Full Text: President Obama’s Remarks to the UNGA

Obama beat the drums of war at the UN this morning and demanded a strong Chapter Seven resolution at the Security Council authorizing automatic military action at any time he wants to declare Syria in non compliance. 

Russia adamantly rejects this and demands that a second resolution discuss any allegation of non compliance.

The Obama deal with Russia is now revealed as an obvious subterfuge to gain authorization for military action from the UN.

John Kerry had given the Security Council to the end of this week to pass a strong resolution authorizing force.

Russia reports that Talks between Russia and the United States on the conflict in Syria are not going very smoothly and Moscow is concerned a chemical weapons deal may have only delayed US military action, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately it’s necessary to note that in contacts with the Americans, things are not going so smoothly…they are not quite going in the direction they should,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in parliament.

It is becoming increasingly plausible that war will begin within weeks.


10:12 A.M. EDT                                                                  

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow  delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  It is a great honor for me to be here today.   I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United  Nations — the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilizations.  But  in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to  death on a staggering scale.  It was this killing that compelled the founders of  this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war,  but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent  conflict, while also addressing its causes. 

No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin  Roosevelt.  He knew that a victory in war was not enough.  As he said at one of  the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, “We have got to  make, not merely peace, but a peace that will last.”

The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more  than just the absence of war.  A lasting peace — for nations and for individuals  — depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity and freedom.  It  depends on struggle and sacrifice, on compromise, and on a sense of common  humanity.

One delegate to the San Francisco Conference that led to the creation of the  United Nations put it well:  “Many people,” she said, “have talked as if all  that has to be done to get peace was to say loudly and frequently that we loved  peace and we hated war. Now we have learned that no matter how much we love  peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are  convulsions in other parts of the world.”  

The fact is peace is hard.  But our people demand it.  Over nearly seven  decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third world war, we still  live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty.  Even as we proclaim  our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our  world that endanger us all.

I took office at a time of two wars for the United States. Moreover, the  violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place — Osama bin Laden,  and his al Qaeda organization — remained at large.  Today, we’ve set a new  direction.

At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over.   We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of  the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our  support for Iraq — for its government and for its security forces, for its  people and for their aspirations. 

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have  begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable  Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility  for the future of their country.  As they do, we are drawing down our own  forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt:  The tide of war is receding.  When I took office,  roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  By the end of  this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline.   This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s also  critical to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at  home.

Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength.  Ten  years ago, there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the  center of this city.  Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, it  symbolizes New York’s renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever  before.  Its leadership has been degraded.  And Osama bin Laden, a man who  murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the  peace of the world again.

So, yes, this has been a difficult decade.  But today, we stand at a  crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of  peace.  To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this  institution.  The United Nations’ Founding Charter calls upon us, “to unite our  strength to maintain international peace and security.”  And Article 1 of this  General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, “All  human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.”  Those bedrock  beliefs — in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women —  must be our guide.

And in that effort, we have reason to hope.  This year has been a time of  extraordinary transformation.  More nations have stepped forward to maintain  international peace and security.  And more individuals are claiming their  universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

Think about it:  One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of  a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt.  But the international  community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been  negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination.  And last summer, as a new  flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms, men and women wept  with joy, and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they  will shape.

One year ago, the people of Côte D’Ivoire approached a landmark election.   And when the incumbent lost, and refused to respect the results, the world  refused to look the other way.  U.N. peacekeepers were harassed, but they did  not leave their posts.  The Security Council, led by the United States and  Nigeria and France, came together to support the will of the people.  And Côte  D’Ivoire is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed.  But they  chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist.  A vendor  lit a spark that took his own life, but he ignited a movement.  In a face of a  crackdown, students spelled out the word, “freedom.”  The balance of fear  shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled.  And now the people of Tunisia  are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy  that they deserve. 

One year ago, Egypt had known one President for nearly 30 years.  But for 18  days, the eyes of the world were glued to Tahrir Square, where Egyptians from  all walks of life — men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian —  demanded their universal rights.  We saw in those protesters the moral force of  non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw, from Selma to South  Africa — and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world.

One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world’s longest-serving  dictator.  But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to  hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery.  We will never forget  the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of the revolution and  said, “Our words are free now.”  It’s a feeling you can’t explain.  Day after  day, in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back  that freedom.  And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that  often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its  charter.  The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a  massacre.  The Arab League called for this effort; Arab nations joined a  NATO-led coalition that halted Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable,  and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied.  Forty-two years of  tyranny was ended in six months.  From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi — today,  Libya is free.  Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place  beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli.  

This is how the international community is supposed to work — nations  standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming  their rights.  Now, all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya —  the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment  of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans.

So this has been a remarkable year.  The Qaddafi regime is over.  Gbagbo, Ben  Ali, Mubarak are no longer in power.  Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that  change could only come through violence has been buried with him.  Something is  happening in our world.  The way things have been is not the way that they will  be.  The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open.   Dictators are on notice.  Technology is putting power into the hands of the  people.  The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and  rejecting the lie that some races, some peoples, some religions, some  ethnicities do not desire democracy.  The promise written down on paper — “all  human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” — is closer at hand. 

But let us remember:  Peace is hard.  Peace is hard.  Progress can be  reversed.  Prosperity comes slowly.  Societies can split apart.  The measure of  our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and  security.  And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to  support those basic aspirations.  And we have more work to do.

In Iran, we’ve seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its  own people.  As we meet here today, men and women and children are being  tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime.  Thousands have been  killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan.  Thousands more have poured across  Syria’s borders.  The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their  pursuit of justice — protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets,  dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for.  And  the question for us is clear:  Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with  their oppressors?

Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders.   We supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people.  And  many of our allies have joined in this effort.  But for the sake of Syria — and  the peace and security of the world — we must speak with one voice. There’s no  excuse for inaction.  Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to  sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.

Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change.  In  Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares  every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail  over a corrupt system.  America supports those aspirations.  We must work with  Yemen’s neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows  for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free  and fair elections as soon as possible.

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability.  We’re  pleased with that, but more is required.  America is a close friend of Bahrain,  and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc —  the Wifaq — to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is  responsive to the people.  We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis  together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them  apart.  It will be hard, but it is possible.

We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the  aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party  or person who expresses themselves politically.  But we will always stand up for  the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly.  Those rights depend  on elections that are free and fair; on governance that is transparent and  accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; justice that is  equal and fair.  That is what our people deserve.  Those are the elements of  peace that can last.

Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that  transition to democracy — with greater trade and investment — so that freedom is  followed by opportunity.  We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments,  but also with civil society — students and entrepreneurs, political parties and  the press.  We have banned those who abuse human rights from traveling to our  country.  And we’ve sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad.  And we  will always serve as a voice for those who’ve been silenced.

Now, I know, particularly this week, that for many in this hall, there’s one  issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign  policy, and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent  Palestine.  I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people  deserve a state of their own.  But what I also said is that a genuine peace can  only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.  One year  later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not  bridged their differences.  Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis  for negotiations in May of this year.  That basis is clear.  It’s well known to  all of us here.  Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for  their security.  Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their  state.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress.  I assure you,  so am I.  But the question isn’t the goal that we seek — the question is how do  we reach that goal.  And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of  a conflict that has endured for decades.  Peace is hard work.  Peace will not  come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that  easy, it would have been accomplished by now.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis  and the Palestinians who must live side by side.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis  and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that  divide them:  on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together  long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied.   That’s the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their  differences.  That’s the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to  an independent state.  And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state —  negotiations between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own,  with no limit to what they can achieve.  There’s no question that the  Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long.  It is precisely  because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that  America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a  Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state. 

But understand this as well:  America’s commitment to Israel’s security is  unshakeable.  Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring.  And so we  believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns  that Israel faces every single day. 

Let us be honest with ourselves:  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have  waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets  fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses.  Israel’s children come  of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate  them.  Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a  world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map.   The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and  fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of  who they are.  Those are facts.  They cannot be denied. 

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland.   Israel deserves recognition.  It deserves normal relations with its neighbors.   And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just  as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with  a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That is the truth — each side has legitimate aspirations — and that’s part of  what makes peace so hard.  And the deadlock will only be broken when each side  learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the  other’s eyes.  That’s what we should be encouraging.  That’s what we should be  promoting. 

This body — founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide,  dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person — must recognize the  reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis.  The measure of  our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and  Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and  opportunity.  And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the  parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s  hopes and each other’s fears.  That is the project to which America is  committed.  There are no shortcuts.  And that is what the United Nations should  be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must  also recognize — we must also remind ourselves — that peace is not just the  absence of war.  True peace depends on creating the opportunity that makes life  worth living.  And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of humanity:   nuclear weapons and poverty, ignorance and disease.  These forces corrode the  possibility of lasting peace and together we’re called upon to confront  them.

To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the  peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.  Over the last two years,  we’ve begun to walk down that path.  Since our Nuclear Security Summit in  Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from  terrorists and smugglers.  Next March, a summit in Seoul will advance our  efforts to lock down all of them.  The New START Treaty between the United  States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in half a  century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve even deeper  reductions.  America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear  weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

And so we have begun to move in the right direction.  And the United States  is committed to meeting our obligations.  But even as we meet our obligations,  we’ve strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of  these weapons.  And to do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations  that flout them. 

The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful.  It  has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with  peaceful nuclear power.    North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards  abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South.   There’s a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their  governments meet their international obligations.  But if they continue down a  path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure  and isolation.  That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.

To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates  opportunity.  In this effort, let us not forget that we’ve made enormous  progress over the last several decades.  Closed societies gave way to open  markets.  Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and  the things that we do.  Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted  hundreds of millions of people from poverty.  It’s an extraordinary achievement.  And yet, three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in  eight decades.  And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each  passing year — our fates are interconnected.  In a global economy, nations will  rise, or fall, together. 

And today, we confront the challenges that have followed on the heels of that  crisis.  Around the world recovery is still fragile.  Markets remain volatile.   Too many people are out of work.  Too many others are struggling just to get by.  We acted together to avert a depression in 2009.  We must take urgent and  coordinated action once more.  Here in the United States, I’ve announced a plan  to put Americans back to work and jumpstart our economy, at the same time as I’m  committed to substantially reducing our deficits over time. 

We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and  address their own fiscal challenges.  For other countries, leaders face a  different challenge as they shift their economy towards more self-reliance,  boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation.  So we will work with emerging  economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living  create new markets that promote global growth.  That’s what our commitment to  prosperity demands.

To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief  that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a  focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves.  And today, as  drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience  calls on us to act.  Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and  support organizations that can reach those in need.  And together, we must  insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of  thousands of men and women and children.  Our common humanity is at stake.  Let  us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other.  That  is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demand. 

To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our system of  public health.  We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and  malaria.  We will focus on the health of mothers and of children.  And we must  come together to prevent, and detect, and fight every kind of biological danger  — whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable  disease. 

This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to  affirm our commitment to meet this challenge.  And today, I urge all nations to  join us in meeting the HWO’s [sic] goal of making sure all nations have core  capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012.  That is what  our commitment to the health of our people demands.

To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change  demands.  We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are  scarce.  And together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made  in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all the major economies here today follow  through on the commitments that were made.  Together, we must work to transform  the energy that powers our economies, and support others as they move down that  path.  That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our  citizens to reach theirs.  No country can afford the corruption that plagues the  world like a cancer.  Together, we must harness the power of open societies and  open economies.  That’s why we’ve partnered with countries from across the globe  to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability  and helps to empower citizens.  No country should deny people their rights to  freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny  people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for  the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere. 

And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach  theirs.  This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s  Participation.  Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to  break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women  and girls.  This is what our commitment to human progress demands.

I know there’s no straight line to that progress, no single path to success.   We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories.  But let  us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments,  we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations — to live with  dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our  families, and love and worship our God; to live in the kind of peace that makes  life worth living.

It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these  lessons over and over again.  Conflict and repression will endure so long as  some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Yet that  is precisely why we have built institutions like this — to bind our fates  together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other — because those who came  before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to  suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty.  That’s the message that  comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people.

And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President  Truman came here to New York and said, “The United Nations is essentially an  expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.”  The moral nature of man’s  aspirations.  As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace,  that’s a lesson that we must never forget.

Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible.  So, together, let us be  resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears.  Together,  let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.

Thank you very much.


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