Bush’s speech to the nation was a combination of platitudes, exaggerations, half-truths and downright lies. Afghans would be curious to hear that their country is now free and prosperous, not a dangerous, fractured nations governed by warlords and fueled by opium. Iraqis would be surprised to know that they are assuming more and more responsibility for their own future, while the Bush administration is dishing out their oil money to its cronies in Halliburton and Bechtel, and passing privatization laws favoring foreign corporations that will distort the Iraqi economy for decades to come.
Bush insists that we Americans are safer because we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. The truth is that these invasions unleashed a new wave of anti-American sentiment, making us MORE vulnerable, not less. In fact, global opinion says the entire world is less safe now that the Bush administration decided to launch a pre-emptive war, thumb its nose at the United Nations, break critical treaties such as the ABM treaty, and violate the UN’ mandate to stop the scourge of war.
It’s telling that the two most repeated words in George Bush’s State of the Union address were “America” and “terrorism”—a continuation of the administration’s politics of fear. Bush also continued to make connections between terrorism, America and Iraq, connections that never existed until, of course, the US invaded Iraq and attracted jihadists from around the world. It’s also interesting that the name “Osama bin Laden” never came up in the speech; neither did the over 500 soldiers and thousands of Iraqis who have died and continue to die in the war and occupation of Iraq.
Bush talked about the need to stop other countries from possessing nuclear weapons. It’s true that nuclear weapons are a threat to our collective security. That’s why ALL nations, including the United States, must get rid of their nuclear, biological and chemical weapons—something the Bush administration has refused to do.
On the homefront, Bush boasted about our growing economy. A visitor from outer space hearing George Bush's State of the Union speech would not know that under his administration we lost over 2 million jobs, that his “free trade agreements” have decimated the manufacturing base of this country, or that the US government is bankrupt: the federal government's debt of $7 trillion is three times the size of all third world government debt combined. While Bush’s representatives go around to third world governments preaching that they should tighten their belts and pay off their debts, the administration continues on a path that, in a mere three years, has taken the federal government from its biggest budget surpluses ever to the biggest deficits ever.
One of the most controversial points in Bush’s speech was his call for Congress to renew the Patriot Act. Millions of Americans see the Patriot Act as a dangerous attack on our first amendment rights. That’s why, in true acts of patriotism, 236 communities in 37 states have passed resolutions against it.
Bush touted his health care reforms, but they are merely a sop to the insurance companies, HMOs and pharmaceutical companies. With great conviction, he insisted that government-run heath care is “the wrong prescription”—tell that to the 43 million uninsured or the millions of Europeans and Canadians whose governments guarantee them universal coverage.
Bush pandered to the religious right by talking about the sanctity of marriage defined as a union between a man and a woman. True respect for marriage rests on love between two people, no matter their gender.
It’s also telling to look at what Bush DIDN’T say. While he thought it was critical to denounce the use of steroids in sports, he DIDN’T think it was important to denounce the effects of global warming on our planet. While Bush called for a program to teach young people to abstain from sex, he DIDN’T call for a program to get our nation off its addiction to oil.
Finally, while Bush’s lengthy monologue left most of his audience semi-comatose, we in Code Pink: Women for Peace held collective viewings around the country where we were jumping up and down in our chairs, stomping our feet, shouting out in indignation. Bush’s lies and deceptions get us women fired up. Bush says the US won’t seek a permission slip to wage war; we at Code Pink says it’s time to give this man a pink slip in 2004.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the women’s peace group Code Pink.