WASHINGTON – Conservative lawmakers and think tanks on Monday blasted Kofi Annan for a farewell speech that they say epitomizes the outgoing U.N. secretary-general's anti-American streak during 10 years as head of the global body.
"It is America's defense of liberty and guarantee of free speech that gives Kofi Annan a forum for his criticisms. Those very freedoms were attacked on Sept. 11, drawing us into a War on Terror to defend our values," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "Kofi Annan's farewell remarks ignore the fact that the U.S. contributes 25 percent of the world's peacekeeping budget and continues to be the greatest defender of liberty the world has ever known."
"Kofi Annan has been a shameless appeaser of dictators and tyrants on the world stage and he was fundamentally opposed to the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq," said Nile Gardiner, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Annan appeared at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., Monday where he told an audience the world is in "a sorry state" and suggested without naming names that the Bush administration is partly to blame.
In his speech, Annan first noted that America has historically taken the lead in advancing human rights, but just seconds later seemed to suggest the invasion of Iraq was unlawful.
"When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is used, and is being used, for the right purpose — for broadly shared aims — in accordance with broadly accepted norms," he said.
Released ahead of time, the remarks were widely seen as an attack on the U.S. administration, but fielding questions after his speech, Annan said "nothing could be further from the truth."
"What I am saying here is that when the U.S. works with other countries in the multilateral system, we do extremely well," he said. Annan added during his speech that the country should follow an historic path "to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world."
"He is a believer in constraining American global power and his latest speech today was all about reining in the U.S. superpower and imposing some kind of international multilateralist vision," Gardiner said.
"I think the people of Missouri support the president's commitment to fighting the global War on Terror, and while they obviously understand the need to cooperate with the international community in that, I think they also understand the that the top priority is to protect Americans," added Paul Sloca, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party.
Not everyone who witnessed the speech was disturbed by Annan's remarks. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who introduced Annan at the library, offered kind words for the retiring diplomat.
"Kofi Annan served as secretary general during 10 of the most difficult, complicated, and dangerous years of the U.N.’s history. He did it with grace, humor, determination, and always doing what he felt was in the best interest of mankind," Hagel said.
"For the most part, he has handled this very difficult job with poise and integrity. I hate to see him leave," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.
Cleaver attended the speech and afterward asked a question about the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. He told FOXNews.com that he never got the impression that Annan was "blasting" the United States, and rather "gave a cautiously cogent response" supporting a recommendation that the United States speak with players in the Middle East, including Iran and Syria.
"If the secretary general-wanted to blast the U.S., I opened the door and gave him the fuse when I asked him about the Iraq Study Group," Cleaver said.
But Courtney Smith, an associate dean at the Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., said the U.S. relationship with the United Nations has gone through peaks and valleys in both Republican and Democrat administrations, and the frequency of those highs and lows has increased lately, peaking after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and crashing over the war in Iraq.
Smith said the relationship will change again with the rise of new personalities at the world organization, including Annan's successor, Ban Ki Moon of South Korea, and whoever is the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Amb. John Bolton has abandoned his bid for Senate confirmation to the post he took as a presidential recess appointment.
"There is a lot of potential for this to be more than just the story repeating itself," Smith said. "The U.N. relationship with the United States and what the U.N. is going to accomplish on almost any issue really depends on the extent to which the U.S. is going to be able to provide leadership in that area."
Alex Grobman, author of "Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West," said he believed the remarks are a thinly-veiled criticism of the United States, and Annan should focus his criticism more sharply on the United Nations, his own leadership and the larger community of member nations.
"The purpose (of Annan's speech) is to deflect criticism for the U.N., which has failed miserably in its task to bring peace to the world," Grobman said, adding that during Annan's terms as secretary-general, the United Nations often criticized Israel while all but ignoring the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Sudan, Uganda, East Timor and other countries.
FOX News' James Rosen and Greg Simmons contributed to this report.