Political Musings September 29, 2014: Obama on 60 minutes acknowledges administration underestimated ISIS threat

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama on 60 minutes acknowledges administration underestimated ISIS threat

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama admitted 2014 that his administration underestimated the threat of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in a CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ interview with Steve Kroft that was taped on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: America is Leading the World on American Leadership in Fights against ISIS & Ebola — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: America is Leading the World

Source: WH, 9-27-14 

In this week’s address, the President reiterated the forceful and optimistic message of American leadership that he delivered in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week. America is leading the world against the most pressing challenges, including the fight to degrade and destroy ISIL, the effort to stop the Ebola epidemic, and the movement to confront the threat from climate change. The world looks to America and its commitment to freedom in the face of uncertainly, and as the President said, it will continue to do so for generations to come.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
September 27, 2014

Hi, everybody. American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. That was true this week, as we mobilized the world to confront some of our most urgent challenges.

America is leading the world in the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL. On Monday, our brave men and women in uniform began air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. And they weren’t alone. I made it clear that America would act as part of a broad coalition, and we were joined in this action by friends and partners, including Arab nations. At the United Nations in New York, I worked to build more support for this coalition; to cut off terrorist financing; and to stop the flow of foreign fighters into and out of that region. And in my address to the UN, I challenged the world — especially Muslim communities – to reject the ideology of violent extremism, and to do more to tap the extraordinary potential of their young people.

America is leading the effort to rally the world against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Along with our allies, we will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. And this week, I called upon even more nations to join us on the right side of history.

America is leading the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. We’re deploying our doctors and scientists — supported by our military — to help corral the outbreak and pursue new treatments. From the United Kingdom and Germany to France and Senegal, other nations are stepping up their efforts, too, sending money, supplies, and personnel. And we will continue to rally other countries to join us in making concrete commitments to fight this disease, and enhance global health security for the long-term.

America is engaging more partners and allies than ever to confront the growing threat of climate change before it’s too late. We’re doing our part, and helping developing nations do theirs. At home, we’ve invested in clean energy, cut carbon pollution, and created new jobs in the process. Abroad, our climate assistance now reaches more than 120 nations. And on Tuesday, I called on every nation – developed and developing alike — to join us in this effort for the sake of future generations.

The people of the world look to us to lead. And we welcome that responsibility. We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom. And as we showed the world this week, we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency September 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Open Government Partnership Meeting — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at Open Government Partnership Meeting

Source: WH, 9-24-14

United Nations Building
New York City, New York

5:35 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you very much.  And thank you, Rakesh, for your introduction.  It is wonderful to see all of you here today.  I still remember your eloquent words when we launched this effort three years ago, and I’m very grateful for the role you’ve played and NGOs have played, and all the leadership that is represented here has played in making this a reality — which is making a real difference in the lives of so many countries that are participating.

I want to thank my good friend, President Yudhoyono, for your leadership and the example that Indonesia has tried to set as a country that has transitioned from a difficult past to a full-blown democracy.  And I also want to thank Minister Kuntoro for hosting us here today.  Both of them have shown extraordinary leadership in this partnership over the past several years.

President Yudhoyono will be — this will be the last time I think that we see each other in his official capacity, but not in terms of our friendship.  And I think that it’s fitting that he’s participating here today and leading it, because it reflects the legacy of his work.  And I also want to acknowledge my dear friend, President Peña Nieto of Mexico, as well as President Zuma of South Africa, who have agreed to lead the partnership in the coming year.

I’m thrilled to see so many leaders from civil society — men and women who stand up for equality and opportunity and justice and freedom every single day.  And it’s not always easy to do.  Yesterday, I had a chance to speak about the importance of supporting civil society across the globe — because throughout history, progress has always been driven by citizens who have the courage to raise their voices, and imagine not just what is but what might be, and that are willing to work to bring about the change that they seek.

Three years ago, the United States and seven other nations launched this Open Government Partnership to represent the other side of that equation — because when citizens demand progress, governments need to be able to respond.  And in a new millennium flush with technology that allows us to connect with a tweet or a text, citizens rightly demand more responsiveness, more openness, more transparency, more accountability from their governments.

In just three short years, this partnership has grown from eight nations to 64.  It has helped to transform the way governments serve their citizens.  Together, we have made more than 2,000 commitments — improving how governments serve more than 2 billion people worldwide.  More citizens are petitioning their governments online, and more citizens are participating directly in policymaking.  More entrepreneurs are using open data to innovate and start new businesses.  More sunlight is shining on how tax dollars are spent.  And more governments are partnering with civil society to find new ways to expose corruption and improve good governance.

Here in the United States, we’ve been trying to lead by example.  We’re working to open up and share more data with entrepreneurs so they can pursue the new innovations and businesses that create jobs.  We’re working to modernize our Freedom of Information Act process so that it’s easier for Americans to use, so that they can see the workings of their government.  And today, I’m proud to announce a series of new commitments to expand and broaden our open government efforts.

We’re going to work more closely with the health care sector and state and local law enforcement — not just to improve public health and safety, but to better protect the privacy and personal information of the American people.  We’re going to improve transparency with our upgraded website, USAspending.gov, to make it easier for Americans to access and understand how the federal government spends their tax dollars.

We’re going to collaborate more closely with the private sector and the best minds in our country so that when we design websites or technologies to better serve the public, we’re benefitting from the best of American ingenuity and the latest technologies.  And because we know that education is a cornerstone for progress — if we want good governance, we need an educated and informed citizenry — we’re going to do more to help people in other countries, especially students, access the incredible online educational tools and resources that we have here in the States.

In addition, as part of our leadership in the global fight against corruption, we intend to partner with American businesses to develop a national plan to promote responsible and transparent business conduct overseas.  We already have laws in place; they’re significantly stronger than the laws of many other countries.  But we think we can do better.  And we think that ultimately it will be good for everybody, including business.  Because when they know there’s a rule of law, when they don’t have to pay a bribe to ship their goods or to finalize a contract, that means they’re more likely to invest, and that means more jobs and prosperity for everybody.

As we look ahead, I believe that continuing this global fight against corruption has to remain a central focus in this partnership.  It’s an area where we can expand our efforts. Corruption is not simply immoral.  From a practical perspective, it siphons off billions of dollars from the public and private sectors that could be used to feed children or build schools, or build infrastructure that promotes development.  It also promotes economic inequality.  It facilitates human rights abuses.  It fuels organized crime, and terrorism, and ultimately instability.

Passing anti-corruption laws is necessary — and then those laws have to be enforced, so that those who steal from their people are held accountable, and so citizens have faith that the system is not rigged and that justice will be done.  We need to do more to track down the proceeds of corruption and prevent our legal and financial systems from becoming safe havens for money gained through bribes or fraud.  And we need to do more to ensure transparency and accountability in industries that can be especially vulnerable to corruption, such as the extraction of natural resources.  That’s not just good for businesses, it helps support development in countries that depend on these industries for growth and for jobs.

In all of these efforts as governments, we’re going to have to deepen our partnerships with civil society.  As I announced yesterday, I’ve directed the U.S. government to elevate its engagement with civil society groups around the world.  After all, the Open Government Partnership is not simply a partnership between governments; it’s between governments and their citizens.  At times, this can be frustrating.  At times, it can be contentious.  I think it’s fair to say that all governments think they’re doing what’s right, and don’t like criticism.  And it’s shocking to say that not all criticism from civil society is always fair.  But, as leaders, making our governments more open does mean that as a consequence of that criticism, there’s self-reflection.  And it means that questions are asked that might not have otherwise been asked.  And that groupthink doesn’t develop inside of a government, and that people don’t start as easily rationalizing behavior that, if shown in the light of day, people would object to.

As we’ve seen through the leadership of Rakesh and so many others who are here today, open and honest collaboration with citizens and civil society over the long term — no matter how uncomfortable it is — makes countries stronger and it makes countries more successful, and it creates more prosperous economies, and more just societies, and more opportunity for citizens.

So the achievements of these first three years are an example of the kind of steady, step-by-step progress that is possible for people and countries around the world.  No country has all the answers.  No country has perfect practices.  So we have to continue to find new ways to learn from each other, to share best practices, and most importantly, to turn the commitments that we’ve made into real and meaningful action that improves the daily lives of our citizens.  I’m confident that if we do that, we can ensure that we’re living up to the basic truth that governments exist to serve the people, and not the other way around.

Let me just close by saying this:  When we started this, we didn’t know if it was going to work.  And I could not be more proud to see the enormous changes that are taking place all around the globe — in small increments sometimes.  It’s not flashy.  It doesn’t generate a lot of headlines.  But the work you’re doing here is a steady wave of better government, and a steady wave of stronger civil societies.  And over time, that means that not only will individual countries be stronger, and not only will the citizens of those countries have greater opportunity and are less prone to experience injustice, but that translates into a world that is more just and more fair.  And that’s the kind of world that I want to leave my children.

So congratulations on the good work.  But don’t let up — as I’m sure you won’t, because I know some of you.  (Laughter.)  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
5:45 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 26, 2014: Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech at at the UN Summit on Peacekeeping Operations — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Opening Remarks by the Vice President at the UN Summit on Peacekeeping Operations

Source: WH, 9-26-14

The United Nations
New York, New York

10:43 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Welcome.  And welcome to my co-hosts — the Secretary General, the President of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the Prime Minister of Japan, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and all the assembled leaders, ministers, ambassadors and distinguished guests.  And as we say in the body I used to work in, the United States Senate, if you could excuse the point of personal privilege, I’d like to welcome my colleague, Senator Coons, who represents my home constituency.  So I want to be able to go back home.  (Laughter.)

We meet at a moment when the demand for international peacekeeping has never been greater.  In one generation, U.N. peacekeeping has grown tenfold, to about 120,000 men and women deployed around the world.

And as the nature of conflict and combatants has evolved —  to include sophisticated non-state actors as well as traditional armies -— the instruments of peacekeeping have evolved as well.

Today, we ask peacekeepers to protect civilians in South Sudan and the Central African Republic; to prevent sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and to help with the peace process in Mali, amid deadly attacks by extremists -— even as we continue to monitor longstanding ceasefires on three continents.

When we ask them to do more than ever, that is the peacekeepers, in even more difficult and more dangerous environments, we owe them more.  The result is that peacekeeping is under greater strain than it ever has been.  And I should say — and I’m sure I speak for everyone — we are grateful for the burdens peacekeepers have carried, and we honor the sacrifices that they have made.

But, today, we gather to offer more than just words of support.  Together, our nations are here to offer resources, troops, police, and more for these missions.  We have to meet the peacekeeping challenges today.  We also have to look ahead what they’re going to be tomorrow; and we have to do it together.

The United States will do its part.  Last month, President Obama launched the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, a new commitment of $110 million dollars per year for the next three to five years to help six African partners build their capacity to rapidly — and I emphasize rapidly –deploy peacekeepers in emerging crises.  Because rapid deployment, if done rapidly, can save tens of thousands of lives.

We thank the growing coalition, including several leaders here today, who are joining us in support of this initiative.  We think they share the same view, and we thank them for their contributions.

We also will review U.S. contributions to peacekeeping, as well, to assess gaps that the United States is uniquely positioned to fill, like base camps we are building and helping the U.N. build for peacekeepers in the Central African Republic; to better share the U.S. military’s knowledge of confronting asymmetric threats; and to help the U.N. deploy advanced technology.

And we’ll continue to offer support during cases as we did — crises, I should say, as we did after the Haiti earthquake, and as we will be doing in Liberia to help contain the Ebola outbreak.

We are already making contributions, all of us.  But we can and should do more together, and we can do it, in our view, more effectively.  That’s why the United States, Mr. Secretary General, welcomes the comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations that you have put forward.

This is a chance not only to make commitments, but to think strategically together about future peacekeeping needs and related missions.  My guess is — and I’ve been in this business a long time — had we met in the same fora 20 years ago, no one would be anticipating the type — have anticipated the type of peacekeeping operations from non-state actors that we’re engaged with.  So when I say think strategically, we have to think ahead, as well.

And as to what kind of missions are going to be required in the future; what will be required to deploy them — these missions — rapidly and ensure they perform effectively; working in partnership with the African Union, NATO, and the European Union, and other organizations, we can do that.  And we owe the United Nations our best and boldest thinking.

So the truth is the very fact that peacekeeping exists, that men and women sometimes from halfway around the world risk their lives to protect peace on the fault lines of conflict is one of the great achievements of this international system.  Working together I’m confident we can strengthen that system and meet the challenges ahead.

And with that, let me now turn to His Excellency, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

END
10:50 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Global Health Security Agenda Summit about Ebola Outbreak — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Global Health Security Agenda Summit

Source: WH, 9-26-14

South Court Auditorium

11:51 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you for being here.  I want to welcome members of Congress, leaders from across my administration, and our friends and partners — leaders in public health not just from the United States, but from around the world.  Thank you for joining us to advance a cause that touches us all — the health of our people and the security of our nations and of the world.

Today, of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West Africa.  And I know that some of you have been there, doing heroic work in the fight against Ebola.  You’ve seen firsthand the tragedy that’s taking place.  In Liberia, in Sierra Leone, in Guinea, people are terrified.  Hospitals, clinics, treatment centers are overwhelmed, leaving people dying on the streets.  Public health systems are near collapse.  And then there are the secondary effects — economic growth is slowing dramatically, governments are being strained.  And if left unchecked, experts predict that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed in a matter of months.

That’s why I’ve told my team that fighting this epidemic is a national security priority for the United States.  It’s why I recently announced a major increase in our efforts.  Our military command in Liberia is now up and running.  We’re standing up an air bridge to move health workers and supplies into West Africa more quickly.  We’re setting up a field hospital, new treatment units, a facility to train thousands of health workers.  So this is an area where the United States has an opportunity to lead, and we’ve been making a major contribution.

But yesterday at the United Nations, I joined with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Dr. Chan and said this has to be a global priority.  Over the last week, culminating yesterday in New York, more countries and organizations have announced significant commitments, including health care workers, and treatment facilities, and financial support.  And today I want to thank, in particular, the government of Japan, which has pledged to provide some 500,000 pieces of ventilated protective gear — head gear, gloves and boots — to help keep health workers safe as they treat patients in the region.

So we’ve got to now keep up this momentum.  This epidemic underscores — vividly and tragically — what we already knew, which is, in a world as interconnected as ours, outbreaks anywhere, even in the most remote villages and the remote corners of the world, have the potential to impact everybody, every nation.

And though this Ebola epidemic is particularly dangerous, we’ve seen deadly diseases cross borders before.  H1N1.  SARS. MERS.  And each time, the world scrambles to coordinate a response.  Each time, it’s been harder than it should be to share information and to contain the outbreak.  As a result, diseases have spread faster and farther than they should have — which means lives are lost that could have been saved.  With all the knowledge, all the medical talent, all the advanced technologies at our disposal, it is unacceptable if, because of lack of preparedness and planning and global coordination, people are dying when they don’t have to.  So we have to do better — especially when we know that outbreaks are going to keep happening.  That’s inevitable.

At the same time, other biological threats have also grown  — from infections that are resistant to antibiotics to terrorists that seek to develop and use biological weapons.  And no nation can meet these challenges on its own.  Nobody is that isolated anymore.  Oceans don’t protect you.  Walls don’t protect you.  And that means all of us, as nations, and as an international community, need to do more to keep our people safe. And that’s why we’re here.

We have to change our mindsets and start thinking about biological threats as the security threats that they are — in addition to being humanitarian threats and economic threats.  We have to bring the same level of commitment and focus to these challenges as we do when meeting around more traditional security issues.

And what I’ve said about the Ebola epidemic is true here as well:  As the nation that has underwritten much of global security for decades, the United States has some capabilities that other nations don’t have.  We can mobilize the world in ways that other nations may not be able to.  And that’s what we’re trying to do on Ebola.  And that’s what we’ll do on the broader challenge of ensuring our global health security.  We will do our part.  We will lead.  We will put resources.  But we cannot do it alone.

That’s why, back in February, before the current Ebola outbreak, we launched this Global Heath Security Agenda, and I pushed this agenda at the G7 meeting, because we could see something like this coming.  And we issued a challenge to ourselves and to all nations of the world to make concrete pledges towards three key goals:  prevent, detect and respond.  We have to prevent outbreaks by reducing risks.  We need to detect threats immediately wherever they arise.  And we need to respond rapidly and effectively when we see something happening so that we can save lives and avert even larger outbreaks.

Now, the good news is today, our nations have begun to answer the call.  Together, our countries have made over 100 commitments both to strengthen our own security and to work with each other to strengthen the security of all countries’ public health systems.  And now, we’ve got to turn those commitments into concrete action -– starting in West Africa.  We’ve got to make sure we never see a tragedy on this scale again, and we have to make sure we’re not caught flat-footed.  Because you know better than I do that not only can we anticipate additional outbreaks, but we also know that viruses in large populations have the opportunity to mutate in ways that could make them even more deadly and spread more rapidly.

So first, we’ll do more to prevent threats and outbreaks.  We’re going to partner with countries to help boost immunization rates to stop the spread of preventable diseases.  We’ll work together to improve biological security so nations can store, transport, and work with dangerous pathogens safely.  Here in the United States, we’re working with our partners to find new ways to stop animal diseases from crossing over into people -– which, of course, is how Ebola started.  And with the executive order I signed last week, we now have a national strategy to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to better protect our children and grandchildren from the reemergence of diseases and infections that the world conquered decades ago.

Second, we’ll do more to detect incidents and outbreaks.  We’ll help hospitals and health workers find ways to share information more quickly as outbreaks occur.  We want to help countries improve their monitoring systems so they can track progress in real time.  And we’ll intensify our efforts to diagnose diseases faster.  And technologies now exist, today, that diagnose many illnesses in minutes.  And one of the things that we need to do is work together to find ways to get those new technologies to market as quickly as possible and distributed as quickly as possible.

In too many places around the world, patients still have to wait sometimes for days to find out if they’re sick, which means that in the meantime, they’re infecting friends and they’re infecting family.  We can do better on that.  So we’re going to keep working to get new technologies to hospitals and health workers who need it so they can diagnose patients quickly and do more to save lives at the earliest stages of disease.

And finally, we’ll do more to respond faster when incidents and outbreaks happen.  The United States will continue to help countries create their own emergency operations centers, with rapid response teams ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.  Just like our military conducts exercises to be ready, we’ll lead more training exercise as well, helping countries stress-test their system and personnel so that in the event of an outbreak or biological attack, they know how to find the source, they know how to mitigate the impact, they know how to save lives.  They can institute best practices that in many advanced countries we take for granted.  Under the CDC, this is their job.  If they find something out, they know how to isolate it rapidly; they know how to conduct the epidemiological studies, and they know what protocols to follow.  Every country has the capacity to do that.  Because a lot of times, it’s not high-tech, doesn’t require huge resources; it does require planning and preparation.

As we’re often seeing in West Africa, often the greatest need in a crisis is personnel who are trained and ready to deploy.  So we’re going to keep working to strengthen the global networks of experts.  When a crisis occurs, there are enough specialists standing by, ready to work.

And today, I’m pleased to announce a new effort to help health workers respond to diseases like Ebola.  As many of you know firsthand, the protective gear that health workers wear can get incredibly hot, especially in humid environments.  So today, we’re issuing a challenge to inventors and entrepreneurs and businesses of the world to design better protective solutions for our health workers. If you design them, we will make them.  We will pay for them.  And our goal is to get them to the field in a matter of months to help the people working in West Africa right now.  I’m confident we can do this.

So here’s the bottom line:  No one should ever have to die for lack of an isolation tent or a treatment bed, as is happening in West Africa.  No community should be left at the mercy of a horrific disease.  No country should be caught by surprise if an outbreak starts to become an epidemic.  We’ve got to act quickly. And we’ve got to meet the commitments that we’re making here today, and track our progress and hold each other accountable.

So you can anticipate that I will be bringing this up with the heads of state and government that you report to.  I especially want to thank the governments of Finland and Indonesia, who’ve agreed to lead this effort going forward.  I want to thank South Korea, which will host this conference next year.  I want to keep the momentum going.

And as we go forward, let’s remember what we’re working toward -– more families, more communities, more nations that are better able to provide for their own health security.  And one thing I want to point out, because all of you have been working in the field for many years and understand these issues far better than I ever will.  Even as we are working on preparedness, understand that the U.S. commitment — and hopefully the world’s commitment — to just building a better public health infrastructure generally remains.  It’s one thing for us to make sure that we can anticipate diseases — identify diseases early and respond to them rapidly.  But as everybody here knows, if the body is strong, if communities are strong, if nations are strong, then their immune systems are a little bit stronger.  And so part of what we will also continue to have to do is make sure that children are well fed, and that they’re getting their immunizations, and that people have opportunity to get out of extreme poverty.  That’s also part of the long-term agenda.

So we have a very narrow, specific issue in terms of how we respond to the potential outbreaks of epidemics like we’re seeing in West Africa.  I don’t want people to think that somehow that distracts us from some of our broader public health goals.  But right now, what we’re focused on today is to make sure that we have the opportunity to succeed in a situation in which success will never actually be seen.  It will be the attacks that we prevented, and the infections that we stopped before they started, and the outbreaks that don’t explode into epidemics.

The scenes we’re seeing in West Africa are heartbreaking and they tear at our conscience.  But even now, in the face of unimaginable suffering, there’s still hope.  There’s hope in people like Dr. Melvin Korkor from Liberia.  I know he shared his story with you earlier here today.  I think it’s important for the world to hear it, for those of you who are just tuning in.

When the Ebola outbreak first began, in a different part of Liberia from where Dr. Korkor lives, he and his colleagues didn’t think they were at risk.  So they kept seeing patients, including some with fevers.  And as many of you know, one of the tricky things about Ebola is sometimes it presents itself early with symptoms that could be malaria or typhoid.  So Dr. Korkor and his colleagues didn’t have enough latex gloves to use on those illnesses -– they saved gloves for things like surgeries.  One of those patients turned out to have Ebola.  A few nurses got sick. After caring for them, Melvin tested positive as well.

He lay in bed surrounded by other patients, forcing himself to eat and drink even though he had no appetite, watching others die.  He fought off despair by reading his Bible and tried to stay calm.  And he says, as he describes it, “I said to myself I was going to make it.”  “I said to myself I was going to make it.”  The days passed.  Doctors and nurses gave him the best comfort and care that they could, and Melvin pulled through.  He survived.  And he says, “It was like being reborn.”  And now, nearly two months after being declared disease free, he’s counting down the days until his hospital reopens and he can get back to work in just a few weeks.

So, Melvin, your story reminds us that this virus can be beaten, because there are strong people, determined people in these countries who are prepared to do what it takes to save their friends and countrymen and families.  But they need a little help.

At this very moment, there are thousands of health workers like Dr. Korkor in West Africa –- on the ground, in cities, neighborhoods, in remote villages, doing everything they can to stop this virus, whatever it takes.  And we have the tools to help them, to save lives.  We have the knowledge and resources –- not just to stop this outbreak, but to prevent something like this from happening again.

It is our moral obligation and it is in our national self-interests to see this work through, to help them, to help ourselves; the commitment to make our nation and our world is more secure, and the determination to work together to protect the lives of people.  We have to be as strong and as determined and as driven as Melvin.

Thank you all for being part of this critical work.  The United States is proud to be your partner.  I’m looking forward to making sure that all these experts here get the support that they need from their leadership.  And hopefully, as a consequence of meetings like this translated into action, we’ll be savings lives for many years to come.

All right.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
12:10 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech at the United Nations Global Education First Initiative — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at United Nations Global Education First Initiative

Source: WH, 9-24-14 

United Nations
New York, New York

3:37 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Good afternoon.  It is truly a pleasure and an honor to join you today for the third annual Global Education First Initiative event.

Let me start by thanking Chernor for that just touching, very powerful, beautiful introduction.  Let’s give him a round of applause.  That was amazing.  (Applause.)  I do not feel worthy.  But I’m very proud of you and all of the other youth advocates for the tremendous work that you all are doing.  You make me proud.

I also want to recognize Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson; UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova; U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown; and, of course, the GEFI Champion Countries and Partners.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you for your visionary work on global education, particularly on the issue I want to discuss today –- an issue which is the focus of my international work as First Lady of the United States -– and that is providing quality education for girls around the world.

Now, we have made tremendous progress on this issue, particularly on primary education.  Thanks to leaders like all of you, as of 2012, every developing region in the world had achieved, or was close to achieving, gender parity in primary education.  And this is a stunning accomplishment, and we should all be proud of how far we’ve come.

But we shouldn’t be satisfied.  Because while the benefits of primary education are real and meaningful, we know that if we truly want to transform girls’ lives, if we truly want to give them the tools to shape their own destinies, then primary education often just isn’t enough.

We know that if we want girls to marry later, raise healthier children, earn good wages, then we need to send them to school through adolescence.  But we also know that adolescence marks the critical moment when a girl starts to develop from a child into a woman; when she is first subjected to the norms and prejudices that her society holds around gender.  And that is precisely when the issue of quality education truly starts to get hard.

At that point in a girl’s life, it is no longer enough to simply talk about building schools and buying supplies, because when it comes to educating adolescent girls the real challenge isn’t just about resources, it’s about attitudes and beliefs.  It’s about whether fathers and mothers think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons.  It’s about whether communities value young women for their minds, or only for the reproductive and labor capacities of their bodies.  It’s also about whether all of us are willing to confront the complex, sensitive issues that keep so many adolescent girls out of school –- issues like early and forced marriage, and genital cutting; issues like domestic violence and human trafficking.

In other words, we cannot talk about quality education for adolescent girls or hope to make meaningful and lasting progress on this issue unless we’re willing to have a much bigger and bolder conversation about how women are viewed and treated in the world today.

Now, as Chernor said, this conversation is deeply personal for me as a woman.  I know that I stand before you today because of the people in my life, particularly the men -– men like my father, grandfathers, uncles who valued me, who invested in me from the day I was born; men who pushed me to succeed in school, insisted that I have the same opportunities as my brother, urging me to find a husband who would treat me as an equal.

The issue of secondary education for girls is also personal to me as a mother.  And I know that’s true for many of you here today as well.  So many of us are parents and grandparents, and who among us would accept our daughters and granddaughters getting only a primary education?  Who among us would accept our precious girls being married off to grown men at the age of 12, becoming pregnant at 13, being unable to support themselves financially, confined to a life of dependence, fear and abuse?

None of us in this room would ever dream of accepting that kind of life for our daughters or granddaughters.  So why would we accept this for any girl in our country, or any girl on this planet?

To answer this question, all of us -– men and women here in this room and around the world –- we must do some serious self-reflection.  We must look inside ourselves and ask, do we truly value women as equals, or do we see them as merely second-class citizens?  We must look around at our societies and ask, are we clinging to laws and traditions that serve only to oppress and exclude, or are we working to become more equal, more free?

These are the very questions we are asking ourselves every day here in the United States.  Because while we’ve made tremendous progress in areas like college graduation rates and workforce participation, women here are still woefully underrepresented in our government and in the senior ranks of our corporations.

We still struggle with violence against women and harmful cultural norms that tell women how they are expected to look and act.  And we still have plenty of work to do here in America to provide a quality education and opportunity for girls and boys, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  But as we consider all the challenges we face in our countries and in countries across the globe, we must also reflect on the tremendous progress we’ve made.

Just think about where we were just 15 years ago on this issue.  Back then, if I had told you that in a little over a decade, we would see nearly 56 million more girls going to school, you would have told me I was dreaming.  But that is precisely what has happened because of people like all of you.  It’s happened because of your fierce devotion to those girls’ promise and your relentless efforts to transform their lives.

And if we truly believe that every girl in every corner of the globe is worthy of an education as our own daughters and granddaughters are, then we need to deepen our commitment to these efforts.  We need to make even more commitments and investments like the ones we’re announcing this week –- programs to provide scholarships and hygiene facilities in schools; public awareness campaigns to change attitudes about our girls; efforts to collect data on how girls learn, and so much more.

We also need to fight even harder to ensure that quality education for every child and the empowerment of women and girls are dedicated goals on our Post-2015 Development Agenda — yes, absolutely.  (Applause.)  Keeping our girls safe on their way to school, teaching them relevant skills once they’re there, and ensuring they graduate from secondary school — all of these things must be a part of our agenda.  Addressing gender-based violence in all of its forms –- from domestic violence, to genital cutting, to early and forced marriages –- all of that needs to be on the agenda too.

Because girls around the world deserve so much better.  They do.  They are so eager to learn.  And so many of them are sacrificing so much just for the chance to get an education.  I’m thinking about girls like Malala.  I’m thinking about those brave girls in Nigeria.  I’m thinking about all the girls who will never make the headlines who walk hours to school each day, who study late into the night because they are so hungry to fill every last bit of their God-given potential.

If we can show just a tiny fraction of their courage and their commitment, then I know we can give all of our girls an education worthy of their promise.  And let me just say this — in the years and decades ahead, I am so very eager to engage even more deeply with leaders in this room, across the United States and around the world on this issue until every young woman on our planet has the opportunity to learn and grow and thrive.

Thank you very much.  God bless.  (Applause.)

END
3:48 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at U.N. Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters for ISIS — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at U.N. Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Source: WH, 9-24-14 

Watch the Video

 

United Nations
New York, New York

3:11 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, His Excellency, the Secretary-General, for his statement.  I’ll now make a statement in my capacity as President of the United States.

Mr. Secretary-General, heads of state and government distinguished representatives, thank you for being here today.

In the nearly 70 years of the United Nations, this is only the sixth time that the Security Council has met at a level like this.  We convene such sessions to address the most urgent threats to peace and security.  And I called this meeting because we must come together — as nations and an international community — to confront the real and growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters.

As I said earlier today, the tactic of terrorism is not new. So many nations represented here today, including my own, have seen our citizens killed by terrorists who target innocents.  And today, the people of the world have been horrified by another brutal murder, of Herve Gourdel, by terrorists in Algeria.  President Hollande, we stand with you and the French people not only as you grieve this terrible loss, but as you show resolve against terror and in defense of liberty.

What brings us together today, what is new is the unprecedented flow of fighters in recent years to and from conflict zones, including Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Libya, and most recently, Syria and Iraq.

Our intelligence agencies estimate that more than 15,000 foreign fighters from more than 80 nations have traveled to Syria in recent years.  Many have joined terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda’s affiliate, the Nusrah Front, and ISIL, which now threatens people across Syria and Iraq.  And I want to acknowledge and thank Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq for being here today.

In the Middle East and elsewhere, these terrorists exacerbate conflicts; they pose an immediate threat to people in these regions; and as we’ve already seen in several cases, they may try to return to their home countries to carry out deadly attacks.  In the face of this threat, many of our nations — working together and through the United Nations — have increased our cooperation.  Around the world, foreign terrorist fighters have been arrested, plots have been disrupted and lives have been saved.

Earlier this year at West Point, I called for a new Partnership to help nations build their capacity to meet the evolving threat of terrorism, including foreign terrorist fighters.  And preventing these individuals from reaching Syria and then slipping back across our borders is a critical element of our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

The historic resolution that we just adopted enshrines our commitment to meet this challenge.  It is legally binding.  It establishes new obligations that nations must meet.  Specifically, nations are required to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping” of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the financing of their travel or activities.  Nations must “prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups” through their territory, and ensure that their domestic laws allow for the prosecution of those who attempt to do so.

The resolution we passed today calls on nations to help build the capacity of states on the front lines of this fight — including with the best practices that many of our nations approved yesterday, and which the United States will work to advance through our Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund.  This resolution will strengthen cooperation between nations, including sharing more information about the travel and activities of foreign terrorist fighters.  And it makes clear that respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law is not optional — it is an essential part of successful counterterrorism efforts.  Indeed, history teaches us that the failure to uphold these rights and freedoms can actually fuel violent extremism.

Finally, this resolution recognizes that there is no military solution to the problem of misguided individuals seeking to join terrorist organizations, and it, therefore, calls on nations to work together to counter the violent extremism that can radicalize, recruit, and mobilize individuals to engage in terrorism.  Potential recruits must hear the words of former terrorist fighters who have seen the truth — that groups like ISIL betray Islam by killing innocent men, women and children, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Often it is local communities — family, friends, neighbors, and faith leaders — that are best able to identify and help disillusioned individuals before they succumb to extremist ideologies and engage in violence.  That’s why the United States government is committed to working with communities in America and around the world to build partnerships of trust, respect and cooperation.

Likewise, even as we are unrelenting against terrorists who threaten our people, we must redouble our work to address the conditions — the repression, the lack of opportunity, too often the hopelessness that can make some individuals more susceptible to appeals to extremism and violence.  And this includes continuing to pursue a political solution in Syria that allows all Syrians to live in security, dignity, and peace.

This is the work that we must do as nations.  These are the partnerships we must forge as an international community.  And these are the standards that we now must meet.  Yet even as we’re guided by the commitments that we make here today, let me close by stating the obvious.  Resolutions alone will not be enough.  Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.  Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.

The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds — concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this:  terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.  These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them.  The safety of our citizens demand that we do.  And I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America.

I now would like to resume my function as President of the Council.  And I will now give the floor to the other members of the Security Council.

END
3:19 P.M. EDT

Political Musings September 24, 2014: In UN speech Obama issues call to destroy ISIS the “cancer of violent extremism”

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

In UN speech Obama issues call to destroy ISIS the “cancer of violent extremism”

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama delivered his annual address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 where he covered important issues the United States is facing at home and abroad. The president emphasized in…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Luncheon with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at Luncheon with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Source: WH, 9-24-14 

United Nations Building
New York City, New York

1:51 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, good afternoon.  First of all, you should know that the Secretary General was late because of me.  I take the blame.

Second of all, I do think it’s appropriate to thank the incredible hospitality of the people of New York City.  Some of you know I lived in New York, went to school in New York.  Love New York, love the people.  But as somebody who has lived here as a civilian during UNGA, it is no fun.  (Laughter.)  In fact, in 2008, I had already won the nomination, was a month away from my election as President, and had full Secret Service and I still couldn’t get through the traffic and had to walk three blocks in order to get into the building.  That’s how bad it was.  So it is tough.

But to the people of New York, we want to thank you for doing what you do, because you are such an incredible, incredible city.

I’ve already given a long speech today.  I’m going to be very brief.  As host nation, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to our work.  Nobody works harder and truer to the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations than our Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.  (Applause.)  And so I want to publicly thank him for his tireless work on every issue — from Ebola to climate change, to violations of human rights, to armed conflict, he is on the job and been doing outstanding work.

I also want to recognize the thousands of men and women at the United Nations who give meaning and action to all the words that we politicians produce during the course of General Assembly meetings and Security Council meetings.  Oftentimes, they operate outside of the limelight.  But if it were not for their dedication, hard work and sacrifice, then this would just be a debating club.  And so we want to thank very much all the employees and staff of the United Nations not just for helping to facilitate this meeting, but for what they do all year around.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Along those same lines, we want to salute the thousands of Blue Helmets who stand sentinel around the world, particularly across Africa and the Middle East.  The tragic loss of five peacekeepers in Mali last week reminds us that there are real risks that these peacekeepers take on so that others can lead a better life.

We salute the United Nations aid workers who are on the front lines of humanitarian efforts in Syria, delivering comfort and support to civilians battered by civil war.

And we thank the heroic U.N. health workers in West Africa who are combatting Ebola and caring for the sick at some risk to themselves.

These men and women, from so many of our nations, reflect the common pursuit of peace and prosperity.  We could not be prouder of their work.  They represent what I think the United Nations should be all about.  And when I think of them, I’m reminded that although all of us have the extraordinary privilege of representing our countries in very high offices, the truth is change happens on the ground, and none of us can do this alone.

So I propose a toast to the human spirit that these workers and personnel and peacekeepers around the world represent — the best of who we are, and what we all share in common as children of God and as people who hope to pass on peace and prosperity to our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.

Cheers.  (A toast is given.)  (Applause.)

END
1:56 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: President Obama’s 2014 Speech Address to the United Nations General Assembly — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by President Barack Obama, Address to the United Nations General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-24-14


President Obama speaks during the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept 24. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

September 24, 2014
New York City, NY 

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: we come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.

Around the globe, there are signposts of progress. The shadow of World War that existed at the founding of this institution has been lifted; the prospect of war between major powers reduced. The ranks of member states has more than tripled, and more people live under governments they elected. Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty, with the proportion of those living in extreme poverty cut in half.  And the world economy continues to strengthen after the worst financial crisis of our lives.

Today, whether you live in downtown New York or in my grandmother’s village more than two hundred miles from Nairobi, you can hold in your hand more information than the world’s greatest libraries. Together, we have learned how to cure disease, and harness the power of the wind and sun. The very existence of this institution is a unique achievement – the people of the world committing to resolve their differences peacefully, and solve their problems together. I often tell young people in the United States that this is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams.

And yet there is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces. As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.

Each of these problems demands urgent attention. But they are also symptoms of a broader problem – the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe.

Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make. We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability. We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability. For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

There is much that must be done to meet the tests of this moment. But today I’d like to focus on two defining questions at the root of many of our challenges– whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the UN’s founding; and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.

First, all of us – big nations and small – must meet our responsibility to observe and enforce international norms.

We are here because others realized that we gain more from cooperation than conquest. One hundred years ago, a World War claimed the lives of many millions, proving that with the terrible power of modern weaponry, the cause of empire leads to the graveyard. It would take another World War to roll back the forces of fascism and racial supremacy, and form this United Nations to ensure that no nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-war order. Here are the facts. After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt President fled.  Against the will of the government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into Eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands. When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days. When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border.

This is a vision of the world in which might makes right – a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed. America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might – that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future.

These are simple truths, but they must be defended. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. We will reinforce our NATO allies, and uphold our commitment to collective defense. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.

Moreover, a different path is available – the path of diplomacy and peace and the ideals this institution is designed to uphold. The recent cease-fire agreement in Ukraine offers an opening to achieve that objective. If Russia takes that path – a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people – then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges. That’s what the United States and Russia have been able to do in past years – from reducing our nuclear stockpiles to meet our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to cooperating to remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons. And that’s the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again—if Russia changes course.

This speaks to a central question of our global age: whether we will solve our problems together, in a spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, or whether we descend into destructive rivalries of the past. When nations find common ground, not simply based on power, but on principle, then we can make enormous progress. And I stand before you today committed to investing American strength in working with nations to address the problems we face in the 21st century.

As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists – supported by our military – to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments. But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders. It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it isn’t. That is why we will continue mobilizing other countries to join us in making concrete commitments to fight this outbreak, and enhance global health security for the long-term.

America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them. This can only happen if Iran takes this historic opportunity. My message to Iran’s leaders and people is simple: do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.

America is and will continue to be a Pacific power, promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations. But we will insist that all nations abide by the rules of the road, and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully, consistent with international law. That’s how the Asia-Pacific has grown. And that’s the only way to protect this progress going forward.

America is committed to a development agenda that eradicates extreme poverty by 2030. We will do our part – to help people feed themselves; power their economies; and care for their sick. If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children can enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity

America is pursuing ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions, and we have increased our investments in clean energy. We will do our part, and help developing nations to do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every major power. That’s how we can protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.

On issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rule-book written for a different century. If we lift our eyes beyond our borders – if we think globally and act cooperatively – we can shape the course of this century as our predecessors shaped the post-World War II age. But as we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress: and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.

Of course, terrorism is not new. Speaking before this Assembly, President Kennedy put it well: “Terror is not a new weapon,” he said. “Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example.” In the 20th century, terror was used by all manner of groups who failed to come to power through public support. But in this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions. With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels – killing as many innocent civilians as possible; and employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities.

I have made it clear that America will not base our entire foreign policy on reacting to terrorism. Rather, we have waged a focused campaign against al Qaeda and its associated forces – taking out their leaders, and denying them the safe-havens they rely upon. At the same time, we have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them – there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.

So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion.

This is not simply a matter of words. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment. Moreover, this campaign against extremism goes beyond a narrow security challenge. For while we have methodically degraded core al Qaeda and supported a transition to a sovereign Afghan government, extremist ideology has shifted to other places – particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where a quarter of young people have no job; food and water could grow scarce; corruption is rampant; and sectarian conflicts have become increasingly hard to contain.

As an international community, we must meet this challenge with a focus on four areas.  First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands.  Instead, we will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL. We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can. Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats; and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build – not those who destroy.

Second, it is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.

It is the task of all great religions to accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world. No children – anywhere – should be educated to hate other people. There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim. It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.

That means cutting off the funding that fuels this hate. It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy, and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.

That means contesting the space that terrorists occupy – including the Internet and social media. Their propaganda has coerced young people to travel abroad to fight their wars, and turned students into suicide bombers. We must offer an alternative vision.

That means bringing people of different faiths together. All religions have been attacked by extremists from within at some point, and all people of faith have a responsibility to lift up the value at the heart of all religion: do unto thy neighbor as you would have done unto you.

The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day. Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies – Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: “We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.” Look at the young British Muslims, who responded to terrorist propaganda by starting the “notinmyname” campaign, declaring – “ISIS is hiding behind a false Islam.” Look at the Christian and Muslim leaders who came together in the Central African Republic to reject violence – listen to the Imam who said, “Politics try to divide the religious in our country, but religion shouldn’t be a cause of hate, war, or strife.”

Later today, the Security Council will adopt a resolution that underscores the responsibility of states to counter violent extremism. But resolutions must be followed by tangible commitments, so we’re accountable when we fall short.  Next year, we should all be prepared to announce the concrete steps that we have taken to counter extremist ideologies – by getting intolerance out of schools, stopping radicalization before it spreads, and promoting institutions and programs that build new bridges of understanding.

Third, we must address the cycle of conflict – especially sectarian conflict – that creates the conditions that terrorists prey upon.

There is nothing new about wars within religions. Christianity endured centuries of vicious sectarian conflict. Today, it is violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery. It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. And it is time that political, civic and religious leaders reject sectarian strife. Let’s be clear: this is a fight that no one is winning. A brutal civil war in Syria has already killed nearly 200,000 people and displaced millions. Iraq has come perilously close to plunging back into the abyss. The conflict has created a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists who inevitably export this violence.

Yet, we also see signs that this tide could be reversed – a new, inclusive government in Baghdad; a new Iraqi Prime Minister welcomed by his neighbors; Lebanese factions rejecting those who try to provoke war. These steps must be followed by a broader truce. Nowhere is this more necessary than Syria. Together with our partners, America is training and equipping the Syrian opposition to be a counterweight to the terrorists of ISIL and the brutality of the Assad regime. But the only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political – an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or creed.

Cynics may argue that such an outcome can never come to pass. But there is no other way for this madness to end – whether one year from now or ten. Indeed, it’s time for a broader negotiation in which major powers address their differences directly, honestly, and peacefully across the table from one another, rather than through gun-wielding proxies. I can promise you America will remain engaged in the region, and we are prepared to engage in that effort.

My fourth and final point is a simple one: the countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth.

Here I’d like to speak directly to young people across the Muslim world. You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation, not destruction; the dignity of life, not murder. Those who call you away from this path are betraying this tradition, not defending it.

You have demonstrated that when young people have the tools to succeed –good schools; education in math and science; an economy that nurtures creativity and entrepreneurship – then societies will flourish. So America will partner with those who promote that vision.

Where women are full participants in a country’s politics or economy, societies are more likely to succeed.  That’s why we support the participation of women in parliaments and in peace processes; in schools and the economy.

If young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state, or the lure of an extremist underground – no counter-terrorism strategy can succeed. But where a genuine civil society is allowed to flourish – where people can express their views, and organize peacefully for a better life – then you dramatically expand the alternatives to terror.

Such positive change need not come at the expense of tradition and faith. We see this in Iraq, where a young man started a library for his peers. “We link Iraq’s heritage to their hearts,” he said, and “give them a reason to stay.” We see it in Tunisia, where secular and Islamist parties worked together through a political process to produce a new constitution. We see it in Senegal, where civil society thrives alongside a strong, democratic government. We see it in Malaysia, where vibrant entrepreneurship is propelling a former colony into the ranks of advanced economies. And we see it in Indonesia, where what began as a violent transition has evolved into a genuine democracy.

Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task – a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe-havens, nor act as an occupying power. Instead, we will take action against threats to our security – and our allies – while building an architecture of counter-terrorism cooperation. We will increase efforts to lift up those who counter extremist ideology, and seek to resolve sectarian conflict. And we will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship, civil society, education and youth – because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.

Leadership will also be necessary to address the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. As bleak as the landscape appears, America will never give up the pursuit of peace. The situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya should cure anyone of the illusion that this conflict is the main source of problems in the region; for far too long, it has been used in part as a way to distract people from problems at home. And the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza. So long as I am President, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just with two states living side by side, in peace and security.

This is what America is prepared to do – taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished. The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but nor will we shrink from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.

But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary.  Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and countries for the better.

After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world. Because I’ve seen a longing for positive change – for peace and freedom and opportunity – in the eyes of young people I’ve met around the globe. They remind me that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what God you pray to, or who you love, there is something fundamental that we all share. Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the UN and America’s role in it, once asked, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,” she said, “close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.”

The people of the world look to us, here, to be as decent, as dignified, and as courageous as they are in their daily lives. And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done. We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come. Join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.

 

Political Musings September 23, 2014: Obama readies for UN General Assembly speech uniting coalition for ISIS fight

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama readies for UN General Assembly speech uniting coalition for ISIS fight

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As President Barack Obama is preparing his speech on Sept. 24, 2014 to the United Nations General Assembly in New York about uniting allies in the coalition to fight ISIS, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, he is also…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly about Middle East Diplomacy Doctrine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-24-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at United Nations General Assembly (September 24, 2013) President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, N.Y., Sept. 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

United Nations
New York, New York

10:10 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Each year we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution.  For most of recorded history, individual aspirations were subject to the whims of tyrants and empires.  Divisions of race and religion and tribe were settled through the sword and the clash of armies.  The idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes and advance a common prosperity seemed unimaginable.

It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking.  The leaders who built the United Nations were not naïve; they did not think this body could eradicate all wars.  But in the wake of millions dead and continents in rubble, and with the development of nuclear weapons that could annihilate a planet, they understood that humanity could not survive the course it was on.  And so they gave us this institution, believing that it could allow us to resolve conflicts, enforce rules of behavior, and build habits of cooperation that would grow stronger over time.

For decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference — from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace.  But like every generation of leaders, we face new and profound challenges, and this body continues to be tested.  The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time.

For much of my tenure as President, some of our most urgent challenges have revolved around an increasingly integrated global economy, and our efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetime.  Now, five years after the global economy collapsed, and thanks to coordinated efforts by the countries here today, jobs are being created, global financial systems have stabilized, and people are once again being lifted out of poverty.  But this progress is fragile and unequal, and we still have work to do together to assure that our citizens can access the opportunities that they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Together, we’ve also worked to end a decade of war.  Five years ago, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harm’s way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world.  Today, all of our troops have left Iraq.  Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11.

For the United States, these new circumstances have also meant shifting away from a perpetual war footing.  Beyond bringing our troops home, we have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.  We’re transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law, while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

As a result of this work, and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago.  But even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain.  In Kenya, we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall, and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected.  In Pakistan, nearly 100 people were recently killed by suicide bombers outside a church.  In Iraq, killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life.  And meanwhile, al Qaeda has splintered into regional networks and militias, which doesn’t give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11, but does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats, businesses and civilians all across the globe.

Just as significantly, the convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa have laid bare deep divisions within societies, as an old order is upended and people grapple with what comes next.  Peaceful movements have too often been answered by violence — from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change.  Sectarian conflict has reemerged.  And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace.

Nowhere have we seen these trends converge more powerfully than in Syria.  There, peaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter.  In the face of such carnage, many retreated to their sectarian identity — Alawite and Sunni; Christian and Kurd — and the situation spiraled into civil war.

The international community recognized the stakes early on, but our response has not matched the scale of the challenge.  Aid cannot keep pace with the suffering of the wounded and displaced.  A peace process is stillborn.  America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition, but extremist groups have still taken root to exploit the crisis.  Assad’s traditional allies have propped him up, citing principles of sovereignty to shield his regime.  And on August 21st, the regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

Now, the crisis in Syria, and the destabilization of the region, goes to the heart of broader challenges that the international community must now confront.  How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa — conflicts between countries, but also conflicts within them?  How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?  What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?  What is the role of the United Nations and international law in meeting cries for justice?

Today, I want to outline where the United States of America stands on these issues.  With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point, the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons.  When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly.  I did so because I believe it is in the security interest of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself.  The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity.  It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocating in the trenches; Jews slaughtered in gas chambers; Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st.  U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians.  These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood, and landed in opposition neighborhoods.  It’s an insult to human reason — and to the legitimacy of this institution — to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.

Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council.  But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all.  However, as I’ve discussed with President Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue.  And in the past several weeks, the United States, Russia and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, and then to destroy them.

The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles.  Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so.  If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.  On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century, and that this body means what it says.

Agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria.  I do not believe that military action — by those within Syria, or by external powers — can achieve a lasting peace.  Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria; that is for the Syrian people to decide.  Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country.  The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy.

It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear:  an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.  In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them that the Syrian people cannot afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.

We are committed to working this political track.  And as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero-sum endeavor.  We’re no longer in a Cold War.  There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the wellbeing of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.

I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria’s civil war.  And as we move the Geneva process forward, I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries.  America has committed over a billion dollars to this effort, and today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million.  No aid can take the place of a political resolution that gives the Syrian people the chance to rebuild their country, but it can help desperate people to survive.

What broader conclusions can be drawn from America’s policy toward Syria?  I know there are those who have been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad, and believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening of American resolve in the region.  Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes to deter the further use of chemical weapons shows we’ve learned nothing from Iraq, and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes.  In this way, the situation in Syria mirrors a contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades:  the United States is chastised for meddling in the region, accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy; at the same time, the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems and for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations.

I realize some of this is inevitable, given America’s role in the world.  But these contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people’s support for our involvement in the region, and allow leaders in the region — as well as the international community sometimes — to avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.

So let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency.

The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.

We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.

We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.  Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.

We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people.  Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror.  But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.

And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction.  Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.

Now, to say that these are America’s core interests is not to say that they are our only interests.  We deeply believe it is in our interests to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous, and will continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity.  But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action, particularly through military action.  Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force.  Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region.

So what does this mean going forward?  In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues:  Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.  While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.

The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  This mistrust has deep roots.  Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America’s role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War.  On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly — or through proxies — taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.

I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight — the suspicions run too deep.  But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Since I took office, I’ve made it clear in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  We are not seeking regime change and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.  Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.

So these statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement.  We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.  But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.  After all, it’s the Iranian government’s choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place.  And this is not simply an issue between the United States and Iran.  The world has seen Iran evade its responsibilities in the past and has an abiding interest in making sure that Iran meets its obligations in the future.

But I want to be clear we are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course.  And given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European Union — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.  For while the status quo will only deepen Iran’s isolation, Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world, and will help the Iranian people meet their extraordinary potential — in commerce and culture; in science and education.

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran, and that is the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.  I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.  Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible.  And I believe there’s a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state.  But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.

Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.  On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and incredible potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations.  They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and they’re frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation.  But they too recognize that two states is the only real path to peace — because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.

So the time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace.  Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks.  President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state.  Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

So now the rest of us must be willing to take risks as well.  Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state, and we should say so clearly.  Arab states, and those who supported the Palestinians, must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution and a secure Israel.

All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists throughout the region, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future.  And moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work.  So let’s emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice.  Let’s support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues — Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace — would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa.  But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations.  It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations.  And by that measure, it’s clear that all of us have a lot more work to do.

When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt, the entire world was filled with hope.  And although the United States — like others — was struck by the speed of transition, and although we did not — and in fact could not — dictate events, we chose to support those who called for change.  And we did so based on the belief that while these transitions will be hard and take time, societies based upon democracy and openness and the dignity of the individual will ultimately be more stable, more prosperous, and more peaceful.

Over the last few years, particularly in Egypt, we’ve seen just how hard this transition will be.  Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected, but proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was fully inclusive.  The interim government that replaced him responded to the desires of millions of Egyptians who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn, but it, too, has made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy — through an emergency law, and restrictions on the press and civil society and opposition parties.

Of course, America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal of power.  In fact, the United States has purposely avoided choosing sides.  Our overriding interest throughout these past few years has been to encourage a government that legitimately reflects the will of the Egyptian people, and recognizes true democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights and the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society.

That remains our interest today.  And so, going forward, the United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government that promotes core interests like the Camp David Accords and counterterrorism.  We’ll continue support in areas like education that directly benefit the Egyptian people.  But we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a more democratic path.

And our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point:  The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.  Nevertheless, we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We will reject the notion that these principles are simply Western exports, incompatible with Islam or the Arab World.  We believe they are the birthright of every person.  And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited, although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy and inconsistency, we will be engaged in the region for the long haul.  For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation.

And this includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria.  We understand such longstanding issues cannot be solved by outsiders; they must be addressed by Muslim communities themselves.  But we’ve seen grinding conflicts come to an end before — most recently in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants finally recognized that an endless cycle of conflict was causing both communities to fall behind a fast-moving world.  And so we believe those same sectarian conflicts can be overcome in the Middle East and North Africa.

To summarize, the United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries.  The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.  Indeed, as recent debates within the United States over Syria clearly show, the danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries or to take on every problem in the region as its own.  The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war — rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world — may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.

I believe such disengagement would be a mistake.  I believe America must remain engaged for our own security.  But I also believe the world is better for it.  Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional — in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all.

I must be honest, though.  We’re far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us, that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few; that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute — men and women, Shia or Sunni, Muslim, Christian or Jew.  Because from Europe to Asia, from Africa to the Americas, nations that have persevered on a democratic path have emerged more prosperous, more peaceful, and more invested in upholding our common security and our common humanity.  And I believe that the same will hold true for the Arab world.

This leads me to a final point.  There will be times when the breakdown of societies is so great, the violence against civilians so substantial that the international community will be called upon to act.  This will require new thinking and some very tough choices.  While the United Nations was designed to prevent wars between states, increasingly we face the challenge of preventing slaughter within states.  And these challenges will grow more pronounced as we are confronted with states that are fragile or failing — places where horrendous violence can put innocent men, women and children at risk, with no hope of protection from their national institutions.

I have made it clear that even when America’s core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights.  But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone.  In Mali, we supported both the French intervention that successfully pushed back al Qaeda, and the African forces who are keeping the peace.  In Eastern Africa, we are working with partners to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army to an end.  And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action.  Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved, and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power.

I know that some now criticize the action in Libya as an object lesson.  They point to the problems that the country now confronts — a democratically elected government struggling to provide security; armed groups, in some places extremists, ruling parts of a fractured land.  And so these critics argue that any intervention to protect civilians is doomed to fail — look at Libya.  No one is more mindful of these problems than I am, for they resulted in the death of four outstanding U.S. citizens who were committed to the Libyan people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens — a man whose courageous efforts helped save the city of Benghazi.  But does anyone truly believe that the situation in Libya would be better if Qaddafi had been allowed to kill, imprison, or brutalize his people into submission?  It’s far more likely that without international action, Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed.

We live in a world of imperfect choices.  Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance, and the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order.  But sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye.  While we need to be modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil, while we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences, should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda or Srebrenica?  If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.

But I believe we can embrace a different future.  And if we don’t want to choose between inaction and war, we must get better — all of us — at the policies that prevent the breakdown of basic order.  Through respect for the responsibilities of nations and the rights of individuals.  Through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules.  Through dogged diplomacy that resolves the root causes of conflict, not merely its aftermath.  Through development assistance that brings hope to the marginalized.  And yes, sometimes — although this will not be enough — there are going to be moments where the international community will need to acknowledge that the multilateral use of military force may be required to prevent the very worst from occurring.

Ultimately, this is the international community that America seeks — one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility.  A world in which the rules established out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully, and prevent the kinds of wars that our forefathers fought.  A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs, whether they live in New York or Nairobi; in Peshawar or Damascus.

These are extraordinary times, with extraordinary opportunities.  Thanks to human progress, a child born anywhere on Earth today can do things today that 60 years ago would have been out of reach for the mass of humanity.  I saw this in Africa, where nations moving beyond conflict are now poised to take off.  And America is with them, partnering to feed the hungry and care for the sick, and to bring power to places off the grid.

I see it across the Pacific region, where hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in a single generation.  I see it in the faces of young people everywhere who can access the entire world with the click of a button, and who are eager to join the cause of eradicating extreme poverty, and combating climate change, starting businesses, expanding freedom, and leaving behind the old ideological battles of the past.  That’s what’s happening in Asia and Africa.  It’s happening in Europe and across the Americas.  That’s the future that the people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve as well — one where they can focus on opportunity, instead of whether they’ll be killed or repressed because of who they are or what they believe.

Time and again, nations and people have shown our capacity to change — to live up to humanity’s highest ideals, to choose our better history.  Last month, I stood where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. told America about his dream, at a time when many people of my race could not even vote for President.  Earlier this year, I stood in the small cell where Nelson Mandela endured decades cut off from his own people and the world.  Who are we to believe that today’s challenges cannot be overcome, when we have seen what changes the human spirit can bring?  Who in this hall can argue that the future belongs to those who seek to repress that spirit, rather than those who seek to liberate it?

I know what side of history I want to the United States of America to be on.  We’re ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges with you — firm in the belief that all men and women are in fact created equal, each individual possessed with a dignity and inalienable rights that cannot be denied.  That is why we look to the future not with fear, but with hope.  And that’s why we remain convinced that this community of nations can deliver a more peaceful, prosperous and just world to the next generation.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:52 A.M. EDT

Political Musings September 15, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry seals deal with Russia over Syria chemical weapons disarmament

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Kerry seals deal with Russia over Syria chemical weapons disarmament (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Video
On the third day of talks between the United States and Russia in Geneva, Switzerland about Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, the two countries came to an agreement on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 to destroy Syria’s chemical….READ MORE

Political Headlines September 12, 2013: John Kerry Rejects Syria’s Demand to Drop Threat

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry Rejects Syria’s Demand to Drop Threat

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Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday rejected a call from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the U.S. to drop its threat of force before Syria gives up its chemical weapons.

“President Obama has made clear that should diplomacy fail, force might be necessary to deter and degrade Assad’s capacity to deliver these weapon,” Kerry told reporters at the start of a multi-day negotiation with the Russians over how such a disarmament might take place….READ MORE

Political Headlines September 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Pleads His Case on Syria in Address to Nation: ‘I Believe We Should Act’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Pleads His Case on Syria: ‘I Believe We Should Act’

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Stymied by lagging public opinion and an 11th-hour diplomatic curveball, President Obama Tuesday night argued that he still needs congressional authorization for military strikes against Syria even though its possible he may not have to use it.

“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act,” Obama said during a rare primetime televised address to the nation….READ MORE

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