Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Associated Press [US Politics] George Soros recently gave the commencement speech at the Columbia School of International & Public Affairs. There's a PDF file of the entire speech. Excerpts:

The War on Terror: Victims Turning Perpetrators

The Bush administration knew what it was doing when it declared war on terror and used that pretext for invading Iraq. ... These people are guided by an ideology. They believe that international relations are relations of power not law and since America is the most powerful nation on earth, it ought to use that power more assertively than under previous presidents. They advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein even before President Bush was elected and they managed to win him over to their cause after September 11.
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I find the excuse that we went into Iraq in order to liberate it particularly galling. It is true that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and it is good to be rid of him. But the way we went about it will make it more difficult to get rid of the likes of Saddam in the future. The world is full of tyrants and we cannot topple them all by military action. ... By taking unilateral and arbitrary action, the United States has made it more difficult to solve that problem. I am actively engaged in promoting democracy and open society in many parts of the world and I can testify from personal experience that it cannot be done by military means.
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I would dearly love to pin all the blame on President Bush and his team. But that would be too easy. It would ignore the fact that he was playing to a receptive audience and even today, after all that has happened, a majority of the electorate continues to have confidence in President Bush on national security matters. If this continues and President Bush gets reelected, we must ask ourselves the question: “What is wrong with us?” The question needs to be asked even if he is defeated because we cannot simply ignore what we have done since September 11.

We need to engage in some serious soul-searching. The terrorists seem to have hit upon a weak point in our collective psyche. They have made us fearful. And they have found a willing partner in the Bush administration. For reasons of its own, the Bush administration has found it advantageous to foster the fear that September 11 engendered. By declaring war on terror, the President could unite the country behind him. But fear is a bad counselor. A fearful giant that lashes out against unseen enemies is the very definition of a bully, and that is what we are in danger of becoming. Lashing out indiscriminately, we are creating innocent victims and innocent victims generate the resentment and rage on which terrorism feeds. If there is a Single lesson to be learned from our experience since September 11, it is that you mustn’t fight terror by creating new victims.

By succumbing to fear we are doing the terrorists’ bidding: we are unleashing a vicious circle of violence. If we go on like this, we may find ourselves in a permanent state of war.
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If we want to preserve our privileged position, we must use it not to lord it over the rest of the world but to concern ourselves with the well-being of others.