance of democracy. No other system of government has done more to protect
minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to
channel human energy to the pursuits of peace. We've witnessed the rise of
democratic governments in predominantly Hindu and Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and
Christian cultures. Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies,
and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and
justice, there is no clash of civilizations. People everywhere are capable of
freedom, and worthy of freedom.
Finding the full promise of representative government takes time, as America
has found in two centuries of debate and struggle. Nor is there any -- only one
form of representative government -- because democracies, by definition, take on
the unique character of the peoples that create them. Yet this much we know with
certainty: The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. And that desire
cannot be contained forever by prison walls, or martial laws, or secret police.
Over time, and across the Earth, freedom will find a way.
Freedom is finding a way in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and we must continue to
show our commitment to democracies in those nations. The liberty that many have
won at a cost must be secured. As members of the United Nations, we all have a
stake in the success of the world's newest democracies.
Not long ago, outlaw regimes in Baghdad and Kabul threatened the peace and
sponsored terrorists. These regimes destabilized one of the world's most vital
-- and most volatile -- regions. They brutalized their peoples, in defiance of
all civilized norms. Today, the Iraqi and Afghan people are on the path to
democracy and freedom. The governments that are rising will pose no threat to
others. Instead of harboring terrorists, they're fighting terrorist groups. And
this progress is good for the long-term security of us all.
The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under difficult
conditions. They're fighting to defend their nation from Taliban holdouts, and
helping to strike against the terrorists killers. They're reviving their
economy. They've adopted a constitution that protects the rights of all, while
honoring their nation's most cherished traditions. More than 10 million Afghan
citizens -- over 4 million of them women -- are now registered to vote in next
month's presidential election. To any who still would question whether Muslim
societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their
Since the last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq have
regained sovereignty. Today, in this hall, the Prime Minister of Iraq and his
delegation represent a country that has rejoined the community of nations. The
government of Prime Minister Allawi has earned the support of every nation that
believes in self-determination and desires peace. And under Security Council
resolutions 1511 and 1546, the world is providing that support. The U.N., and
its member nations, must respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request, and do more
to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal, and free.
A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies, because terrorists know the stakes in
that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be
a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region. So a terrorists group
associated with al Qaeda is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in
Iraq today -- conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians, and the
beheadings of bound men. Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting
the terrorists and foreign fighters, so peaceful nations around the world will
never have to face them within our own borders.
Our coalition is standing beside a growing Iraqi security force. The NATO
Alliance is providing vital training to that force. More than 35 nations have
contributed money and expertise to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. And as
the Iraqi interim government moves toward national elections, officials from the
United Nations are helping Iraqis build the infrastructure of democracy. These
selfless people are doing heroic work, and are carrying on the great legacy of
Sergio de Mello.
As we have seen in other countries, one of the main terrorist goals is to
undermine, disrupt, and influence election outcomes. We can expect terrorist
attacks to escalate as Afghanistan and Iraq approach national elections. The
work ahead is demanding. But these difficulties will not shake our conviction
that the future of Afghanistan and Iraq is a future of liberty. The proper
response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail.
The advance of freedom always carries a cost, paid by the bravest among us.
America mourns the losses to our nation, and to many others. And today, I assure
every friend of Afghanistan and Iraq, and every enemy of liberty: We will stand
with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes of freedom and
security are fulfilled.
These two nations will be a model for the broader Middle East, a region where
millions have been denied basic human rights and simple justice. For too long,
many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the
Middle East in the name of stability. Oppression became common, but stability
never arrived. We must take a different approach. We must help the reformers of
the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of
peaceful, democratic nations.
This commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the
Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who
intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist
groups. The longsuffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true
leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state.
Even after the setbacks and frustrations of recent months, goodwill and hard
effort can achieve the promise of the road map to peace. Those who would lead a
new Palestinian state should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their
people, and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy. Arab states
should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for
terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel. Israel should impose a
settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of
the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations.
And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian
ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.
The democratic hopes we see growing in the Middle East are growing
everywhere. In the words of the Burmese democracy advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi:
"We do not accept the notion that democracy is a Western value. To the contrary;
democracy simply means good government rooted in responsibility, transparency,
and accountability." Here at the United Nations, you know this to be true. In
recent years, this organization has helped create a new democracy in East Timor,
and the U.N. has aided other nations in making the transition to self-rule.
Because I believe the advance of liberty is the path to both a safer and
better world, today I propose establishing a Democracy Fund within the United
Nations. This is a great calling for this great organization. The fund would
help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law
and independent courts, a free press, political parties and trade unions. Money
from the fund would also help set up voter precincts and polling places, and
support the work of election monitors. To show our commitment to the new
Democracy Fund, the United States will make an initial contribution. I urge
other nations to contribute, as well.
Today, I've outlined a broad agenda to advance human dignity, and enhance the
security of all of us. The defeat of terror, the protection of human rights, the
spread of prosperity, the advance of democracy -- these causes, these ideals,
call us to great work in the world. Each of us alone can only do so much.
Together, we can accomplish so much more.
History will honor the high ideals of this organization. The charter states
them with clarity: "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," "to
reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights," "to promote social progress and
better standards of life in larger freedom."
Let history also record that our generation of leaders followed through on
these ideals, even in adversity. Let history show that in a decisive decade,
members of the United Nations did not grow weary in our duties, or waver in
meeting them. I'm confident that this young century will be liberty's century. I
believe we will rise to this moment, because I know the character of so many
nations and leaders represented here today. And I have faith in the transforming
power of freedom.
May God bless you. (Applause.)