September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks to the Inter-American Press Association General Assembly; October 16, 2001

The Century of the Americas: the Impact of September 11

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Remarks to the Inter-American Press Association General Assembly
Washington, DC
October 16, 2001

I would like to begin by expressing our appreciation to the Inter-American Press Association for following through with this event. Your press release reflects our sentiments exactly: "The annual gathering will have a special significance this year -- it will ratify the members' commitment to reject violence." To IAPA’s president, Mr. Danilo Arbilla, I say "thank you" for your decision to proceed. Mr. Arbilla now passes the baton to Robert Cox of the Charleston Post and Courier. Mr. Cox, I wish you well.

Thank you for the opportunity to address this group of distinguished journalists, editors and media owners. The delegates to the general assembly of the Inter-American Press Association constitute one of the more daunting audiences I’ve faced since becoming Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.

I hope you will let me introduce my talk today by highlighting the importance to the U.S. of the expressions of support and solidarity we have received from throughout the Americas since September 11, and to convey the sense of purpose that makes us so determined to succeed together.

The outpouring of sympathy for those murdered was instant, overwhelming and appreciated. We extend our own sympathy to those countries that lost citizens in the attacks.

Citizens from twenty-nine of our Hemisphere's thirty-five countries, from Barbados to Venezuela, lost their lives. 117 from El Salvador, over 100 Caribbean nationals, including 41 from the Dominican Republic alone, 21 from Canada and 18 from Mexico. Canada accepted nearly 250 diverted air flights, hosting almost 27,000 passengers. If you will indulge me, I must relate to you a story told to me by a retired U.S. Ambassador who was a passenger on one of the flights. She and her fellow passengers were overwhelmed by the outpouring of hospitality and affection from their Canadian hosts. When the busses arrived to carry them back to the aircraft, there was an emotional and tearful exchange with the townsfolk. The retired Ambassador said, "This attack should never have happened, but these days in Canada were among the most astonishing, human, and uplifting days of my life."

As President Bush has stressed, this attack was not against the United States, it was against all who value freedom.

The hemisphere’s reaction to this attack has been no surprise. All but Cuba and the FARC guerrillas saw it for what it was, an assault on our common values; an assault on innocent people trying to earn an honest living; an assault on everyone’s aspirations to live in peace.

On the day of the attacks, Secretary Powell was in Lima with our partners in the Organization of American States to adopt a historic charter that declared Democracy to be a birthright of all the peoples of the Americas. The Secretary learned about the attacks while meeting with President Toledo, just before the OAS gathering. He could have headed straight home; everyone would have understood. Instead, he chose to stay and participate in our Hemisphere’s first step toward realizing the vision President Bush and other leaders outlined at the Quebec Summit: to make this the Century of the Americas and; and to advance democracy and prosperity in the hemisphere. Secretary Powell told his colleagues that terrorists could topple buildings and kill innocent people, but they could not extinguish the spirit and soul of America or our commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Some may wonder whether this vision -- for our world and for our hemisphere -- has been impaired by the fear terrorists unleashed upon us that day. The answer is no. Consider the immediate actions taken by the OAS in the wake of the attack. In Lima the focus of the Hemisphere was resolute and determined support for a united response. Barely a week after the attacks, the Foreign Ministers of our OAS partners unanimously approved a resolution calling on member states to take effective measures to combat terrorism. At Brazil’s initiative, members of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance – known as the Rio treaty – declared that an attack on one is an attack against all and agreed to provide mutual assistance against international terrorism.

So our commitment to this Hemisphere is no less today; in many ways it is more. As President Bush told employees at the State Department October 4, now is the time to "take a stand, to seize this moment and to say that out of this evil act will come good."

I would like today to outline for you our commitment to work with our hemispheric partners to:

  • end the scourge of terrorism,

  • advance our mutual interest in promoting prosperity and democracy through free trade and;

  • preserve and strengthen the freedoms that make our democracies so dear.

  • In the Americas, as Quebec and Lima demonstrated, we begin on common ground -- ground which will not be rocked by the jolt of terror. We are more united than ever and our joint efforts to defeat terrorism will strengthen our partnerships, enhance cooperation, and advance shared social, economic and political goals.

    First, let me highlight our determination to fight terrorism. The OAS Foreign Ministers are taking action. They have charged the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism with identifying urgent actions to strengthen hemispheric cooperation. The Committee met in Washington Monday to enhance cooperation and expertise among the region’s counter-terrorism officials and to develop a comprehensive hemispheric counter-terrorism framework.

    In addition to multilateral channels of cooperation, leader after leader has offered support. Virtually every country in the region has expanded efforts to investigate links between local individuals and organizations and international terrorist groups. We have seen unprecedented law enforcement and intelligence cooperation. We have also seen increased determination to go after the drug trafficking that feeds the terrorists’ network. Cutting-off the terrorists’ finances is just as important to our success as the military campaign we have begun.

    We have received offers of military assistance from Canada in the North, which has pledged material and manpower to help prosecute the war, to Argentina in the South, which has offered to send a mobile hospital to South Asia to help cope with increased refugee flows. The Bahamas have aggressively scrutinized suspicious financial accounts. Antigua & Barbuda propose to change their banking laws.

    Our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, have stepped up cooperation with U.S. law enforcement and immigration agencies to buttress our common security along our long borders.

    Presidents Bush and Fox have charted an ambitious agenda to advance bilateral trade under NAFTA, expand cooperation in the areas of law enforcement and environmental protection and explore how to manage the flow of people across our southern border in the safest, most orderly and humane way possible, while preserving the integrity of that border. This agenda has assumed heightened importance.

    The U.S. – Canadian frontier is the world’s longest non-militarized border. Since September 11, our first priority has been security. U.S. and Canadian border officials are together on a heightened state of alert. With $1.4 billion in trade crossing the border every day and 200 million travelers crossing each year, it is key that, as our Ambassador Paul Cellucci says: "we strike the right balance between facilitating commerce and preserving security." U.S. and Canadian border officials, who have for decades enjoyed an extraordinarily close relationship, are working to increase their capabilities across the board.

    But all in the Hemisphere, very much including the Untied States, must do more. Every nation needs to ratify the 12 international counterterrorism conventions and enforce UN resolutions 1333 and 1373. We must also seize this opportunity to fight against corruption. After all, corruption forms the basis for terrorists to operate.

    Second, let me now turn to the importance of free trade to free people. September 11 has not diverted us from our fundamental purpose of building a more prosperous and more integrated hemispheric community. As USTR’s Bob Zoellick wrote in days just after the 11th: "Today's enemies will learn that America is the economic engine of freedom, opportunity and development. To that end, U.S. leadership in promoting the international economic and trading system is vital. Trade is about more than economic efficiency. It promotes the values at heart of this protracted struggle."

    Our goal remains a hemisphere that is united by both shared values and shared prosperity. That future lies more than ever in preserving and strengthening economic ties with our neighbors. Free trade has the potential to triple trade flows among the countries of the Americas within a decade. With NAFTA, total trade among Canada, Mexico and the United States has more than doubled since 1994. As President Bush said in Quebec, "the time has come to extend the benefits of free trade to all our peoples and to achieve a free trade agreement for the hemisphere." As he said he would in Quebec, the President is working hard to secure Trade Promotion Authority.

    The Administration remains firmly committed to achieving a Free Trade Area of the Americas. FTAA will create the largest free trading area in the world, encompassing 34 countries and 800 million people. Free markets and free trade provide opportunities and alternatives to all, but especially to the poorest. Open markets and sustained growth reinforce the habits of liberty, which in turn sustain both democracy and development over the long-term.

    We are also committed to extending and enhancing the Andean Trade Preferences Act, which has lead to increased trade between Andean countries and the U.S. in the past ten years. The Andean region continues to present challenges. It is a high priority for the Bush administration because it represents a critical intersection of our trade promotion activities and our efforts to eradicate the scourge of drugs. Honest people need and deserve an opportunity to earn an honest living.

    We also continue to work with Congress to secure $882 million for our Andean Regional Initiative – ARI. The ARI’s triple focus: democracy, including human rights and education; development, including trade; and an aggressive and balanced counter-drug approach – offers the best solution for providing a better future for the people in the Andes.

    The ARI is at the heart of what I might call today our third mission: to advance freedom and human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere. We must commit to preserving and expanding the democratic gains made in recent years. The Democratic charter adopted in Lima last month marked a significant step forward because the charter makes clear the vital link between democracy, prosperity and peace and enhances the ability of the OAS to help democracies in crisis. In adopting it, the members of the OAS reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring that the hemisphere remains, as President Bush said, a region that "trades in freedom."

    Freedom is now the most common currency in the region. 34 out of 35 countries are democratic. Fidel Castro remains on the wrong side of history. The Cuban government continues to stifle the basic freedoms that people now take as a given elsewhere in the hemisphere.

    Elsewhere the picture is brighter. In addition to Peru’s transformational presidential and legislative polls in March, seven other countries are undertaking elections this year. Next month, Nicaragua becomes the first to do so since the signing of the Democratic Charter.

    There will be no better way to celebrate the Charter’s adoption than through the full participation of voters in Nicaragua in a smooth, transparent and legitimate electoral process. The U.S. and other countries are providing assistance to the OAS, Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council, as well as to local and international NGO’s to facilitate this.

    The people of Nicaragua deserve the best possible stewardship of their country at a time when they face difficult economic challenges and when the world is confronting an unprecedented threat to freedom and security. While we will respect the results of a free and fair election, we have serious concerns about the Sandinistas’ history of violating democratic principles, basic human rights, seizing people’s property without compensation, and ties to supporters of terrorism.

    As we encourage more democracy we must also take care to help those democracies under attack – we are doing that in Colombia. Colombia matters, not only to the United States, but to the hemisphere. Colombians have long suffered from the terrorist acts committed by insurgencies and paramilitary groups who are financed by the drug trade. The United States recently added the AUC to the terrorist list that includes the FARC and ELN. We have already taken action to make criminal financial support to these organizations and to deny U.S. visas to their members.

    The strongest tool against terrorism in Colombia is the rule of law. We will continue to work with the Government of Colombia to combat the illegal drug trade, to strengthen the judiciary, and to promote economic development. Colombia needs the hemisphere’s support and that of the international community. The FARC, ELN and AUC must understand that the world has changed since September 11 and that their terror tactics and involvement in drugs must stop and that a negotiated peace is the only way forward.

    A past president of this association, David Lawrence, noted that "among the greatest stories of this hemisphere in recent years has been the strengthening of democracy." You have played a critical role in developing that story. Over the past decade and a half, as democracy flourished in the region, robust and prosperous newspapers, powerful broadcast industries and new media technologies such as the Internet and satellite broadcasting have developed. That is no coincidence.

    Mr. Lawrence also noted, however, that there were many still getting used to the idea of a free media in society. Indeed the hemisphere remains an often-dangerous place for journalists. According to Freedom Forum, the Committee to Protect Journalists and others, nearly twenty journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the Western Hemisphere so far this year. Among them, Pablo Emilio Parra Castaneda -- a Colombian radio reporter murdered by the FARC in late June of this year and Jose Duviel Vasquez, News Director of the Voice of the Jungle, shot to death scarcely a week later by unknown assailants in an area of Colombia where both guerrillas and paramilitary groups operate.

    The gravity of the situation for journalists in Colombia was captured in a compelling article in the Washington Post this past Sunday. But I was struck by what a Colombian journalist said when he was released after 72 hours of being held by the ELN guerrillas: "I took the next day off, then I was back to work."

    Here in the United States, news organizations carry-on despite being targeted by unknown assailants using crude methods of bio-terror – like the Anthrax incidents against American Media in Florida, NBC and now ABC in New York. Today’s terrorists use new media and technologies to disseminate their hateful ideology, but they would destroy the very purposes for which these information technologies have emerged: to serve the people’s right to know the truth and the people’s right to express their views openly.

    That is why our commitments must be firm – to foster regional trade and the prosperity it brings, to strengthen cooperation in the fight against corruption and lawlessness, and to build on the democratic gains made in recent years to which each of you here have contributed.

    The unprecedented hemispheric cooperation that has emerged since September 11 is contributing to a genuine sense of community among the governments and peoples of our region. We are very conscious of the challenges we face -- and they are serious -- at the beginning of the "Century of the Americas" but also of the opportunity that is before us.


    Released on October 16, 2001

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