WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–The economy is getting weaker. Consumer confidence is down. Unemployment is up. Federal budget deficits are rising to record levels. Tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance and that number is growing. Soaring costs for prescription medicines and for fuel during this bitterly cold winter are forcing seniors and others living on fixed incomes to choose between having food or medicine, between eating or heating their homes.


The state of the union is, in a word, “dismal.”


In the midst of this deteriorating social climate, President George W. Bush has led the nation to the edge of what many consider an unnecessary war against Iraq, with or without the backing of the United Nations on Jan. 28, when he delivered his second State of the Union message to a joint session of Congress.

“Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm,” Mr. Bush said. “He has shown instead his utter contempt for the United Nations and for the opinion of the world.”

But the world’s most prominent statesmen–Republicans and Democrats in the House as well as the Senate and American religious leaders, including the presiding bishop of Mr. Bush’s own United Methodist denomination–have all demanded more time for UN-ordered weapons inspections in Iraq, or at the least more concrete proof from the Bush administration that Baghdad is hiding dangerous weapons of mass destruction that the country promised to destroy 12 years ago, at the end of the first Persian Gulf War.

Two Nobel Peace Prize winners–former South African President Nelson Mandela and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter–criticized the Bush approach as shortsighted at best, or as arrogant, or even racially motivated.

“It is a tragedy what is happening, what (Mr.) Bush is doing in Iraq,” Mr. Mandela told the International Women’s Forum in Johannesburg Jan. 30. “What I am condemning is that one power with a president who has no foresight and cannot think properly is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil.”

Mr. Bush has “not made a case for a preemptive military strike against Iraq,” Mr. Carter said in a statement Jan. 30, urging instead permanent weapons inspections and monitoring to disarm the Iraqi regime.

Former Chief UN Arms Inspector Richard Butler also condemned what he called the U.S. “shocking double standards” in its march towards unilateral military action against Iraq.

“The spectacle of the United States, armed with its weapons of mass destruction, acting without Security Council authority to invade a country in the heartland of Arabia and, if necessary, use of weapons of mass destruction to win that battle, is something that will so deeply violate any notion of fairness in this world that I strongly suspect it could set loose forces that we would deeply live to regret,” Mr. Butler said to a conservative think tank in Sydney, Australia, Jan. 28, according to a published report.

Many Congressional Democrats–especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus–reacted angrily to Bush’s State of the Union speech.

“He still hasn’t convinced me that it is worth a single American life to go to Iraq,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told The Final Call immediately after Mr. Bush’s speech. “I want to hear more before I am willing to sacrifice a single young man or woman who lives in the District of Columbia. If somebody else wants to send theirs (young people), fine. He hasn’t given me enough to send mine,” she said.

“It was one of the most uninspiring State of the Union addresses that I have heard. Frankly, it was almost a repeat of the State of the Union address last year,” Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said in an interview. “It did not touch the hearts and souls of folk who reside in my district. His economic plans are unfair to the middle class. It won’t stimulate the economy and won’t create jobs. So, he gets a big, fat goose egg in that regard.”

Rep. Rush said the speech was merely “saber rattling” and “mediocre, locker room pep talk.”

The state of the union is dismal, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), chair of the Progressive Caucus, said in an interview. He said 8.5 million people are out of work; 41 million people do not have adequate health care; and senior citizens are finding increased health care costs for their prescription drugs, while the drug companies are making tremendous profits. People are losing their pensions, he said.

“I’d say the state of the Union is such that America needs to have a civic revival of economic freedom, and a country that dedicates itself to solving the problems in this nation, instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars abroad on military adventures. The president did not make the case for the revival of the economy, and he did not make the case for an attack on Iraq. Iraq does not have the ability to attack this country, but you wouldn’t know that hearing the president’s speech tonight,” Rep. Kucinich continued.

In his Australian remarks, Mr. Butler, who led UN inspections teams in Iraq until 1998, said the U.S. motive of ridding Iraq of prohibited weapons lacks credibility because of Washington’s failure to deal with others–U.S. adversary North Korea, as well as U.S. allies Israel, Pakistan, and India–on the same terms as the Bush administration is threatening in Iraq.

“Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly,” Mr. Mandela asked. “Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction, but because it’s their ally, they won’t ask the UN to get rid of it.

“Is it because the secretary general of the United Nations is now a Black man? They never did that when the secretary generals were White,” said Mr. Mandela, who also accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of co-signing Mr. Bush’s efforts that he said undermine the UN. Mr. Blair “is the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer prime minister of Britain,” Mr. Mandela continued.

“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America,” said Mr. Mandela, now 84, referring to the U.S. detonation of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II. During Mr. Mandela’s tenure as president of South Africa, the former apartheid government destroyed its cache of nuclear weapons and invited UN inspections to verify their destruction.

Another African leader warned that a U.S. war against Iraq will cause serious problems for all of Africa’s struggling economies, while dozens of former British cabinet officers warned Prime Minister Blair against blindly supporting the U.S. call to arms.

“The looming war over Iraq will have serious repercussions for all of us, not only for peace in the world. I am quite sure that it will also have economic impact on our countries,” South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma told the opening special session of the new African Union in Addis Ababa Feb. 1. Most African countries will have “serious problems” if the price of oil goes up as a result of the war, she said according to a published report.

“War without the UN’s backing would be disastrous,” Peter Kilfoyle, Mr. Blair’s former Defense Minister told the London Independent. “We don’t want to see an initiative by the U.S. and Britain, and virtually no one else.”

“If we are not careful, it will be Iran tomorrow and Syria the day after,” Glenda Jackson, Mr. Blair’s former transport minister said, according to the Independent, echoing an earlier warning from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam in the U.S.

“We have people driving an administration that is almost paranoid,” said Ms. Jackson.

“I do believe that the course that you are guiding the nation on will increase many enemies for you and the nation at home and abroad,” Min. Farrakhan told Mr. Bush in a letter dated Oct. 30, 2002, reiterating his counsel offered in an earlier letter a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States as Mr. Bush prepared his “war on terror.”

“Your actions will also render the United Nations as an ineffective institution for future peacekeeping. And this will produce a crisis for your administration within the United States as well as in countries throughout the world,” the letter said.

One Democratic senator offered a standard by which to measure the so-called “evidence” against Iraq Mr. Bush promised that Secretary of State Colin Powell would deliver to the UN at Final Call press time.

“Four decades ago, President Kennedy sent (Secretary of State) Adlai Stevenson to the United Nations to make a compelling case that the Soviets were bringing missiles into Cuba. Adlai Stevenson pulled out of his hip pocket a pretty convincing smoking gun. We’ll find out (Feb. 5) if Colin Powell has as compelling a smoking gun. Time will tell if he does. Time will tell if history repeats itself,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in an interview.