State of the Union: When Bush Talks Straight


Speaking before Congress on September 20, 2001, President Bush directly addressed the people of Afghanistan:

“I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.

“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

On October 7, 2001, President Bush announced that the U.S. military had become bombing Afghanistan.

In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, Bush directly addressed the people of Iraq:

“And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country — your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.”

On March 20, 2003, the U.S. military began bombing Iraq.

And in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Bush directly addressed the people of Iran:

“And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.”

The scorekeeping is easy: Three direct addresses, two wars. It’s the predicting—will the U.S. take on Tehran and its nuclear ambitions?—that’s hard.

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