President Bush was at his most impressive in delivering his anxiously–awaited speech on Iraq to the General Assembly of the United Nations yesterday. In its clarity and restrained forcefulness it was reminiscent of his address to the US Congress a couple of weeks after the terrorist attacks on the United States last September. Unfortunately the content of the speech did not match its delivery; it was deeply disappointing. It consisted mainly of a listing of the many failures of the Iraq government to observe UN resolutions and of Saddam Hussein's lawless international behaviour. There was absolutely nothing new in this indictment.

What the General Assembly most wanted to hear was whether the United States intended to work within the confines of the Security Council's authority, or to act unilaterally. President Bush did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge the primacy of the UN in this matter. His peroration put it this way: the US is ready to make a stand over the threat posed by Iraq and hopes that the UN is ready to join it. It was both a veiled threat to the authority of the United Nations and a declaration of unilateralism.

But the fundamental, glaring, flaw in this speech was its reliance on the failure of Iraq to obey Security Council resolutions while completely overlooking the comparable failure of Israel over a longer period in its dispute with the Palestinians. This blindness is a classic case of double standards and it will bring nothing but trouble in the long term.

Ray Fleming