Dear President Bush,
Many fear that you have gone too far toward war in Iraq to stop now. I propose this speech as a way to move beyond war, toward a new beginning in which even Europeans would recognize your remarkable statesmanship.
My fellow Americans,
Tonight I stand before you with a bold proposal. This proposal could change the course of American history, even the history of the world.
Over the past weeks and months, we have stood unblinking on the edge of the precipice, facing down one of the most brutal rulers the world has ever known. Saddam Hussein and his forces have beaten, tortured, murdered hundreds; he has destabilized the region by invading two of his neighbors, he has done the unthinkable using chemical warfare against his own citizens.
All that our country stands for has cried out against his brutality. It is clear that we could not allow this kind of dictator to go unpunished.
We stood on the precipice, eyes open, ready to engage ourselves in a war against injustice that would free the region of this evil. We stood on the precipice, knowing that if we hurtled ourselves over the brink we would endanger Iraqis and Americans and any allies brave enough to fight for our principles of liberty and justice. We stood on the precipice, the dark unknown lurking there enough to threaten the security of Americans even on our own soil.
We have stood on the precipice long enough. I have seen, my administration has seen, the destruction awaiting us. Even with our best efforts, with our greatest military minds, we could not find a strategy that would only disarm Saddam Hussein. We could not find a means to remove him from power without destroying the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children. Our invasion would destroy so many lives, kill so many mothers and children, destroy not only their supplies of clean water, but also their very hope for the future. That brutal dictator has ruined so many lives, taken so many sons away from their parents, robbed a nation of its leadership and its future. My administration could not imagine continuing that process of destruction and devastation.
Today, my fellow Americans, I come to tell you that it is time to leap over that abyss. The abyss of evil, injustice, tyranny, no longer threatens to destroy our most fundamental values.
And on the other side of this horrific abyss, we find an America that the entire world will come to trust and look to for justice and liberty.
Over the decades, America has intervened militarily to halt senseless killing, to stop in their tracks dictators who threaten the security of the world, to bring democracy and liberty to millions. In those decades, people around the world called on us to help restore justice, a role we have always been willing to play even in the face of enormous sacrifices by our own countrymen.
Now it is time to return to that role, as mediator and restorer of justice. But that role will require the same kinds of sacrifice from us that it did from our grandparents. They went to war to protect us. Today, we embark on a new war, a war against indifference.
I talked in my State of the Union Speech a year ago about the price of indifference. Today I tell you that we have seen this price. Today’s world poverty and disease is the price of indifference. Yesterday’s ethnic cleansing is the price of indifference. And the terrorism that threatens us all is nothing more than the price of indifference.
The price of indifference is now too clear to all Americans. Since the 1980s, hate groups in the Muslim world have targeted those who admire freedom and who demand rights for all. Those hate groups have killed Egyptians and Turks, Pakistanis and Palestinians. They claim to be Muslim, but their targets for two decades have been Muslims. While Muslim extremists were killing Muslims, we were indifferent.
We can no longer be indifferent to the brutality of groups like Al Qaeda throughout the Muslim World. Once they had honed their skills against their neighbors, they turned to us.
We can no longer afford that kind of indifference. We must band together, all the victims of religious violence, to find the perpetrators, root out the causes, and secure our own liberty and survival.
I announce today that we will band together with the other nations victimized and walk along the path to peace together. Indifference means death, for us as well as for others.
Americans have been calling for security. Together with my new Department of Homeland Security, I have been studying the risks to our very survival. It is clear that there can be no security inside a fortress America. Our security can only be guaranteed if we simultaneously provide for the security and freedom of others.
That is why I announce today a new beginning, the War on Indifference. Today begins our re-engagement with the rest of the world to search together for the causes of terrorism. It is no longer enough to mop up the Taliban. And it is increasingly clear that the brutal dictator if Iraq is symptomatic of a wider set of problems.
Yes, we must end the reign of tyrants like Saddam Hussein. And, just as urgently, we must refrain from any action that will allow new tyrants like him to arise. Previous American administrations have acted for the good of the country in the short term, often overlooking the consequences down the road. Saddam Hussein became all-powerful because previous administrations wanted to prevent Iran from gaining too much power. Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization were created with the aid of a US administration so concerned about the Cold War that they overlooked the long-term impact of training and equipping cadres of Muslim extremists.
In my administration, we will not look for the easy solution, or the short-term solution. We seek a just and lasting peace for all time, a War on Indifference.
So we will take the hard road. No rockets on television will prevent terrorist attacks on our homeland. No bombing of foreign cities will secure our safety.
Our foreign policy today is based on maintaining an arsenal larger than that of the rest of the world combined. But we found to our horror that weapons alone could not protect the United States. We have found in the intervening months that our military economy could not lift us out of one of the worst recessions this country has been in. Military spending in our new conditions cannot raise us out of economic trouble as it did our fathers. Today we need something new.
As President Eisenhower warned us, spending on the military takes money away from areas where it is desperately needed. Domestic economic development is crucial if we are to change our foreign policy in the rest of the world. I announce to you today that we have already begun this process. With some of the most ingenious engineers in the world, the greatest capital available, and the will-power to make this country Great, we have called together all the major weapons manufacturers to discuss the transition to an economy of peace and development. Scientists creating the internet and global positioning systems can design F-16s and smart bombs. But they can also design high-speed consumer rail cars, efficient water desalinization plants, and cars that run on fuel cells. With this country’s remarkable military industrial capacity, we will be a formidable competitor in the kinds of high-technology peacetime industries in which we must compete in the coming decades.
These changes will allow us to regain our leadership in a changing global economy. They will also clear the way for our new foreign policy, the only foreign policy that would reflect our country’s unique greatness.
Our foreign policy must be consistent with the sentiments I hear expressed all over our land, where people insist that everyone, everywhere, should live in freedom from want and freedom from oppression. Our new foreign policy will consistently apply those two goals. Henceforth, it will be guided by only two concerns: To bring to the world freedom from want and freedom from oppression.
Beginning today, all of our alliances will be reviewed. Only those governments whose policies are consistent with our goals will receive our assistance. The days when the US would support tyrants like Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet are over. The years when the US would train terrorists like Osama bin Laden are past. No longer will the US spend billions of dollars to support regimes where children are enslaved, women are oppressed, and people live in fear for their lives.
My administration has already begun this work.
$ After years of indifference to the suffering in the world around us, I have called for a new initiative to reduce the spread of today’s most devastating disease in the world’s poorest countries.
$ After years of indifference to the ethnic cleansing being called for by members of the Israeli cabinet, I have begun a new program to reduce our aid to that country until the Israeli forces withdraw from the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967 against all UN Resolutions.
$ After years of indifference to the pain that austerity measures have brought to our underdeveloped neighbors, my administration has requested a thorough evaluation of our participation in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
The Fight against Terrorism is the first goal of the American people. We must pledge ourselves to fight terrorism, wherever it rears its dreadful specter. Terror is the weapon of the weak, of those who trade in their compassion to achieve their own misguided goals. There can be no compromise with terrorists.
The most effective ways to fight terrorism are to prevent their access to the means to carry out their horrific acts. Our fight against terrorism, then, will have three parts.
1. We must make sure that terrorist have no access to weapons of mass destruction. Right now, the greatest threat to world peace comes from the aging stockpiles of nuclear materials scattered throughout the former Soviet Union. The United States pledges itself to re-start the lapsed program we began under my father to decommission nuclear materials across the globe. While that is being accomplished, UN forces have agreed to guard all known stockpiles.
2. Terrorists can only accomplish their goals by the continual inflow of new people willing to sacrifice themselves for the abominable goals of destruction and hatred. The United States pledges to work with our allies, the UN, and non-governmental organizations to root out the causes of despair that leads those with no future to steal ours away from us. We have already begun identifying what the global community can do to provide that future which will keep young people from joining the despairing ranks of the terrorists.
3. Finally, it has become increasingly clear that my administration is being forced to confront the foreign policy errors of our predecessors. Policies that addressed short-term goals have created long-term nightmares. Support for Osama bin Laden against the Communists led to the US building the camps that now train terrorists to fight against us. Support for Saddam Hussein provided him the weapons he now prepares to train on our allies. Support for the repressive governments in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere can only lead to more of the same. Removing one brutal dictator only leaves the road open to others. The US, by withholding our support from dictators who do not guarantee the freedom and security of their population, can prevent any more from attaining power.
Fellow Americans, this three-pronged program is setting the foundation for the platform from which we today leap over the abyss we find ourselves facing at this very moment. At this very moment, terrorists plot to destroy our country. At this very moment, some Americans seek to divert our attention from this life and death struggle onto a smaller problem, the removal of a small-time dictator who poses no immediate threat to our country. The threat of Saddam Hussein is a long-term threat, a threat only realized if we leave our world unchanged. As the CIA told us last month, Saddam Hussein’s threat only becomes reality if we invade Iraq.
I come today to tell you that this program upon which we have just embarked has already succeeded beyond our wildest imagination. Today, as a result of the efforts of our brave men and women in the region, Saddam Hussein has agreed on unlimited inspections, without conditions. These ongoing inspections will guarantee that he will be unable to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and will allow us to lift the sanctions that have been crippling the people of Iraq. In addition, the UN Human Rights Commissioner has agreed to maintain a presence to make sure that the brutal Saddam Hussein’s people no longer have to live in fear of his treachery.
Today we pledge to continue the fight against all brutal tyrants who would destroy our freedom and our very lives. Today we pledge to make the world safe for our children. We promise our children and our children’s children a world of peace and prosperity, a world of cooperation and compassion, a world free from hunger and oppression. In this global world, we will only achieve these goals for our own children as we work to realize them for children across the globe. From today on, our policy will be carried out with THEIR best interests in our hearts.
Sarah Shields teaches the history of the Middle East at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She can be reached at email@example.com