Smiles for the family, a fiery warning for the world
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday January 21, 2005
George Bush began his second presidential term yesterday with a call to American action abroad, committing the US to the spread of global democracy and "ending tyranny in our world".
In arguably the most combative inauguration speech for 50 years, Mr Bush made clear that the Afghan and Iraqi wars had not diminished his determination to take the counter-terrorism campaign to America's enemies. He depicted those conflicts as part of a much broader mission, which he phrased in almost messianic terms.
"By our efforts, we have lit ... a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world," Mr Bush said on the steps of the Capitol, tens of thousands listening rapt on Washington's snow-covered National Mall and along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The speech, steeped in religious language, was addressed first to the world and only secondly to the American people. Mr Bush portrayed a planet consumed by the struggle between liberty and tyranny in which the US would not stand aside.
"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," he said.
The confrontations to come would not necessarily be "the task of arms", Mr Bush said, but at a time of rising speculation over his second-term plans for Iran, the president did not exclude the possibility of further battles. He pledged: "We will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary." To the American people, concerned at the US death toll in Iraq, he argued that the only way to defend the country was to promote democracy overseas and thus uproot the source of threats to the homeland.
"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," America's 43rd president told the crowds on a cool, bright Washington day. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
He also suggested the struggle against oppression was ordained by God, exporting the ideas enshrined in the US constitution that all people have God-given rights.
"History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction set by liberty and the author of liberty," the president said. The deliberate use of language familiar to evangelical Christians won more cheers from the crowd than any other phrase.
With this radical address, Mr Bush nailed his colours once and for all to the neoconservative mast, committing himself to an activist foreign policy. He went out of his way to reject the more traditional "realist" Republican philosophy associated with his father, which argues that democracy cannot be exported to regions like the Middle East and that US foreign policy should be guided by narrowly defined national self-interest.
"Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals," the president said. "Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul."
The second half of yesterday's address was aimed at domestic policy. The Bush administration would also pursue the spread of freedom at home, by promoting an "ownership society" built on private ownership of homes, private pension schemes and health insurance.
"By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal," he said.
The president's message was embraced by an overwhelmingly supportive crowd there to witness what many saw as the triumph of a new strain of Christian conservatism.
Scott Hennen from Fargo, North Dakota, had been in Washington for Mr Bush's 2001 inaugural address. "I think there is a certain wind at the back of the president that was not there the last time," he said. "This president is not marking time."
Link - http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,1 ... 32,00.html