Posted 3 years ago on Sept. 26, 2014, 7:22 a.m. EST by flip
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Your Excellencies, I speak now not to you world leaders and ambassadors filling this grand chamber, but to your peoples. Those who watched while you boarded your luxury jets to come here to claim to speak in their name. I have done that far too often as well. And today I am done with all that. Today I speak to all the Peoples of the United Nations.
Almost five years ago I was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. It was undeserved. It was certainly premature – as I said in my acceptance speech, “I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who’ve received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight.” At that moment, I told the truth – my accomplishments were indeed slight.
But it was not only premature. It was misdirected, for I did not make good after the prize, either. I broke the promise I made when I said “I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.” I have failed to achieve that vital goal. Since the day of my Nobel speech I in fact have accomplished a great deal. And I confess to you today, that most of what I have accomplished has brought about not justice, but injustice. Not equality, but inequality. Not peace, but endless war.
And I say to you today, I am sorry. I was wrong. When I spoke to the Nobel Committee I also spoke to the “citizens of America and citizens of the world.” What I realize now, is that I should have listened to those citizens of my country and of the world, those who were demanding a real end to wars, a real shift from a Wall Street economy to a green, just, Main Street economy. Instead I listened to voices pushing me towards wars for resources and for power, development designed to make the rich richer instead of eliminating poverty, and the abuse of power that destroyed any hope of democracy.
Today, five years later, I come before you here at the United Nations, in this hall that represents the most democratic part of the UN, to say that only now am I learning what it means to be a statesman. And while I no longer believe I can ever achieve the greatness of some of those I referenced earlier – Dr. King, President Mandela and more – I now believe that I can lead my country to be a part of a new kind of world system, one in which we in the US stand as one country among equals, not standing as the ancient Colossus once towered over the harbor of Rhodes.
The Global War on Terror
I have finally learned, thanks to one of my country’s greatest statesmen, Jon Stewart, that we can’t eliminate extremism by “waving a magic bomb.” My decisions in the last several months to dramatically escalate bombing in Iraq, and to initiate a major bombing campaign in Syria, stand in stark violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the requirements of our own United States Constitution. They contradict my own commitment, that I stated a year ago at this very podium here in the General Assembly, to reverse my country’s “perpetual war footing.”
So today I am announcing the creation of a new global consortium of nations, and I urge you all to join with me in building the Coalition of No-Killing. This coalition will initiate powerful, urgent diplomatic, political, economic and non-military strategies to challenge and eventually reverse the crises of war, terrorism, brutality, and poverty now devastating a wide arc of countries centered in Iraq and Syria. It will not be diplomacy aimed at justifying new military action, but to replace military action instead.
I told the world that my stated goal in launching new bombing raids against Syria was to destroy the headquarters of the violent and extremist ISIS militia. But those bombs did not fall on “extremism,” they fell on Raqqah, a 2,000 year-old Syrian city with a population of more than a quarter of a million people – men, women and children who had no say in the take-over of their city by ISIS. The Pentagon, on my orders, was bombing targets like the post office and the governor’s compound, and the likelihood of large number of civilian casualties as well as devastation of the ancient city, was almost certain.
I said, many times, that there is no military solution to the ISIS crisis. But I didn’t listen to my own words. Instead, I moved to bomb Syria, without Congressional authorization, without United Nations approval, in direct opposition to the stated position of Syria’s government – knowing, deep down, that such action would only make the crisis worse. I knew it would give ISIS and its allies a new basis for recruitment, it would strengthen the repressive Syrian government, it would undermine Syria’s struggling non-violent opposition movement, and it will further tighten the links between ISIS supporters in Syria and in Iraq.
So today, my fellow citizens of this world, I say to you that I have ordered the bombing of Iraq and Syria to stop immediately. We are now calling for a new diplomatic initiative centered here at the United Nations, not in Washington, which will pull together all parties to the conflicts raging across the region. I told my country that we were looking at a new war that could last three years, or even more. Today I announce that we are looking at new diplomacy – which will last far beyond three years.
We want to open direct talks immediately after this meeting with my counterparts in Iran to talk about how to encourage an end to the anti-Sunni sectarianism in the Iraqi government. And we want to open direct talks with Russia to work towards ending the multi-party civil war in Syria. Such talks could perhaps leading to a region-wide weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone – with no exceptions, so not only would we confirm that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but we would move to acknowledge and eliminate Israel’s illegal nuclear weapons arsenal. We will press our allies in the region to stop their governments and people from arming, financing and facilitating the movement of ISIS and other terrorists. But we will do that without creating vast new global networks of repression and surveillance in the guise of counter-terrorism.
We will create means of encouraging ISIS fighters – including those coming from our own and other countries – to abandon that nihilistic fight. Instead of criminalizing we will allow home, with versions of rehabilitation (as Denmark has established) and reentry programs, the young people who realize they made a big mistake in going to join ISIS. And we will shift the hundreds of millions, soon billions, of dollars we are spending on this new war away from bombs and missiles and instead to a massive increase in humanitarian assistance to al the refugees, internally displaced and other victims of these violent crises.
Because now, my fellow world citizens, I understand that my policies, as well as those of my predecessors, have been responsible for much of the suffering in this region and beyond. And we owe an enormous debt to the peoples of Iraq and Syria, of Yeman and Somalia, of Pakistan and Palestine.
Palestine & Israel
Speaking of Palestine, I am here today to announce that my country will no longer use our veto in the Security Council to protect Israel from being held accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity. We are abandoning, as of today, the 23-year-long failed diplomacy based on maintaining Israeli military supremacy, occupation, apartheid and impunity. Instead we are turning over to the General Assembly, the most democratic agency within the UN (or it will be when we stop bribing and punishing countries for their votes), the power to convene a new process. This will be based on international law, human rights, and equality for all, to guarantee an end to the Israeli occupation of all the 1967 occupied territory, an end to Israeli apartheid, and recognition and implementation of the right of return of refugees based on the terms of UN resolution 194.
Today I am here to tell you that the United States is ending its years of regular multi-billion dollar grants to the Israeli military, and we are turning those funds, which start with $3.1 billion each year designated by Congress before the usual additions, into a humanitarian reconstruction fund for Gaza to begin the process of helping to rebuild the devastated physical and social infrastructure of Gaza’s 1.8 million people.
Today I am announcing that there must, there will be no Cold War between my country and Russia. We recognize now that actions my government urged in NATO – violating early pledges that NATO would not expand eastward – escalated tensions early on. Efforts to recruit new NATO members among former members of the Warsaw Pact and even parts of the former Soviet Union will stop now, and I promise that we will work to ensure that NATO pulls back to its own geographic and political turf.
From now on we will leave NATO’s military hammer in its toolbox, and we will stop letting it run around pounding what it thinks are nails....................................
The Earth and Climate
Finally, my fellow global citizens, I am here to say I am sorry for what my government, and most of all the corporations operating with far too much power and impunity in my country, have done to our struggling planet. I am sorry we have rejected binding treaties that would force us to reverse longstanding policies that we all know were responsible for climate chaos and climate injustice. It is long past time for us to play a different role in the world.