January 31, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 652

Arab Press Reactions to President Bush's State of the Union Address

January 31, 2004
Special Dispatch No. 652

Throughout the Arab world, the press reacted strongly to President George W. Bush's "State of the Union" address of January 20, 2004. The following are excerpts:

The Saudi Press: 'Bush Didn't Stop Beating the Drums of War;' 'The American People Itself Will be Scorched by It'

In an editorial titled "The American President, George Bush, Threatens the World with War!" the Saudi government daily 'Okaz wrote: "The American president George Bush … did not stop beating the drums of war in his address! In contrast with his previous address … in which he celebrated the decision to go to war against Afghanistan and announced the war on Iraq, in his last address the American president turned war into an open option and threatened additional wars if the American people elect him for another term…!

"With this strategy for marketing the option of war, President Bush seeks to evade the American people's demand for accountability regarding his reasons for launching his wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. He went to war in Afghanistan and did not achieve the defeat of terror that he promised. He went to war in Iraq to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction… [but] although he succeeded in overcoming Saddam, he did not find the WMDs for which he went to war!

"The American president wants the American people to give him the power to go to war with no hesitation. What is important is for the American people to have a better option than the war strategy for which its president is calling – otherwise the American people itself will be scorched by the fire of war even before the American president burns the world with it." [1]

Pro-Saddam Daily Paper: 'The U.S. and Its Administration Will Continue to be the Most Hated Among the Arabs and Muslims'

In an editorial, the pro-Saddam London Arabic-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote: "The American president George Bush completely ignored the Palestinian issue… He also did not speak at all about the road map adopted by his administration … and preferred to focus on his achievements in Iraq and on the war on terror.

"The logical explanation … is that because this is an election year, the American administration decided not to invest any effort in this area due to its electoral sensitivity. In other words, Bush does not want to enter into confrontation with the powerful Jewish lobby, particularly in light of public opinion polls indicating a drop in his popularity and the possibility of a rival Democratic Party win.

"There is no doubt that Ariel Sharon will be happiest with the American administration's severing itself from the Middle East issue, because it will give him 12 months of absolute freedom to continue with his policy of killing and destruction, which he employs today with no condemnation or intervention on the part of the greatest superpower in the world…

"According to Bush's address, the current year will be a year of releasing Sharon's bridle so he can build many settlements, complete the racist fence, continue assassinating leaders of the Palestinian resistance, and tighten the siege on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip…

"The Israeli terror is considered welcome terror, according to President Bush's address. Thus, violence and terror will continue to hover above the entire region and above the U.S., and the American administration will continue to be the most hated among the Arabs and Muslims." [2]

In another editorial, the paper's editor Abd Al-Bari Atwan wrote: "We don't think that President Bush is serious in his threats … regarding changing the Arab regimes and making the Middle East an oasis of democracy and a place where human rights are respected, for several reasons, the most important of which is that American history is rife with cases of preferring American cooperation with regimes of repression and dictatorship that provide cheap oil to Western capitalism and guard the borders of the Hebrew state. Bush said in his address that he will double the budget allocated for democratic change … to $300 million annually, which is a pathetic sum compared to the U.S. expenditures in the war to occupy and humiliate Iraq, which reach $4 billion per month…

"Also, the actual spending of this $300 million is questionable, since most of it is spent on associations, radio stations, and journalists who are directly connected to the American plans in the region – namely, to support the American occupation of Iraq and to the propaganda to undermine Palestinian rights such as the right of return. The true goal behind President Bush's threats to cool down the dictatorial regimes is [an attempt] to pressure those regimes … so that they expand their cooperation for the implementation of the American plans in the region, headed by the war on terror and the warming of normalization [with Israel]…

"Had this not been the true goal of Bush's threats, the Americans would have used the already existing democratic alternative [i.e. the Iraqi and Syrian opposition] which is like Karzai in Afghanistan. [It should be noted that] today a Saudi opposition is already forming, and that there are Palestinian groups taking orders and receiving funding from the White House." [3]

The Syrian Press: 'Bush's So-Called Achievements Are Nothing But Mistakes, Errors, And Catastrophes'

In general, the official Syrian press ignored Bush's address, but on its front pages highlighted criticism that came in its wake, particularly Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's calling Bush's [foreign] policy "arrogant and inept." [4]

In the Syrian government daily Teshreen,Bassam Radhwan wrote: "There is no doubt that President Bush's address constitutes an election campaign, by means of which he tried to emphasize the domestic and foreign 'achievements' of the Republican administration. All the criticism directed toward the address, [coming] primarily out of the U.S. itself, notes that what President Bush calls 'achievements' are nothing but the Republicans' mistakes, errors, and catastrophes… On the foreign policy level, the address began by [stating] that the 'mission' was not yet completed, primarily regarding the struggle against 'terror,' Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, and spreading 'democracy.'" [5]

In the Lebanese pro-Syrian daily Al-Safir, Josef Samaha wrote:"It is obvious that Bush does not set the Arab-Israeli conflict in his pre-reelection agenda… He returned to the starting point of the beginning of his term. The political meaning of this is that [Bush] wants to free Ariel Sharon of all commitments… Bush shows no interest in Arab 'friends' and in the members of the International Quartet. It is no wonder that the Israelis are praising the address, and that the Palestinians are criticizing it." [6]

Jordanian Press: 'Bush's Address: A Tragedy Not Only for Mankind, But For the Peoples of the Middle East'

Columnist Rakan Al-Majali wrote in the Jordanian government daily Al-Dustour: "The useful thing about Bush's address was that the Arabs will understand that the U.S. is not interested in solving the Palestinian problem, except according to the conditions set by Israel and according to the balance of power that aspires to impose facts in the field… We must also understand that the American call to establish democracy in the Arab homeland and Muslim world by way of dictates is nothing but an attempt to embarrass the regimes. Again, the positive thing in Bush's address was the clarity of his hostile approach to the region, its people, and its countries. Oh Allah the Savior… " [7]

The editor of the Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yaum, Taher Al-Adwan, wrote: "When President Bush gave his address, to hearty applause by his party in Congress, the Democrats shook their heads in condemnation. Bush came across as a leader who keeps drawing his sword, proud of America's capabilities to invade and occupy, and heralding to his people and the world more wars and occupations. This is a tragedy not only for all mankind, but particularly for the peoples of the Middle East. The words of the U.S. president, who is the president of the world, arouse concern and fear. They lack any hope for peace, and any promise to solve the conflicts and end the cycle of violence and terror." [8]

Palestinian Media: 'Bush's Priorities Are Illogical'

Palestinian Authority Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Adli Sadeq wrote in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "Bush's ignoring the conflict in Palestine and his failure to mention it even in a single sentence made the priorities in the address illogical… George W. Bush probably wanted to free Sharon so that he could find a way to overcome his domestic crises, the most recent of which is the indictment against someone who bribed him... We do not yet know what Bush's envoys have up their sleeves, but it is reasonable to assume that their mission was created for Sharon's sake. The coming days will tell whether the American rescue will help Sharon keep the momentum of his mad assault [on the Palestinians]…

"In any case, it must not be hoped that anything good will come from Bush's administration. The sinking into the Iraqi quagmire increases our fears regarding Bush's administration's capability to play a positive role in the region in particular and in the world in general." [9]

The Egyptian Press: 'President Bush has Ceased to Act with Logic and Common Sense'

In an article titled "A Big Disappointment" the editor of Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, Jalal D aweidar, wrote: "The 'state of the union' speech of the U.S. President Bush is a big disappointment for the entire world in general and for the countries and peoples of the Middle East in particular. All the elements in the president's speech didn't go beyond the content of a broken record; talking about terror, the security of the U.S. and spreading democracy on the American way. These shining titles ignore the real reasons for the problems facing the U.S. and don't aim at serving the peoples concerned and their freedom. They assure that their fundamental aim is to serve the American interests which are in alliance with the Zionist interests and nothing more…

"It seems that President Bush, under the influence of the extreme right groups and the Zionist lobby has ceased to act with logic and common sense. He has ignored the enormous oppression that the Middle East peoples suffer from the American power for the benefit of Israel. In order to be able to find honest solution to the problem, it is necessary to admit without arrogance that this policy … is the production line responsible for the birth to the enemies of the U.S. in the Middle East and the whole world…

"There will be no security and no stability in this world as long as the oppression and the double standard that Washington has adopted in its dealing with the Middle East's problems continue." [10]

[1] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 22, 2004.

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 22, 2004.

[3] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 23, 2004.

[4] Al-Hayat (London), January 22, 2004.

[5] Teshreen (Syria), January 22, 2004.

[6] Al-Safir (Lebanon), January 22, 2004.

[7] Al-Dustour (Lebanon), January 23, 2004.

[8] Al-Arab Al-Yaum (Lebanon), January 23, 2004.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), January 23, 2004.

[10] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), January 23, 2004.

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