September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Remarks By U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos - Press Conference Berlin, Germany; February 22, 2002

Remarks By U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (democrat-california)
Press Conference Berlin, Germany February 22, 2002

Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. It's a strange thing for me to say "Mr. Ambassador" to my dear old friend and former colleague. Let me just say, before I come to the topic, how proud the Congress is across the political spectrum to have Ambassador Coats represent us. We are immensely aware of his capabilities, and we are proud and delighted to have him serve as our ambassador here in Berlin.

Let me just say a couple of things and then throw myself at your mercy. I've been coming to Berlin since the early 1930's, when my parents brought me here as a little boy. I've been here through many, many phases of Berlin's remarkable history. I established, I believe, the first American study abroad program at the Freie Universitaet, I think in '62. I was here with the Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt, as we were picking away at the Wall as it was coming down, and I've been many times since. So it is a delight to be back.

I am here because I decided it would be useful for a former European and the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee to come to Europe and to indicate to our European friends the solid, unanimous support that the president has in his declared war against international terrorism. I had the privilege of managing the bill in mid-September, following the tragedy in New York and at the Pentagon, on the Democratic side, giving the president all the powers to wage this battle. It is one of those rare events where every single member of both political parties spoke who was not sick; the vote, I believe, was something like 420 to one, and that reflects the continuing view of both the Congress and the country.

This is not a George W. Bush adventure. It is the considered judgment of the American Congress and the American people that -- just as two generations ago we faced the Soviet Union and there ensued a cold war for two generations resulting in our victory, and among other things, the unification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet empire -- we are facing a much less dangerous, but nevertheless very serious threat to the functioning of civilized societies.

Some in Europe would like to portray this in terms of partisan divisions in the United States. There are no partisan divisions in the United States. I don't know who all the presidential candidates on the Democratic side will be in 2004, but I can guarantee you that any serious presidential candidate on the Democratic side will be as fully supportive of the war against international terrorism as is President Bush. So whether we will have President Bush for the next seven years or not, this effort will go on until the last vestiges of international terrorism are eradicated, and regimes that harbor international terrorist organizations are replaced, peacefully if possible, by other means if necessary.

And I don't know when you last visited the United States, but you will find a very new United States following September 11. It is a sea change. We lost our innocence. We lost our illusion of invulnerability. And when the United States, which is always a sleeping giant, is awakened, it swings into action. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the President speaks for all of us in this effort, and I think it was a very serious mistake on the part of some European leaders to quibble about semantic details. Maybe the word "axis" was not the perfect description, but "evil" certainly was. And just as Ronald Reagan was ridiculed when he spoke of the evil empire, now George W. Bush is being ridiculed for talking about an "axis of evil." What he gives the American people, and what he tells the world, is a message of moral clarity. It is not the most fortuitous semantic choice of imagery, because there is not much of an axis between Pyongyang, Tehran, and Baghdad. But in terms of the nature of the regimes, the president was right on target. And the thunderous applause that he received by Democrats and Republicans at the State of the Union message indicates that we are concerned with the substance of his message, and not with quibbling about semantic details.

We are also as anxious as ever to cooperate to the maximum possible extent with our friends and allies in Europe and elsewhere, and particularly with Germany. We are deeply appreciative of German support, German participation, German offers of help, ranging from building a police force in Afghanistan to you name it. Unilateralism is as far from our thinking as anything could be. Some of us have been passionately calling for a greater degree of burden sharing all through the eighties and nineties, and are eager to do so again, and are doing so.

This is not an American war. This is a war of civilization against barbarism, and certainly Germany knows its place is on the side of civilization and free and open and democratic societies.

I have spoken long enough, and I'm delighted to try to answer any questions you may have.

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