Address to the United Nations
September 21, 2004
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 our 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 freedom.
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 every nation.
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 the dictators
should control every mind and tongue in the Middle East
They believe that suicide and torture and murder are fully
justified to serve any goal they declare. And they act
on their beliefs. 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 Deibesov (ph) 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
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 world. 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 life from exploitation under
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
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 forms 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 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 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 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
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 all of us. 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 terrorist killers. They're
reviving they're 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 answer.
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 terrorist group associated with Al Qaida 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've 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
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. The 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
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 long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better.
They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing
a free and peaceful Palestinian state. 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 to 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
in 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 all other
nations to contribute as well.
I have 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 and 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.
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