LONDON (Independent)–In some of his most uncompromising language yet–designed to prepare the country for war–President Bush said Saddam had ignored his "final chance to disarm" as laid down by UN resolution 1441.
In the State of the Union address delivered before Congress and broadcast live around the world early today–he pledged to "fight with the full force and might of the United States military," if necessary–to disarm Iraq.
The first half of his hour-long address was devoted to domestic policy–a reflection of his desire not to let Iraq overshadow a presidential agenda geared toward the 2004 re-election campaign. The heart of the President’s programme is his $674 billion plan to revive the economy and a $400 billion–10-year proposal to overhaul the Medicare health care program for the elderly–sprinkled with initiatives to combat AIDS and produce energy efficient cars.
After an address interrupted 77 times by applause–Democrats challenged Bush’s efforts both at home and abroad. "Tonight–the president used all the right rhetoric–but he still has all the wrong policies," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
President Bush offered no new evidence to support his charges against Iraq–but said Secretary of State Colin Powell will go to the UN Security Council next week to present the US case.
Hoping to sway reluctant allies–he presented a list of Saddam’s alleged offenses–some of them newly revealed to the public. He said intelligence sources have reported that thousands of Iraqi personnel are at work hiding documen’s and materials from the UN weapons inspectors.
The president described the United States as still recovering from recession–terrorist attacks–corporate scandals and stock market declines. "Our economy is recovering–yet it is not growing fast enough or strongly enough," the president said.
President Bush said Saddam has shown "his utter contempt" for the United Nations and must be brought to account unless he disarms. "The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary–he is deceiving," the president said.
The following are a sampling of Western media’s reaction the the Bush’s address:
THE WASHINGTON POST
An editorial in "The Washington Post" says much of the world anticipated that Bush would clarify his policies on Iraq and North Korea in his annual State of the Union speech last night. But–the paper says–Bush "[has] not yet made a concerted effort to [explain] why his administration is preparing to launch an invasion of Iraq that will involve painful costs and considerable risks."
NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG
The paper points out that Bush was intent on "mediating the feeling that the administration is capable of dealing successfully with both economic problems at home and crises abroad–and told those of right and center political orientation exactly what they wanted to hear."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
An editorial in "The New York Times" today says Bush’s much-publicized $670 billion plan to cut taxes–reintroduced last night in his State of the Union address–is "tilted toward the wealthiest Americans and has very little that would stimulate the economy." The paper writes–"At a time when the country may be taking on the expense of an overseas war and is continuing the fight against domestic terrorism–this is radical right-wing economics–dogma Mr. Bush cannot keep peddling if he hopes to unite the country behind his foreign agenda."
In a London Times editorial by Tim Reid–he says that rhetoric on Saddam is "vintage Bush"–"short on specifics but big on themes–the language of values–a rhetorical ploy copied from Ronald Reagan and aimed at gut instinct. Inside the House–the ovations came thick and fast."Will it impress the world’s doves?" asks Reid–and answers that it may not matter because the President believes that Hans Blix’s quietly devastating report on Monday has done most of the work for him.