President Bush will speak to the UN General Assembly this morning at 9:45 ET -- and will focus his remarks on an issue that has drifted off the radar screen. He will highlight the human-rights abuses in Myanmar as Buddhist monks make their strongest protest yet against the ruling military junta (via Michelle Malkin):
President Bush will address the U.N. General Assembly this morning at 9:45 a.m. EDT. Bush wants the U.N. to uphold its pledge to fight for freedom in lands of poverty and terror, and plans to punctuate his challenge by promising new sanctions against the military regime in Myanmar.
Bush is expected to mention Iran in his speech—but only briefly, citing Iran in a list of countries where people lack freedoms and live in fear. The White House wants to avoid giving any more attention to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose splash of speeches and interviews has dominated the days leading to the U.N. meeting.
Instead of Iran, the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma, was drawing Bush's ire. He was expected to announce new visa restrictions and financial sanctions against the regime and those who provide it financial aid.
The policies come as Myanmar's military government issued a threat Monday to the barefoot Buddhist monks who led 100,000 people marching through a major city. It was the strongest protest against the repressive regime in two decades.
Understandably, we need to focus more attention on Myanmar than we presently manage. However, it seems rather odd that Bush would choose that issue for his central focus rather than challenge the nations of the General Assembly to pressure Iran. After all, our own national interests count for something, and a UNGA address gives Bush the best platform to call for action against a rogue nation.
It would also provide an excellent opportunity to remind people of the war on terror. Bush wants to use Myanmar as a point in arguing for human liberty through democracy, but that point could be made just as well by highlighting the depredations of radical Islamists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, not to mention Darfur. The UN just announced its intention to get involved in Iraq again, and Bush could have used that as a means to argue that the Iraq effort showcased our intention to see people freed from oppression and tyranny, and how that fits into our national interests and the interests of all free nations.
Meanwhile, the monks in Myanmar have made an impressive showing:
Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and sympathizers defied orders from the military junta to stay out of politics, protesting Tuesday in the country's two biggest cities. Soldiers, including an army division that took part in the brutal suppression of a 1988 uprising, converged on the capital.
Cheered on by supporters, the monks marched out for an eighth day of peaceful protest from Yangon's soaring Shwedagon Pagoda, while some 700 others staged a similar show of defiance in the country's second largest city of Mandalay.
Any gathering of people in numbers greater than five has been outlawed by the military regime. So far, they appear powerless to stop the monks through civil law enforcement. They may have to resort to military force -- and that could touch off a bloody revolution. We may be seeing a Robed Revolution in the making, even without the UNGA's support.
I'll live-blog the speech at Heading Right. Be sure to keep checking the thread.