September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Congressional Record Senate Combatting International Terrorism; November 1, 2001


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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, it has been seven weeks since the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the crash of the plane in Pennsylvania.

We have all struggled with a flood of thoughts and emotions about the frightening and tragic loss of life, the national response to this cruel, mindless assault on innocent people, and where we go from here.

My wife Marcelle and I have received hundreds of phone calls, letters and e-mails from people who have offered thoughtful suggestions, and I have read many articles, opinion pieces, and heartfelt letters to the editor of the national and local newspapers.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. No one does. The United States military is carrying out bombing missions against the Taliban and terrorist sites in Afghanistan. The situation is unpredictable, and we are learning more each day. But I do want to express some of my thoughts at this time.

First and foremost, my thoughts are with the victims' families. It has been hard, very hard, to see the images of the families as they try to come to terms with the loss of loved ones.

I also share the pride in how our firefighters, police and other emergency

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workers rushed to the scene intent on rescue without thought for their own safety. We are in awe of the bravery of those on the United Airlines flight who struggled with the hijackers and prevented that aircraft from striking its target in Washington.

I am proud of the skill and courage of our Air Force pilots, who fly thousands of miles, often in the darkness of night, into hostile territory. They are constantly in our thoughts, and we pray that each of them returns safely.

Amid all the sadness and anger, I have been tremendously heartened by the way Americans of all races, religions and backgrounds rallied together to help each other. It should not be surprising that we would respond this way, but it is enormously uplifting and reassuring.

And I was also encouraged when millions of people in cities around the world gathered to express their sympathy and support for the United States. There were 200,000 in Berlin alone.

It was a vivid and moving reminder of how many people in so many countries respect what our country stands for, and look to us for leadership in solving the world's problems. It is that leadership, in combating terrorism but also in addressing other pressing global issues, that we must show today and in the future.

I have been impressed by the leadership shown by President Bush and others in the Cabinet. I commend the President for voicing our common goal to seek justice for the victims and for our country, our condemnation of the despicable acts of harassment and intimidation of Muslims in the United States, and our resolve to protect our country from future terrorist acts.

It has been said over and over that ``the world has changed.'' In one sense that is true. Our country has suffered its greatest loss of life on American soil, in a single day, since the Civil War. Our response to this tragedy is causing changes throughout our society. However, in another sense, it has a lot more to do with our perceptions of the world than with the world itself. The world was changing long before September 11, and threats that existed before that infamous day are no less present today.

These attacks destroyed not only thousands of innocent lives, but they destroyed mistaken assumptions about our safety in isolation. They also, let us hope, erased our complacency. We are now beginning a struggle that may take decades, shake foreign governments, and cause great disruption in our daily lives.

We are responding decisively. The American people want to feel secure and they want justice. If the Taliban continue to shelter bin Laden and other terrorists they will pay a heavy price. They have already lost the support of virtually every country in the world, and our military has destroyed many of their military assets. Others who knowingly harbor terrorists face similar consequences.

Yet as we seek justice and security, let us not be blinded by anger or zealotry. We want a world without terrorists, but we owe it to ourselves to calmly ask constructive questions, as we commit to this cause thousands of American lives, billions of dollars, and the credibility of our nation.

Our response must single out those individuals, organizations, or nations that are responsible for these atrocities. The terrorists want us to overreact. They want us to strike back blindly and cause the deaths of innocent civilians. They want to draw us into a so-called ``holy war,'' and they will use these images against us, alienating others in the Muslim world whose support we need to combat this threat, and among whom there are many who already resent our involvement in the Middle East.

We need to understand the fact that the civilian casualties caused by our bombs in Afghanistan despite the efforts made to prevent them are not only tragic but also exacerbate the hatred of America by Muslims in many parts of the world, a hatred which has been building over many years.

We are seeing this among Muslims in Pakistan, in Indonesia, in the West Bank, even in Africa. Despite President Bush's, Secretary Powell's, and Secretary Rumsfeld's clear statements to the contrary, they see our actions as attacks on their religion.

We also know what happened to the Soviet army, and to the British before them, in Afghanistan. Two of the world's most powerful militaries suffered terrible losses and were forced to withdraw in humiliation. And we should remember our own disastrous experience in Somalia.

We need to recognize that there are parts of the world, dominated by fierce warlords and clans, that we do not understand and probably cannot understand. We should be very, very careful not to repeat past mistakes.

Our campaign against terrorism has no direct precedent, and we are still feeling our way forward. At this stage of the military dimensions of this effort, neither the President nor the Pentagon have yet explained, except in the most general way, what they expect to accomplish militarily in Afghanistan within the next month, 6 months, or year, and how they expect to accomplish it. Nor have they yet explained the risks to our Armed Forces, except to say that there will be casualties.

Meanwhile, the American people have been asked to be patient, and they have been. Members of Congress have been asked to give the President and the Pentagon great latitude, and they have done so. But we are all in this together, and the time for clearer goals and more direct answers about our strategy is approaching.

The fact that 2 weeks ago the Pentagon told us that they had eviscerated the Taliban's military capabilities, and a week later expressed surprise that the Taliban has proved to be a determined foe, already has raised troubling questions.

No one wants to see an end to the Taliban more than I, and I have no doubt that we can force them from power. But there is no evidence it can be done by bombing alone, at least not without many civilian casualties. How many ground troops would it take, over what period of time? And then what? Surely the Taliban would regroup and fight from somewhere else.

The American people will deserve and need answers to these and other questions.

There is no doubt that we will need help from others to fight terrorism, which exists in every corner of the globe. To his credit, the President showed admirable patience in building a coalition to track down terrorists and their sources of income. The President must also continue to show an understanding of the particular situation of each country in the coalition, and of how much we can reasonably demand of them given their circumstances, their capabilities, their history.

The situation we are in is unlike any that we have seen before. It is difficult always to know who the enemy is or where they may be hiding. They may be right among us, or they may be in the mountains of Central Asia. Secretary Powell and others have been clear that we are preparing for a long, sustained, comprehensive campaign, using all the means at our disposal--diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, financial, economic, and military.

We must confront the entire superstructure of terrorism--the states that knowingly provide terrorists with support and safe haven, the system of financial support, and sources of recruits, and the hatreds that spawn them.

In doing this, we must heed the lessons from other so-called wars that we have fought against other deeply rooted, complex problems--the war on poverty and the war on drugs. These ``wars'' have been fought with many weapons. They also depend on foreign cooperation. Yet we are nowhere near to winning either of those wars, despite the fact that we have spent tens of billions of dollars, and even, in the war on drugs, imprisoned thousands of people and deployed our forces in foreign countries.

We must be resolute but realistic. We can no more completely eliminate terrorism from the face of the Earth than we can eliminate poverty. But there is a great deal we can do to protect ourselves.

The President has waived sanctions against Pakistan so we can assist them in this effort. I have heard proposals that we should set aside other laws which affirm our commitment to the protection of human rights in our international relations. Others speak of waiving limitations on our support

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for dictatorial regimes in Central Asia, or countries that have engaged in proliferation of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

I will listen to what the Administration proposes, but I am also mindful of the lessons of history. We supported the fighters who became the Taliban, when they sought to expel the Soviets. Today the Taliban, led by religious fanatics, systematically terrorize and brutalize their own people. The country has been turned into a virtual prison, where its inhabitants, many too weak from hunger and disease to flee, suffer the daily cruelty of the Taliban's tyrannical rule.

We gave weapons to Iraq, and to the Shah of Iran, whose secret police tortured Iranian citizens who spoke out for democracy. We have supported other regimes that committed atrocities, which to the victims were no different from acts of terrorism. We must not repeat those mistakes.

We must reaffirm the principles that make this country a beacon of hope around the world, and which reflect the most deeply held ideals of our people--ideals which the terrorists

hate--our civil liberties, our individual and religious freedoms. These ideals, far more than our military power, are our country's greatest strength. Let us not lose sight of the fact that acts of terrorism are human rights atrocities. As we go forward, we must continue to show the world what sets us apart from the terrorists. Defense of human rights is one of these cherished principles.

There can be no excuse, no justification whatsoever, for attacks against unarmed civilians--whether it is the suicide bomber or the suicide highjacker, or a government that commits acts of terrorism against its own citizens.

But to reduce the threat of terrorism, of whatever form, over the long run, we must work to resolve the issues that foster deep and lasting hatreds the terrorists feed on, that produces their funding, and their recruits.

Recently, the House of Representatives approved, after minimal debate and without a dissenting vote, payment of $582 million in arrears to the United Nations. That was both noteworthy and encouraging, since those funds had been held hostage by the House for years over unrelated issues like international family planning. How shortsighted that was.

Many of those same Members took pride in cutting our foreign aid budget. Foreign aid, a meager one percent of the Federal budget--far, far less than most people believe it is-- is used, in part, to help alleviate the pervasive poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia that leads to despair, instability, violence, and hatred--conditions that breed recruits for terrorist organizations.

Instead of one percent, we should increase five-fold the amount we spend to combat poverty, especially in parts of the world where there is such resentment toward the United States.

We are surrounded by a sea of desperate people. Two billion people--a third of the world's inhabitants, live on the edge of starvation. They barely survive on what scraps they can scavenge, and many children die before the age of five.

Refugees and people displaced from their homes, number in the many tens of millions.

The world is on fire is too many places to count, and at most of those flash points poverty, and the injustice that perpetuates it, are at the root of the instability.

Our foreign assistance programs provide economic support to poor countries, health care to the world's neediest women and children, food and shelter for refugees and victims of natural and man made disasters, and technical expertise to promote democracy, free markets, human rights and the rule of law.

But as important as this aid is, the amount we give is a pittance, when considered in terms of our wealth and the seriousness of the threats we face. The approximately $10 billion that we provide in this type of assistance--whether through our State Department and the Agency for International Development, or as contributions to the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the World Food Program, and other organizations, amounts to less than $40 for each American each year.

Forty dollars. It is embarrassing. We are failing the American people, and we are failing future generations.

Our economy is suffering, and people are hurting in this country. We are trying to help them, and we need to do more. But we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand. We cannot protect our national interests in today's complex, dangerous world on a foreign assistance budget that in real terms is less than what it was 15 years ago. We cannot.

Our world is not simply our towns, our states, our country. It is the whole world. We live in a global economy. The Ebola virus is like a terrorist--an airplane's flight away. We can try our best to control our borders, but we cannot hide behind an impenetrable wall.

We have to go to the source of the problem, and that is to countries that are failing--from AIDS, from ignorance, from poverty, from injustice.

We need a better understanding of the world we live in, and how to protect our security. Almost 60 percent of the world's people live in Asia, and that number is growing. Seventy percent of the world's people are non-White, and 70 percent are non-Christian. About 5 percent own more than

half the world's wealth. Half the world's people suffer from malnutrition. Seventy percent are illiterate.

How can we justify spending so little to address these needs? We cannot, any more than we can justify failing to anticipate and prevent the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Pentagon would be the first to say that they cannot solve these problems.

I would hope that one of the positive things that comes from this time of national soul searching and recovery, is that we begin to think differently about what the future holds, and our role in the world.

Let us act like a superpower. Let us lead the world in combating poverty, in supporting the development of democracy. Let us start paying our share. As the world's wealthiest nation we have a moral responsibility. But we also, because of who we are, have the most at stake. Like the Congress, the White House also needs to change its thinking. For the past six months, it took a hands-off approach to solving complex global problems, turning its back on half a dozen treaties and international agreements, ranging from arms control to protecting the environment. The unmistakable message is that we are so powerful that we do not need the rest of the world, that somehow we are immune from the world's problems.

That notion was arrogant, dangerous and naive then, as it is today. We must move beyond the tired battles over foreign aid and the United Nations, and forge common approaches to global threats. It is clear that this is what is necessary to fight terrorism, and the same is true of AIDS, global warming, and so many other problems.

This brings me to the difficult question of the Middle East conflict. No one who is familiar with the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict believes it will be resolved without the active, sustained involvement of the United States. And never has that involvement been so urgently needed, because to maintain strong Arab participation in the coalition we are organizing against terrorism, there must be visible progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Frankly, I have been dismayed as our credibility in the Middle East has badly eroded, and as resentment toward the United States has intensified and spread among Muslims throughout that region. We have to confront this problem earnestly and honestly, and recognize its historical and cultural roots. It is clearly in our security interests, as well as those of Israel, that we take actions to reestablish credibility with the Palestinians and their Arab supporters, while continuing to keep faith with Israel and its people--a valued ally and a leading democracy.

We must get both Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table, working seriously toward a viable peace agreement that addresses their long term needs and aspirations--a viable, Palestinian state, and lasting security for Israel.

I do not count myself among those who believe that the deranged, hate-filled perpetrators of the September 11th terrorist attacks would not have carried out their heinous crimes if Israel and the Palestinians had already made peace. It may be that sympathy

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for the Palestinians had nothing to do with it.

Nor do I believe that a solution to the Middle East conflict will solve the problem of international terrorism. But I am convinced that, as difficult a problem as it is, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must be solved if we are to make tangible progress against some of the breeding grounds of terrorism.

The same goes for our relations with the rest of the Arab world. In our single-minded zeal to secure a steady supply of Middle East oil to fuel our insatiable and growing demand for cheap gasoline, we have turned a blind eye to widespread repression by governments whose policies, including the systematic abuse of women, vary sharply from our own. We must take dramatic measures to reduce our wasteful consumption of oil and our dependence on these regimes.

At the same time that we combat terrorism around the world, we must also get our domestic house in order.

Over the last decade this country has put an enormous effort into counter-terrorism. It has been a top priority of the FBI,

the CIA and other agencies. Yet, all those resources and all that concentrated work failed to prevent this enormous tragedy. It is astounding how unprepared we were, how even the simplest safeguards were ignored, how many weaknesses were waiting for the terrorists to exploit. It was a massive failure of our defenses.

Let us look hard and honestly at where our defenses failed, and work to correct those weaknesses. We need to strengthen our intelligence agencies, law enforcement, border control, emergency response and all the manifold capabilities we will need to defend ourselves. That includes taking steps to eliminate the destructive competition between these agencies, which has impeded coordination and undermined their effectiveness.

We have worked with the Administration on legislation to support law enforcement and our intelligence community, while at the same time protecting our constitutional freedoms. As Benjamin Franklin said, ``a people who would trade their liberty for security deserve neither.'' As we work to become more secure, we must also protect our liberty.

I am concerned about press reports of people held in custody for weeks, who have not been charged with any crime, being denied meaningful access to counsel. This, if true, may be a common practice in some countries, but it should not be the practice in ours.

I am also concerned about the erroneous assertion that the Congress has tied the CIA's hands by limiting its ability to recruit informants with unsavory backgrounds. There is no such law. In fact, the only constraint is the CIA's own internal guidelines, which require prior approval of senior management before recruiting such an asset. There are sound reasons for those guidelines, and the CIA leadership has said repeatedly that this is not a problem.

Even more disturbing are claims that we need to change the ``law'' prohibiting assassinations of individuals involved in terrorism. Again, there is no such law. There is an Executive Order, first signed by President Ford and reaffirmed each year since then by every succeeding Administration that prohibits assassinations. No law, or executive order for that matter, protects Osama bin Laden or any other terrorist from the exercise of our legitimate right of self-defense, including use of lethal force.

A policy of pre-emptive assassinations would be morally repugnant, a violation of international law, and fraught with dangers for our own government, as well as for our allies. It is also ineffective, because it creates martyrs whose deaths become a terrorist's rallying cry for vengeance. And we have seen how easily foreign identities can be mistaken or stolen, with potentially irreversible, tragic consequences.

Our country has suffered a grievous loss. We have had to face our own vulnerability as never before. As we support the victims' families and set about to prevent future terrorist attacks, we should also rededicate ourselves to upholding the principles which set our nation apart: freedom, tolerance, diversity, respect for the rule of law, and the unique value of every individual. If our leaders appeal to these values--to the better angels of our human nature, not to the instincts of hate or fear or revenge--then this trial by fire will refine us, instead of coarsen us.

And let us go forward from this experience, which has shown in such a tragic way how connected we are to the rest of the world and how much we need the support of other countries, to provide stronger leadership not only to combat the scourge of international terrorism but other urgent global problems, and make this world a better and safer place for all.


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