President Bush delivered the annual State of the Union address last night in Congress, pushing a conservative social agenda and trying to rally the American public for war against Iraq. Despite hundreds of anti-war protestors gathered near the Capitol building, Bush devoted the greatest part of his speech to the potential war against Iraq, calling for the United Nations’ Security Council to convene on February 5 to consider Iraq’s compliance with the weapons inspectors thus far. Bush further indicated in his speech that if the UN would not back the US in a war against Iraq, the US would not hesitate to act without the support of some of our allies. Kim Gandy, president of the National organization for Women, pointed out that Bush did not mention the US oil interests at stake in a war with Iraq, nor did Bush address the fact that pre-emptive strikes violate basic norms of international law. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said that “President Bush cannot expect the international community to salute America and march with us into war when the administration has made no convincing case for war,” according to the New York Times.
One of Bush’s most expensive promises, $15 billion to fight AIDS over the next five years in Africa and the Caribbean, was met with hopeful but wary enthusiasm. Critics of the plan pointed out that details of how the money will be spent are unclear, and only one-tenth of the funds will go to the popular, newly formed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, according to the Washington Post. Bush emphasized providing low-cost drugs to people who have already contracted the disease. However, the Bush Administration’s “abstinence-only” agenda has been impeding efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS. The US delegation at a recent UN population conference tried to remove wording calling for “consistent condom use” as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS, arguing that it would encourage teens to have sex. In addition, despite studies showing that condom distribution is a cost-effective way to reduce the spread of AIDS, the US donates only 300 million condoms annually to poor nations that are hit the hardest by the disease.
Bush also pushed for conservative domestic polities, including opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling (despite the fact that the economically retrievable oil would not substantially reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, according to the Sierra Club) and adopting a “healthy forests initiative” that decreases forest fires by increasing logging in national forests. In addition, Bush called on Congress to pass the so-called “partial-birth” abortion ban and to ban all forms of cloning, including for medical research purposes. The phrase “partial-birth” abortion is an inaccurate and inflammatory term invented by the right wing. “Partial birth” abortion does not refer to any particular medical procedure and the term is not recognized in the medical community, according to the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Abortion procedure bans such as these aim to outlaw or significantly chip away at a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal medical procedure.