Under Seige: The Survival of the United States

mlkriversidechurch Photo credit: John C. Goodwin

Fifty years ago (on April 4, 1967), the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech connecting the main struggles then going on in the U.S.A.  I’ve provided links to it, both as text first, and also the video. Warning, they are long.

TEXT – The link between the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and economic injustice

VIDEO – A Time to Break Silence (Full)

While I am a wee bit early for the anniversary of that speech, I read today that President Donald Trump is asking the US Congress to increase defense spending by 54 BILLION DOLLARS- that’s $54,000,000,000 (If you could save $100,000/year, it would take you 540,000 years to save 54 billion dollars.) MLK felt that such reckless spending would kill this country. Although I approve of Trump’s shaking things up and challenging the U.S. political establishment, I cannot approve of his recently expressed desire to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and now his plea to divert even more of out tax dollars to military spending. I believe, as did MLK, that the health of my country depends on how we treat our citizens, how we teach our children, and how we plan for our future. It is not tied to building a wall, an actual literal fucking wall around ourselves, and focusing ourselves on increasing our armaments, aiming weapons at the world and daring anyone to try to breach that wall. It is a siege mentality.

Among the consequences of a siege mentality are black and white thinking, social conformity, and lack of trust. It is a false choice! Many in the United State believe that our only defense is military, that we must have overwhelming superiority in weapons of mass destruction, and other firepower in order to protect ourselves. We live in a huge world, full of other nations, other peoples, and we are not under siege by them. Many support us, many admire us even now, as we prepare to enter a new Dark Age of fear, of belligerence, and of a poverty, in both the economic and spiritual sense, that will cripple this country. WE CAN BE BETTER THAN THIS!

We do not need to retreat into a bunker bristling with weapons in order to survive. We can work with many other countries to cut off funding to terror groups, isolate them, and if necessary to eliminate them. They are misguided idiots led by fanaticism, without remorse, without concern for others. That alone isolates them. We cannot defeat them by becoming like them. If we continue down this path we will fail, and we will self destruct.

If we were to, for instance, look to a shared future with other nations and peoples around the globe, prepare for it, plan for it, or, I don’t know, even SPEND MONEY ON IT, might we not have a better chance at survival?

I cannot tell people what to do, or how to do it, but I am certain that working and planning together is our best, most viable option.

There are two ways to end a siege: utterly overwhelm and destroy, or starve the enemy out. This is what we face. By building a fortress, hiding behind it, and closing ourselves off from the world, we are making the entire world our enemy. WE BECOME THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD. One day, we may find ourselves facing a united world that either comes for us to destroy us, or worse, ignores us. Without trade, without cultural exchange, without friends, and without hope, we will starve ourselves into oblivion.

Say No to Loudmouthed Scaremongers

Obama And Biden Meet With National Security Leaders At The White House

President Barack Obama

Today, USA President Barack Obama gave a speech on terrorism. He spoke of the senseless killings in Florida, and the USA’s participation in the fight agaist ISIL, aka ISIS. But beyond that, he spoke, and quite eloquently, about the fight at home. Rather than try to highlight all of the points he made, I am including the latter half of his speech as it relates directly to us here in the USA. His points about doing the work of the terrorists by using the phrase “radical Islam” and lumping the un-Islamic murdering terrorists in with all Muslims is well taken, I think. That is exactly what Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, said that he hoped to do on September 11, 2001 by funding and coordinating four terrorist attacks on US soil!

President Barack Obama said we should not ban all people from Muslim countries from entering the USA, but we should certainly ban suspected terrorists, who are already banned from flying, from purchasing assault weapons. That would be the smart thing to do, but I fear the USA will not do the smart thing. Between the gun-manufacturing lobbyist NRA, and dangerous fearmongers like the Republican presumptive nominee for President, it’s possible we will fall right into the trap that bin Laden set for us: to war against an entire people because of their faith, thereby ensuring a fatwah against the USA in response. That would be stupidity of the highest order, and treason to the ideals of our republic.

OBAMA: Lastly, here at home, if we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from home-grown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents.

It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have.

People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun. Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons.

Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite extraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military — despite all the sacrifices that folks make, these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.

And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. “We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.”

What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?

The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.

Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions.

There has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around,” not once.

So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting?

If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.

If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously? That would come as a surprise to those who spent these last 7.5 years dismantling Al Qaida in the FATA, for example — including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the special forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria.

They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows.

They know who the nature of the enemy is. So, there is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy.

And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.

Groups like ISIL and Al Qaida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.

They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.

Now, up until this point, this argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups.

That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.

But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.

We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.

Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?

We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.

It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.

We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.

This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.

And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.

The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.

You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country.

And part of what was inspiring was the incredible diversities of these cadets. We saw cadets who are straight applauding classmates who were openly gay.

We saw cadets born here in America applauding classmates who are immigrants and love this country so much they decided they wanted to be part of our armed forces.

We saw cadets and families of all religions applaud cadets who are proud, patriotic Muslim-Americans serving their country in uniform ready to lay their lives on the line to protect you and to protect me.

We saw male cadets applauding for female classmates who can now serve in combat positions. That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.

Those are the values that ISIL is trying to destroy and we should not help them do it. Our diversity and our respect for one another, our drawing on the talents of everybody in this country, our making sure that we are treating everybody fairly, that we are not judging people on the basis of what faith they are or what race they are or what ethnicity they are or what their sexual orientation is.

That’s what makes this country great. That’s the spirit we see in Orlando. That’s the unity and resolve that will allow us to defeat ISIL. That’s what will preserve our values and our ideals that define us as Americans. That’s how we are going to defend this nation and that’s how we are going to defend our way of life. Thank you very much.

Cold WAR. Again. WWIII Probable. Again.

War 3  nato-russia-war New-Cold-War HR 758 (Russia)

US – Russia relations have deteriorated severely in the past decade and they just got worse. That is not solely due to the actions and posturing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, many in the USA and Russia are warning that the recent passage of House Resolution 758 could lead to all-out war, especially if the Senate passes a similar resolution.

Tensions between Russia and the US are being fueled every day by players who would benefit financially from a resumption of the Cold War which, from 1948 to 1991 cost US taxpayers $20 TRILLION dollars (in 2014 dollars), an amount exceeding our $18 trillion National Debt.

With fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Syria a staging ground for an ongoing proxy war between the big powers, our US treasury is being drained for military adventures, our national debt is piling up, and we are less safe.

Dennis Kucinich writes: “… HR 758 is tantamount to a ‘Declaration of Cold War’ against Russia, reciting a host of grievances, old and new, against Russia which represent complaints that Russia could well make against the US, given our nation’s most recent military actions: Violating territorial integrity, violations of international law, violations of nuclear arms agreements.
“The resolution demands Russia be isolated and “… the President, in consultation with Congress, conduct a review of the force posture, readiness and responsibilities of United States Armed Forces and the forces of other members of NATO to determine if the contributions and actions of each are sufficient to meet the obligations of collective self-defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, and to specify the measures needed to remedy any deficiencies….”

“In other words, let’s get ready for war with Russia.”    HR 758 (Russia)

Ron Paul, writing in The Inquisitr, believes that a “reckless” Congress has essentially declared war on Vladimir Putin and Russia based upon Resolution 758. Fears of World War 3 were stoked when Russian fighter jets faced off against NATO jets in a blitz designed to be a “show of force” by Vladimir Putin.

Russian media is already warning that the recently passed House Resolution 758 could lead to “all-out” war if the U.S. Senate were to pass similar legislation. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich claims that supplying lethal aid to Ukraine would be a direct violation of the Geneva Agreements. In addition, Russian media funded by the government has published an editorial that attempts to refute House Resolution 758, and even goes so far as to claim that the United States is provoking World War 3 by bringing the United States one step closer to an “all-out” war with Russia.

Not War

UPDATE:

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act — HR 5859 and S. 2828 — increases sanctions on Russia’s main weapons exporter, the natural gas company Gazprom, and any company that exports weapons to Syria. HR 5859 was introduced (12/11/14) and passed by voice vote late that evening. The Senate bill also passed by a voice vote.

At the Cato Institute, visiting research fellow Emma Ashford writes about the military aid that would go to Ukraine: “The bill authorizes the president to make available defensive weapons, services and training to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, crew weapons and ammunition, counter-artillery radar, tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and command and communications equipment.”

FROM 9/11 To 11/11

This is  a reposting of an article by Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich on The Blog. Seems worth reading to me.

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Elizabeth Kucinich Headshot Elizabeth Kucinich, Policy Director, Center for Food Safety

Dennis J. Kucinich Headshot Dennis J. Kucinich, former 16-year member of the U.S. Congress and two-time U.S. presidential candidate

American Journey From Terror to Peace, 9/11 to 11/11

Posted: 11/11/2014 12:30 pm EST Updated: 11/11/2014 12:59 pm EST
AMERICAN FLAG
 This day commemorates both Veterans Day in the US and Armistice Day abroad, marking the end of the First World War, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 1918. This year of 2014 is particularly poignant as it also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI.

Originally, Armistice Day was celebrated in the US, as an homage to peace and solidarity with the nations of the world who paid a terrible price in WWI, including 116,576 Americans who died. In 1954, the day became Veterans Day in the US.

In Europe, the centennial of the four-year period of the First World War, 1914-1918, is being observed with solemn ceremony, remembering the bravery and courage of 10 million soldiers and nearly 7 million civilians who perished. One million people died in a series of battles across the River Somme, France, in just four months.

Remembered, too, are the failures and foibles of the leaders of governments who precipitated the war, a “march of folly” well-chronicled by historian Barbara Tuchman in the Guns of August.

While Armistice Day signals a renewed interest in Europe in the practicality of peace and reconciliation and unity, here at home we observe Veterans Day still riveted to the narrative of deep fear derived from September 11, 2001.

9/11 was that searing day which was the genesis of the “War on Terror,” a perpetual war now in its 14th year, predicted by Washington insiders to last perhaps another 30. We rightly honor those who answered the call of the nation and recall our obligation “to care for those who have borne the battle.” How much better would the honor we accord the valorous be if it included guarantees for physical and emotional security after one’s service?

9/11 to 11/11 are now the parentheses of our national experience, from terror to war to tributes for those we send to fight. Is America fated to draw a straight line from 9/11 to 11/11, more veterans of more wars? Can we take an evolutionary journey away from terror and toward the peace and reconciliation implicit in Armistice Day?

How do we break the mind-forged bars of fear that presently keep us on the treadmill of war, annihilating our Constitution, eliminating our civil liberties, and dismissing any hope for a domestic economy in which everyone has an opportunity to survive?

Since September 11, 2001, America has gone abroad in search of enemies to slay. Thousands of our men and women have been killed, tens of thousands permanently injured. The ensuing civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan number in the millions.

As America exercises a titanic power of destructiveness we have unwittingly created more enemies. Occupations fuel insurgencies and give legitimacy to those rebel groups who would otherwise be shunned by the societies for which they allegedly fight.

The Middle East is being radicalized by the wars, strengthening resistance; nationalism, sectarianism and jihadism are rising; retribution brings more violent suppression, which in turn creates more enemies and more resistance.

And as if we do not have our hands full in the Middle East, the US military looks west to the South China Sea for relevance, i.e., future conflicts. If that fails, our aging cold war apparatchiks, using NATO cat’s-paw, are renewing a cold war with Russia.

This Veterans Day, we are locked into a maddening, deadly cycle of perpetual war led on by our home-grown sorcerers’ apprentices of rigid ideologies, the flag-waving war profiteers and shadowy foreign powers who are happy to stay behind the scenes. As long as the US does the blood-letting and our taxpayers foot the bill, now in trillions of dollars.

We return to 9/11. On the day of September 11, 2001, and the months that followed, the heart of the world was open to the United States, including expressions of support from Iran and Russia. Flowers adorned American embassies in all countries.

At our point of greatest anguish and pain, the world was there for us. Calling for reconciliation. Calling for a new approach to international relations. Hoping for a moment of reflection and historical perspective.

Our leaders took us in a very different direction. Eleven years ago, in 2003, millions of Americans and citizens world-wide took to the streets to protest the onrushing war against Iraq; a war that used 9/11 as a cover. A war against a nation with absolutely no connection to the 9/11 attacks.

Washington today is a convergence of civic celebration of veterans, and the anticipation that Congress will soon vote to give the President new war-making authority and approve more money for more War in Iraq and Syria.

The last authorization for war against Iraq was obtained fraudulently. But with the upcoming authorization and war appropriations, our civic narrative, deprived of memory, requires no consequence, only the plodding towards more war.

This new request rests not on fraud, but on hubris — the vainglorious notion that we will, at last, “stabilize” (remake) Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, that US military might trumps culture, religion, history.

Outside the beltway bubble, another America exists. Here people struggle with an economy where wealth is accelerating upwards, where unemployment, underemployment, low wages, limited opportunities for higher education, the high cost of housing and health care and precarious retirement conditions daily impose physical suffering and mental anguish.

Washington needs a re-evaluate America’s role in the world. What makes us safe and secure at home?

In the past month, we have held listening sessions with groups of people in Iowa, New York, Oregon, Washington State, Northern and Southern California, and Colorado, inquiring what “National Security” really means to them.

What we are finding is that some Americans define national security not in terms of military prowess or foreign invasions, but in terms of true human security for America, including food security and economic security.

The recent elections and polls reflected this too, with the state of the economy weighing on people’s minds, and foreign policy way down the list.

Washington, D.C., on the other hand, has created a grim equation. National Security = more war. National Security = less freedom. National Security = the hemorrhaging of taxpayer money to war in sacrifice of the domestic economy.

We can report from those meetings, there is another America stirring.

Unlike Capitol Hill, the other America has been shaken, but still holds fast to ideals and to the Constitution. It is an America restless for change, keenly aware of promises not delivered, and resentful of a system which profits the few while keeping the many fearful and at war.

America’s future may well be described by whether we can successfully navigate the path from terror to peace, a path from 9/11 to 11/11 and the spirit of Armistice. It is a path that requires truth, reconciliation, commitment and courage. War-weary Americans are ready for a new direction, whether official Washington is ready or not.

Let us take this four-year period, from 2014 to 2018, the 100th anniversaries of the global battle of WWI to the Armistice of November 11, 1918, to bring our own great transition from entrenched commitment to perpetual war.

How Many Iraqis Died in the Iraq War?

Reposted from FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting)

Jun wardiary1
07
2013
How Many Iraqis Died in the Iraq War?
By Rebecca Hellmich 53 Comments

Map of Iraqi Civilian Casualties

How many Iraqis died in the Iraq War? That’s the kind of question that should be asked, especially if you happen to live in the countries that launched the war that killed so many.

The results from a new poll commissioned by the British media watchdog group MediaLens exposed a startling disconnect between the realities of the Iraq War and public perceptions of it: Namely, what the Iraqi death toll was. When Britons were asked “how many Iraqis, both combatants and civilians, do you think have died as a consequence of the war that began in Iraq in 2003?,” 44 percent of respondents estimated that 5,000 or fewer deaths had occurred.

As Alex Thomson, a reporter for the UK’s Channel 4 (5/31/13), wrote:

That figure is so staggeringly, mind-blowingly at odds with reality as to leave a journalist who worked long and hard to bring home the reality of war speechless.

And polls done in the United States have offered similar conclusions. A Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll (3/1/06-3/6/06) that asked how many Iraqi civilians had been killed since the beginning of the war yielded a median estimate of 5,000 deaths.

And when respondents were asked in a different poll (AP/Ipsos, 2/12/07-2/15/07) to give their “best guess” about civilian deaths, 24 percent chose the option of 1,001 to 5,000 deaths.

These answers are, of course, way off the mark. Estimates of the death toll range from about 174,000 (Iraq Body Count, 3/19/13) to over a million (Opinion Business Research, cited in Congressional Research Service, 10/7/10). Even at the times of those U.S. polls, death estimates were far beyond the public’s estimates.

Of course, these findings are disheartening because they reflect a very distorted public perception of the war. But they are indicative of an even bigger problem: corporate media’s inadequate coverage of the human costs of U.S.-led wars.

It seems that much of the mainstream media took Tommy Franks’ infamous quote, “We don’t do body counts” (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/3/03), to heart, because Iraqi victims of warfare were rarely of interest in news reports.

And when they are, they could be a massive undercount. A December 1, 2011 CBS Evening News report told viewers that “more than 50,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war” (FAIR Action Alert, 12/2/11). This figure was sourced to iCasualties.org, which had one of the lowest estimates of civilian casualties at the time and warned readers that the number was probably a severe undercount.

The “corrected” figure that CBS put forth 11 days later was 115,676 civilians killed, and sourced to Iraq Body Count–still one of the most conservative estimates to be found (FAIR Activism Update, 12/13/11).

But the main issue here is that the press has kept the public in the dark: How can one make a decision about the impact of war if they don’t know, even roughly, how many deaths there were?

As blogger Joe Emersberger put it (Z Blogs, 5/30/13) , the MediaLens-commissioned poll results

are a striking illustration of how a “free press” imposes ignorance on the public in order to promote war. Future wars (or “interventions”) are obviously far more likely when the public within an aggressor state is kept clueless about the human cost.

UPDATE: The World Health Organization’s estimate of 151,000 violent Iraqi deaths from March 2003 to June 2006 should also be noted.

Kucinich Comments on the Iraqi Occupation & Lies

The cost to the U.S. treasury: $3 Trillion.

Cost in Lives: 4477 dead U.S. troops (http://www.defense.gov/)

Over 1 million Iraqis (Based on international news reports; there is no agency that keeps track of accurate numbers of Iraqis killed.)

Cost in injuries: 33151 U.S. troops.

Other Coalition Troops – Iraq
318
US Military Deaths – Afghanistan
1,802
Other Military Deaths – Afghanistan
954
Contractor Employee Deaths Iraq
1,487
Journalists – Iraq
348
Academics Killed – Iraq
448

 

War & Peace; Israel & Palestine – Full transcript of Obama’s speech at UN General Assembly

I have highlighted, in bold, the parts that deal with Palestinian statehood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal that we seek — the question is how do we reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades.

Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful. It has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South. There’s a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.
To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we’ve made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. It’s an extraordinary achievement. And yet, three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in eight decades. And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year — our fates are interconnected. In a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.