Friday, June 08, 2007

How the US views political freedom today

GW Bush is undoubtedly one of the most international loathed figures, it is trendy in many circles to despise him, consider him stupid. He is not above criticism, I would strongly condemn him on many quarters, not least his own promotion of an evangelical agenda. However, his recent speech in Prague deserves a 9.5 out of 10. Nitpickers may pick, but there is little to criticise in this. (hat tip Lindsay Perigo).
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Take some highlights:
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"The communists had an imperial ideology that claimed to know the directions of history. But in the end, it was overpowered by ordinary people who wanted to live their lives, and worship their God, and speak the truth to their children. The communists had the harsh rule of Brezhnev, and Honecker, and Ceausescu. But in the end, it was no match for the vision of Walesa and Havel, the defiance of Sakharov and Sharansky, the resolve of Reagan and Thatcher, and fearless witness of John Paul. From this experience, a clear lesson has emerged: Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied."
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"In truth, 9/11 was evidence of a much broader danger -- an international movement of violent Islamic extremists that threatens free people everywhere. The extremists' ambition is to build a totalitarian empire that spans all current and former Muslim lands, including parts of Europe. Their strategy to achieve that goal is to frighten the world into surrender through a ruthless campaign of terrorist murder...Like the Cold War, it's an ideological struggle between two fundamentally different visions of humanity. On one side are the extremists, who promise paradise, but deliver a life of public beatings and repression of women and suicide bombings.On the other side are huge numbers of moderate men and women -- including millions in the Muslim world -- who believe that every human life has dignity and value that no power on Earth can take away. "
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"Expanding freedom is more than a moral imperative -- it is the only realistic way to protect our people in the long run. Years ago, Andrei Sakharov warned that a country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respond to the rights of its neighbors. History proves him right. Governments accountable to their people do not attack each other. Democracies address problems through the political process, instead of blaming outside scapegoats. Young people who can disagree openly with their leaders are less likely to adopt violent ideologies. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists -- they will join in defeating them."
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"America calls on every nation that stifles dissent to end its repression, to trust its people, and to grant its citizens the freedom they deserve.
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"There are many dissidents who couldn't join us because they are being unjustly imprisoned or held under house arrest. I look forward to the day when a conference like this one include Alexander Kozulin of Belarus, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Oscar Elias Biscet of Cuba, Father Nguyen Van Ly of Vietnam, Ayman Nour of Egypt."
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"We recently created a Human Rights Defenders Fund, which provides grants for the legal defense and medical expenses of activists arrested or beaten by repressive governments. I strongly support the Prague Document that your conference plans to issue, which states that "the protection of human rights is critical to international peace and security." And in keeping with the goals of that declaration, I have asked Secretary Rice to send a directive to every U.S. ambassador in an un-free nation: Seek out and meet with activists for democracy. Seek out those who demand human rights."
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"People living in tyranny need to know they are not forgotten. North Koreans live in a closed society where dissent is brutally suppressed, and they are cut off from their brothers and sisters to the south. The Iranians are a great people who deserve to chart their own future, but they are denied their liberty by a handful of extremists whose pursuit of nuclear weapons prevents their country from taking its rightful place amongst the thriving. The Cubans are desperate for freedom -- and as that nation enters a period of transition, we must insist on free elections and free speech and free assembly. And in Sudan, freedom is denied and basic human rights are violated by a government that pursues genocide against its own citizens. My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We will never excuse your oppressors. We will always stand for your freedom"
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"The United States is also using our influence to urge valued partners like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to move toward freedom. These nations have taken brave stands and strong action to confront extremists, along with some steps to expand liberty and transparency. Yet they have a great distance still to travel. The United States will continue to press nations like these to open up their political systems, and give greater voice to their people. Inevitably, this creates tension. But our relationships with these countries are broad enough and deep enough to bear it. As our relationships with South Korea and Taiwan during the Cold War prove, America can maintain a friendship and push a nation toward democracy at the same time.
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"We're also applying that lesson to our relationships with Russia and China. The United States has strong working relationships with these countries. Our friendship with them is complex. In the areas where we share mutual interests, we work together. In other areas, we have strong disagreements. China's leaders believe that they can continue to open the nation's economy without opening its political system. We disagree. In Russia, reforms that were once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development. Part of a good relationship is the ability to talk openly about our disagreements. So the United States will continue to build our relationships with these countries -- and we will do it without abandoning our principles or our values"
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"Some say that ending tyranny means "imposing our values" on people who do not share them, or that people live in parts of the world where freedom cannot take hold. That is refuted by the fact that every time people are given a choice, they choose freedom. We saw that when the people of Latin America turned dictatorships into democracies, and the people of South Africa replaced apartheid with a free society, and the people of Indonesia ended their long authoritarian rule. We saw it when Ukrainians in orange scarves demanded that their ballots be counted. We saw it when millions of Afghans and Iraqis defied the terrorists to elect free governments. At a polling station in Baghdad, I was struck by the words of an Iraqi -- he had one leg -- and he told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to." Was democracy -- I ask the critics, was democracy imposed on that man? Was freedom a value he did not share? The truth is that the only ones who have to impose their values are the extremists and the radicals and the tyrants. "
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I'd like to think the next US President could speak of the same and believe in the same.

1 comment:

Richard said...

And I'd like to think that the next Prime Minister of NZ will do more to confirm our good relationship with the US than merely demonstrate "the ability to talk openly about our disagreements".