Biden at the UN Forgets What War Is

Contrary to the evidence, the president said the U.S. was not at war, writes Joe Lauria.

Biden addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. (U.N. TV)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Joe Biden, in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, told world leaders Tuesday: “I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war.”

According to the latest available White House war report, the U.S. was involved in seven wars in 2018: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. The U.S. withdrew last month from Afghanistan, so the number of current U.S. wars is likely six.  Likely because in an age of so-called counter-terrorism operations it’s not entirely clear where U.S. forces are deployed.

U.S. involvement, for instance, in Niger came as a complete surprise.  Biden has already carried out airstrikes in Syria and Somalia and he vowed to continue a drone war in Afghanistan. U.S. troops continue to occupy Syrian territory. There are officially 2,500 U.S. troops still in Iraq. 

In any case, the United States is not at peace, as Biden implied. With 800 military bases and installations around the world the U.S. remains perpetually on a war footing.

On the whole, though, Biden’s speech was the least bellicose to the General Assembly by a U.S. president in recent memory. He vowed that the U.S. would only use force as a last resort. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants,” he said. Indeed, the majority of his speech was devoted to fighting climate change and the pandemic. 

By contrast, President Barack Obama seemed to be threatening the entire world in 2015 when he boasted from the U.N. podium: “I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.” He blamed Russia and China for wanting to “return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution.” 

Obama said, “These ancient rules included the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.” It is an apt description of America’s aggressive post-World War II history.

Bush Speak

Bush at U.N., September 2002 (White House photo / Paul Morse)

George W. Bush was even more bellicose at the U.N., building his case for war in 2002 with a pack of lies at the institution that is supposed to be dedicated to peace:

“Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq’s state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.”

U.N. addresses by U.S. presidents are a chance for the self-proclaimed “leaders of the free world” to lay down the law of the jungle from the world’s bully pulpit. 

Bullies don’t normally want to fight. They just want to get their way through intimidation by throwing their weight around. But just threatening war can have unintended consequences. 

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US ‘Diplomacy’

Biden told the U.N. he was keen on diplomacy. “We must redouble our diplomacy and commit to political negotiations, not violence, as the tool of first resort to manage tensions around the world,” he said.

But the words ring hollow, coming from a prominent supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq. After just one term as U.N. secretary-general, after the Clinton administration essentially fired him, Boutros Boutros Ghali concluded that the U.S. had no need for diplomacy. He wrote in his memoir:

“Coming from a developing country, I was trained extensively in international law and diplomacy and mistakenly assumed that the great powers, especially the United States, also trained their representatives in diplomacy and accepted the value of it. But the Roman Empire had no need of diplomacy. Neither does the United States.”

Not to carry the idea of diplomacy too far, Biden, of course, told the world he’s still ready to use force whenever he thinks it’s necessary.

“Make no mistake: The United States will continue to defend ourselves, our allies and our interests against attack, including terrorist threats, as we prepare to use force if any is necessary, but — to defend our vital U.S. national interests including against ongoing and imminent threats,” he said. 

He seemed to soften the blow by adding: “We’ll meet terrorist threats that arise today and in the future with a full range of tools available to us, including working in cooperation with local partners so that we need not be so reliant on large-scale military deployments.”

So Biden is for small-scale war. It is war nonetheless:  the continuation of drone strikes and special forces in the ongoing Bush War on Terra that routinely kill innocent civilians.

Old Wars

(U.N. TV)

Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said in April that future U.S. wars would not be like the “old wars.”  

“The way we fight the next major war is going to look very different from the way we fought the last ones,” Austin said at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. He said he spent “most of the past two decades executing the last of the old wars.”

“We can’t predict the future,” Austin added. “So what we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities – all woven together in a networked way that is so credible, so flexible and so formidable that it will give any adversary pause.”

After leaving Afghanistan last month Biden indicated the Pentagon’s attention would focus even more intently on Russia and China. The controversial, new U.S.-U.K.-Australia defense pact is clearly aimed at Beijing. Unlike Obama, Biden did not utter the words Russia or China in his speech.  Instead he condemned them under the coded language of  “authoritarianism.”

War is over. Welcome to the new war.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

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14 comments for “Biden at the UN Forgets What War Is

  1. robert e williamson jr
    September 24, 2021 at 22:44

    Hats off to ZHU , very astute observation.

    An interesting trip is reviewing individual Presidential doctrines say from Wilson to present.

    Unless I miss my mark Biden’s U.N. performance could likely be a hint at what his doctrine might resemble. The same old U.S. peace keeping role that somehow always ends up with the U.S. fighting a war somewhere.

    Biden, again, was the phony two party system providing voters with the lesser of two evils. Biden will have to work hard to be worse than Trump however he is also at the mercy of the will of the Deep State which in congregate may have some serious issues of their own to deal with. So we shall see.

    Many may not notice but operations such as the one ICIJ runs are shrinking the world, it’s a speed of light thing, you know. One can run but there really isn’t anyplace left to hide on this planet.

    Countries world wide are doing prosecutions and collecting damages. Why isn’t the U.S., Mueller got everything ICIJ had on Americans.

    A standing ovation for Mr. Joe Lauria, “Biden at The U.N. Forgets What War Is “. You called it!

    With all due respect to the President I have to say that it’s is simply easy for him to do. He is not a Vet.

    Thanks CN

  2. Mark Thomason
    September 24, 2021 at 10:39

    Biden lied.

    It is a continuing course of conduct for the US. The lies never stop.

    Notice, he is lying to Americans, to keep using them in wars. Nobody else is fooled.

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    September 23, 2021 at 11:39

    And more of this empty, meaningless gibberish. And the Western world continuing to crawl up the Yanx rear end.

  4. Zhu
    September 22, 2021 at 19:51

    In case no one noticed, the US became rather authoritarian in the course of the Cold War. There was a quantum leap in US authoritarianism after 9-11. Now we have lawless torture prisons at GTMO (and probably elsewhere). “Disappearing” people into secret prisons forever, “targetted assassination” (that is, murder by death squad), all without trial, just someones denunciation, exist in our country. Most tell themselves, “it won’t happen to me! I’m nice, those people are bad!” But I don’t believe it. Filling out a weekly Kill List is not the Rule of Law, but an authoritarian procedure.

    In other words, instead of fussing about fussing about authoritarianism elsewhere, why not eliminate it at home?

  5. Andrew Nichols
    September 22, 2021 at 18:43

    Illegal sanctions are an act of war.

  6. John OCallaghan
    September 22, 2021 at 16:06

    Until the MSM around the planet starts telling the people the truth and holds these psychopathic murdering governments to account nothing will change until that iconic image of the mushroom cloud appears before all of us and renders us all silent for eternity! …..

  7. rosemerry
    September 22, 2021 at 15:37

    The USA blames others for being “authoritarian” but it has the largest incarcerated population in the world, has huge numbers of laws, 18,000 police departments, many with very large measures of autonomy and are able to stop and arrest people under almost any circumstances and even confiscate goods and not return them. People can be accosted by police entering their homes without warning, can be arrested and held without charge, are often forced into ‘plea bargains’ because the likelihood of fair trials is not guaranteed. The courts are partisan and the Supreme Court completely biased against the vast majority of the population. The “individual rights” so valued do not produce solidarity and safety for the people, who are now so divided that “United” states is a misnomer.

  8. Serg
    September 22, 2021 at 15:34

    Vietnam together with Japan against China. Tokyo says the new deal elevates the Japan-Vietnam defence partnership to a ‘new level’. hXXps://

  9. Lorraine Barlett
    September 22, 2021 at 15:25

    Meet the new boss… same as the old boss.

  10. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    September 22, 2021 at 12:58

    La BÊTE occidentale, la tête washingtonienne en chef, ne respecte ni sa parole donnée ni sa signature apposée. La BÊTE ne fait que mentir, piller, ravager et massacrer. Ses finalités de cupidité, de marché et d’illusion témoignent de son nombrilisme exclusif et qui ne mènent qu’à la destruction de l’Humanité, notre Humanité.

  11. Daniel
    September 22, 2021 at 12:27

    Why anyone with a brain would take anything Biden has to say at face value is beyond me. Perhaps most don’t. But this decades-long (in its most recent iteration) political theater and double-speak as cover for murderous Imperialism is having its desired effect: making us all confused and exhausted from the energy it takes to combat them. Most of us simply give up. I’m nearly ready to.

    But not yet. I still want to see a better US and world. Thank you, CN, for keeping it real.

  12. September 22, 2021 at 10:54

    Since our actions speak louder than our words and what we do and what we say are so far apart and widening credibility continues on a downward slope.

    What President has the freedom to do otherwise and still be the President of our United States? What serious candidate would retain his viability if he was suspected of intending to pull back our military presence just about everywhere.

    So who believes Biden’s words?

    Boutros Ghali: “But the Roman Empire had no need of diplomacy. Neither does the United States.”

  13. Dfnslblty
    September 22, 2021 at 09:30

    Six wars remain, plus 800 war stations!
    Thankyou for unmasking usa2021
    Keep writing.

  14. michael888
    September 22, 2021 at 06:47

    Nice commentary. It is ludicrous to believe Biden will do anything for Peace. His ~50 years in DC have demonstrated his love for War (and his MICIMATT donors.) Parsing words does not change their meanings nor WAR’s impacts.

    The Gray Zone has a detailed critical review of Biden’s UN speech:

Comments are closed.